If you’ve started connecting various equipment and fixtures around the house, you’ll know that there are many ways to solve this problem. You may only want one device to solve a specific problem, such as using smart plugs to add some automation to lights. You may also invest in smart speakers powered by Amazon Alexa or Google assistant, or you may be one of the rare followers of Siri and apple homekit.
I tend to see voice assistants as the starting point for building out of the box smart homes, because they provide a convenient way for multiple family members or cohabitants to interact with various devices in your home. Many, but not all, of our best smart home product lists can be used with multiple voice assistants.
However, our list focuses only on the best products in each smart home subcategory. If you want to know the best intelligent thermostat or the best intelligent lighting kit, we can help you no matter which voice platform it is used with. The list is not a roadmap for a single consistent smart home installation (it’s not too far away to try to pair Amazon smart speakers with Google smart displays). To do this, refer to the platform based list linked below.
In each subcategory entry, I also added a link to the best list for that particular product type. If you’re looking for more options for lighting or locking and want to see a wider selection, you can find a list of our favorite products.
Amazon echo dot (3rd generation)
The best smart speaker
Amazon’s entry-level echo dot is in an advantageous position in the highly competitive Google home mini speaker, but with the arrival of the updated and renamed Google nest mini, we officially call the entry-level smart speaker category a draw. On a normal day, the price of both loudspeakers is around $50, and you will find that they are regularly discounted.
The two voice assistants are now almost equal. Amazon is usually proud to have more skills and support for more third-party devices, but the number of two voice platforms is in the tens of thousands, which means that the difference is not enough to let you really miss the important functions unrelated to Google.
Google assistant is better at imitating natural conversation flow, but the difference is that it’s not obvious in the daily interaction with each speaker. In most cases, you ask the smart speaker for the weather, set a timer, or even play one or two songs. Both devices are good at it.
Amazon echo dot is our choice because it has a small hardware advantage. It has an audio output jack. Google home Mini won’t, nor will nest Mini. Now, echo dot also offers a variant with an embedded LED clock along its edge, which costs $10 more. This is a convenient quality of life function.
Google Nest Mini
Another best smart speaker
Google’s new nest mini smart speaker improves its predecessor, Google home mini, in several ways.
Google has improved the audio quality of nest mini, making its bass output more dynamic. If that’s what you’re going to use, it also adds a wall mount notch to its bottom side. An interesting new presence detection method, using speakers and microphones to determine your proximity to the nest mini, helps it trigger LED indicators, and helps you better understand the original fuzzy physical volume controls.
It doesn’t matter, but what makes nest Mini stand out is the machine learning chip embedded in the micro speaker. Google said that with the chip, nest Mini can learn the commands you most often give it, and then it will start processing them locally rather than on Google’s servers.
Anything that helps keep smart home at home is worth it. Even if the Internet is not available, you can still issue some voice commands, and the response time is long. To sum up, the machine learning chip compares Google nest Mini with Amazon echo dot and its unique audio input jack. Now, let’s take a look at both speakers.