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Consumer Reports: What to consider when upgrading your smart speaker

Posted at 8:15 AM, May 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-17 09:15:35-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/CONSUMER REPORTS) — Many of us rely on our smart speakers for things like a quick weather forecast, or occasionally that impossible math equation on your kid’s homework. The devices have come a long way since Amazon’s Alexa first came on the scene. If you’re ready to upgrade to the latest and greatest, Consumer Reports has selected the best smart speakers of 2022.

Smart speakers have changed a lot since the first Amazon Echo came out in 2014. Now they’re more versatile, smarter, and better sounding than ever.

Sound quality is important if you love to listen to music on your smart speaker. Consumer Reports experts say the second-generation Sonos One is among the best sounding speakers in its ratings. It’s one of the few smart speakers that is compatible with both Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.

If you’d prefer a smart speaker with a screen, the top performer is the Amazon Echo Show 10. It's great in the kitchen because you can use voice control instead of your dough-covered hands. However, it needs space — about the size of a beach ball — since the screen uses motion-sensing technology to follow you around. Without that space, it could pose a safety hazard.

"I put a bottle of cooking oil a little bit too close to it and when I walked around, the screen actually knocked over the bottle of cooking oil," said Allen St. John, Consumer Reports tech editor.

If you don’t have room to spare, Consumer Reports suggests the second-generation Amazon Echo Show 8, which has a stationary base.

If you prefer a Google smart speaker, the Google Nest Audio is a good option. Some users find its interface more natural and easier to use than Alexa. Its sound quality is better than earlier generations.

If you’re just looking for a smart speaker to listen to a podcast or the weather report, Consumer Reports says you don’t have to spend a lot.

"Pretty much every smart speaker works the same. That’s because the functionality isn’t in the speaker itself. It’s actually in the servers that are up in the cloud," St. John said.

For that, Consumer Reports suggests the fourth-generation Amazon Echo Dot.

One thing to keep in mind is that many smart speakers can be paired with better-sounding wireless speakers you may already have.