Connects to Google Assistant or Alexa
Pint size Sonos Roam (9/10, WIRED Recommends) has become our new favorite portable speaker. I (Parker) took it on road trips, outdoor weddings and in my bike basket. The easy-to-use Sonos ecosystem works with Google Assistant and Alexa, and the speaker has Bluetooth when you’re out of Wi-Fi range. It even includes wireless charging, which makes it the perfect speaker to set up at home while traveling outside.
You get a chance to listen for 10 hours on a full charge at medium volume, and the thing is tough; An IP67 rating means it can survive for 30 minutes in 3 feet of water. I’m not easy on speakers, and our review unit is still getting stronger. If you are looking for your out-and-about game, buy one of these and hide it inside a stainless to-go mug. Just grab a drink on the way.
Another option: The Sonos Move ($ 399) is also a great mini speaker, and it sounds more daring, but it’s much more cumbersome (and expensive).
There are lots of smart speakers. Here are a few more of our favorites:
- Amazon Eco Studio ($ 200) The best sounding Alexa speaker. Don’t buy it for music quality alone, but Echo Studio comes with Google Home Max for bold bass and room-filling soundstage. Its weird shape puts it at the top of our list.
- Bose Home Speaker 500 (350) Alexa is there, and a little extra. It’s not cheap, of course, but this Bose speaker sounds pretty good (not as obvious as the Sonos One, but overall great), and it gets louder. It has hands-free Alexa, Bluetooth, a 3.5-mm support port for direct connection to your phone or MP3 player, and six useful preset buttons that you can assign to open a specific playlist or album from Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, and TuneIn. Can. . The front display shows album art and some other prompts, but not nearly as effective as the real smart displays.
- The Bang and Olufsen Biosound Level ($ 1,499) A fantastic speaker that has been permanently built. The company has designed high-end models to be repairable and upgradeable over time. Made with natural fabrics and wood for a truly durable “cradle to grave” experience. It’s a nice flat speaker that comes with Google Assistant on board, or you can buy it for the same amount of money without a smart assistant.
It’s great to see, but Apple’s HomePod Mini ($ 100) (6/10, Wired Review) has the same problem as the original, larger HomePod (now off) speakers, which has a higher price than most competitors. It’s nowhere near the level of third-party smart home support you’ll find with Amazon or Google. You can get a full size nest or echo speaker for the same money and you should.
Why we prefer Google Assistant speakers (for now)
There are many reasons to like Amazon’s Alexa Voice Assistant and it works pretty well. If you want to use your voice assistant to shop or use Amazon services like Prime Music or Prime Video, Alexa-powered speakers are best for you.
Google Assistant has less skills and is less compatible with smart home devices than Alexa, but it can work well enough to qualify as truly useful, and Google is rapidly adding new skills. Speakers work better with Google Assistant when you network them together, and they’re compatible with a variety of Google apps and services. Google is good at answering random questions and telling you where to eat because it can access and send information to your phone through the Google app.