We found the best smart speaker of 2018 to be the Amazon Echo ($99). I waited until the 2nd generation came out because I was not quite sold on having a smart speaker. I like to do research. But when I made the purchase, I was pleasantly surprised. Initially I was a little disappointed in its sound quality, however Amazon released a firmware update which greatly improved the listening experience. This all-new Echo is more attractive, and less expensive than the original, which helped my decision making process! Our budget pick is the Echo Dot, which costs just $50.
Best Overall Speaker: Amazon Echo (2nd Generation)
For instance, Alexa will tell you jokes on demand, riddles, play stand-up comedy, etc. Alexa is always being updated, I get monthly emails telling me all the new features added that I can take advantage of. There are also courses on how to make your own Alexa programs.
Best Value Smart Speaker: Amazon Echo Dot
Similar to the Amazon Echo, the Echo Dot less expensive, and is ideal for places where you want Alexa, (such as a kitchen, dining room, office desk etc.), but don’t want another large device cluttering the space.
Best Sounding Speaker: Sonos One
This is a music speaker first, delivering terrific wireless sound, bluetooth capabilities, and an app made by Sonos that allows users to easily become their own DJ, or let anyone else at the party connect to it.
With the addition of Alexa, Sonos One can connect to your other smart devices, answers questions, performs calculations, sets reminders and timers, and will give you news briefings on your favorite subjects.
There are limitations, however. You cannot change the code word Alexa, there is no support for voice calling at this time, and there are no notifications, or ebooks. There is no way to set up multi room audio either.
Best Looking Speaker: Echo Spot
At $129.99, the Echo Spot is much more attractive than the blocky Echo Show, and it’s fun design makes a great gift for anyone. This is the perfect alarm clock, if you choose to use it as one. The Spot has a great menu with tons of options to customize. Choose what kind of theme you want to set on the display, whether you want to look at your clock in digital or analog format, and how loud and bright you want the device to be. Best of all, you can create a slideshow of personal photos to set on the home screen and change the sounds you hear.
Best Video Capable Speaker: Echo Show
Another winner in our category for Best Smart Speaker of 2018, the first Alexa-specific Echo hardware with a screen, the $229.99 Echo Show (now on sale for $149.99) combines the voice assistant features of the Amazon Echo with a 7-inch touch screen and a 5-megapixel camera. This adds more functionality like viewing the weather or your calender in big, bold letters, as well as video calling “Drop Ins” to other Echo Devices. The display can be customized, act like a picture frame, and has more app development under way. Although the video capability has definitely touched on a key improvement, there is still room for improvement as a question arises “Is the addition of a display worth the increase in price over voice-only alternatives?
Best Designed Speaker: Google Home
However, in a face-off between the two assistants, we found Amazon’s to be more well-rounded than Google’s. Although we did not want to count out this Google Home, as overall it is a really good product. Therefor we gave it a home on our list of Best Smart Speakers of 2018.
Our Top Pick: Amazon Echo (2nd Generation)
The Amazon Echo is THE best Smart Speaker of 2018, a great way to bring an Alexa-enabled smart speaker into your home. With great sound quality thanks to Dolby audio, a 2.5-inch woofer, and a 0.6-inch tweeter. Auxiliary input and Bluetooth if you want to connect it to a larger speaker. It is extremely easy to use, and offers you the ability to play music from your phone, amazon prime music, spotify, etc. The Echo also uses far-field voice recognition, so Alexa can hear you even if you’re in the next room. This can be sometimes annoying as whenever you say ‘Alexa’, she stops what shes doing and starts listening.
Every Echo device has access to the same Alexa skills and features, but we found the second-generation Echo offers the best blend of quality performance and value. It doesn’t act as a hub for devices that require their own bridge like the Echo Plus. And it may not have a screen like the Echo Spot or the Echo Show, but you really don’t need a display or a camera to fully enjoy Alexa.
Every month, Amazon has a new set of Skills that they have programmed Alexa to do, which they send out in an email. Want Alexa to tell you a joke? Read you a story? Tell you a riddle? Tell you what the Fox says? Ask super specific questions like the circumference of the Earth? Alexa has you covered.
Pros: The interchangeable “shells” that let you switch up the look of your device. With five options, it’s easy to find one that will work best with any decor.
Cons: Alexa doesn’t know everything, but she is given monthly improvements.
Who should buy it: Great gift for Fathers Day, Mothers Day, Christmas, Birthdays, or a gift for yourself.