Best smart speakers and smart displays in 2019

Best smart speakers and smart displays in 2019
The idea of an automated smart home is nothing new. For decades, people have been dreaming of completely remote-controlled house appliances, robot butlers, AC systems that know when you’re cold or hot, and all sorts of other far-fetched ideas, which today are not nearly as implausible as they once appeared. But who would have thought—just a few years ago—that smart speakers would play such an instrumental role in bringing this fantasy closer to reality?

Yet here we are today, with smart speakers exploding in popularity and granting users the freedom to order food, shop, control other smart home appliances, get up to speed with the news, and so much more—by only using their voice!

But the recent skyrocketing in smart speaker popularity and the overabundance of choice in the market is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have an amazing variety of options to find something that suits your budget and needs; on the other, actually finding the best one can be a daunting task when there are so many models and brands to choose from.

This is why we made a list of what we think are the best smart speakers on the market right now. We’ve covered all the bases—from the most affordable and simple options to the highest-end ones—so you’re guaranteed to find something that suits your budget and needs!

The best smart speakers in 2019


Amazon Echo 2019 (3rd gen)



The 2019 Amazon Echo is arguably the best all-around smart speaker you can get right now. It retains the vast capabilities of its predecessors, with an almost endless list of Alexa skills (that you can also make yourself) and app integrations, but the third-gen Echo is also a meaningful upgrade in terms of audio quality.

The Amazon Echo lets you tap into over 100,000 Alexa skills, which is a mind-boggling number on its own, but you can also create custom skills, should you need to. The average user would never even have to do this, as Alexa can already do pretty much everything you can think of, and connect to and work alongside with almost every smart home appliance out there.

Aside from being an extremely capable assistant, the Amazon Echo 2019 is also a very good-sounding speaker in its own right. With its improved audio hardware over the previous generation, the 2019 Amazon Echo can rival the Echo Plus in terms of audio quality, which makes it ideal for those looking for a capable wireless speaker that can not only follow voice commands but is also good for playing music.

And speaking of playing music, if you are a Prime member, you get free streaming from Amazon Music and Prime Video, as well as free audiobooks, and fast shipping for thousands of items on Amazon.


Google Home



The battle between Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant in the AI assistant space is a fierce one. And while Assistant reigns supreme on smartphones and tablets, the story is a bit different on smart speakers, where Alexa has a stronger foothold. That said, this doesn’t really make Google’s Home smart speaker lineup any less capable, just different.

Google Home is an excellent all-around smart speaker that leverages Google Assistant’s smarts and elevates them to new heights. It may not have hundreds of thousands of niche skills that Alexa has, but it is also much better at handling free-form queries and searching the web for anything and everything. This means that you can ask Google Home for pretty much anything that jumps to mind, and you’ll almost always get an accurate and concise answer. Assistant is also much more conversational and fluid than Alexa, with many different voices to choose from, should you grow bored of the default one.

Google Home is also fairly customizable in terms of looks, with several base colors and material options to choose from. While the top portion of the device is made of white aluminum, the base comes in a variety of colors, including orange, bronze, purple, and teal—aside from the basic white and black options—so you can tailor it to fit well in your home.

And speaking of design, Google Home is one of the more interesting smart speakers out there. Its looks were inspired by various traditional home appliances, which has translated into its unique, slanted design that really helps it blend in with many interior types, and not stick out like a sore thumb.

Google Home also has integrations with a decent amount of smart devices, such as Philips Hue light bulbs, all Nest products, and Chromecast devices.


Sonos One



If you’re after a smart speaker that can actively be used for streaming music, then the Sonos One is arguably the best choice for you. It boasts excellent audio quality for a device of its size, and is also compatible with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and even AirPlay 2 for pairing with the Apple HomePod!

The Sonos One is an incredibly versatile device, though it comes with a price tag to match. Unlike other smart speakers, it isn’t locked to a single ecosystem. Instead, the Sonos One can work with both Alexa and Google Assistant, and even us AirPlay 2 to pair with a HomePod speaker and talk to Siri, though it doesn’t have access to Apple’s AI assistant on its own.

Sonos One is the obvious choice for people who want to stream music in high quality throughout their homes, even if this means paying the extra over cheaper, not-as-good sounding alternatives.

In terms of looks, the Sonos One has a rather simplistic design, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, depending on the environment you put it in. With its aluminum body, wrapped in a grill surface, the Sonos One is very much on the “techie” side of things and fits right at home next to pretty much any modern gadget. Unlike the Google Home, it doesn’t look so much as a home appliance, but rather a traditional gadget (which is what it is). This is not to say that it won’t look good in your home, but it is something to keep in mind, especially if you are particularly picky about interior decorations.


Apple HomePod



The Apple HomePod is a bit of a curiosity. In fact, it barely made it onto our list of the best smart speakers, as it still has a long way to go before it catches up to Google Assistant and Alexa speakers.

Apple entered the smart speaker race at a much later stage than Amazon and Google. As a result, the HomePod launched with very limited capabilities compared to its biggest rivals. Its biggest stand-out features are arguably its excellent sound quality and seamless integration within the Apple ecosystem.

Unfortunately, the HomePod lacks Bluetooth music streaming and has no built-in support for any music services other than Apple Music, which makes streaming tunes possibly only through AirPlay. Of course, this also means that you need to have an iOS or Mac device to use this feature.

Despite the shortcomings, Apple boasts that its smart speaker is the most secure option out there, which may very well be the case, but considering its premium price, the rather limited capabilities of Siri, and the lackluster app support, we’d recommend the HomePod only to the most ardent of Apple fans, who are already deep into the ecosystem and can really use it to its full potential.


Best smart displays (smart speakers with screens) in 2019


Smart displays are still a bit of a new category, though they are the next logical step in the evolution of the smart speaker. Simply put, smart displays are speakers with—well—a display tacked on.

They offer extended capabilities compared to their audio-only brethren, such as rich media features like displaying images, streaming video, and even making video calls. Of course, the latter also means that you’ll have a camera pointed at you 24/7 (rather than just a microphone), which may or may not be something you want.

That said, smart displays are becoming ever more adept and they combine all the things that a traditional speaker can do with many new features possible only with the addition of a display.

Google Nest Hub



While Amazon may be ahead of Google in the smart speaker race, when it comes to smart displays, the Google Nest Hub is arguably the best choice out there, especially if you’re using Google services like YouTube, Maps, Photos, and Gmail.

The Nest Hub’s main attraction is a 7-inch touchscreen that sits perched atop the actual speaker. Google Assistant is very well integrated and makes surfacing information from any of Google’s major services a breeze.

Getting details about your daily commute, playing YouTube videos, checking reminders and upcoming appointments, and browsing through photos is all just a question away. Want to see all the important stuff first thing in the morning? Just say “Hey Google, good morning,” and Nest Hub will show you the weather, events from your calendar, news, and all sorts of other useful information, tailored to your specific needs and lifestyle.

Of course, the Google Nest Hub isn’t without its shortcomings. For one, audio quality isn’t up to par with some of the cheaper smart speaker options (or the Amazon Echo Show smart display), and the Nest Hub is yet to learn to play along with some third-party video streaming services, such as Netflix.

On a side note, the Nest Hub doesn’t have a camera, which could both be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. If you’re in the market for a smart display that can do video calls, then the Google Nest Hub Max is a good alternative, as it is essentially a beefed-up version of this one. It has a camera, a bigger 10-inch screen, and a substantially better-sounding speaker (but it also costs $100 more).


Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen)



The Echo Show takes all the best traits from the screenless Amazon Echo and adds a 10-inch display into the mix.

Just like the traditional Echo speaker, the Show has access to over 100,000 Alexa skills and works with pretty much every smart home appliance out there. The added convenience of a touchscreen grants you access to streaming from Prime Video, browsing through photos and recipes, and even making video calls thanks to the built-in camera (which also has a shutter that you can slide over the lens, should you feel too exposed to the corporate eye). There’s even a new “Glance” feature that shows you clips from various big news agencies, so you can get up to speed with the latest developments.

Unfortunately, the potential of the screen yet to be fully realized, as the Echo Show doesn’t allow you to start playing YouTube videos by voice (which is something many people want), and the user interface itself isn’t as smooth or as polished as Google’s Nest Hub.

The Echo Show has two speakers, which may not sound as great as some offerings from Sonos, but are very adequate when for streaming music and are certainly better than the Google Nest Hub.


JBL Link View



If you’re looking for a smart display with serious music streaming capabilities, look no further than the JBL Link View.

The Link View has Google Assistant built-in and runs pretty much the same smooth and responsive interface as the Nest Hub, but it trumps pretty much any other smart display in terms of audio quality.

The 8-inch screen, surrounded by thick bezels, and the rather uninspired design may not seem like a great deal for $300, but this one is for people who can’t do without a display and want the best audio quality.

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2 Comments

1. sgodsell

Posts: 7577; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

I would have added the 10" Lenovo smart display on this list, especially since it has the highest resolution smart display. Not to mention separate privacy options to disable the camera and microphones. Also how the hell can you add the HomePod to the category of best SMART speakers? It's the complete opposite of smart. Also when you said "Despite the shortcomings, Apple boasts that its smart speaker is the most secure option out there, which may very well be the case.". That is a lie. I hope you know that Apple's latest policies have said that they convert everything that anyone has said to Siri over to text (transcripts). So both Apple employees and their contractors can see, and use everything that any Siri customer has said. It's in text format, but still that data can be used by anyone at Apple, or it's contractors. The new customer Siri option that allows it's Siri customers to opt out, is for the customers Siri voice recordings. So everything that is said to Siri can still be viewed, and used in transcript form (text), there is no opt out option for that. Well unless you completely disable Siri. So to say Siri is the most secure is false.

2. LordDavon

Posts: 179; Member since: Sep 19, 2011

I just picked up the Echo Studio. It really should be on this list as something to consider besides the Sonos.

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