The best smart speakers for 2020: Amazon Echo, Google Nest Mini, and Apple HomePod compared

In 2020, Amazon, Google and Apple are creating good smart speakers. Competition between these tech giants only pushes them to keep improving. Amazon popularized smart speakers with the original Echo and the Alexa voice assistant, but today you have more options, each with their own pros and cons.

So how do you choose the best smart speaker for your needs? The main differences largely depend on the size of the hardware, price and audio quality. If you don’t need a lot of power from your music and are good at slightly lower audio quality, you can save money and get the same intelligence in a smaller smart speaker.

Virtually all of your options include multiroom audio and let you turn on the lights, play music, ask a question, set reminders, and more with simple voice commands. If that sounds appealing to you, it might be time to succumb to the growing hype of this burgeoning device category and buy a smart speaker.

Read more: Best Sonos speakers from $ 100 and up

If you have an affinity for one of these brands in particular, choosing a speaker is easy. Go here for help choosing an Amazon smart speaker template. Here is a guide if you want a Google equipped smart speaker.

If you’re platform independent and don’t need to choose between Alexa or Google, the range of choices might seem intimidating at first. Here are our thoughts.

Editor’s Note, October 30: We looked at what’s new from Amazon Echo is Echo Dot speakers, but we’re still waiting to get our hands on HomePod Mini recently announced by Apple. Once the speaker has left and we have had a chance to rate him, we will update this list based on our ratings.

Ben Fox Rubin / CNET

Deciding which assistant you want in the center of your smart home is a difficult call. Both Alexa and Google Assistant work with many devices. Both of them help you organize and control them easily. Although the Google Assistant is a bit smarter, Alexa works with multiple smart home devices and makes it easy to set up with voice commands.

Ultimately, we’ll give the smart home advantage in the best smart speaker category to Amazon thanks to Alexa and the $ 100 fourth-generation Amazon Echo.

Alexa can send alerts if your smart speaker hears glass breaking or a blaring smoke detector. The new Echo combines the usual Alexa intelligence with a speaker that sounds great and has a built-in Zigbee smart home hub so you can sync your little sensors with it instead of having to buy more gear. Read our Amazon Echo (2020) review.

Sarah Tew / CNET

The $ 200 Sonos One lets you pair two units to play stereo audio or multiroom audio, but even a single speaker sounds fantastic playing a wide variety of music genres and costs far less than other smart speakers with premium sound quality like Google Home Max and the Apple HomePod.

Better yet, the Sonos One has both Alexa and Google Assistant built in – you simply choose the one you want to use for your voice commands during setup. Additionally, Sonos has Apple’s AirPlay 2 so you can control it with any Siri-enabled device, including your iPhone.

Add it in and the Sonos One is a great sounding and reasonably priced smart speaker that can fit families focused on Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri. It is a difficult field to beat. Read the Sonos One review.

James Martin / CNET

Amazon was the undisputed ruler of the smart speaker world, but Google did an admirable job of catching up with its digital assistant in the race for sound. At this point, choosing between the two companies’ cheaper smart devices comes down to parting your hair.

If Alexa is your favorite voice assistant, you should be using the latest Echo Dot. It’s affordable and offers all the Alexa skills and smart home integrations you’ll need.

Google Assistant now has nearly all of Alexa’s features, making the Google Nest Mini a solid alternative to the Amazon Echo Dot if Google Assistant is your preference. Also, Google Assistant is a slightly smarter voice assistant than Alexa. It responds more flexibly to voice commands if you can’t remember the exact name of your smart home devices, and Google’s grouped commands, called routines, work with more types of smart devices than Amazon’s similar routines. The Google Assistant is able to recognize multiple voices, so it will give you and your spouse different answers if each of you asks about your calendars, although now Alexa can too.

Overall, Google still has the edge in assistant intelligence, and the Google Nest Mini is a great low-cost way to take advantage of these intelligences. Read the Google Nest Mini review.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Siri’s first smart speaker adapts its sound to the room you’re in and sounds great by playing all genres of music. Its sound quality outclasses the Sonos One and even squeaks from the similarly priced Google Home Max. Thanks to Siri, you can also use an Apple HomePod to control your smart home products with the sound of your voice, ask for help as you would with other smart speakers and answer incoming calls on your iPhone.

Then, there’s the newly released HomePod Mini. Apple’s smallest smart speaker offering costs $ 99 and sounds great. It doesn’t pack the volume and power of its big brother, but you’ll get the same intelligence as Siri for a more affordable price.

When it comes to the smart home, both speakers are limited to devices that work with Apple’s smart home platform, HomeKit. HomePods have some limitations that the rest don’t, but it shouldn’t matter if you’ve already invested in Apple products and just want great sound quality. Read the Apple HomePod review.

The best portable smart speaker

JBL Link 20

Sarah Tew / CNET

Given the wide range of smart speakers, it’s surprising how few are portable. Fortunately, the JBL Link 20 checks all the right boxes to qualify as a good smart speaker, and it’s battery powered. It has decent battery life and solid sound quality and has the Google Assistant built in, like the Google Nest Mini.

Even better, the wireless speaker is completely waterproof, so you can play music outdoors and you can connect to your home Wi-Fi network or you can stream audio through your phone’s Bluetooth. $ 200 is a little expensive. It often goes on sale for $ 150 and is out of stock at the moment, but JBL reps have assured us it will be back in stock soon.

Meanwhile, the similar JBL Link 10 is a solid and affordable alternative, albeit slightly less impressive. Read the JBL Link 20 review.

Other options

These smart speakers are our favorites, but you still have plenty of other options if you’re looking for something specific. Read our breakdown of Alexa vs Google Assistant vs Siri if you want to know the pros and cons of each and decide based on the platform.

Note that neither the original Amazon Echo nor the Nest Audio appeared above because you can get the same features for less with the smaller versions (Dot and Mini). That said, if you want a smart speaker that splits the difference between affordability and premium sound, both are still solid options.

If you like the idea of ​​always listening help but want something more visual, check out ours list of the best smart displays. Smart displays essentially combine a smart speaker with a touchscreen so you can watch YouTube videos, make video calls, scroll through the images and control your smart home gadgets with a tap. Amazon and Google both have several options in this booming smart display category of smart home technology.

Read more: The best Wi-Fi speakers and music systems of 2020

There are also many third-party devices with integrated Alexaand an increasing number of third-party speakers with Google Assistant. Check the Amazon Tap or the UE Megablast if you want Alexa in a portable body. The TicHome Mini it’s another more compact choice if you want a portable smart speaker with Google Assistant. You can also purchase add-ons from a company called Ninety7 if you want to make your Google or Amazon smart speaker portable.

Finally, the Harman Kardon Invoke uses Microsoft’s Cortana assistant. It’s competent enough if you’re a Windows fan, but otherwise you don’t have enough to stand out from the crowd. Samsung also has a very delayed smart speaker, the Galaxy Home with Samsung’s Bixby assistant.

Find out which platform or feature you want and you should be able to quickly narrow down your options and find the best smart speaker for you and your family.