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Best smart speakers: Control your home with a voice-activated AI assistant

What are the best smart speakers for your home right now and coming soon? We round up our favourite AI-controlled voice-activated connected speakers, just like the Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple's HomePod.

From Amazon Alexa to Google Assistant, artificially intelligent assistants are appearing in speakers everywhere as voice becomes the new normal way to control your smart home. Not only can you request information quickly and easily, you can use these smart devices to activate connected devices around your house, stream online music, set timers or reminders and plenty more besides.

The big names that started this all are recognisable, with Amazon’s Echo family and Google Home leading the charge on smart speakers for your home. Of course plenty of others have jumped onboard in 2017, since Apple announced its own Siri-controlled HomePod, due out later this year.

So what are the best smart speakers out now and which devices coming soon are serious rivals to the likes of Echo and Home? This guide will show you everything you need to know so you can decide if buying one now is a good idea or holding off could be the best move.

Best smart speakers out now

Amazon popularised the smart speaker device with its own Echo family, which is growing larger with each passing year. However, we've already reviewed some strong alternatives and here are some of our favourites available to buy in the UK right now.

Amazon Echo with Alexa - out now, £150

The smart speaker that started it all. The Amazon Echo is a circular speaker with 360-degree sound and seven long-range microphones for voice recognition. Call out to the Alexa AI built-in and it will play music, control heating and lighting, investigate your commute traffic, give recipe cooking guidance and more.

This device packs in Bluetooth connectivity and now also offers multi room support so you can group speakers by floor in your home, for example.

Check out our Amazon Echo hub, which includes our Echo review and our Alexa tips and tricks for all you need to know.

Amazon Echo Dot with Alexa - out now, £50

Amazon also offers Echo Dot mini versions of the full-sized device, which plug into your current speakers to make them smart. This doesn’t work as a speaker on its own but adds voice control to your existing speakers (good news if you have a great pair), connecting via a 3.5mm audio jack.

Control everything in the same way you would with the full-sized Echo and even make your speaker multi room supported.

Take a look at our Echo vs Echo Dot comparison to see how these Amazon smart speakers stack up.

Amazon Echo Show with Alexa - out now in US, $230

If you’re in the US there’s also the Amazon Echo Show, with a bonus camera and screen built-in for a deeper level of interaction, including clothes shopping. You also get full video support if you’re following a recipe in the kitchen, for instance. Or if you want to see who’s at the front door via your smart video doorbell system.

Google Home with Google Assistant - out now, £129

Not long after the Echo arrived, Google put its own smart AI to greater use by cramming the Google Assistant into its new Google Home speaker. While this is smaller than Amazon's device and has fewer microphones and lesser audio power, it is still backed by Google smart learning. That means the Home also plays music from voice commands and connects to other smart systems like heating and lighting.

Since the Home is Google-branded, it’ll be enjoy compatibility with lots of new smart home gadgets in the future. The Home also has a changeable material cover section, allowing you to personalise it for your own personal home look.

Check out our full Google Home review.

Kitsound Voice One with Alexa - out now, £129

This affordable speaker comes packing 20-watts of sounds with 2.5-inch drivers, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, plus front-facing controls for when your voice isn’t enough. All of that respectable tech is wrapped in a retro sort of design with a squared off finish.

The Voice One is coated in a nano layer too, which allows it to stay clean even when being used in the kitchen.

Best smart speakers coming soon

If none of the above connected speakers tickle your fancy, you might want to hang on for now. The likes of Apple, Harman Kardon and Sony will be releasing their own Echo rivals by 2017's end, offering some strong features and gorgeous design work.

Harman Kardon Invoke with Cortana - out autumn, £TBA

The Invoke smart speaker from audio specialist Harman Kardon comes sporting Microsoft’s Cortana AI. A less popular option than Alexa for sure, but one that could be helpful for those already using the Microsoft world of gadgets.

The speaker itself has a cylindrical design with all-metal build quality. The Invoke can make and receive Skype calls as well as play music and help with calendar planning. Three woofers and three tweeters should mean the 360-degree sound is impressive too, as you'd expect from Harman.

Apple HomePod with Siri - out December, $349

A gadget revolution isn’t complete until Apple has weighed in with its own devices, right? So sure enough, the Cupertino company has come up with the HomePod smart speaker powered by its own Siri smart assistant. This looks very attractive, as you’d expect from Apple. It also promises high-quality audio, for you music lovers.

As the Apple HomePod works with HomeKit, this speaker will immediately be able to start controlling your Apple-supported smart home since everything will be compatible through the app.

Read next: HomePod vs Echo vs Google Home, which is best for me?

Sony LF-S50G with Google Assistant - out November, £200

Sony hasn’t opted for a catchy home-focused name, although you can as always expect a focus on quality. The result is a smart speaker that looks very much like Apple’s HomePod and offers that premium metallic build quality as well as 360-degree sound, with a separate subwoofer for bass. Google Assistant is the AI assistant of choice, offering a voice-controlled connection to your smart home goodies.

A nice touch here is Sony integrations. So if you ask the speaker for a recipe it can also be seen in a YouTube video on a connected Sony TV. Useful if you have one of those in the kitchen, perhaps. Plus it's splash proof too, which is lovely.

Check out our hands-on LF-S50G review from IFA 2017.

Panasonic SC-GA10 with Google Assistant - out winter, £TBA

Panasonic’s entry into the smart speaker world comes packing Google Assistant and a square metallic build in black or white options. The top surface offers touch-sensitive controls while there’s an Ethernet port and 3.5mm aux input too.

Sound is powered by two domed tweeters and an eight-centimetre subwoofer. Everything can be voice controlled as well as using those touch buttons, although the dedicated app provides yet another option. You can hook up more than one of these speakers as well, to offer stereo sound if you want.

Onkyo Smart Speaker P3 with Alexa - out October, £TBA

Onkyo has shown off its Alexa-powered smart speaker, claiming it’s one of the first to offer DTS Hi-Fi technology for high quality music. That means impressively clear audio via music streaming services like Tidal and Deezer will be played in ear-bleeding glory through this beast, complete with full voice control.

Thanks to the Onkyo Music Control App, compatible speakers can be group for multi room support. Not that you need more oomph as this unit churns out plenty of power with its dual full-range drivers, dual passive bass radiators and efficient DSP switching amplification. Nothing less than what you’d expect from a quality audio brand like Onkyo.

JBL LINK 10, LINK 20, LINK 300 with Google Assistant - out autumn, £150, £180, £250

JBL has recently unveiled not one but three smart speakers that are powered by Google Assistant. Unlike the competition these are also tough and, in the case of LINK 10 and LINK 20, fully mobile. These can manage five and ten hours of battery life respectively on a charge and are IPX7 water resistant, meaning they can take a swim for 30 minutes.

The LINK speakers also offer high-def quality audio music streaming with Chromecast. This also allows for multi room support, so you can have grouped speakers of different music in different rooms.

The JBL LINK 300 isn’t mobile but runs off mains power, although it also offers more powerful sound than the others.

Harman Kardon Allure with Alexa - out winter, £250

When it comes to looks the Harman Kardon Allure has certainly got them, in fact this might be the best looking smart speaker yet - or the worst, depending on your tastes of course. The 360-degree sound speaker comes with an ambient light to show reactions to your voice commands as well as pulsing along with the rhythm of the music playing.

The Allure uses Alexa, meaning smart home controls with lots of integration from the get go. Thanks to a four microphone far field and advanced noise cancelling system it should hear all your commands easily, even from a distance.

Anker Zolo Mojo with Google Assistant - out October, $70

This is a super affordable way to get a Google Assistant powered smart speaker that offers playback natively.

Despite the low UK asking price, the Anker Zolo Mojo offers a five-watt speaker, dual microphones and Bluetooth built-in plus Google Cast support. Don’t expect amazing sound quality but if you want a smart way of voice controlling your home with a speaker option, for less, this is a great offering.

TicHome Mini with Google Assistant - out late 2017, under $100

The TicHome Mini is a Google Assistant powered speaker that’s designed to look good, be fully portable and offer everything in one package.

You get touch controls, a six hour battery life per charge, IPX6 splash proofing, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, five colour options and big sound for its size. This smart speaker even has a carry handle built-in, so you can lug it around easily.

Eufy Genie with Alexa - out late 2017, $29.70

As cheap smart speakers go, they don’t get much more affordable than this. The Eufy Genie is a meagre $29.70, making it the cheapest way to get Alexa in a speaker form. The catch? It’s not really a speaker.

This works like the Echo Dot, meaning it will plug into your current speaker, via 3.5mm jack, to make that existing blaster smart. So while this won’t work as a music playing speaker alone, it can turn your home speakers into Alexa-powered beasts, complete with long-range microphones.

Libratone Zipp with Alexa - out now, £249

Hang on, the Libratone Zipp is already out - we hear you say. True. But the company has announced that it will get an update that is going to allow it to work with Amazon Alexa artificial intelligence built-in.

Thanks to microphones already in the Zipp it will be able to run Alexa with a simple software update - due soon. That means 360-degree high quality sound that can now be voice controlled and will assist with smart home controls too.

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