When it comes to today’s best smart speakers there is really only a choice of two voice assistants. In one corner you have Amazon Alexa, and in the other, you have Google Assistant. While very similar in many regards, Google Assistant has one key advantage when it comes to implanting itself into your daily routine.
If you use an Android phone then you’ve probably already been using Google Assistant. Perhaps without giving it much thought. But it’s there on your phone as a voice assistant and a tool to add some smart features to your everyday life. A compatible smart speaker will take that very assistant from your phone and insert it into every room in your home.
It’s also an incredible platform for smart home integration, too. Just as with Alexa, there’s a huge selection of smart home tech that integrates with Google Assistant. And this will only continue to grow as Matter, the new Google-backed standard, launches potentially in late 2022. Backing Google Assistant isn’t a bad play. So, if you’re looking for the right smart speaker to go along with that, these are the ones to get.
- Best overall: Google Nest Audio
- Best with display: Google Nest Hub
- Best for music: Sonos One
- Best budget: Google Nest Mini
- Best portable: Sonos Roam
- Best for nightstands: Lenovo Smart Clock Essential
- Best premium audio: Bose Smart Speaker 500
- Something different: Belkin Soundform Elite
Best overall: Google Nest Audio
The Google Nest Audio is the best all-around smart speaker that Google has ever released. It costs about the same as an Amazon Echo, which makes it quite affordable. And it doesn’t look too bad, either. Google smart speakers have had strong aesthetics for as long as they’ve been a thing, and the Nest Audio follows the simple, fabric-fronted design seen on other recent products. It isn’t very big, either, and is quite slim, making for an altogether more compact speaker than something like a Sonos One.
The Nest Audio is also a good speaker for people who just want great-sounding wireless audio. It supports all the major music streaming services, including Apple Music, and once set as the default, all you need to do is trigger the speaker and ask for your songs. Google’s extra bonus feature is the integration of the Chromecast protocol. This makes it a breeze to send audio from your mobile device to your Nest Audio. Chromecast isn’t exclusive to Android, either, nor is the Google Home app you’ll use to set it up.
Inside the Nest Audio, there’s both a 75mm (2.95-inch) woofer and a 19mm (0.74-inch) tweeter. The result is a great, balanced sound with good performance across the spectrum, including for vocals. Despite its fairly compact size, the sound is room-filling. Google has also packed the Nest Audio with smart features such as Ambient IQ, which can adapt to background noise to ensure your audio always sounds good.
In keeping with the minimalistic style, the Nest Audio has nothing much in the way of physical controls, with a microphone mute switch joined by touchpoints to turn the volume up and down. And if you already use other Google hardware, the Nest Audio seamlessly integrates into your Google Home setup. The Nest Audio sounds particularly strong when part of a group of multiple speakers, turning room-filling sound into home-filling sound. It’s a shame that you can only use wireless audio, though, nor can you hook a Nest Audio into an existing sound system. There’s no 3.5mm audio jack on the speaker, for input or output, which is probably its only shortcoming.
The key to the Nest Audio is balance. There are cheaper Google Assistant speakers and there are better sounding ones. Where Google absolutely nailed it with the Nest Audio is producing a speaker that sits at the junction between different specialties. It sounds great and looks stylish, but it also doesn’t cost nearly as much as some of the other options. The sacrifice in absolute sound quality is there, but given the financial savings tied to the quality you do get, the Nest Audio is a winner.
Best with display: Google Nest Hub
If you’re in the market for a smart speaker with a built-in display, that also supports Google Assistant, there’s little reason not to get Google’s own. The second generation Nest Hub is fairly affordable, has a fantastic-looking display, and good quality sound, it can act as a dashboard for your smart home, and even track your sleep if you put it at the side of your bed.
The smaller Nest Hub doesn’t have a camera, so it’s not good for video calls, but this also makes it easier to put in any room around the house without that worry. The sleep sensing feature comes through motion and sound detection rather than video. The Nest Hub can analyze your sleep quality by learning when you go to bed and how you rest based on what it detects. Right now it’s free while in the preview stages but eventually will become part of the Fitbit+ subscription. You can view the data in the Google Fit application on your phone along with your other health and fitness information to get a complete picture.
The smart speaker part is fairly standard. You trigger with the command, ask Google Assistant for something, and get your answer back. Like all Google Assistant speakers, the Nest Hub supports all the major music streaming services, including Apple Music. Listen to podcasts, get news briefings, check the weather, and interact with your smart home devices, it’s all there. The microphones have an excellent range so you’ll be heard loud and clear wherever in the room you are.
The added bonus of having a display means the Nest Hub can be used to enjoy video content as well as audio. If you want to watch a YouTube video while you’re cooking, for example, you can. Disney+, Netflix, and Hulu are just some of the third-party supported services you can enjoy content from, too. The display is big enough for it to be a decent experience, say, to keep the kids occupied while they wait for dinner or if you have a Nest Hub on your desk. It’s like using a small tablet for the same feature.
In terms of negatives, well, one obvious one is shared with the Nest Audio; there is no 3.5mm jack for input or output. The sound on the Nest Hub is good, considering its size and design, but there’s no simple way to integrate it with an existing sound system.
The Nest Hub is also a great dashboard for smart homes and important day-to-day information. You can replicate a lot with audio-only smart speakers, but the glanceable panels and on-screen controls for compatible items make it more intuitive to use. Anyone who’s ever touched a smartphone will have no problems using and loving a Google Nest Hub.
Best for serious music fans: Sonos One
Sonos is probably the most famous brand in connected, multiroom audio. The company is working on its own voice assistant platform, but it also has full integration with Google Assistant. Sonos isn’t the only way you can get both Google Assistant and music in every room, but Sonos did make its name on the latter. As good as groups of speakers like the Nest Audio may be, Sonos is still better at it. It’s built first and foremost for music and it always has been.
It truly is designed to be used in any room, even the bathroom. The Sonos One is humidity resistant, so it can easily live in areas of the home that you would otherwise keep electronics away from. The audio hardware consists of a pair of digital amplifiers, one tweeter, and one mid-woofer that maximizes bass output and ensures faithful recreation of mid-range frequencies. The Sonos One is compatible with basically everything else Sonos makes, including previous-generation hardware. And unlike some competing Google Assistant-enabled smart speakers, you can combine two of these to make a stereo pair.
Sonos has retained its own companion app for its speakers for those who aren’t interested in AI voice assistants. But if you’re here, you’re likely interested in its Google Assistant integration. So you get both the ability to interact with and without your voice, though anything for Google Assistant will need the latter. Sonos is also building its own voice assistant which will be incredibly limited, especially at first, but it will eventually be there as a backup if you decide to stop using Google Assistant.
Google Assistant integration also means simple, wireless streaming from all the music services supported by it. The Sonos One is also capable of playing back Hi-Res Audio, but only from some supported services, like Amazon Music. Hi-Res Audio is a desirable feature to have if you enjoy high-quality sounding music.
Are there any downsides? As seems to be a common theme, there is no 3.5mm input, so you’re limited to using the Sonos One with wireless music. It is also one of the more expensive choices, especially if you’re trying to build a multiroom system. You wouldn’t say it’s necessarily overpriced, but depending on your needs, there are cheaper ways to build a comparable system.
The Sonos One’s biggest strength besides quality audio is that it casts a wide net. It’s definitely the better choice for those who want their music to be the priority. But it can also control your smart home, and if you’re an iPhone user you also have the ability to use AirPlay, too. There’s so much inside this speaker that even the higher price tag still represents good value overall.
Best budget: Google Nest Mini
The Google Nest Mini, and the almost identical Google Home Mini that came before it, have been a staple in the company’s hardware lineup for a number of years. It’s remained largely unchanged in that time as well. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If you’re new to smart speakers or you’re trying to stick to a tight budget, the Google Nest Mini is unquestionably the right choice. It’s almost an impulse buy.
This is Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo Dot and approaches things in a very similar way. It’s a compact speaker with minimal controls, designed to be operated entirely with your voice. Just as with the larger Nest Audio, too. It does have hardware controls, of a fashion, with two touch points on the top to increase and decrease volume. These are joined by a microphone mute switch and that’s about all. It would have been nice to have a 3.5mm input and/or output, though, especially since the comparably priced Echo Dot has such a feature. This would have been extremely attractive to have to integrate the Nest Mini with existing home entertainment systems.
The design is incredibly minimal, sporting a fabric-covered top in a variety of colors, broken only by the Google Assistant LEDs that light up when you’re talking to it. You won’t see them when they’re off, which is nice, but they’re certainly bright enough to see from across the room if the speaker has been activated. The Google Nest Mini is simplistic, both in design and operation, which makes it accessible to all. You don’t need to be a tech whizz to have one of these, just as with the larger Nest Audio. In almost every way this is a shrunken-down version of the best speaker you can get.
The Nest Mini also packs surprisingly good sound for something so small. It has only a single 40mm driver but delivers its sound through a full 360 degrees so is capable of filling the room. Input is handled by a trio of far-field microphones, picking up your voice from all directions. They’re excellent, too, capable of hearing you clearly across the length of the room even if you’re listening to music at a decent volume. And as with other Google speakers, the icing on the cake is support for the Chromecast protocol. Any music you can’t stream natively, you can at least cast to your Nest Mini.
As a speaker the Nest Mini is superb, but it’s also one of the most affordable ways to get into smart home powered by Google Assistant. On this front, it can do everything the more expensive speakers can do. But it saves you money and is easier to place all around the home without becoming overpowering.
Best portable: Sonos Roam
The Sonos Roam is no mere portable Bluetooth speaker, despite looking like that’s exactly what it is. This is a truly wireless smart speaker. It has a built-in battery so you can leave the house and take the music with you. The only requirement is a Wi-Fi connection, so if you can provide that, the Sonos Roam can go wherever you do. While the focus here is its Google Assistant integration, it also supports AirPlay if you’re an iPhone user. AirPlay is of additional importance on a portable speaker such as this, because there is bound to be a time you either can’t or just don’t want to hook it up to a Wi-Fi connection away from the home. AirPlay, or Bluetooth if you’re on Android, is a suitable backup.
The battery inside is good for up to 10 hours of playback, impressive given its compact size. Inside is a pair of digital amplifiers, a tweeter, and a mid-woofer delivering a sound quality far beyond your average Bluetooth speaker. It even has an optional wireless charging base for those times you have a power outlet handy and don’t want the music to stop. The Roam also supports handoff with your in-home Sonos speakers. This means that when you’re done listening outside you can simply hand the audio over to the speakers indoors and carry on. It operates very much like Apple’s similar feature of the same name.
Despite being a portable speaker, the Sonos Roam is every bit a Sonos speaker. Like the Sonos One, the Roam supports Trueplay, Sonos’ technology for monitoring the acoustic environment and adjusting the audio to match. Unlike the Sonos One, it doesn’t require any additional mobile devices to set up. Prior to the Roam, an iPhone was required to set up and calibrate Trueplay, but Android users are also included with this speaker.
In keeping with its portable nature, the Sonos Roam is shock resistant to protect against bumps and drops, as well as boasting an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance. You won’t be standing under any waterfalls but it can certainly handle a jaunt into the garden or a trip to the beach with ease. It doesn’t look very rugged but rest assured it can handle itself in the great outdoors.
Its use cases away from any connected smart home devices are limited, Google Assistant isn’t just about controlling such devices. Almost anything you can do with Google Assistant on your smartphone you can do on the Sonos Roam. Be that streaming music, audiobooks, podcasts, or just setting alerts and reminders. Within range of your home network, the Sonos Roam can be the trigger for any Google Assistant-connected smart home tech, too. With an increasing amount of garden-based smart tech, the Sonos Roam makes for a compelling outdoor companion.
Best for the nightstand: Lenovo Smart Clock Essential
The Lenovo Smart Clock Essential is a modern take on the classic nightstand alarm clock radio. In fact, if you look at one without knowing exactly what it is, you would easily mistake it for a traditional alarm clock radio. The Lenovo Smart Clock Essential comes in two flavors, covering both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. But doesn’t support both in the same unit. The Google Assistant version looks a little different but has mostly the same features. To ensure you get the right one, the Google Assistant version (pictured above) is smaller and only trimmed in grey. The Amazon version comes in either blue or red and is a little taller.
What makes the Smart Clock Essential the best choice for an in-bedroom smart speaker is its combination of an awesome clock display and having no camera. Because you don’t want to put something with a camera inside your bedroom. The Smart Clock Essential also includes a hardware mute switch for the times you don’t want it to listen out for you, too. The mute switch is a little awkwardly placed on the rear at the base of the speaker, and it would have been nicer to have on the top like on an Echo Dot.
But why would you want a clock like this without a touch display over something like a Nest Hub or Lenovo’s other smart clocks? How much functionality do you really need at the side of your bed? Do you really need a full display full of distracting information, or just a way to see the time and the weather when you wake up in the morning? The display doesn’t need touching and through even the blurriest of morning eyes, it is clear and legible. And when things get dark, it dims, so you’re not lighting up your bedroom like the Rockefeller Center at Christmas.
You don’t need to use your phone to set an alarm, either, the key hardware controls live on the top of the device. After the initial setup with the Google Home application there’s no real need for you to interact with it in this way again. Everything you need lives along the top edge of the clock. Aside from the display, this is a comparable smart speaker to the Google Nest Mini. It’s small enough to live on the nightstand without taking up too much room and it’s loud enough to wake you up from even a heavy sleep.
It’s hardly going to win awards for its sound quality, but for something so small and importantly, affordable, it’s pleasing enough. The Nest Mini still sounds a little better, so if audio quality is important it might still be a better choice. But, the microphones are responsive and have an excellent range, so it’s also a great tool to use to interact with your smart home tech. It’s fairly no-frills overall, but that’s precisely why it’s so good. You can set it up once and leave it alone.
Best premium audio: Bose Smart Speaker 500
If you thought that getting a smart speaker excluded you from also enjoying high-end audio, fortunately, you were wrong. For fans of Google Assistant, Bose has the sublime Smart Speaker 500. The name is hardly inspiring, but the Bose brand needs little introduction. Essentially what you’re getting here is a premium Bose speaker, connected to the cloud by Google Assistant.
One benefit to that is wireless music streaming, including from services like Apple Music as well as Google’s own YouTube Music. But unlike other Google Assistant speakers, you can natively also listen to Amazon Music on the Bose Smart Speaker 500. Not only does it also have Alexa support also built in, but the Bose Music companion app gives you a lot more freedom and control over where your tunes come from. To complete the set it also boasts support for Chromecast and Apple AirPlay 2. Whatever you want to use, you can use with the Bose Smart Speaker 500.
Being able to supply high-quality music is going to be important since this is no average smart speaker. The two custom Bose drivers point in opposite directions, designed to bounce audio off the walls and create a much wider soundstage. The microphone array lives around the top of the speaker, made up of eight inputs that pick up from all directions. They’re also capable of hearing you over the loud, quality sound coming from the speaker. When you don’t want it to listen, there’s a hardware mute switch to turn off the array.
As this is a Bose product design and construction are also of the utmost importance. The outer casing is made from aluminum and is available in two colors. Aside from the speaker grill, the only visual mark on the front is the display, which is full color and can show album artwork as you listen. It’s not even that large, either, making it truly a speaker to be used in any room in the house.
Bose also makes it relatively simple to group the Smart Speaker 500 together with its newer Bluetooth speakers for a little added boost to your audio. A 3.5mm or even optical input would have been nice, though, to enable the Smart Speaker 500 to better integrate with existing home entertainment systems. Ultimately, it’s a little pricey, but the quality is undeniable. Bose carries its reputation for a reason and you won’t find much better for the price than this.
Something different: Belkin Soundform Elite
Choosing a smart speaker can be a bit of a chore. While designs may differ, they don’t generally differ much in terms of features. You speak a command, it does a thing, and it hopefully looks nice in your home. But the Belkin Soundform Elite is truly a unique offering, in so much as it offers a feature you don’t currently get anywhere else.
Integrated into this Google Assistant-enabled smart speaker is a wireless charging pad. And it’s not some bolted-on monstrosity, either. Overall this is an elegantly designed product and the charging pad is part of that. Depending on your phone, you’ll be able to wirelessly charge at up to 10W. While not exactly fast, it’s decent enough for a top-up. The phone just sits, cradled in the top of the speaker. Charging speed is determined by your phone. For example, if you use an iPhone it will only charge at 7.5W. Some of the latest Android phones will be able to use the full 10W.
As is a bit of a tradition for smart speakers, the Soundform Elite is designed so it can both hear you and distribute audio in all directions. Through a partnership with Devialet, the Soundform Elite also delivers high-fidelity audio despite its small size. So it’s a great choice for those who prioritize great-sounding music. You’re able to get audio at 16-bit, 44,100 Hz (44.1 kHz) resolution, which is impressive. The design enables 360 degrees of room-filling, high-quality audio.
Besides Google Assistant, you also get AirPlay support if you’re an iPhone owner, though naturally, you can stream music from Apple Music and a number of other services natively. But you can also use AirPlay to group the Soundform Elite with other AirPlay-enabled speakers. Through Google Assistant you can integrate it into existing speaker groups, too, even if they’re different brands. As it seems is traditional, though, you don’t get any form of wired connection for audio, either for input or output. Everything needs to be wireless, making it difficult to integrate into existing home entertainment systems.
It’s a little pricey at regular price, so snap it up on a deal, but the Belkin Soundform Elite certainly stands out from the crowd. And it’s one of the most stylish-looking smart speakers you’ll find, making it a perfect addition to any room in the home.
There has never been a better time to get into the world of smart speakers with Google Assistant. Whether it’s just to stream your music, control your smart home, or help manage your day, the usefulness of these devices has come a long way. It’s impressive the choice that you now have if you prefer to use Google over Alexa. Premium audio fans aren’t excluded, nor are those on a budget and everyone in between.
The best of the bunch overall is the Google Nest Audio though. It’s a perfect balance of an affordable price, a sleek design, and great quality sound. There are some compromises compared to the competition, but as a complete package, it’s the best all-rounder for most people.
But the landscape looks great and if you’re looking for something different there is no shortage of choices. Sonos is one of the biggest names in wireless audio and now integrates Google Assistant into its speakers. Belkin has a truly unique offering in the Soundform Elite and for those looking to go up a level, Bose has a stunning speaker for the highest-quality audio experience.
The post These are the Best Google Assistant Speakers you can buy in 2022 appeared first on XDA.
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