Connects to Amazon Alexa
If you aren’t in it for the music, the Amazon Echo Dot With Clock (4th Gen) and Google’s Nest Mini (7/10, WIRED Recommends) will give you most of the perks of owning a smart speaker, and you can use them to smarten up existing speakers on the cheap.
The sound is very similar between models, and they have nearly identical footprints, so you can easily make an argument that one is better than the other based on the ecosystem alone. We used to prefer the Nest Mini for this reason, but now that Amazon has added a simple clock to the front of the Echo Dot, we like the Alexa-powered option a little better.
The tiny display on the Echo Dot With Clock comes in handy. It can tell you when your timers are going to expire in the kitchen or when your alarm is set for the morning. Of course, it tells the time too. That makes it a better bedroom and kitchen companion. You can also ask it the weather, have it answer your random questions, and play white noise at bedtime to help you sleep. It also presents an easy way to get a smart assistant into the places in your home where you don’t normally listen to music.
Another alternative: The Nest Mini ($49) is also a great mini speaker if you prefer Google Assistant.
Connects to Google Assistant or Alexa
If you’re looking for a great speaker for a socially distanced party, WIRED reviews editor Jeffrey Van Camp has enjoyed the time he’s spent with the Sonos Move (8/10, WIRED Recommends). It’s got an IP56 water-resistance rating to withstand splashes of beer, a handle to carry it, and a nifty charging cradle for when you bring it back inside. It gets about 10 hours per charge and is the first Sonos speaker to offer Bluetooth, for when you want to bring it outside the confines of your home Wi-Fi.
Big, bold bass and an intelligent EQ that’s always listening to the sound around it make it punch well above its weight in terms of audio volume and quality for its size. It might not be enough to fuel a large outdoor dance party, but it certainly has the oomph for you and some friends to bust a few moves.