Top 3 Smart Speakers - A Brutally Honest Review (Whether You Like it or Not)
Smart speakers are the chartbuster in the home devices list. Where every home has one home appliance, speakers today are present in every room. Choosing the best smart speaker is not difficult, but choosing the right one for your home is a matter of smart decision-making.
A smart speaker does much more than just play your favourite music. Following are some of the criteria to be kept in mind while buying the best quality smart speakers:
Speakers are designed to produce high-quality audio waves, and sound quality matters most. Get a speaker with a frequency response range between 20 Hz to 20kHz. A speaker is to fill the room with sound by adjusting to obstructions. A Dolby digital sound is the industry standard for good quality sound.
- Voice Assistant
Choose between Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri/Apple HomeKit. Each voice assistant has similar capabilities but differs in minor capabilities. Google Assistant is best at answering questions, Siri is best at following commands for phone actions, whereas Alexa has interactive games and jokes. The voice commands are also used to control the connected smart devices of the home.
Podcasts are mainly for the purpose of entertainment. They are subscription-based and different voice assistant provides a different set of the podcast.
Smart Speakers may or may not come with bluetooth attachment. Having bluetooth is an added capability in times when there is no internet available. For portable speakers when you have to carry them outdoors, and there is no wifi, simply just turn on the bluetooth and enjoy speaker sound with ease.
Most often, smart speakers are plugged in at a particular spot and do not support portability. A portable speaker does the job of both a home device and an outdoor bluetooth speaker. But a hassle that comes along with portability is you have one more device to charge. The wired speakers can also be set-up anywhere given the compact size, but it shall require electric connection, or re-setup of Wifi. The home speakers are not built for a lot of handling; they may wear off sooner with often outdoor use.
- Battery Life
Battery life is a major criterion when choosing the best quality smart speaker. High-power speakers consume battery and require frequent charging. For wired speakers, battery is not a concern as they need continuous connectivity. There are a few models that come with dual hybrid capability of having some battery life as well as wired connection. Most often speakers give 2 hrs battery life less than the officially mentioned battery life of the companies, as the battery depends on the frequency of volume and the number of features used. The battery life mentioned is tested in optimized environment.
- Outdoor Use
If you are a music enthusiast and love carrying your smart speakers with you everywhere, buy a speaker which adjusts the sound output as per the surroundings and gives the same sound quality, be it indoors or outdoors. Outdoor use also needs the speaker to be durable against dust, water, and accidental falls.
The basic smart speaker starts from as low as $40 and can go up to $399. The brand value, sound quality, aesthetic appearance, and advanced smart features increase the value of speakers. Generally, the high-end speakers have all the latest features, the best sound quality and a durable design that makes the device last longer, say 10 years. If you are a technology enthusiast, can do with appropriate sound quality and love to upgrade your devices every 2-3 years go for less expensive speakers.
Here is an honest, hands-on review of the top three smart speakers prevailing in the market today which enhance overall user experience:
#1 Sonos Move
Sonos Move is a big-budget smart speaker. It is the best smart speaker for its features, top-notch sound, quality and durability. This speaker is a little higher side priced but it is worth the value.
The main highlight of this smart speaker for home is the convenience of its portability. It can be mounted on the charging dock when at home, and all you have to do is just pick it up and carry it for outdoor use.
The IP67 standard assures the best smart speaker is dust, snow, sand, UV rays resistant and waterproof for up to three feet of water for thirty minutes.
Sonos Move is one of the very few Sonos smart speaker models which come with bluetooth attachment. With bluetooth connectivity, outdoor use becomes all the more easy. There is a dedicated switch button at the backside to switch between wifi and bluetooth. As a downside, setting up or connecting to a new Wifi connection does give you some trouble and complications.
I suggest using the Google Assistant as the default voice assistant because it is compatible with the Sonos app. The Sonos App works well both on Android and iOS. The Apple Airplay app and Amazon Alexa are both enabled on this best quality home speaker individually.
Music and Podcasts:
The Sonos Move comes with Truplay technology; it automatically adjusts to the the objects in its circumference and gives best-sounding music. There is a wide range of songs and podcasts available on the music library of the Sonos app. Spotify and iHeart radio can be directly controlled; you can even listen to downloaded podcasts from your device on the Sonos smart speaker. The dedicated Sonos radio is up on the entertainment quotient, making this the best quality smart speaker for the home today.
Sonos Move gives up to 11 hours of battery life in optimized use. Sonos definitely lasts up to 8 hours even in a high volume full consumption. It comes with a charging cable; the best part is that the battery is swapable for replacement.
This smart speaker is Wifi-enabled compatible with most Sonos devices, and can be connected with other speakers (in-room) for a connected music experience. But it is advisable to check the list of compatible devices as some old Sonos devices like the Sonos Arc do not work with Sonos Move.
The Sonos Roam is the less expensive mini version of Sonos Move at $179. It has got similar features to Move but compromises on outdoor volume and has only an IP56 rating.
#2 Amazon Echo Studio
Amazon Echo Studio is the best budget smart speaker, which gives you superior sound quality and smart attributes.
This speaker is not portable and does not support on-the-move music streaming.
The best quality smart speaker is designed for home use making it less favourable for outdoor use. You can plug in the speakers in outdoors into a wall socket and enjoy music through Wifi or bluetooth but it does bring out the right sound quality. The speakers are sturdy for home use but do not have an IP rating. I wouldn’t recommend risking the smart speaker with sand, humidity, extreme climates or even water.
This smart speaker connects easily to any bluetooth device.
Amazon’s Alexa is undoubtedly the smartest and best voice assistant around. I use it to set alarms, reminders, and to-do lists, make reservations, and check the weather, traffic or news update; Alexa knows it all. Alexa can discover all the compatible smart devices to enable control through its smart home hub. This smart speaker comes with Zigbee technology which connects to all local devices smoothly.
Music and Podcasts:
Amazon echo studio is the best smart speaker for home, as it has best sound quality among all amazon smart speakers. The highlight of the speaker is that it comes with 5 in-built speakers, Dolby Atmos technology, and spatial audio processing technology to produce space, clarity, wider sound stage, and immersive audio. This smart speaker gives a wide range of music streaming options such as Amazon music, Apple music, Spotify, iHeart, Pandora and Tidal in HD music quality.
This smart speaker supoorts podcasts through Amazon music app and Apple music.
The Amazon Echo studio does not have any battery back-up and needs to be pluugged into electricity at all times to function.
The Echo Studio can connect to various home devices such as the smart thermostat, smart fridge, smart washing machine, smart tv, smart lighting and plugs, door alarm systems and cameras. Amazon echo studio can be connected with other Amazon speakers to play synchronized music or even as an intercom.
The Smart Speaker supports privacy but be careful of what you speak, as the AI is always listening.
Amazon echo dot (5th generation) is the best-budgeted option which is feature rich and sounds good at $49.99. You can place an amazon echo dot in every room with a main amazon echo studio smart speaker in the living room for a superlative connected music experience.
#3 Bose home speaker 500
Cost: Bose has a legacy of quality sound systems, and best in class audio output. This speaker comes at high cost and is preferred by class loyalists.
The smart speaker for home is specifically designed for home use and needs to be connected at all times. It does not have any in-built or replaceable battery option.
This smart speaker is stylish with a tough design but is not meant for rough use. It is best for home, but not suitable for outdoors. Bose has designed it’s portable home speaker series for outdoor music requirements.
The best smart speaker has got bluetooth connectivity.
Controlling is the most convinient factor for this smart speaker for home as it can be connected via voice assisstant, touch buttons on the top of the speaker head or through the Bose Smart App. Bose Home Speaker 500 supports Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for voice assistance and has a superior mic systems that listens in direction of voice even in high volumes. Connecting to calls is a unique handfree feature of this smart product. The older versions also came with a 3.5mm auxiliary port.
Music and Podcasts:
This smart speaker fills the entire room with stereo sound. Bose home speaker 500 is the best speaker for home as it comes with built in Wifi, Chromecast, and can be integrated with Apple Airplay 2. It can stream music and podcasts from dedicated bose music app or list of compatible music services such as the Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora, iHeart Radio, SiriusXm, Deezer and many more. The speaker also comes with 6 preset channel settings.
Bose Home Speaker 500 needs to be plugged into a power point at all times. It does not offer any in-built or replaceable battery.
This smart speaker can sync with other speakers and soundbars of the Bose Smart Family for a multi-room experience. Compatibility with other devices is restricted only to those which use Bose Music App.
Bose doesnt really have any budgeted versions but the bose home portable version at $319 is an outdoor smart speaker with same specs as the bose home speaker 500.
A special mention to Apple Home Pod 2 for its equally good sound quality and specifications. It is best home speaker only for people who have apple products in their home devices. The smart speaker is a must for die-hards apple fans.