Best Smart Speakers to Buy in 2019 - Doctor Tech


12 June 2019

Best Smart Speakers to Buy in 2019

Smart is the new cool. So why should your speakers be not smart?

Smart Speakers are getting popular all over the world. With their AI based user-interface, these speakers have got everything you'll ever expect your speaker to be.

With every aspect of human life, smartness is matched with more productivity and quality. This is the reason why we people are always finding new and smarter solutions to existing problems.

Best Smart Speakers to buy in 2018 to make your house a Smart Home

And this works well with gadgets as well. Talking about the gadgets lets talk about Speakers that are no more just the audio output devices but have evolved as Smart Speakers.

Whether you are cooking your favourite recipe in the kitchen or watching your favourite show in the living room, Smart Speakers have found a place everywhere in our houses.

Smart speakers are dominating the smart home market and are now owned by one in six Americans, while over the pond in the UK, smart speaker ownership has doubled in six months.

The popular virtual assistants are taking the home by storm, with many now considering smart speakers to be the future of home automation, not only controlling your smart home devices (like your Philips Hue bulbs or your smart locks) but running everything from your fridge to your garage door, too – sometimes without much help from you.

It may sound a little unnecessary, but these devices can be unbelievably handy and it doesn't look like they are going anywhere anytime soon.

Now able to communicate with an ever-increasing list of IoT devices, smart speakers are also able to manage your schedule, record your shopping list, and even learn from your preferences over time.

The only thing they can't do, it seems, helps you decide which one is right for you...that's where we come in.

We're assuming you're here because you want to find the best smart speaker for you – the one that plays nicest with the devices you already have understands you the best and, when it's time for some tunes, rocks out the loudest.

So take a look at our guide below and find the smart speaker that suits your current setup, your budget and the aesthetics of your home – each of the speakers in our guide below has something called an artificial intelligence (or AI) inside of them. All of the tasks above (and many, many more) are carried out with help from the AI and without it, the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod would just be regular old dumb speakers.

Every one of the smart speakers below is more than capable of making your smart home smarter, playing tunes and keeping tabs on your family.

Not seeing the perfect speaker for you at this current junction? Don't worry. Be sure to keep checking back, as we'll be updating this list with the best smart speakers, as well as the top rumours of the new speakers to expect soon at the end.

1. Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo - Smart speaker with Alexa - Powered by Dolby – Black
Amazon Echo

If you're after a smart speaker that's affordable and sounds good enough to play your favourite tracks, the latest version of the Amazon Echo is your safest bet. In fact, it's our current top pick for the best smart speaker on the market right now. 

The newest, 2nd-generation Echo sounds better than Amazon's Echo Dot, but it's cheaper than the Echo Plus and Apple's HomePod. 

We don't think you should be using it to replace your hi-fi, but at the same time, it's a really great place to start if you want to try out what the smart home life is like.

Amazon has also improved the Echo's style since the first version was released in 2015. The new fabric finishes will suit most living rooms better than the brushed aluminium of the original.

The only downside is the Echo doesn't have the neat volume dial of Amazon's Echo Plus. It's also worth mentioning that Alexa often doesn't seem quite as intelligent as Google Assistant. At the price, though, it's a great option that should suit most people's needs.  

Amazon is also reportedly working on eight new Alexa powered devices as of September 2018 including a microwave and high-end audio system.

2. Google Home

Google Home  (White)
Google Home

For starters, you might never appreciate just how much music is on YouTube without buying a Google Home. We’re not saying Google Home is capable of playing any song you can think of, but after dredging the depths of the ’90s we still couldn’t find a tune Google Home couldn’t track down and start playing.

While Google Home excels as a DJ, it’s also a surprisingly intelligent smart home hub. It already hooks into some of the largest platforms now available by including Nest, Philips and Samsung’s SmartThings, and given a few months that number will grow even more.

But we're torn when it comes to recommending the Google Home. In some ways it's disappointing and doesn't live up to be the coveted centre of the smart home Google has marketed it as.

That's because it's just not there yet. It’s a little too rigid in its language comprehension, its list of smart home devices is growing but still a bit underwhelming, and, perhaps the biggest disappointment of all, it doesn’t have many of Google’s core services built into it.

It has the potential to develop to compete with Amazon's Echo in the future, but for now, the Google Home is simply a smart novelty with access to YouTube Music, built-in Google Cast and the ability to save you a trip to the light switch. 

It's also worth mentioning a more recent update: Google Home can now make calls to landlines in the UK! This was a feature unveiled at last year's Google IO and has now finally made its way into the home. Google Assistant has also been updated to included bilingual capabilities, Continued Conversation, and Multiple Actions.

3. Google Home Mini

Google Home Mini  (Charcoal)
Google Home Mini

In many ways, the Home Mini is similar to the Amazon Echo Dot. It's Google’s attempt at getting the Assistant into as many homes as possible. 

The huge amount of capabilities that the Google Home brings, in addition to its minimal, premium build and its low price make it an instant star.

This means if you’re in the market for a cheap speaker, the Google Home Mini will do the trick for many. Do keep in mind though that it’s best viewed as a supplement to the Home family rather than the foundation. 

This device’s specialty, aside from being oh-so-smart, is mainly to reward those who are already within Google’s Cast-enabled ecosystem with a cheap, new device.

Yes, the Google Home Mini is less than half the price of the larger Google Home, and half its size, too; however, it just doesn’t sound like we’re getting half its performance – we’re getting something a bit less.

4. Sonos One

Sonos All-new One - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built In (Black)
Sonos One

Sonos’ debut Alexa speaker is a cleanly-designed, feature-rich and great-sounding device that brings together the best of both ecosystems. You’ve got the ever-improving Alexa on the one hand, and on the other, you’ve got Sonos with its own multi-room smarts. There's also a new feature in the mix that promises to change the game: AirPlay 2. With it, the Sonos One can talk to Siri and form a multi-room pairing with the Apple HomePod, making it the most versatile speaker on the list.

If there's anything holding the Sonos One back from the greatness it's the fact that Google Assistant is still MIA - something Sonos has been particularly quiet about.

Once Google Assistant support hits later in 2018 (we hope), the Sonos One promises to become the market leader in smart home speakers.

5. Amazon Echo Dot

All-new Echo Dot (3rd Gen) - Smart speaker with Alexa (Black)
Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon’s Echo Dot is a great little product. It maintains almost everything that made the original Echo so great, while also bringing a substantial cut in price. 

Being able to use an external speaker means the Dot is genuinely a great way of listening to music around the house, but its internal speaker is also surprisingly adept at dealing with simpler requests too. 

If you’re curious about the Amazon Echo experience, then the Dot is pretty much perfect for trying it out at a much cheaper price – and in some ways, its audio output options mean it’s actually the superior device. 

We’re not quite living in the age of Tony Stark’s Jarvis just yet, but if developers continue to rally behind Alexa by developing ever more intelligent skills, then the future may be just around the corner.

If the Dot sounds really up your street but you've got kids and you're not sure how they'd get on with Alexa, then check out the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition– it comes with some unique, child-friendly perks, including a two-year damage replacement warranty, a colourful rubber case in either red, blue or green, and a year's subscription to the FreeTime Unlimited kid-focussed service.

6. Amazon Echo Plus

All-new Echo Plus (2nd gen) – Premium sound with a built-in smart home hub-Black
Amazon Echo Plus

The Amazon Echo Plus is the higher-end choice among its tower speakers. You should consider buying one if you want decent sound quality but don't want the display of the Echo Show or Echo Spot.

It's louder than the standard Echo, which is particularly useful for music. Does it sound as good as the Sonos One? No. But like Amazon’s other Echo gadgets, its price is competitive. It costs $149.99 (£139.99) with a Philips Hue bulb included kickstarting your smart home future.

Like other smart home systems, Amazon Alexa is a work in progress. However, it’s easy to recommend the Amazon Echo Plus. It’s a convenient one-stop solution for both audio, smart assistant functions and the Internet of Things controls, with Alexa still going strong as the most feature-rich voice assistant.

But the strength of the Echo range, especially at the lower price tiers, still makes these top-of-the-line models a harder sell: the Echo Dot has comparable smarts for a fraction of the price, for example, it just doesn't sound as good. Likewise, the built-in smart hub is a great addition, but isn’t yet feature-complete, meaning committed smart home users may not want to make the jump just yet. 

In short, if you’re looking to enter the world of the connected home, the Echo Plus is a great place to start. Just be aware that more economical options may, for the time being at least, suit your needs just as well.

7. Ultimate Ears Blast

Ultimate Ears Blast Portable Wi-Fi-Bluetooth Speaker with Hands-Free Amazon Alexa Voice Control (Waterproof) - Graphite Black
Ultimate Ears Blast

The UE Blast is a portable Bluetooth speaker first and a smart speaker second. The inclusion of Alexa makes the Blast useful in the home when paired with the optional Power Up dock - but, even when you're away from Wi-Fi, the Blast is still an excellent-sounding Bluetooth speaker.

The UE Blast is a slightly confusing product as it tries to be both a smart and portable speaker. As a portable speaker that you don’t have to worry about taking to the beach, the Blast is excellent (as the older Boom 2 was). However, don’t expect the UE Blast to be great in the home with its poor voice recognition and lack of the included dock. 

When smart speaker competitors like the Sonos One retail for about the same price, it’s hard to justify using the UE Blast in the home, as the Sonos One works with the company’s multi-room technology and platform that supports just about every streaming music service under the sun. Plus, you’ll get the option of using Google Assistant as well as Alexa in a future update.

8. Amazon Echo Spot

Echo Spot - Stylish echo with a screen (Black)
Amazon Echo Spot

In our opinion, the Amazon Echo Spot is the best-designed Alexa device Amazon has ever created – it’s a gadget you’d happily have in your bedroom, on your desk, in your kitchen, and pretty much anywhere else.

The Spot is versatile – it doesn’t have a chameleon-like ability to adapt to the room you put it in, but this is certainly not just a smart alarm clock, something Amazon has been very clear about. 

It does everything the Echo Show does, but it all feels better in this smaller form factor. The design is great – it's available in black and white – and we can easily see the Spot being used in the bedroom, kitchen or even on a desk. In fact, you may want it in all of these places.

That's the thing with the Amazon Echo Spot: much like other Echo devices, Amazon wants you to have a multitude of them in your home so you always have access to video chat no matter where you are. 

Essentially, it wants the Echo Spot to replace the Echo Dot. The Amazon Echo Spot is a little more expensive than the new Echo, though, and in turn much more expensive than an Echo Dot.

This is because of the addition of the screen. While we still haven't seen that killer Skill for the screen, it does enhance the look of the Spot and opens up the possibilities for it being much more than just a smart speaker.

We’re just hoping that Amazon’s Skills become much more video-friendly – once this happens, the Amazon Echo Spot will become an absolute must-have.

I hope this brief comparison turns out to be helpful in shaping your decision when choosing your next Smart Speaker.

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