Smart Speakers: All About the Five Best Models of 2018

While just a few short years ago the only smart speakers you might have been able to find included the Amazon Echo, today the market has dozens of newer, better, and more sophisticated options. No longer are you limited to choosing between a handful of devices for your smart speaker needs. But are there too many options now?

Nowadays, selecting the best smart speaker means determining what fits best in your home or lifestyle. Do you prefer Apple devices? Then the HomePod might be right for you. Is sound what’s most important? Then you might consider the Sonos One. What music service do you use? Do you need it to play well with your other smart home devices?

Navigating these and other questions isn’t as simple anymore, because there are so many devices, services, and options available. For now, let’s narrow the list down to the five best smart speakers for 2018. Then you can make an informed, educated decision.

Sonos One (Amazon Alexa/Google Assistant)

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Sonos One might be the best smart speaker on the market at this moment. Sure, there are other smart speakers that are cheaper or have louder speakers. However, from an overall smart speaker perspective, the Sonos One sets the bar. It is undeniably the leader in multi-room audio, smart home compatibility, and sound quality for smart speakers.

For sound quality, the Sonos One has no competitor. Some say the Apple HomePod speaker is as good, but even then, the Sonos One still outshines the HomePod in other areas. Areas like services, for instance. The Sonos One can connect to up to 65 different audio and music services. You’ll be hard-pressed to find one the Sonos One doesn’t have in its library of services.

Additionally, the Sonos One can pair with other speakers while joining your home theater system setup. It connects to most smart home devices. It also supports Amazon Alexa and Google Home, and consistently provides updates to add additional services. If you’re looking for one of the best smart speakers on the market, you’ll find it in the Sonos One.

Google Home Max (Google Assistant)

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If you’re not as focused on sound quality as you are on audio volume, then the Google Home Max is the smart speaker for you. This wireless speaker gets loud. Due to the two 4.5 inch woofers the device holds, you can crank the Google Home Max to really get the party started. The Google Home Max comes with a magnetic pad that keeps it from sliding around and rattling off whatever surface you decide to set it on.

You’ll also find touchpad controls for setting the volume, and of course support for Google Assistant. The Google Home Max adapts to its surroundings; adjusting or amplifying basses and trebles depending on its location. And if you really want to get crazy, you can pair it together with a Sonos One. With six microphones, the Google Home Max is one of the loudest smart speakers on the market.

Similar to many of Google’s devices, setting up the Google Home Max is simple. If you don’t already have it, download the Google Home app from the Play Store, launch the app, and it will add the Google Home Max into your device list. You’ll be able to play music through Spotify, Pandora, YouTube Music, and of course Google Music on your Google Home Max.

Like the next smart speaker on this list, the Google Home Max also has the capability to integrate with other smart home devices. So, if you want to control the temperature in your home or turn down the lights in the hall, you can do so with the Google Home Max.

Amazon Echo Show (Amazon Alexa)

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The Amazon Echo Show sits a little outside the smart speaker genre in that it has a screen and plays video. Is it still a smart speaker? Absolutely. Amazon has done a fantastic job of marrying a screen with a device made primarily for sound. This wireless speaker has better sound quality than other smart speakers made by Amazon, and as mentioned, it comes with a screen.

While you still control Alexa via voice, the screen brings a new dimension to the smart speaker genre. The screen on the Amazon Echo Show allows you to see what track is playing, pause or skip tracks, and if you’re streaming Amazon Music, you can view lyrics. The Echo Show can also stream Amazon Prime content and supports voice and video calls.

As far as wireless speakers are concerned, the Amazon Echo Show ranks near the top. But with the added screen, you’ll have additional capabilities that other smart speakers can’t match. Lastly, the Amazon Echo provides smart home integration that some smart speakers don’t offer. If you’re in the market for a wireless speaker, you can’t go wrong with an Amazon Echo Show.

Google Home vs Alexa

Both the Google Home and the Amazon Echo occupy the same market space for their respective products. The primary difference is that the Google Home is a little easier to converse with out of the box. But that doesn’t mean the Amazon Echo is a slouch when it comes to using her as a smart assistant. When comparing the Google Home vs Alexa Echo, keep in mind that Google Home is pre-installed on all Android devices, an area in which the Echo cannot match.

Apple Home Pod (Siri)

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The Apple HomePod is primarily for those that are devoted to Apple products and services. Some will argue that the Apple HomePod smart speaker sounds better than the Sonos One, but unless you’re only going to use Apple Music, this isn’t the wireless speaker for you.

The HomePod only works with Apple Music, and the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are much better at answering questions. Of course, it’s well-known that the HomePod is a first a smart speaker, and second an assistant. However, when it comes to performance as a wireless speaker, the HomePod does not disappoint.

The HomePod smart speaker a series of tweeters, a woofer, and boasts an A8 chipset, all used to create a high-quality sound. As mentioned, the most significant drawback is that the HomePod wireless speakers only work within the Apple ecosystem. Unfortunately, you can make use of neither Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, and the only service you’ll be able to stream is Apple Music.

Harmon Kardon Invoke (Cortana)

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It could be said that the Harmon Kardon Invoke is flying well below the radar when it comes to smart speakers available on the market today. The Invoke uses Microsoft Cortana as its voice assistant, even though she’s not as popular as Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant. That’s not to say Cortana doesn’t work; she just doesn’t have much in the way of smart home capabilities.

She does play well with Spotify and a few other streaming services and can report on the weather and perform additional essential functions as other smart assistants can. The speaker sounds really good, and you’ll get a rich, robust sound whether you’re listening at a low volume or decide to crank it up.

Even though the Harmon Kardon Invoke is a great wireless speaker option, it just isn’t as good as its competitors. It doesn’t offer support for the streaming services that Sonos, Amazon, or Google does. Additionally, it doesn’t have the integrated partnerships required to make it a full-blown smart home device. The Harmon Kardon Invoke would have been the perfect competitor to the Amazon Echo back in 2015, but in today’s intelligent speaker market, it doesn’t stand up to its peers as well as one might hope.

The Best Smart Speakers for You

As you can see, there are many smart speakers available on the market today, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s out there. You have plenty of options to choose from and should have no problem finding something that fits your needs. Whether you prefer an alternative with plenty of streaming services, or like to stick with one platform, there is a wireless speaker for you.

If we’re making a recommendation right now for a smart speaker, we’d recommend either the Amazon Echo Show or the Google Home Max. Both offer a great experience with excellent sounds while giving you the ability to make your home smarter with device integration. The Echo Show has a more expansive range of devices, while the Home Max is better at understanding queries.

Having said that, you need to go with a smart speaker that makes sense for you and your home. If you are all-Apple-all-the-time, buying a Google Home Max isn’t going to work for you. However, if you prefer to party all the time, you might consider giving the Google Home Max a try. Use this great information in deciding which smart speaker is going to fit into your home and lifestyle the best.

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