Connects to Amazon Alexa
If you aren’t in it for the music, the Amazon Echo Dot With Clock (4th Gen) and Google’s Nest Mini (7/10, WIRED Recommends) will give you most of the perks of owning a smart speaker, and you can use them to smarten up existing speakers on the cheap.
The sound is very similar between models, and they have nearly identical footprints, so you can easily make an argument that one is better than the other based on the ecosystem alone. We used to prefer the Nest Mini for this reason, but now that Amazon has added a simple clock to the front of the Echo Dot, we like the Alexa-powered option a little better.
The tiny display on the Echo Dot With Clock comes in handy. It can tell you when your timers are going to expire in the kitchen or when your alarm is set for the morning. Of course, it tells the time too. That makes it a better bedroom and kitchen companion. You can also ask it the weather, have it answer your random questions, and play white noise at bedtime to help you sleep. It also presents an easy way to get a smart assistant into the places in your home where you don’t normally listen to music.
Another alternative: The Nest Mini ($49) is also a great mini speaker if you prefer Google Assistant.
Connects to Google Assistant or Alexa
The pint-sized Sonos Roam (9/10, WIRED Recommends) has become our new favorite portable speaker. I (Parker) have taken it on road trips, to outdoor weddings, and in the basket of my bike. The simple-to-use Sonos ecosystem works with Google Assistant and Alexa, and the speaker has Bluetooth for when you’re out of Wi-Fi range. It even includes wireless charging, which makes it the perfect speaker to set down at home between trips outdoors.
You’ll get 10 hours of listening on a full charge at medium volume, and the thing is rugged; an IP67 rating means it can survive in 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. I’m not easy on speakers, and our review unit is still going strong. If you’re looking to up your out-and-about game, buy one of these and stash it inside a stainless to-go mug. Just grab a drink along the way.
Another alternative: The Sonos Move ($399) is also a great mini speaker, and it sounds bolder, but it’s much more cumbersome (and spendy).
There are tons of smart speakers. Here are a few more we like: