In the space of a couple of months, the smart speaker game at $100 has seriously heated up, with devices from Apple, Google and Amazon.
Two months ago, we put together our pick of the best smart speakers at each price point. In the under $100 section, both Amazon and Google’s offerings were weak, with nothing from Apple. At the time, Google’s Home speaker was discontinued and Amazon’s best offering was a two year old Echo Plus.
Fast forward just two months later and the competition for the best $100 smart speaker has heated up, with the three biggest smart assistants coming in the form of Alexa with Amazon Echo, Google-Assistant with Nest Audio and Siri with Apple HomePod mini. Amazon’s new Echo speaker replaces last generations with bumped up sound quality and a new design. Google’s new Nest Audio replaces the Google Home speaker with similar improvements as Amazon. Apple’s new HomePod mini is the companies new HomePod in a smaller physical package at a lower price point.
With many around the world still in lockdown, how do these home speakers stack up? If a decent music player, assistant to answer your questions/set timers and smart home controller is what you’re after, one of these may be the perfect Christmas present for you or a loved one.
Amazon Echo 4th Gen
- New look, new sound – Echo delivers clear highs, dynamic mids, and deep bass for rich, detailed sound that automatically adapts to any room.
- Voice control your entertainment – Stream songs from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Sirius XM, and more. Plus listen to radio stations, podcasts, and Audible audiobooks.
- Ready to help – Ask Alexa to play music, answer questions, play the news, check the weather, set alarms, control compatible smart home devices, and more.
- Smart home made simple – With the built-in hub, easily set up compatible Zigbee devices or Ring Smart Lighting products (coming soon) to voice control lights, locks, and sensors.
- Fill your home with sound – With multi-room music, play synchronized music across Echo devices in different rooms. Or pair your Echo with Fire TV to feel scenes come to life with home theater audio.
- Connect with others – Call almost anyone hands-free. Instantly drop in on other rooms or announce to the whole house that dinner’s ready.
- Designed to protect your privacy – Built with multiple layers of privacy protections and controls, including a microphone off button that electronically disconnects the microphones.
5.7 x 5.7 x 5.2-inches
3.0-inches neodymium woofer and 2×0.8-inches tweeters
Note: at the time of writing, Amazon’s Echo speaker is currently on sale with 30% off for Black Friday week, at just $69.99. Come back to RouteNote’s blog later this week to see if the other two speakers go on sale.
Apple HomePod mini
- Fills the entire room with rich 360-degree audio
- Siri is your do-it-all intelligent assistant, helping with everyday tasks
- Easily control your smart home
- Designed to keep your data private and secure
- Place multiple HomePod mini speakers around the house for a connected sound system
- Intercom messages to every room
- Pair two HomePod mini speakers together for immersive stereo sound
- Voice recognition gives each family member a personalized experience
- Seamlessly hand off audio by bringing your iPhone close to HomePod
3.3 x 3.3 x 3.9-inches
Full-range driver and dual passive radiators
Google Nest Audio
- Designed to protect your privacy – Nest Audio comes with privacy built in. You can delete your Assistant history by saying, “Hey Google, delete what I just said.” Or to turn off the mic, just use the switch on the back.
- It’s all about sound – Just say, “Hey Google, play some music,” and crisp vocals and powerful bass fill the room. Nest Audio adapts to your environment and whatever you’re listening to, so music sounds better.
- Music here. Music there. Music everywhere. – Create a home audio system that fills your home with sound. Nest Audio works together with your other Nest speakers and displays, Chromecast-enabled devices, or compatible speakers. And it’s easy to set up.
- Connect with family and friends – Nest Audio helps you stay in touch. Just say, “Hey Google” to broadcast messages on every Nest speaker and display in the house. Use your Nest speakers as an intercom and chat from room to room. And make audio calls with Duo.
- Huge help around the house – You can say things like, “Hey Google, what’s the weather this weekend?” Ask Google about the news or sports scores. Hear your schedule. Make calls. And set timers and alarms. Even turn on the lights or turn up the heat. All with your voice.
- Thoughtfully designed. Environmentally sound. – Inspired by your home, Nest Audio’s colors, size, and shape fit beautifully into any room. It’s also designed with the environment in mind.
4.89 x 3.07 x 6.89-inches
2.95-inches woofer and 0.75-inch tweeter
If you’re after pure sound quality, Amazon Echo will offer you the most bang for your buck, however none of these three smart speakers will let you down. All will produce excelling sounding, room-filling, loud music. If you are neatly tied in with Google, Amazon or Apple, I recommend staying with your existing smart assistant. That is to say, for example if you own an iPhone, MacBook and use iMessage a lot: buy a HomePod mini, if you own an older Echo Dot, Fire Stick and want to order items on Amazon: buy an Echo, if you own a Google Pixel, Chromebook and use Gmail: buy a Nest Audio. These speakers shine when they interact and pair with their own products.