If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Indiewire may receive an affiliate commission.
It has never been easier to automate your daily routine. Everything from movies and TV to music runs on streaming services that can be shared across devices, and smart home technology makes it easy to control your appliances from your phone or computer. And there are plenty of devices that allow you to combine all of these functions in one place. But only voice assistants allow you to do it all without having to keep track of remotes or even stand up. If the idea of optimizing your home so that everything is controlled by your voice sounds appealing to you, it’s time to buy a voice assistant.
The three big players in the voice assistant space are Amazon, Google, and Apple. Amazon pioneered the field with its famous Alexa technology, and currently produces several Echo products that utilize Alexa. Google’s Nest series is Amazon’s natural competitor, and their products run parallel to the Amazon line. Apple also entered the space with their HomePod, which is powered by Siri. The full size HomePod was recently discontinued, but the more compact HomePod Mini seems to be a major part of their product line moving forward.
Amazon’s signature voice assistant allows you to play music and podcasts, ask the internet questions, check news and weather, and control your home’s lights. You can even order things from Amazon using your voice! It’s also a great speaker, so you’re tunes and podcasts will sound great. For less than $100, you can’t go wrong with the Echo.
If you’re willing to spend a bit more, the Echo Show uses the same Alexa technology but adds a screen that significantly expands your capabilities. It means you can also connect your Netflix and Prime Video accounts to Alexa, as well as conduct FaceTime calls and monitor your home’s security cameras. This is a truly all-inclusive device that lets you take full advantage of Alexa’s many skills.
Of course, there’s also a simplified version of the Echo if you want to keep your costs down. The Amazon Echo Dot is perfect for those who don’t listen to music as much, or prefer to play their songs from a separate speaker. It’s essentially the same voice assistant as the Echo, but without the premium audio. It also takes up much less space and sells for half the price, so it’s one of the best values on this list.
Moving onto the Google family of devices, the Nest Audio is quite similar to the Echo, down to the price. The big value add is the compatibility with other Google products. If you use Google Home or Chromecast, it is very easy to connect your media to the Nest and control it from the app on your phone. And it comes equipped with Google Assistant technology, so you can make as many Google searches as you want without opening your laptop. Unlike the Echo, it does not offer a wired connection port for your devices, but the audio quality is excellent. It also allows you to control your smart home devices, so turning off the lights and TV will be a breeze.
The Nest Audio is, you guessed it, primarily a music device that happens to come with Google Assistant. But the Nest Hub is a full service voice assistant that is compatible with home devices. In addition to the ability to ask questions and check the weather, the Hub can stream video, make calls, display photos, control appliances, and much more. Somewhat strangely, it retails for the same price as the Nest Audio, so it is definitely the better value if home assistance is your top priority.
This tiny speaker comes with three microphones built in, so it can hear your commands no matter where you happen to be standing. If you don’t need video or premium audio and just want a no-frills voice assistant that can answer questions and check news, this is a great choice. It is the least expensive voice assistant available from any of the major manufacturers, but it still packs the same quality you’ve come to expect from Google.
The features on an Apple HomePod mini are far more premium than its $99 price tag suggests. This smart speaker uses 360 audio to make your music fill the room as if it’s coming from a far bigger stereo. It’s equipped with Siri, and the compatibility with your iPhone is second to none. You can send texts, write notes, control temperature, lock your doors, dim your lights, find your phone, get directions, and stream audio, all with your voice. The seamless connection is great for music lovers, as you can be playing a song in your car and continue it on your HomePod the minute you step inside. Apple users who want to consolidate their lives onto a single device: look no further than the HomePod Mini.