Good smart speakers come with Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri. We show the test winners in the categories budget, sound and features.
The two leading voice assistants Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant can not only be found in the devices of the two companies, but are increasingly finding their way into third-party devices. Siri only listens to voice commands in Apple products. In the past we have tested many devices individually, the links can be found in the respective sections. Here we choose the respective test winners in the categories budget, sound and extra functions.
We attach particular importance to the following criteria:
Sound: Smart speakers should not only read the weather and control the smart home. They also play radio stations or play music from cloud services. Then the audio quality should be right.
Optics: Often the smart speakers are in prominent places in the living room, bathroom, kitchen and bedroom. Optics and design shouldn’t be neglected here.
Functions: The differences in their functions are huge with smart speakers. There are models with a Zigbee hub, models with built-in lights or motion sensors and models for cars.
Price-performance: How much smart speaker does the buyer get for his money and is the product really solid?
Voice assistants don’t have to be expensive. If you take it seriously, most of them already have one in their pocket: the smartphone. Almost all Android smartphones offer the Google Assistant by default, and some can even be identified with the keyword Hey google or Okay google wake. iPhones from 6s and other Apple products such as iPad, Airpods, Apple Watches and Homepod have Siri pre-installed, the Google Assistant can be installed on iPhone and iPad via an app. The user can use the Amazon voice assistant on both smartphone systems via the Alexa app. This is excellent if, as a user, you want to try out the wizards without having to spend money.
However, it is more convenient to use a stationary voice assistant at home. This is then always in the usual place and reacts to the word. Here we choose the test winner in the budget category. Siri is too expensive and therefore far behind in this category.
Our test winner is the Echo Dot 3 (test report). Amazon has continuously developed the small voice assistant. With the third version, which dates from 2018 and is already two years old, Amazon is finally improving the biggest criticism so far: the sound. It still can’t keep up with its bigger and more expensive siblings (Amazon Echo: All models in comparison) and many Bluetooth speakers (comparison test), let alone with full-blown speakers like the Sonos One (test report). But for its low price of often just 30 euros and the tiny dimensions, the sound is quite useful for voice announcements and occasional radio listening. However, one should not expect miracles.
Thanks to the fabric cover, it also looks quite classy in the colors white, gray and black. The illuminated LED ring shows when the Dot is listening or notifications are pending. His microphones listen carefully to the room, and there are seldom problems understanding. Thanks to the 3.5 mm jack plug and Bluetooth, the Echo Dot can also serve as an external speaker.
- Good sound despite compact dimensions
- Appealing optics
- Full Alexa functionality
- Hollow plug socket for electricity
There are numerous alternatives to the Echo Dot, even from in-house: Amazon Echo Flex. This is even cheaper, hangs directly on the socket and can optionally be retrofitted with a light or motion detector. Its disadvantage: the sound cannot even come close to that of the Echo Dot 3. In contrast to the Google Home Mini, whose sound comes close to that of the Echo Dot 3. In the following article we will explain in detail which is the best voice assistant in the lower price segment: Voice assistants from 30 euros: Alexa and Google in comparison.
If you want to listen to the radio more than just now and then, you need a smart speaker with really good sound. In the meantime, the choice is huge, also because Google and Amazon are opening up to third-party manufacturers who integrate voice assistants into their high-end audio devices. A good example is the Dolby Atmos soundbar Sonos Arc (test report). But even the devices from Amazon and Apple themselves sometimes offer excellent sound. Google does not currently have any of its own devices with top sound in its portfolio.
Our test winner is the Harman Kardon Citation Tower. The floorstanding loudspeakers belong to the top class of sound and blow us away from armchairs with regard to their power and the very fine resolution. The towers are multi-room capable and can be supplemented with many other products from the Citation series. So you can expand it together with the Citation Bar, Citation Sub and Citation Surround to a real 5.1 system. In addition to the Google Assistant, they also offer Google Cast and Bluetooth. Good sound has its price. Harman Kardon wants an impressive 2400 euros for the two Citation Towers.
- Top sound
- Lots of features
The price tip in the sound category costs only a fraction: Amazon sells the Echo Studio for just 200 euros. Amazon squeezes five loudspeakers into the size and shape of a small trash can that can even process and reproduce Dolby Atmos. We recommend buying two Echo Studios. The combined sound can be heard and produces, for example, sound reproduction on the TV via the Fire TV Stick 4K (test report) an astonishingly immersive, almost three-dimensional sound. The Alexa integration works just as well as you would expect from a smart speaker directly from Amazon.
Anyone who uses Siri should take a closer look at the Apple Homepod (is it worth buying?). It is roughly the shape of the Echo Studio, costs just under 300 euros and offers a similarly good sound. In addition, it looks great processed and receives – all Apple – regular updates. The multi-room boxes from Sonos are always worth considering, the Sonos Arc (test report) received the grade 1 from us. With Sonos, the user can even choose between using Alexa and Google Assistant. We also like the sound of the Bose Portable Home Speaker (review). The little all-rounder supports Alexa and Google Assistant, has a battery, hangs in the WLAN and understands Airplay 2.
The language assistants not only fight for dominance in the living room, they strive for dominance in all areas of life and want to be as useful as possible – also in the niche. That is why devices with Alexa and Co. that can do more are increasingly coming onto the market.
Our test winner in the extras category is the Amazon Echo Auto (guide). He brings Alexa into the car, an area that was previously only awkwardly or insufficiently covered by voice assistants. Echo Auto connects to the smartphone via Bluetooth, records voice commands via eight microphones and plays back audio and voice via the car’s sound system.
Echo Auto impresses us above all with its very well-functioning microphones and the associated excellent suitability as a hands-free device. Otherwise, Echo Auto offers most of what Alexa fans expect from their voice assistant in the car. The hardware itself is good, the cable management could have been solved more elegantly and an integrated FM transmitter would have found many friends.
- Alexa in the car
- Very good microphones
- Cable management
- No integrated FM transmitter
If you want to use voice assistants on the move away from your own smartphone, you can take a closer look at the Sonos Move (test report) and the Bose Portable Home Speaker (test report). Alexa and Google Assistant only work with both if the devices are in the WLAN. For example, you can use the hotspot of your smartphone on the go.
The Amazon Echo Flex is also interesting. It does a lot differently than any other Echo device. For example, it hangs directly in the socket and, thanks to the USB socket, serves as a power supply unit to charge the smartphone. Various attachments can be connected to the Flex. There is, for example, a motion detector that switches on appropriate smart light sources when there is movement at night. The night light is also interesting as an attachment. The Flex doesn’t sound good, but it doesn’t necessarily want to. He should bring Alexa to the places that were previously withheld from her, for example in the entrance area of the apartment, so that when leaving, the light can be quickly switched off by voice command or the radio switched on when arriving.
If you want to control smart home lights directly via Zigbee, you should take a closer look at the Amazon Echo Plus (test report). It integrates the necessary Zigbee hub, which otherwise often has to be purchased separately.
Smart speakers are increasingly finding their way into our everyday lives. No wonder, as they are very practical in many areas. They not only answer questions about knowledge, they can also be used to coordinate appointments, play music and, above all, control the smart home.
Those who value perfect sound will get the latest high-end products with voice assistants from established audio manufacturers. The Citation series from Harman Kardon offers excellent sound, but is very expensive. At the other end of the price flagpole is the Echo Dot 3 (review). It is our budget tip and offers good sound, very good microphones and the complete Alexa functionality for its low price. If you want to use Alexa in the car, you should take a closer look at the Amazon Echo Auto (guide). It works very well for music control and as a hands-free system and costs little.
We give an overview of all Alexa Echo devices in the article Amazon Echo: All models in comparison. We compare the really cheap smart speakers here: Voice assistants from 30 euros: Alexa and Google in comparison.