Best Smart Speaker Buying: The Ultimate Guide [2021]

Authored by Sunil Gandhe, Chief Service Delivery Officer, Onsitego

The best smart speakers in the market are more than just internet-connected music players. We can control these devices via virtual assistants using our voice. Smart voice assistants, like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, have literally revolutionized many homes as there’s a lot that we can do with them: get news and weather updates, listen to music, or control smart home devices such as bulbs and smart locks hands-free.

However, many of us are not utilizing these smart speakers to their fullest potential and instead choose to access voice assistants through our smartphones. This is why it’s vital that you pick the right smart speaker for yourself to have an exhilarating experience and get the most out of these smart gadgets.

If you are contemplating buying a smart speaker for your home but are perplexed about which model could be the right fit for your needs, then we are here to sort it out for you. Our comprehensive buying guide will not just explain what different smart speakers do but will even help you pick the right one suiting your budget and requirements.

Various brands offer cutting edge speakers. Some even have a screen and a camera. Their shapes, audio quality, and prices differ based on their features. So, let’s find out how you should go about choosing the right speaker!

Things to Consider While Buying a Smart Speaker

The first thing to understand while buying a smart speaker is which AI-powered digital voice assistant you would prefer. And selecting the right voice assistant involves a host of considerations, be it Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri. Then you have to decide if you want the speaker to have a screen and a camera. The smart speaker you choose should also be able to deliver a surround-sound, so the size of your room also needs to be considered.

The Platform & Voice Assistant of Your Choice: Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri?

This is the most important question, and it could end up being the hardest step in deciding which smart speaker to buy. An AI (Artificial Intelligence)-powered digital voice assistant understands your questions and commands, offers answers to your questions, streams music from the internet, and controls compatible smart home appliances. There are three main voice assistants in the market: Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri.

Usually, Google Assistant is considered to be the best among the bunch, while Siri needs a lot of improvement, especially when it comes to catering to the Indian audience. However, over the past couple of years, Amazon has worked a lot on improvising Alexa and made it much better than it used to be. Right now, it is a tough fight between Alexa and Google Assistant. Alexa does some things better, while Google Assistant is better in other things. Siri comes in at a distant third.

If you are invested a lot in Google’s services, including Duo, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, and Google Photos, we would advise you to go for Google Assistant-powered smart speakers. Even if you use an Android TV-powered smart TV, a Chromecast, or smart home products that are compatible with Google Assistant, it is better to buy a Google Assistant-powered smart speaker. Google Assistant can offer better answers to your questions, thanks to Google’s prowess in the internet search segment. It can also give you traffic updates and navigation-related information, thanks to Google Maps.

If you do a lot of shopping on Amazon and use Amazon’s services like Amazon Pay, Prime Music, and Prime Video, or if you already have a Fire TV at your home, it would be better to choose an Alexa-powered smart speaker.

Unless you have a lot of Apple ecosystem products at your home, such as an Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, or a Mac, we would ask you to steer clear of Siri-powered smart speakers like HomePod and the HomePod Mini. Not to mention that HomePod-powered smart speakers are the costliest of the bunch, and Siri has fairly limited functionalities.

By now, you would have decided which digital voice assistant you prefer. Now, you need to consider which media streaming services you want.

Which Media Streaming Services Do You Use?

A smart speaker’s primary job is to help you stream music from the internet. If you use Gaana, Hungama Music, JioSaavn, or Spotify, you would be okay with both. However, if you use Amazon’s Prime Music or Prime Video, it is available on just Alexa-powered devices. Similarly, YouTube Music is available only on Google Assistant-powered devices.

Apple Music and Apple Podcasts are available on both Alexa or Siri-based devices. YouTube works via a web browser on Alexa devices that have a screen. As you can see below, Siri is the worst when it comes to compatibility with media streaming services. Still, it could improve in the coming years since Apple has said that other media providers can build compatibility in the future with a software update.

Smart Speakers Alexa Google Assistant Siri
Amazon Prime Music Yes No No
Amazon Prime Video Yes No No
Apple Music Yes No Yes
Apple Podcasts Yes No Yes
Gaana Yes Yes No
Hungama Music Yes Yes No
JioSaavn Yes Yes No
Netflix No Yes No
Spotify Yes Yes No
YouTube Yes (Via Web Browser) Yes No
YouTube Music No Yes No

How Big Is Your Room?

Now, you need to think about which room would you set up your smart speaker in. If your budget is low and your room is small, you can make do with an affordable smart speaker. However, if you have a big room (bigger than 150 sq. ft.), you either have to buy a smart speaker with bigger drivers or adjust your expectations since an affordable smart speaker might not offer a room-filling audio experience.

If your room’s area is larger than 250 sq. ft., you might need to spend more and get a large-sized smart speaker for an enjoyable audio experience. Bedrooms might do away with small-sized speakers, but rooms like the living room might need larger-sized smart speakers.

Room Size (Area In Square Feet) Smart Speaker Size
150 sq. ft. or below (Bedrooms or Kitchen) Small-Sized Smart Speaker
250 sq. ft. or below (Living/Dining Rooms) Mid-Sized Smart Speaker
250 sq. ft. or above (Living Rooms/Halls) Large-Sized Smart Speaker

Do You Need a Smart Speaker With a Screen?

Some smart speakers come with screens, and those screens display things like time, weather, your family photos and videos, and answers to your questions. These screens can also be used to control smart home devices such as smart lights, smart TVs, smart refrigerators and ovens, smart ACs, smart plugs, and to view the video feed from compatible security cameras.

Smart speakers that have 7-inch or bigger screens can also be used to watch videos from Prime Video, Netflix, and YouTube. Alexa-powered smart speakers that have 10-inch screens also let you browse the web using Firefox and Silk web browsers. Google Assistant-powered smart displays let you cast photos and videos from your smartphones, tablets, and PCs. Smart speakers that have displays also cost more than regular smart speakers.

Do You Want to Take Your Smart Speaker Outdoors or on a Trip?

Most smart speakers and smart displays need to be connected to an AC power source, but some smart speakers have built-in rechargeable batteries so that you can take them outdoors in the garden or on your trips in a car. However, there are very few such portable smart speakers.

Best Smart Speakers in India

Smart speakers start from as low as ₹2,500 in India, and they can go as high as ₹25,000. The affordable smart speakers use only one audio driver, which means that the audio quality is acceptable, but not great. Some mid-sized smart speakers that are priced below ₹10,000 use a dedicated woofer and a dedicated tweeter so that both highs and lows sound more defined.

If you are an audiophile and want nothing-but-the-best from your smart speaker in terms of audio quality, you will have to shell as high as ₹25,000. Such smart speakers are equipped with a dedicated woofer, multiple tweeters, and mid-range drivers. Even smart speakers with larger displays are priced higher.

Best Affordable Smart Speakers in India

Google Nest Mini – ₹2,499

—Best Affordable Smart Speaker with Google Assistant

Google Nest Mini

The newly-launched Google Nest Mini is the best affordable smart speaker with Google Assistant. It has better-than-average audio quality, great microphones for listening to voice commands, and it supports pairing with other Google Assistant-powered speakers and Android TV-powered TVs and media streaming devices.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock – ₹2,999

–Best Affordable Smart Speaker with Alexa

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock

If you are an Alexa user, the Amazon Echo Dot With LED Clock is the best affordable smart speaker for you. Its audio quality is similar to the Google Nest Mini, but it comes with an LED display that can show the time and a timer. It has a 3.5mm audio output port to connect to an external speaker, and it is available in various colors.

Xiaomi Mi Smart Speaker – ₹3,999

— Best Affordable Smart Speaker with Google Assistant and a Bigger Sound

Xiaomi Mi Smart Speaker

If you can’t spend more than ₹4,000 but still want better audio quality and higher volume, the Mi Smart Speaker could be your best bet. It has a 12W speaker, and it features Google Assistant, Wi-Fi, Chromecast, and Bluetooth. It even comes with a faster Wi-Fi standard for better connectivity.

Best Smart Speakers in India for Most People

Google Nest Audio ₹7,999

—Best Google Assistant Smart Speaker for Most People

Best Google Assistant Smart Speaker for Most People

For an enjoyable audio experience in mid-sized rooms, the Google Nest Audio is the best smart speaker with Google Assistant. Thanks to its dedicated woofer and tweeter, it can pump out room-filling sound. Its design looks modern, and it can fit in tight places. It features Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, and Chromecast. The only thing it is lacking is audio in or audio port.

Amazon Echo 3rd Gen. – ₹6,999

—Best Alexa Smart Speaker for Most People

Best Alexa Smart Speaker for Most People

If Alexa is your choice of voice assistant, the third-generation Amazon Echo is probably the best smart speaker for you. It has a dedicated woofer and a tweeter, and it features Dolby Atmos for 360-degree spatial audio. It even features an audio in/out port at the rear that you can use to connect to an external speaker or to use the Echo as your laptop’s or PC’s loudspeaker.

Best Audiophile-Grade Smart Speakers in India

High-end smart speakers come with features like multiple audio drivers, 360-degree audio, multiple ports, and faster connectivity. However, they also cost twice or thrice as much as mid-range smart speakers.

Amazon Echo Studio – ₹22,999

—Best Audiophile-Grade Smart Speaker with Alexa

Best Audiophile Grade Smart Speaker with Alexa

The Echo Studio is the best audiophile-grade smart speaker in India. It features a dedicated woofer, four directional tweeters, and Dolby Atmos for immersive, 360-degree audio. The Echo Studio can fill even a large room with loud audio. It has an audio out/in port at the rear, and it can be paired with other Echo Studio for an even immersive audio experience. Apart from Alexa, it also features Zigbee, so other smart home devices can also be controlled with it.

Apple HomePod – ₹19,900

—Best Audiophile-Grade Smart Speaker for iPhone, iPad, and Mac users

Apple HomePod

The Apple HomePod is the best audiophile-grade smartphone if you are heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem. If you have an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or an Apple TV, the HomePod should be your go-to choice for a smart speaker. It uses a dedicated woofer and a whopping seven woofers for omnidirectional audio.

Other features of this smart speaker include Siri, the ability to pair with other HomePods for whole-home audio, and the ability to pair with Macs or an Apple TV. It can control HomeKit-compatible smart home products and has AirPlay for playing music from compatible devices. Right now, it is just compatible with Apple Music and Apple Podcasts. However, support for other music streaming services is coming soon.

Best Smart Speakers with Displays in India

Smart speakers with displays do not offer as immersive an audio experience as some of the audiophile-grade smart speakers mentioned above. However, they offer useful visuals such as time, smart home controls, music playlists, news, family photos and videos, and favorite contacts (for audio and video calls). They can even be used to watch videos from services like Netflix, Prime Video, and YouTube. Google Assistant-powered smart displays can be used to cast videos from a compatible smartphone, tablet, or a PC.

Lenovo Smart Display 7 – ₹7,999

—Best Google Assistant Smart Speaker with a 7-inch Display

Lenovo Smart Display 7

The Lenovo Smart Display is the best Google Assistant-powered smart display for most people. It has a 7-inch screen, stereo speakers, and a camera. It can be used for video calls via Google Duo, and the screen can be used to watch photos and videos or just to see the time and other smart home controls. It even features a privacy shutter for the camera and the microphone, which is great for anyone who is a privacy nut.

Amazon Echo Show 8 – ₹8,499

— Best Alexa Smart Speaker with a Display

Amazon Echo Show 8-

If you want an Alexa-powered smart display, you can’t go wrong with the Echo Show 8. It has an 8-inch HD screen, a camera with a privacy shutter, and an audio out port. The combination of the screen and the camera can be used for Skype or direct Echo Show-to-Echo Show video calls. The audio experience on the Echo Show 8 isn’t great, though, and you will have to do with an average audio experience. It features Alexa and Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac.

Lenovo Smart Display – ₹10,990

—Best Google Assistant Smart Speaker with a 10-inch Display

Lenovo Best Google Assistant

Want an even bigger screen? Well, the Lenovo Smart Display is a Google-Assistant-powered smart display with a 10-inch screen and 10W full-range speakers. Its unique design lets you place the Lenovo Smart Display in a landscape or a portrait position, and it can be used for video calls. It features a camera privacy shutter and easy-to-use volume controls.

Now that you know every aspect of smart speakers and have the list of best smart speakers in India in every price range, you can easily choose a smart speaker or a smart display that best suits your needs and falls within your budget. Did we miss something important? Let us know your thoughts about smart speakers and which one you like the most.

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