Smart speakers are among the best selling electronic products in many online stores today. People like their versatility. You can carry them around if you so wish. Not all smart speakers are portable and this may be a decisive factor on which smart speaker to choose. This may be the reason why some makers such as Amazon and Google made minis of their previous versions. We are moving from dumb speakers that wait from another input to come to life. They do more than the sweet sound of music to your ears. In this era of IoT (internet of things), smart speakers easily find a space in your living room. Some are portable that you can carry and stream your music as you relax in your bathroom. 

Smart speakers of 2020 are defined by one thing: Artificial Intellignce (AI). Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri fit easily in the description of the best selling smart speakers in the market. They play music contained in the library of close to 50,000 songs (depending on your subscription), control lights, work as reminders, read news, weather reports and much more. They learn from your commands.

So, what are the best selling smart speakers of 2020? And why are they popular? Our review brings you the best that the market has to offer and why they are preferred by customers.

1. Amazon Echo Dot -3rd Generation

Amazon Dot

This is Amazon’s voice-controlled smart speaker is in its third iteration. It is a smart assistant whose price is a little bit lower compared to its predecessor, Amazon Echo Plus. Its most notable feature is its hands-free control for basic voice commands for basic and even complex tasks. Tell it to switch off lights at night, and it does just that.

Its low price came with some compromises. Hub and temperature sensor have been stripped off. If these are important for your needs, then might pick it up though it costs a little bit more.

Design and features

There is little difference with the previous generation, Amazon Echo. Its dimensions are 5.8 by 3.9 inch of cylindrical shape. Amazon Echo is available in black, light gray, dark gray and blue.

You also access controls from the top with functions of Alexa, muting microphone, turning down up and down button. There is also a microphone tucked inside visible six pinholes. Your voice commands will be captured through this far-field microphone.

Additional Alexa Functions

These are set voice commands that Amazon Echo can solve. These include functions such as playing music, reading news, setting alarms, checking the weather and controlling other compatible home devices.

Pros
  • You get an additional bright 130-watt bulb and a compatible power adaptor
  • You can charge the device for continued use even outside your house but remember within the coverage of wifi network and of course, an Amazon account
  • Larger speaker and impressive appearance
  • Easy to set up and pair with other Echos
  • Pairing up of two Dots for stereo music
  • Drop-in feature where two people get to communicate with each other when the Dots are connected. This is easily established and can make life easier for larger houses. This works like an intercom.
Cons
  • Some people complain of being frustrating getting the Dot to hear or listen. It is not as sensitive as the 2nd generation.
  • Sound quality may not be very impressive but that is expected. Some people use it for its other features and not necessarily for listening to music.
  • A wide variation of volume levels can be annoying when on Flash Briefing
  • Less flexible compared to Gen 2
  • Bulky adaptor that may be of an issue to some users
  • Power cord is not standard, it is long and may be inconvenient for some users
Conclusion

Amazon Echo is a brilliant improvement to the 2nd generation despite notable strip of some features. And there are mishaps in its functionality too that can be noted but those are especially on voice command. The main ones include a collection of volumes of data in voice commands it is not properly set up, strictness in voice commands and poor parental controls. As voice recognition improves, it may get responsive but there are other functions where the Amazon Echo Dots. There is also Amazon Dot Pro that you may go for if the differences make more sense to you.

2. Sonos One ( Gen 2)

 

If there is a defining reason to purchase the Sonos One, it is its quality of sound. This also has an inbuilt Amazon Alexa. It is very easy to set up and can be controlled with an app, Apple AirPlay 2 in addition to your voice.

You can expect to listen to your favourite podcasts, catch up with the latest news or get informed about the weather. Sonos One is designed to easily fit in any room and for that reason, if you have several of such devices, you can control them using one of them. And like the Echo Dot, the Sonos One can also be paired with another and produced a stunning stereo quality sound.

Pros
  • Small size but very good sound quality
  • Supports Alexa and Google Assistant
  • Ability to stream Amazon Music, especially for customers in US
Cons
  • Can be hectic connecting to WiFi
  • Top volumes get distorted
  • No support for Bluetooth
  • Does not support wired connections
  • Does not support Google Home
  • It is not the cheapest smart speaker you can find around. Some may consider them overpriced comparing to cheaper options reviewed here.
  • Some subscribers in other countries found it difficult to stream Amazon Prime Music or Spotify.
Our take

This is a smart speaker that no one is complaining of its design or sound quality. They are top-notch and you need to be patient to set it up and connect with other devices. They can make your room cosy but keep note of the price compared to alternatives such as Amazon Dot.

3. Google Nest Mini

Google mini nest

If you hated the strictness of Amazon’s Alexa in Echo Dot, you could try Google Mini Nest. It has been recognised as the best for personalized assistance. You can command it using your voice and it will respond with subtle customizations.

It is the smallest speakers but one with the poorest sound.

Google added some features and made it one of the most affordable smart speakers around. Google first produced their Google Home speaker in 2016 and it was sold for $100. Google Mini followed a year later and now, Google Home Nest that retails at $49.

Small but quite powerful, the 2nd generation makes it to the list of the most admired speakers in the market today. It is the best value considering similar products like Apple HomePod that sells for $299 or Amazon Echo Studio that is marked at $200.

You will not be mistaken if you do not see any difference in design from the first generation.

The Nest Mini has added an additional microphone in this generation as an improvement from its predecessor. This far-field detection seems to work even better

4. Amazon Echo Plus

Amazon Echo Plus
Amazon Echo Plus
Amazon Echo Plus
Amazon Echo Plus (International Version)

In the category for smart home controls, this second generation of Amazon Echo has a built-in hub that makes it easier for connection of other peripherals such as ZigBee speakers. The hub is adequate on its own and no additional hubs are needed.

However, the company failed to state that not devices are compatible with this. It does not support  Z-wave. It is frustrating when this is not mentioned by the company if you intended to link up the two.

The company also insists of several layers of security but not many users take the pain to activate them. Some of the obvious and painless processes include turning options of turning off microphones. There is a Microphone Off button that disconnects all speakers. If you are concerned about your privacy, consider deleting your stored voice recordings.

With this device, you can connect to your TV and achieve 2.1 sound quality. But you can do that using Bluetooth. It cannot connect any other speakers o different kind, not even their own, the humble little Echos (the 3rd Gen). And when it does, the stereo does not work for everything else. Some would say this depends on the radio station you are tuned in. Bluetooth works with one speaker. If you have an additional echo, you may notice the sound being out of sync by some seconds, 10 would not be acceptable to some users.

Sound quality is amazing. It is a smart speaker. You didn’t buy this for other secondary functions. It has an equaliser built-into Alexa, which is readily customisable to your preferences. There are three sliders at your disposal to enrich and customise your overall sound experience.

Pros
  • Supports Alexa, its flaws notwithstanding
  • Simple to start and easy to setup
  • Impressive sound quality
  • Polished attractive design
Cons
  • Occasional poor customer support
  • No free account to play music (especially for customers outside the US)
  • Poor parental control
  • Not portable
  • It uses Alexa, which does not work well compared to Google Assistant.
Our thoughts

Being an Amazon product, it supports Alexa, which is a cloud-based service that works with other commands, some that can be customised to your liking. It is not perfect and has some shortcomings. The review for this has been done here in this post. Note that the functionality of Alexa will depend on your location and whether you have installed the app on your phone. To call or message using Alexa on this speaker, you will need to install it on your phone. The good thing is that it is supported on Android, iOS and Desktop.

One major problem that we noted with some 20 customers is Alexa’s voice commands failing to respond audibly after some time. It is an issue that the company, for some reason has not addressed. It could be an isolated case but more attention to this issue may be needed. Perhaps, future updates on Alexa may solve the issue, considering that this is one thing that separates it from other “dumb” speakers.

5. Apple Homepod

Apple Homepod

This has the best sound overall and as you would expect, it is the priciest in the list, followed by Sonos One.

Apple products need little introduction, especially after wildly innovative and successful products such as iPhone, iPods, iPad, Macs etc. It has a knack of going an extra mile to make their products seductively attractive. Not all their products have been equally successful but that a story of another day.

For $349, you get rich bass and consistent audio quality, regardless of which music genre you feed it. Cnet rated this product at 7.9

So, why should or shouldn’t you get this product?

Pros
  • It has a quality sound and you can expect it to respond quite well to low tones (bass)
  • Uses Siri (if you already use it elsewhere)
  • Music ‘follows’ around the house technology
  • Access to more than 45 million songs on Apple Music
Cons
  • It is expensive, considering that Google Mini Nest costs just $49 or Amazon’s Echo Dot at $60.
  • Works well with other Apple products such as iPhone
  • You have to use services that are associated with Apple.
  • Siri and Homekit do not match the responsiveness of Google Assistant or Alexa.

The list is by no means exhaustive. There are many other smart speakers that you could pick and serve you quite well.

Some of the honourable mentions include the following:

If smart speakers do not work for you, you could try other top-grossing Bluetooth speakers for 2020.

So, which is your favourite smart speaker? Drop your views below and let me know your experience on above or any other speakers you have used before.