Thinking of buying a smart speaker? Do you know the benefits of having one? Should you choose Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri? Is wired or portable more suitable for your needs? Find out the answers to all these questions in our buying guide below.
Many speakers come with a virtual assistant nowadays. But we are focusing only on the ones built with smart home control and quality music playback in mind. Don't forget to browse through our top 10 list featuring the best smart speakers in India from popular brands like Google, Amazon, Bose, and more.
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To get the best smart speaker out there, we recommend reading our guide that details various points you need to consider like, voice assistants, portability, sound quality, and additional features like a display and more.
When it comes to choosing a voice assistant, it's a matter of personal preference and the ecosystem of smart devices you already have or planning to buy. Find out the benefits of choosing one over the other in the sections below.
In terms of intelligence, experts say that both Alexa and Google Assistant are on the same level. Both of them can understand the questions we ask and provide us with accurate answers, sometimes more. You can set the language to English or Hindi on both devices. But here are some reasons to consider one over the other.
Alexa has more supported devices. If you are trying to set up a smart home, it's easier to procure Alexa-enabled devices than ones with Google Assistant as there are more Alexa-enabled devices in the world than Google Assistant-enabled ones. But Google is slowly catching up. You will find connecting and using Google applications like Maps, Gmail, and YouTube easier using Google Assistant.
Finally, it is easier to play YouTube videos using Google Assistant, but the same on Alexa needs a workaround (easier on a smart display, though). We say, forget about the sophistication of the virtual assistant and focus on finding out which one of the two makes your life easier.
Apple stopped the sale of HomePod in India. Now HomePod Mini is the only Siri-enabled smart speaker. One of the main reasons for having a smart speaker is controlling other smart devices like lights, switches, air-conditioners, and other smart speakers. If you want to avail the services of Siri on HomePod Mini, you should have a Siri-supported ecosystem at home.
The app required to connect smart home appliances is called HomeKit. Currently, the library of HomeKit supported devices in India is much lower than Google Assistant's. If you plan on building a whole Apple ecosystem from scratch, you have options like iPhone, iPad, iMac, Apple TV, Apple Watch, MacBook, and HomePod Mini.
Where are you planning to place your smart speaker? In the living room where you spend most of the day or in the bedroom where your smart lights, switches, and air conditioners are installed? No matter what, you have two options—a wired or a portable smart speaker. Portable speakers cost more since they have in-built batteries.
You can also carry it anywhere inside the house, eliminating the need for multiple smart speakers (unless you need a multi-room speaker system—about which we will discuss in a later section). But you have to charge it every time it cries for some juice. Portable smart speakers can also double as party speakers (like the SonySRS-XB402M) that you can carry while you are traveling.
If you are not looking for any of these convenient features, you can go for a wired one. Don't worry about commanding it from a faraway distance, as smart speakers come with far-field microphones. Choose one that suits your lifestyle and needs.
In the beginning, smart speakers were only meant for accepting voice commands from their users. There was very little emphasis on the quality of the sound they produced. The latest generation of smart speakers from Amazon, Google, and third-party manufacturers like Bose, Sony, and Marshall is built to deliver quality sound with deep bass and crisp highs.
So always go for the latest product in the line of smart speakers by a company. For example, Echo Studio by Amazon comes with five strategically placed speakers and Dolby Atmos technology to deliver multi-dimensional audio. The Bose Smart Speaker 500 fires audio to the walls on the sides to simulate a stereo effect.
It is almost impossible to judge the sound quality of a speaker by looking at the specs or watching YouTube videos. But you can get an idea of the loudness of a speaker by checking the driver size. For example, the Echo Dot that comes with a 3.0" woofer and dual 0.8" tweeters is louder than the Mi smart speaker with a 2.5" driver.
A multi-room smart speaker setup is actually a feature of the app you are using (Alexa, Google Home, or Apple Home). The main benefit is, you will have a virtual assistant waiting for your command in every room, be it your kitchen, bedroom, or living room.
Have a party going on at your house? Ask your virtual assistant to play the same music in every room or a different track on each of the smart speakers placed throughout your house. You can enjoy this functionality in Alexa, Google Home, and Apple Home.
For example, say, "Hey Siri, play Hey Jude by Beetles in the living room" or "Hey Siri, play Beat It by Michael Jackson in the dining room and living room" Having multiple smart speakers also let you form a stereo pair that plays the left channel on one and the right channel on the other. This eliminates the need for buying extra speakers for watching TV.
A smart speaker with a display practically makes it a smart display, but we would like to introduce this variant to you in case you feel it will suit your lifestyle. They offer HD video playback for streaming videos from YouTube or other streaming service providers like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Another popular feature commonly seen on smart displays is video calling.
But having a display doesn't necessarily make a smart speaker a smart display. Some models like the Bose Smart Speaker 500 come with a display that shows you the album art of the current track that's playing; a stylish feature for a smart party speaker. You can find products like the Echo Dot (4th gen) with an LED display that can show time.
Water resistance is not a common feature in smart speakers. But you can find them in some portable models like the Sony SRS-XB402M and Bose Portable smart speaker. If you want your smart speaker to be protected from splashes of water, look for at least an IPX4 rating. If you want your device protected from dust and accidental falls into a water source, an IP67 rating is recommended.
Click to purchase
Echo Dot (4th Gen)
With More Loudness and Improved Bass
Features 5 Speakers With Dolby Atmos Technology
For Those Who Prefer Premium Sound and Looks
Exclusively for Users of Apple Products
An Elegant Design That Fits Right in With Your Home Decor
Smart Speaker 500
Programmable Preset Buttons for Selecting Your Favorite Music Easily
Water Resistant Wireless Party Speaker With Extra Bass™
Echo Show 8
Everything an Echo Dot Can Do Plus a Screen and a Camera
Wireless Smart Speaker You Can Take Anywhere in the House
A Fancy Speaker that Changes Color With the Beat
The Amazon Echo Dot 4th gen has improved a lot from the 3rd generation. With more bass and loudness, this smart speaker can double as your music companion too. The device supports Wifi and Bluetooth connectivity for music playback. It uses the AI virtual assistant Alexa to help you control your smart devices.
You can turn off the microphone electronically using the onboard button if you don't want Alexa to hear you. There are two other variants of the 4th gen Echo Dot: one with an LED display that shows you time and the other with a woofer and dual tweeters to deliver deeper bass and stereo sound.
The light ring serves as more than just a cool design. For example, a red light ring indicates that the microphone is electronically turned off, pulsating yellow shows that you have an unread message or notification, and pulsating green light shows you are receiving a call. We recommend Echo Dot (4th Gen) to everyone who wants a smart speaker that can produce quality sound too.
Echo Studio comes with three mid-range speakers that produce natural vocals, a tweeter for crystal clear high frequencies, and a woofer that provides thumping bass. You can use this smart speaker as a soundbar since it comes with Dolby Atoms technology, providing you a surround sound experience. The Echo Studio is far superior to the Echo Dot and Echo Input in terms of sound quality.
Its virtual assistant Alexa will help you control all your connected smart devices. Echo Studio comes with a built-in Zigbee hub, a technology that allows smart devices from different manufacturers to be controlled through a single app. The device comes with a Toslink line-in (basically an optical line-in) that allows surround sound audio from computers and DVD players to be delivered to it.
It can automatically analyze the acoustics of the room and calibrate audio playback for optimal sound. There is also a light ring that indicates microphone on/off, volume level, and messages, notifications, and incoming calls.
With a 50 watt woofer and two 15 watt tweeters, the Stanmore II delivers exceptional audio quality, which is expected from an industry-leading brand like Marshall. You can control the bass and treble of your music using the onboard analog controls or the equalizer in the Marshall Music app to suit the room you are in or according to what's pleasing to your ears.
The retro design is quite an irony considering the modern technology that it comes built-in! But it will definitely add to your home interiors. You can use it as a Bluetooth speaker or play your music via the Alexa app. Customer reviews are mostly about the superior audio quality and distrotion-free music at high volumes compared to other smart speakers in the market.
HomePod mini is intended for people who have an ecosystem of Apple devices. It can deliver 360-degree audio that sounds wonderful, no matter the position of the listener. If you have multiple HomePod minis, you can create a stereo system that delivers left and right audio through them.
You can also synchronize music playback across all devices or ask Siri to play a different song on each HomePod mini. It has a backlit touch surface that accepts touch commands like tap to pause or play, tap and hold to activate Siri, double-tap for the next song, and triple tap to play the previous track.
The number of Alexa and Google Assistant-supported devices is vast and easily available, while there are substantially fewer devices that support Apple's HomeKit (Apple's software that allows you to control smart devices). So, buy it only if you already have several apple devices at home or plan on improving your smart home with Apple devices in the future.
For those who have been using the Google Home smart speaker, it's time for an upgrade. The new Google Nest Audio plays your music 75% louder with 50% stronger bass. It can adjust the audio for better clarity depending on the media you are listening to. For example, if you are watching a movie, Nest Audio will calibrate itself for clearer dialogues.
The body has sensors responsive to touch commands for controlling the volume, changing tracks, etc. Nest Audio's virtual assistant, Google Assistant, can speak English and Hindi. Although the library of supported devices is not as vast as Alexa's, Google is catching up pretty quickly.
It also supports music streaming services like YouTube Music, Spotify, iHeart Radio, JioSaavn, Gaana, and Apple Music. We recommend Google Nest Audio to Google loyalists who want amazing music quality with a reliable voice assistant.
Bose Smart Speaker 500 is an Alexa-enabled smart speaker with dual speakers that bounces audio off the wall to produce a stereo effect. There are multiple onboard controls, including six preset buttons that you can program to open a playlist, internet radio station, music streaming service, and more.
There are eight microphones capable of picking up your voice commands, even in loud environments. The small LCD shows the current track that's playing. You can use the personalized Bose music app or the Alexa app with this device. Connectivity options include WiFi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay 2.
Customer reviews show that the speaker produces extraordinary sound for its small size. Device set up on the app and connecting multiple speakers for multi-room smart speaker system were also easy for many customers.
Sony is popular for building speakers that deliver rich and pumping bass. The SRS-XB402M smart speaker is no exception. It comes with dual passive radiators that produce deep, resonant sound. The body has RGB lighting that adds to the style of the speaker. You can use the onboard LIVE button to turn on the Extra Bass™ and 3D sound that will recreate the feeling of a music festival.
It has an IP67 rating, meaning the device is dustproof and water-resistant up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. You will get 11 hours of battery life with the LIVE mode turned on and 12 hours on standard mode. The SRS-XB402M allows you to connect via Bluetooth, WiFi, and Spotify Connect.
We recommend this smart speaker for pool parties, traveling, and your get-togethers with friends and family. Customers mostly talk about the superb clarity of sound in the reviews.
Although the Echo Show 8 is categorized as a smart display, we would like to introduce this product as it does everything a smart speaker can do. And with the 8-inch HD touchscreen, you will be able to watch YouTube videos and movies on Amazon Prime. You will also be able to access your calendar and update to-do lists right from the device.
Echo Show 8 also features a 1 MP camera that allows you to video call your family and friends who use Skype, any Echo with a screen, or the Alexa app. Compared to the Echo Show 5, there is a significant improvement in sound quality and loudness because of the bigger speakers and the passive bass radiator.
Here is a list of the streaming services supported with the possibility of more to be included: Netflix, Hungama, Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Prime Music, Apple Music, Spotify, and Gaana.
If you are looking for a portable mini smart speaker, the Echo Input is just the right product for you. You can carry it anywhere you go inside your house, listening to your music or audiobooks uninterruptedly. The 4800mAh battery provides 10 hours of music playback, and the onboard LED lights indicate the battery level.
It produces 360-degree sound, but the sound quality of the Echo Dot 4th gen and Echo Studio are far superior. Even though it is a portable speaker, Echo Input is not water-resistant, which may be a drawback if you want to take it to your swimming pool. We recommend Echo Input to people looking for an affordable portable smart speaker.
Mi smart speaker is priced the same as the Amazon Echo Dot 4th gen. From our research, it all comes down to sound quality and virtual assistant preference. As you all know, the device library of Google Assistant is not as vast as Alexa's, which may make you sway towards the Echo Dot.
But the 2.5-inch drivers of the Mi with DTS Professional tuning may seem superior to the 1.6-inch driver of the Echo Dot. Mi smart speaker's ring light changes color according to the music, which can be visually pleasing.
Some customers felt the microphone sensitivity is poor as it is not picking up the voice commands properly and that the speakers are loud, but the audio quality is not up to the mark.
Do you want to experience cinematic surround sound at home? We will help you choose the best home theater, Bluetooth headphones, and wearable speaker that will deliver multidimensional audio for an immersive listening experience. Click on the links below to learn more about these gadgets and choose from our top 10 list featuring products from top brands in India.
You can choose a smart speaker based on the virtual assistant it has built-in or depending on the number of supported products already available in the market. You have Amazon Alexa, which currently has the highest number of supported devices in the world, and Google Assistant that offers quick integration and utilization of Google services like Gmail, Maps, Google Calendar, and more.
Siri is playing a different ball game with support only for Apple devices. Those who are brand loyalists of Apple with a house full of Apple products will find Apple Home and Siri to be extremely useful. We also recommend considering the sound quality and choose between wired and portable models depending on your lifestyle.
Author - Arun F Xaviour
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