Best smart speaker: 8 tried and tested

We’ve tested the most popular smart speakers to find the best audio addition to your household.

From offering hands-free virtual assistants to serving as entertainment hubs, the best smart speakers have become essential companions in many modern households, revolutionising the way we interact with our homes.  

So what is a smart speaker? Well, besides providing a seamless music streaming experience, smart speakers integrate the functionality of an AI assistant, such as Alexa or Siri. 

Not only does this mean you can control everything with your voice, it also becomes more than just a way to listen to your favourite tunes. From asking for a local weather update to discovering the latest news headlines, there are a wide variety of things you can ask Alexa or your virtual assistant to help you with.

Sonos Era 100
Editors Choice

Best overall

Sonos Era 100


RRP: £249
Who’s this for?
If you’re after a sound quality that’s superior to the average smart speaker on the market, and you have the extra cash to pay for it, then the Sonos Era 100 provides it. It can also function as part of a bigger home sound setup, if there are other speakers in the Sonos range that have caught your eye. It’s also perfect for those who rely a lot on music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music.
Google Nest Mini
Editors Choice

Best budget

Google Nest Mini


RRP: £49
Who’s this for?
The Nest Mini is equally suitable for those just getting started with smart speakers and for those who already have several Google Nest devices dotted around the home. If your household is already invested in several Amazon Echo though, it’s probably not for you.
Amazon Echo 4th Gen
Recommended

Best Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo (4th Gen)


RRP: £109.99
Who’s this for?
If you want a smart speaker for listening to music, this is probably the best Amazon Echo to choose. It delivers all the smart features of other Alexa devices but doesn’t skimp on sound quality.
Google Nest Audio speaker on a grey background
Recommended

Google Nest Audio


RRP: £89.99
Who’s this for?
Buy the Nest Audio if you want an upgrade over your smartphone or laptop speakers, without paying over the odds. If you’re already heavily invested in Google products, so much the better.
Apple HomePods - black in front of white on a white background

Apple HomePod (2nd gen, 2023)


RRP: £299
Who’s this for?
If you’re not an iPhone or iPad user, stay away. If you love Siri, Apple’s smart home and great sound, this speaker is for you.
Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (5th Gen)
Recommended

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock


RRP: £64.99
Who’s this for?
The Echo Dot is a good choice for radio, podcast and audiobook listeners, and for anyone who wants a low-cost smart home controller.
A black Apple HomePod Mini smart speaker on a white background
Recommended

Apple HomePod Mini


RRP: £99
Who’s this for?
If you think – or know – you’re going to make good use of the functions of a smart speaker, and you have an iPhone or iPad at home, then the HomePod Mini is a great option. Otherwise, not so much.
Amazon Echo Pop in lilac

Amazon Echo Pop


RRP: £44.99
Who’s this for?
The Echo Pop is an excellent smart speaker for small spaces and for controlling smart home devices. It’s a good kitchen companion, bedside speaker and DAB radio alternative.

What we look for

What our testers look for

To find the best smart speaker we tested the sound, after all this is probably the most important factor for the majority of people. 

Will the smart speaker fit in with whatever room you’re placing it in? Is it also built to last? And does it feel cheap or more of a luxury item? These are all the questions are reviewers answered. 

Is the speaker you choose compatible with the devices you already own, such as your phone? Some, like the Apple HomePod systems for example, don’t work unless you have an iPhone or iPad. 

We tested how easy each smart speakers was to set up straight out of the box? This included looking at how easy the accompanying apps were to use. 

Some smart speakers have more features than others. We tested all the expected ones – such as playing back music or using the voice assistant – to any more advanced ones, such as interacting with other smart devices. How easy is it to do? Do you need to be a technical wizard?

Smart speakers can range vastly in price, from the budget Echo Pop at £44.99 to the decidedly pricey HomePod at £299. Set a budget before you start shopping, so you dont overspend. 

Sonos Era 100 Overview

Best overall

Sonos Era 100

Sonos Era 100
Editors Choice
Luxury

The Sonos Era 100 is a top choice for a wireless smart speaker ready to stream music from the web or a connected device. It builds on the Sonos heritage to offer an intuitive way of playing music around the home, and it’s a joy to listen to.

Design

Usability

Audio Performance

Value


Who’s this for?

If you’re after a sound quality that’s superior to the average smart speaker on the market, and you have the extra cash to pay for it, then the Sonos Era 100 provides it. It can also function as part of a bigger home sound setup, if there are other speakers in the Sonos range that have caught your eye. It’s also perfect for those who rely a lot on music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Top tier sound quality
  • Hugely versatile
  • A breeze to set up and use
  • Line-in needs another adapter

Expect to pay

RRP: £249 The official retail price for the Sonos Era 100 that you’ll see on the Sonos site is £249. If you have a hunt around at other retailers online, you might be able to beat that price, but probably not by much. We have noticed Sonos regularly running discount deals on its own website, in the region of 10-15 % – sign up for emails from Sonos if you want to be notified about these.

The best smart speaker for music

If you’re looking for a smart speaker with superior sound quality, the Sonos Era 100 is a great option. While it is more expensive than some other speakers on the market, it delivers excellent sound and can be part of a larger home sound setup. 

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What we liked 

Aside from the superior sound quality, the Sonos Era 100 is a really attractive smart speaker. It was also a breeze to set up and we loved that you could control all your favourite streaming services via the Sonos app, which saves the faff of swapping between apps. You can connect easily via Bluetooth, AirPlay and a line-in port – although you do need a separate adaptor for this. 

What we didn’t like 

While our reviewer thought the speaker had amazing sound quality, our tester, Sowels, said that although the sound was loud and the bass adequate, he felt it was somewhat lacking. 

“There was a feeling that vocals were sometimes a bit lost in the wall of sound,” he said. 

The price is also a negative, since you can pick up great-quality Bluetooth speakers with an identical sound for a lot less money.  

Read our Sonos Era 100 review

Google Nest Mini Overview

Best budget

Google Nest Mini

Google Nest Mini
Editors Choice
Budget

Google’s smallest and cheapest smart speaker is packed with great functionality thanks to Google Assistant, and has better sound than you might expect considering how much you’re paying. It even comes in a variety of appealing colours, and can go on the wall.


Who’s this for?

The Nest Mini is equally suitable for those just getting started with smart speakers and for those who already have several Google Nest devices dotted around the home. If your household is already invested in several Amazon Echo though, it’s probably not for you.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Simple but appealing design
  • Google Assistant keeps getting smarter
  • A choice of different colours
  • You can turn the mic off when needed
  • Audio quality could be better
  • Geared mainly towards Google apps

Expect to pay

RRP: £49 At time of writing, the Nest Mini is £49 direct from Google. However, you’ll often find it available for less, both on the Google Store and at other retailers. The speaker is also sometimes offered as a free gift alongside other Google products.

The best budget smart speaker

Proof that a smart speaker needn’t cost the earth, the Google Nest Mini is a great option if you’re watching the pennies or need a second smart speaker for a bedroom or kitchen. For £49, you get a speaker with reasonable sound and everything that Google Assistant offers. 

What we liked 

We know that looks aren’t everything, but the Nest Mini is available in a range of very chic colours that, with its minimal styling, won’t look out of place in any room. Google Assistant also allows you access to lots of different features – from telling jokes to reading out the football scores – and also connects with smart technology around the home. 

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What we didn’t like 

If you’re not a big Google user then this might not be up your street, as it mostly supports Google products such as Google Calendar and Google Maps. And while it has a better sound quality than you might expect from such a small speaker, it’s not the best. Fine for a casual listener or the spoken word, but not ideal for music enthusiasts. 

Read our Google Nest Mini review

Amazon Echo (4th Gen) Overview

Best Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo (4th Gen)

Amazon Echo 4th Gen
Recommended
Competitive

The Amazon Echo (4th generation) is worth paying a little extra for (but don’t pay the full RRP). It’s impressively punchy, copes well with all kinds of music and includes all the excellent smart home and accessibility features of the Echo range. 

Design

Usability

Audio performance

Value


Who’s this for?

If you want a smart speaker for listening to music, this is probably the best Amazon Echo to choose. It delivers all the smart features of other Alexa devices but doesn’t skimp on sound quality.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Alexa is superb
  • Excellent sound
  • Includes a smart home hub
  • Needs more space than before
  • Audio isn’t best in class

Expect to pay

RRP: £109.99 Amazon’s middle-of-the-range smart speaker carries a competitive price tag, but during sales events such as Prime Day and Black Friday, we’ve seen its price cut to under £60 on more than one occasion.

Superior surround sound 

The original Amazon Echo speaker still packs a punch when it comes to playing music. Unlike other Echo devices, it has three speakers, which gives it a richer and more immersive sound. This makes it a great choice for anyone who loves listening to music at home.

What we liked 

For the price, this smart speaker was a definite all-rounder, providing the expected capability of Alexa alongside a decent sound quality. 

“The Amazon Echo was, for me, the highlight of all the smart speakers we tested in the centre,” says Sowels, who rated it the best Amazon Echo of all the ones we tested.  

“While I expected more due to its increased size, I was pleasantly surprised by how balanced this speaker sounded.” 

It also doubles up as a smart home hub, allowing you to connect devices such as smart bulbs without having to buy a dedicated hub. All great for the price of £110 (although it’s often found discounted on Amazon, so keep your eyes peeled). 

What we didn’t like 

At roughly the size of a volleyball, it’s not the smallest smart speaker available. So if space is at a premium, you may be better off going for something like the Echo Pop or Google Nest Mini.  

Read our Amazon Echo review

Google Nest Audio Overview

Google Nest Audio

Google Nest Audio speaker on a grey background
Recommended
Competitive

This pint-sized smart speaker comfortably fills a room with good-quality sound. Where it really shines is in its Google Assistant app, which adds a whole host of features.


Who’s this for?

Buy the Nest Audio if you want an upgrade over your smartphone or laptop speakers, without paying over the odds. If you’re already heavily invested in Google products, so much the better.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Easy to set up and use
  • Decent sound quality
  • Tastefully designed
  • No 3.5 mm input

Expect to pay

RRP: £89.99 At £89.99 the Nest Audio represents good value, but you can often find it for cheaper by shopping around online.

A good all-rounder 

The Google Nest Audio is another great option for a smart speaker. It has clear, balanced sound quality and is easy to use. 

What we liked 

If you are already heavily invested in the Google ecosystem, this smart speaker is a great choice. It’s simple to set up, looks good and the sound is clear and crisp – perfect for casual music listeners. 

What we didn’t like 

The absence of a 3.5mm audio jack in the Google Nest Audio is a disappointment, as it would have greatly contributed to its versatility. The presence of such a jack allows for seamless connectivity with other devices, making it a valuable feature that enhances the overall usability of the smart speaker. 

Read our Google Nest Audio review

Apple HomePod (2nd gen, 2023) Overview

Apple HomePod (2nd gen, 2023)

Apple HomePods - black in front of white on a white background
Luxury

The new HomePod sounds great, but excels when working in a pair – so you’ll need to double the price to get the most out of it. Siri is a useful smart home companion, albeit still slightly limited, and you will need a monthly Apple Music subscription to get the most out of Apple’s speaker.


Who’s this for?

If you’re not an iPhone or iPad user, stay away. If you love Siri, Apple’s smart home and great sound, this speaker is for you.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Great soundbar replacement
  • Still no Bluetooth support
  • Siri can sometimes fail

Expect to pay

RRP: £299 We doubt you’ll see that many deals or discounts over the coming months or years. That said, Apple did drop the price of the previous HomePod eventually.

Kind to your ears but not your wallet

The secondgeneration HomePod is a pricey option for a smart speaker. While the sound quality is great, Siri is a bit restricted and as our reviewer found can also be a bit temperamental. 

What we liked

The sound is pretty good – especially if you buy a pair of HomePod smart speakers. However, this does doubleup the cost, making it an expensive smart speaker option at £598. If you have an Apple TV, you can also use it as a soundbar, which we tested out on some of our favourite TV shows and found they were loud, bright and easy to hear. 

What we didn’t like 

The HomePod doesn’t have any Bluetooth connectivity – a simple thing, but one that really adds to the smart speaker experience and would allow Android users an easy way to connect. It’s also one to avoid if you’re a Spotify user. While you can stream from the service using AirPlay, it’s not the simplest of experiences. Siri has its limitations too, so if you want the full virtual assistant aspect of a smart speaker, you’d be better off choosing one from Google or Amazon. 

Read our Apple HomePod review

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock Overview

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (5th Gen)
Recommended
Budget

The Echo Dot is a good Alexa device and sounds great with spoken content, such as audiobooks and radio, although music isn’t very punchy. The integrated LED display makes this a better buy than the Echo Pop.

Design

Usability

Audio performance

Value


Who’s this for?

The Echo Dot is a good choice for radio, podcast and audiobook listeners, and for anyone who wants a low-cost smart home controller.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Alexa is brilliant
  • Very clear for spoken audio
  • LED display is fun
  • Doesn’t sound as good as bigger models
  • Limited colour choices
  • Don’t pay the full RRP

Expect to pay

RRP: £64.99 The RRP is £64.99 (£54.99 without the built-in clock) but the Echo Dot with Clock is almost always discounted during Amazon sales events. During Prime Day 2023 it was £32.

A smart speaker that tells the time 

If you’re after a reasonably priced smart speaker to listen to the radio or podcasts, this is a good choice. It also serves as a cost-effective smart home controller. 

What we liked 

The Echo Dot is a great smart speaker, and the LED display on the “with clock” model is a worthwhile addition, especially if you’re looking for a bedside speaker. The built-in LED display costs an extra £10, but it’s an effective feature that adds something extra. We love the scrolling display of song titles, and it’s also helpful for checking the time at a glance. 

What we didn’t like 

This is not the best smart speaker if you want to hear music at its very best. The Echo Dot is best suited to speech and low-volume or background music. It’s more of a bedside or bookshelf speaker than a sound system.   

Read our Amazon Echo Dot with Clock review

Can you improve the sound of your smart speaker?

If you only want to listen to music then you may be better off getting a Bluetooth speaker.

Our product tester, Philip Sowels, says these will generally have a better sound quality, whereas some smart speakers can make music sound “flat or squashed”.

Sowels recommends playing around with the placement of your speaker, as this can improve the sound quality. “Place it near a solid wall if possible, as this will improve the bass – something that is lacking with these smart speakers,” he says.


Apple HomePod Mini Overview

Apple HomePod Mini

A black Apple HomePod Mini smart speaker on a white background
Recommended
Competitive

The Apple HomePod Mini brings with it an appealing design, excellent build quality, and superior sound for its price. It’s not the perfect smart speaker though: it’s pricier than the competition, and it’s really of no use if you’re not already invested in the Apple ecosystem.


Who’s this for?

If you think – or know – you’re going to make good use of the functions of a smart speaker, and you have an iPhone or iPad at home, then the HomePod Mini is a great option. Otherwise, not so much.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Nicely designed and finished
  • Produces great quality audio
  • Works seamlessly with iPhones
  • Support for multiple users
  • You need an iPhone or an iPad
  • Cheaper alternatives are available

Expect to pay

RRP: £99 At the time we’re writing this review, you can pick up the HomePod Mini direct from Apple for £99 – and as with most Apple products, don’t expect to find it on sale very often or available from other retailers for any less. That price is, not coincidentally, in the same sort of area as similar smart speakers from Amazon and Google.

A budget choice for Apple lovers

The HomePod Mini is the budget smart speaker choice for those who don’t want to go outside the Apple ecosystem.

What we liked 

As with most Apple products, the HomePod Mini is a super-stylish bit of kit. For its size, it also has good audio quality, although it’s still best for casual music-listening, such as the radio or podcasts. 

What we didn’t like 

If you don’t own an iPhone or iPad, the HomePod Mini is not the right choice for you. It’s essential to note that the setup process requires an iPhone or iPad, making it inaccessible to those without these devices.

Additionally, if you wish to use popular apps like Spotify, YouTube Music, Amazon Music, or access BBC radio, you have to do so through your phone rather than directly from the smart speaker. This means that you need to keep your phone nearby at all times while using these apps. 

Read our Apple HomePod Mini review

Amazon Echo Pop Overview

Amazon Echo Pop

Amazon Echo Pop in lilac
Budget

Amazons smallest smart speaker is good for radio, podcasts and audiobooks, and its a truly excellent smart home controller. But its small size means it cant deliver exciting music playback. It’s also wise to never pay full price for it as you know Amazon will make it cheaper again soon. 

Design

Usability

Audio performance

Value


Who’s this for?

The Echo Pop is an excellent smart speaker for small spaces and for controlling smart home devices. It’s a good kitchen companion, bedside speaker and DAB radio alternative.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Really easy to use
  • Superb voice recognition
  • Alexa is excellent
  • Disappointing music playback
  • Sounds harsh at higher volumes
  • You have to wait for a price cut

Expect to pay

RRP: £44.99 The RRP is £44.99, or £64.98 with a coloured sleeve. However, Amazon has already discounted this once during Prime Day, to £17.99 so keep an eye out for future reductions.

Cheap and cheerful

Don’t expect anything too amazing. At £44.99, this smart speaker is a great choice if you’re looking for a bargain or a second smart speaker, but it won’t blow your socks off. 

What we liked 

Aside from the price – which is often discounted by Amazon – the Echo Pop is very simple to use. It’s also a nice small size, perfect for bedrooms, and comes in an array of fashionable colours. You can buy additional covers for it to coordinate with your room. Alexa is also great – especially if you enable its extra skills – and allows you to interact with the Echo Pop in a huge variety of ways. 

What we didn’t like 

This smart speaker is not the best option for music enthusiasts. While it performs adequately for spoken word and radio content, it falls short when it comes to delivering an enjoyable music experience. For listening to your favourite tunes, we recommend opting for the larger model in the range, the Echo Dot. According to our reviewer, certain music tracks tended to sound harsh when played at higher volumes, and some users found it lacking in bass, as reported by Sowels. 

Read our Amazon Echo Pop review
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Jayne Cherrington-Cook

Written by Jayne Cherrington-Cook she/her

Updated:

Jayne is the Senior Editor at Saga Exceptional. She cut her online journalism teeth 24 years ago in an era when a dialling tone and slow page load were standard. During this time, she’s written about a variety of subjects and is just at home road-testing TVs as she is interviewing TV stars. A diverse career has seen Jayne launch websites for popular magazines, collaborate with top brands, write regularly for major publications including Woman&Home, Yahoo! and The Daily Telegraph, create a podcast, and also write a tech column for Women’s Own.

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