Amazon Alexa, Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Siri.  Here’s your guide to all of the assistants, and who will be best for your home.
Smart speakers are suddenly everywhere!  There’s a good chance you are looking to either purchase your first one, or upgrade to a newer one.  To simplify the process for you, we reviewed the best Smart Speakers of 2018.   Smart speakers can do things like look up the weather, sports scores, tell jokes, turn on your coffee maker, read you a book or even change the channel on your TV.  Adults love them, kids love them, you get the picture.

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)

Amazon 2nd Generation Echo

The second-generation Amazon Echo wins our pick for best smart speaker of 2018, is smaller and more stylish than the original, and its outer skin can be swapped out for different colors and textures.  Echo connects to Alexa to play music, make calls, set music alarms and timers, ask questions, control smart home devices, and more—instantly. 

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. 

For the price of under $100, with the addition of some amazing speaker technology and the constant updating of the Alexa programming, the Amazon Echo (Generation 2) speaker has it all!  It was easy to pick this speaker as the best smart speaker of 2018.  

Best Value Smart Speaker:  Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon 2nd Generation Echo Dot

The second-generation Echo Dot also made the list of best smart speakers of 2018.  The Echo Dot is the least expensive way to get Alexa into your home. As a smaller version than the Echo, it is still a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, make calls, send and receive messages, provide information, read the news, set music alarms, read audiobooks from Audible, control Amazon Video on Fire TV, and so much more.   The Echo Dot has both Bluetooth and a 3.5mm jack, so you can connect it to a better-sounding speaker, which we recommend you do if you’re planning to use it to play music.

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

All-new Sonos One - Smart Speaker with Alexa voice control built-In

Sonos has created a great sounding speaker with the Sonos One and added Alexa to it, creating an appealing alternative to the echo.  This made our list of Best Smart Speakers of 2018, as it was the best sounding.  Having created the Play:1, a hugely popular and great sounding speaker, the company looks to expand, and with Alexa’s voice control, has created one of the best sounding Smart Speakers on the market.

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.

However, because of the fact that we liked the sound of this speaker so much, this goes directly to the top of the lists, and for those willing to pay the price, this speaker is sure to entertain!

Best Looking Speaker: Echo Spot

All-new Echo Spot - Stylish, compact Echo with a screen

The new Echo Spot from Amazon is designed to fit anywhere in your home.  Use 2nd generation far-field voice recognition to watch video flash briefings, see music lyrics, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, browse and listen to Audible audiobooks, and more. All hands-free—just ask.  This earned a top spot on our list of Best Smart Speakers of 2018.

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.   

The Echo Spot also lets you use video calls to other Echo devices in your in your home with a screen.  This is an important feature that is being widely supported on other devices as well.  Take a look at a list of our Best Smart Doorbell Cameras of 2018, some of which support video chat as well.   
Overall, the Echo Spot is a winner.  It’s beautifully designed, its easily customizeable and useful in many different ways.  Having the ability to wake up to any of your choice musicians, or even Alec Baldwin who apparently tells you ‘ If the early bird gets the worm you know what Alec Baldwin gets? The early bird.’ is pretty damn cool.

Best Video Capable Speaker:  Echo Show

The All New Echo Show - Black ($229.99)
The new Echo Show is one of Amazons latest projects that now include a screen with video capabilities.  Speakers like the Echo and Echo Dot are voice-only, but Alexa can display visual information on request when in a device connected to a screen, like the Amazon Fire TV, and Amazon Prime Video.

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

Google Home
The Google Home speaker is more attractive, and sounds better than, the Echo. Take your pick from six colors and two finishes for the base (fabric or metal). At $129, it’s slightly more expensive than the Echo.  On the plus side, you can use Google Home to control Chromecast-enabled devices, such as TVs.  Alexa can’t do that.

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.

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.

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