Thinking of buying a smart speaker? Do you know the benefits of having one? Should you choose Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri? Is wired or portable more suitable for your needs? Find out the answers to all these questions in our buying guide below.
Many speakers come with a virtual assistant nowadays. But we are focusing only on the ones built with smart home control and quality music playback in mind. Don't forget to browse through our top 10 list featuring the best smart speakers in India from popular brands like Google, Amazon, Bose, and more.
There is a misconception that the only specialty of a smart speaker is that it comes with a virtual assistant installed. We already have Google Assistant on all Android phones, Apple products already have Siri in them, and you can install Alexa on any device you want.
But does your phone have far-field microphones for picking up voice commands from across the room? Does it have Zigbee technology, enabling smart devices from different manufacturers to communicate with each other and be controlled using a single app? Enter, smart speakers. You can enjoy all the above benefits plus the services of the virtual assistant.
A smart speaker is a device with an integrated voice assistant that allows hands-free control of smart home devices. You can ask a smart speaker to add items to your grocery list, ask the time and weather, make calls, send emails, answer questions, schedule appointments, play music, control other smart devices at home, and many more.
To get the best smart speaker out there, we recommend reading our guide that details various points you need to consider like, voice assistants, portability, sound quality, and additional features like a display and more.
When it comes to choosing a voice assistant, it's a matter of personal preference and the ecosystem of smart devices you already have or planning to buy. Find out the benefits of choosing one over the other in the sections below.
In terms of intelligence, experts say that both Alexa and Google Assistant are on the same level. Both of them can understand the questions we ask and provide us with accurate answers, sometimes more. You can set the language to English or Hindi on both devices. But here are some reasons to consider one over the other.
Alexa has more supported devices. If you are trying to set up a smart home, it's easier to procure Alexa-enabled devices than ones with Google Assistant as there are more Alexa-enabled devices in the world than Google Assistant-enabled ones. But Google is slowly catching up. You will find connecting and using Google applications like Maps, Gmail, and YouTube easier using Google Assistant.
Finally, it is easier to play YouTube videos using Google Assistant, but the same on Alexa needs a workaround (easier on a smart display, though). We say, forget about the sophistication of the virtual assistant and focus on finding out which one of the two makes your life easier.
Apple stopped the sale of HomePod in India. Now HomePod Mini is the only Siri-enabled smart speaker. One of the main reasons for having a smart speaker is controlling other smart devices like lights, switches, air-conditioners, and other smart speakers. If you want to avail the services of Siri on HomePod Mini, you should have a Siri-supported ecosystem at home.
The app required to connect smart home appliances is called HomeKit. Currently, the library of HomeKit supported devices in India is much lower than Google Assistant's. If you plan on building a whole Apple ecosystem from scratch, you have options like iPhone, iPad, iMac, Apple TV, Apple Watch, MacBook, and HomePod Mini.
Where are you planning to place your smart speaker? In the living room where you spend most of the day or in the bedroom where your smart lights, switches, and air conditioners are installed? No matter what, you have two options—a wired or a portable smart speaker. Portable speakers cost more since they have in-built batteries.
You can also carry it anywhere inside the house, eliminating the need for multiple smart speakers (unless you need a multi-room speaker system—about which we will discuss in a later section). But you have to charge it every time it cries for some juice. Portable smart speakers can also double as party speakers (like the SonySRS-XB402M) that you can carry while you are traveling.
If you are not looking for any of these convenient features, you can go for a wired one. Don't worry about commanding it from a faraway distance, as smart speakers come with far-field microphones. Choose one that suits your lifestyle and needs.
In the beginning, smart speakers were only meant for accepting voice commands from their users. There was very little emphasis on the quality of the sound they produced. The latest generation of smart speakers from Amazon, Google, and third-party manufacturers like Bose, Sony, and Marshall is built to deliver quality sound with deep bass and crisp highs.
So always go for the latest product in the line of smart speakers by a company. For example, Echo Studio by Amazon comes with five strategically placed speakers and Dolby Atmos technology to deliver multi-dimensional audio. The Bose Smart Speaker 500 fires audio to the walls on the sides to simulate a stereo effect.
It is almost impossible to judge the sound quality of a speaker by looking at the specs or watching YouTube videos. But you can get an idea of the loudness of a speaker by checking the driver size. For example, the Echo Dot that comes with a 3.0" woofer and dual 0.8" tweeters is louder than the Mi smart speaker with a 2.5" driver.
A multi-room smart speaker setup is actually a feature of the app you are using (Alexa, Google Home, or Apple Home). The main benefit is, you will have a virtual assistant waiting for your command in every room, be it your kitchen, bedroom, or living room.
Have a party going on at your house? Ask your virtual assistant to play the same music in every room or a different track on each of the smart speakers placed throughout your house. You can enjoy this functionality in Alexa, Google Home, and Apple Home.
For example, say, "Hey Siri, play Hey Jude by Beetles in the living room" or "Hey Siri, play Beat It by Michael Jackson in the dining room and living room" Having multiple smart speakers also let you form a stereo pair that plays the left channel on one and the right channel on the other. This eliminates the need for buying extra speakers for watching TV.
A smart speaker with a display practically makes it a smart display, but we would like to introduce this variant to you in case you feel it will suit your lifestyle. They offer HD video playback for streaming videos from YouTube or other streaming service providers like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Another popular feature commonly seen on smart displays is video calling.
But having a display doesn't necessarily make a smart speaker a smart display. Some models like the Bose Smart Speaker 500 come with a display that shows you the album art of the current track that's playing; a stylish feature for a smart party speaker. You can find products like the Echo Dot (4th gen) with an LED display that can show time.
Water resistance is not a common feature in smart speakers. But you can find them in some portable models like the Sony SRS-XB402M and Bose Portable smart speaker. If you want your smart speaker to be protected from splashes of water, look for at least an IPX4 rating. If you want your device protected from dust and accidental falls into a water source, an IP67 rating is recommended.
Although there are many soundbars and home theaters in the market that come with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant built-in, we are recommending products that are primarily intended to be used as a smart speaker. Here is our top 10 list featuring the popular products from brands like Amazon, Google, Bose, and more.
|Onboard features and controls||Volume up/down, mic on/off, light ring|
|Display||No (available on a different variant)|
|Onboard features and controls||Volume up/down, mic on/off, optical line in, light ring|
|Onboard features and controls||Volume up/down, bass control, treble control, mic on/off, source|
|Onboard features and controls||Volume up/down, backlit touch surface|
|Virtual assistant||Google Assistant|
|Onboard features and controls||Mic on/off|
|Onboard features and controls||Microphone off, voice action button, volume, play/Pause, aux, bluetooth, 6 preset buttons|
|Display||LCD non-touch display|
|Onboard features and controls||Mic on/off, RGB light control, play/pause, volume up/down, LIVE|
|Onboard features and controls||Camera on/off, camera shutter control, volume up/down, mic on/off|
|Onboard features and controls||Volume up/down, mic on/off, battery indicator LED|
|Virtual assistant||Google Assistant|
|Onboard features and controls||Mic on/off, volume up/down,|
Echo Dot (4th Gen)
Smart Speaker 500
Echo Show 8
With More Loudness and Improved Bass
Features 5 Speakers With Dolby Atmos Technology
For Those Who Prefer Premium Sound and Looks
Exclusively for Users of Apple Products
An Elegant Design That Fits Right in With Your Home Decor
Programmable Preset Buttons for Selecting Your Favorite Music Easily
Water Resistant Wireless Party Speaker With Extra Bass™
Everything an Echo Dot Can Do Plus a Screen and a Camera
Wireless Smart Speaker You Can Take Anywhere in the House
A Fancy Speaker that Changes Color With the Beat
|Price Starts at||₹3,999.00||₹22,999.00||₹31,999.00||₹9,900.00||₹7,999.00||₹39,000.00||₹19,499.00||₹8,999.00||₹3,999.00||₹3,999.00|
|Virtual assistant||Alexa||Alexa||Alexa||Siri||Google Assistant||Alexa||Alexa||Alexa||Alexa||Google Assistant|
|Onboard features and controls||Volume up/down, mic on/off, light ring||Volume up/down, mic on/off, optical line in, light ring||Volume up/down, bass control, treble control, mic on/off, source||Volume up/down, backlit touch surface||Mic on/off||Microphone off, voice action button, volume, play/Pause, aux, bluetooth, 6 preset buttons||Mic on/off, RGB light control, play/pause, volume up/down, LIVE||Camera on/off, camera shutter control, volume up/down, mic on/off||Volume up/down, mic on/off, battery indicator LED||Mic on/off, volume up/down,|
|Display||No (available on a different variant)||No||No||No||No||LCD non-touch display||No||HD toucscreen||No||No|
Do you want to experience cinematic surround sound at home? We will help you choose the best home theater, Bluetooth headphones, and wearable speaker that will deliver multidimensional audio for an immersive listening experience. Click on the links below to learn more about these gadgets and choose from our top 10 list featuring products from top brands in India.
You can choose a smart speaker based on the virtual assistant it has built-in or depending on the number of supported products already available in the market. You have Amazon Alexa, which currently has the highest number of supported devices in the world, and Google Assistant that offers quick integration and utilization of Google services like Gmail, Maps, Google Calendar, and more.
Siri is playing a different ball game with support only for Apple devices. Those who are brand loyalists of Apple with a house full of Apple products will find Apple Home and Siri to be extremely useful. We also recommend considering the sound quality and choose between wired and portable models depending on your lifestyle.
Author - Arun F Xaviour
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