Many of us rely on our smart speakers for things like a quick weather forecast or an answer to the occasional math equation on your kid’s homework. And they’ve come a long way since Amazon’s Alexa first came on the scene. Consumer Reports has some advice if you’re ready to upgrade to the latest.
Smart speakers have changed a lot since the first Amazon Echo came out in 2014. Now they’re more versatile, smarter, and better-sounding than ever.
Sound quality is important if you love to listen to music on your smart speaker. And CR says the Sonos One (Gen 2) for $220 ($270 in Canada) is among the best-sounding speakers in its ratings. And it’s one of the few smart speakers that’s compatible with both Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.
If you’d prefer a smart speaker with a screen, the top performer is the Amazon Echo Show 10 for $250 ($330 in Canada). It’s great in the kitchen because you can use voice control to operate it instead of your dough-covered hands.
But it needs space—about the size of a beach ball—because the screen uses motion-sensing technology to follow you around. Without that space, it could knock something off a counter, posing a safety hazard.
If you don’t have room to spare, CR suggests the Amazon Echo Show 8 (Gen 2) for $130 ($170 in Canada), which has a stationary base.
If you prefer a Google smart speaker, the Google Nest Audio for $100 ($130 in Canada) is a good option. Some users find its interface more natural and easier to use than Alexa. Its sound quality is better than earlier generations.
If you’re looking for a smart speaker just to listen to a podcast or the weather report, CR says you don’t have to spend a lot. Pretty much every smart speaker works the same. That’s because the functionality isn’t in the speaker itself, it’s actually in the servers that are up in the cloud.
For that, CR suggests the Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) for $50 ($70 in Canada).
One thing to keep in mind, CR says, is that many smart speakers can be paired to better-sounding wireless speakers you may already have.