Smart speakers are great for tech-savvy folks who love to control all of their smart devices via voice commands. They’re also great if you keep asking people questions, and the usual answer is “Google it,” but you never do. You can usually find great smart speakers for under $100.
But which to choose? Smart speakers made by Google work better for people who have mostly Google apps, accounts, and other products, but they are adaptable to fit most gadgets; Amazon’s line of speakers is also pretty versatile. The best choice really comes down to personal preference.
Google’s Nest Mini (2nd Generation) – $37.98
The Nest Mini is Google’s most basic smart speaker and a good starter model. It does most of the same things as the full-sized Nest speaker in a smaller footprint and with sound quality that doesn’t quite stack up. The second generation model, released in the fall of 2019, normally retails for around $50, according to Honey’s price history, but right now, you can get them at Walmart for as little as $37.98.
Echo Dot 5th Generation – $50 (with clock)/$35 (without clock)
The Echo Dot is comparable to Google’s Nest Mini. They’re both smaller than their better-sounding and more expensive counterparts (the Echo Studio from Amazon and the Nest Audio from Google.) The fifth-generation Echo Dot just arrived last November, and it’s better priced than the older fourth-generation (you can read the PCMag review here). The Echo Dot does a lot of the same things as the Nest Mini, but the newer features, like the ability to tell the temperature in the room it’s in via an internal sensor, set it apart from the Nest Mini. The Echo Dot usually retails for $50, but you can snag one right now for $35 from Amazon, or $50 if you prefer one with a digital clock display.
Google’s Nest Audio – $74.95
You can think of Google’s Nest Audio as the Nest Mini’s older brother. According to PCMag, the Nest Audio offers a much richer, louder sound quality with better bass. If you’re looking for a great music speaker that also has a voice assistant, pick this one over the Nest Mini. The Nest Audio usually retails for $100, according to Honey’s price tracker, but it is $74.95 at the moment. You can get it right now for $70 from Walmart.
Apple HomePod mini refurbished – $79.97
The HomePod mini is Apple’s attempt to compete with Amazon and Google’s entry-level smart speakers. According to PCMag, the HomePod mini has better sound quality than the competition, but it comes at a much higher cost. If your home is all Apple products, however, it might be worth the extra money. The HomePod mini retails for $100, but Walmart offers “restored” models from third-party sellers for $79.97. Keep in mind that retailers have different definitions for what refurbished means, and make sure to read reviews and make sure you’re okay with the risks involved. Walmart’s third-party seller, for example, offers a 90-day money-back guarantee.