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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 speakers, including the Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple’s HomePod and plenty of rivals.

From Amazon Alexa to Google Assistant, artificially intelligent assistants are appearing in speakers everywhere. As a result, voice has now become the fashionable way to control your smart home. For a start, you can request information quickly and easily at any time with a quick command. However, those smarts extend far beyond simple web requests. You can also use these smart devices to control connected devices around your house, stream online music, order in pizza and plenty more besides.

The big name that started this smart home revolution is Amazon’s Echo family. Of course, plenty of others have jumped onboard in 2017 and 2018, including Google and Apple.

So what are the best smart speakers out now and which upcoming devices are worth watching? This guide will show you everything you need to know.

Best smart speakers out now

Desperate for a voice-controlled smart assistant in your home? Here are our favourite devices already available in 2018.

Amazon Echo with Alexa

Where better to begin than with the smart speaker that started this whole craze off.

The second-gen Amazon Echo is a long circular device with 360-degree sound and seven long-range microphones, for impressively accurate voice recognition. Call out to the Alexa AI and she can play music, control your heating and lighting and sing you a ditty on demand. These days you can even get your Dominos order in, or interact with the Stranger Things crew. Alexa packs Bluetooth connectivity and also offers full multi room support these days. That means you can group speakers and get your tunes playing in perfect harmony, all through your home.

Amazon also offers Echo Dot mini versions of the full-sized device, which plug into your existing speakers to give them AI smarts. You can control your smart home goodies and get online in the same way you would with the full-sized Echo. All for a great, budget-friendly price.

Us Brits can finally get our hands on the Amazon Echo Show and Echo Spot too, with a bonus camera and screen built-in for a deeper level of interaction. You also get full video support if you’re following a recipe in the kitchen, or you want to see who’s at the front door via your smart video doorbell system.

Google Home with Google Assistant

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 therefore has fewer microphones and reduced audio power, the Home is backed by Google’s smart learning. You get similar controls to the Echo and since the Home is Google-branded, it’ll enjoy compatibility with lots of new smart home gadgets in the future. The Home also has a changeable material cover section, allowing you to style it to your own liking.

If you want something more compact and aren’t bothered about decent audio quality, the Home Mini is a very affordable and funky alternative.

Sonos One with Alexa

The powerful Sonos One speaker blasts out some serious sound, making it ideal for any audiophiles. You can pair two of them together or get a proper multi-room setup on the go, as you’d expect from Sonos, and now the One is even better with built-in Alexa integration. This adds full voice control and smart home support, just as you get from the Echo and other smart speakers. Sexy stuff.

Harman Kardon Invoke with Cortana

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 firmly on-board the good ship Microsoft. The speaker itself has a cylindrical design with all-metal build quality, and as you’d expect it looks properly lush. The Invoke can make and receive Skype calls as well as play music and help with your calendar planning. Three woofers and three tweeters means the 360-degree sound should satisfy any audiophiles too.

Harman Kardon Allure with Alexa

When it comes to looks, the well-named Allure will certainly attract a few raised eyebrows. In fact, this might be the best looking smart speaker yet – or the worst, depending on your personal tastes of course. The 360-degree Allure boasts its own ambient light to react to your interactions, as well as pulsing along with the rhythm of any music playing. The Allure uses Alexa, meaning smart home controls with lots of integration from the get go. And thanks to a four-microphone far field and advanced noise cancelling system, the speaker should hear all your commands easily, even from a distance.

Apple HomePod with Siri

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 powerful blaster boasts stunning looks, as you’d expect from Apple. However, it’s the high-quality audio that really sets this speaker apart. If you want to blast music around your home, you can’t do any better right now. Of course, there are some issues. Siri isn’t as smart as Alexa in general, while you’re also confined to Apple’s own services. No Spotify support here.

As the Apple HomePod works with HomeKit, this speaker can immediately control your Apple-supported smart home via the app.

Check out our full HomePod review.

Best smart speakers coming later in 2018

If you’d rather hang on and see what’s coming up, then good news. We’ve already seen some strong rivals to Apple, Google and Amazon’s devices.

Panasonic SC-GA10 with Google Assistant

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

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.

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