Best Gadgets to Look Out for in 2023 on Amazon

Amazon's best gadgets for 2023 include the Amazon Echo Dot (4th Generation), Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote, Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, Ring Video Doorbell Pro, Anker PowerCore 10000 Portable Charger, Philips Hue Smart Bulb, Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Headphones, and GoPro HERO9 Black.

These products have proven to be popular and innovative in their respective categories, providing users with a range of features and benefits that enhance their daily lives.

Whether you're looking to upgrade your home security and convenience, enhance your streaming experience, or capture your adventures in stunning clarity, these gadgets will not disappoint.

let's take a very quick look at each one of them and understand why they are the most popular and innovative products available now.

  1. Amazon Echo Dot (4th Generation)

This smart speaker is a must-have for anyone looking to create a smart home. It can control your other devices, play music, and even make phone calls. The Amazon Echo Dot is a great product because it is a versatile and convenient smart speaker. It allows you to control your other devices, play music, and make phone calls with just your voice. Additionally, it has a sleek and compact design, making it easy to fit into any room in your home. It is also equipped with Alexa, Amazon's virtual assistant, which can answer your questions, set reminders, and control your smart home devices. The Echo Dot (4th Generation) is a great addition to any smart home setup, and can make daily tasks more efficient and enjoyable.

2. Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote

This streaming device allows you to access your favorite shows and movies on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. The Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote is a great product to buy in 2023 because it allows you to access a wide variety of streaming content from popular platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, all in 4K resolution. With Alexa Voice Remote, you can easily search, play, pause, and control the volume of your favorite shows and movies, just by using your voice. The device also comes with a compact and portable design, making it easy to take with you on the go or to use as a secondary streaming device in other rooms. Additionally, the Alexa voice remote can also control other smart devices in your home, making it an all-in-one device. Overall, the Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote is an excellent choice for anyone looking to enhance their streaming experience in 2023.

3. Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

This e-reader is perfect for book lovers. It has a high-resolution display and can hold thousands of books. The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is a great product to buy for book lovers as it offers a high-resolution display that makes reading easy on the eyes, even in bright sunlight.

It is very lightweight and portable, making it super easy to take with you. The Kindle Paperwhite also has a built-in light, so you can read in the dark.

The device is also equipped with a large storage space, which can hold thousands of books, so you can have your entire library with you wherever you go.

Additionally, the Kindle Paperwhite has a long battery life, so you can read for weeks on a single charge.

It also has various features that help with reading, such as adjustable text size, font options, and the ability to highlight and take notes on the books you read.

Overall, the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to read books comfortably and efficiently.

4. Ring Video Doorbell Pro

This smart doorbell lets you see and talk to visitors from your smartphone. It also includes motion detection and night vision.

The Ring Video Doorbell Pro is a superb product to buy for anyone looking for added security and convenience for their home. It allows you to see and talk to visitors from your smartphone, even when you're not at home.

The doorbell also includes motion detection, so you can be notified of any activity at your door, and it has night vision so you can see clearly even in low light conditions. The device is also easy to install and can be integrated with other smart home devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can use voice commands to control your doorbell. Additionally, the Ring Video Doorbell Pro also comes with a subscription service that allows you to access advanced features like recording and cloud storage. Overall, the Ring Video Doorbell Pro is an excellent choice for anyone looking to upgrade their home security and convenience.

5. Anker PowerCore 10000 Portable Charger

This portable charger is perfect for keeping your devices charged while on the go. It has a high capacity and can charge most smartphones at least one and a half times.

The Anker PowerCore 10000 Portable Charger is an excellent gadget to buy in 2023 because it is a reliable and convenient way to keep your devices charged while on the go.

It has a very high capacity of 10000mAh, which can charge most smartphones at least one and a half times, so you can have peace of mind knowing your phone will last all day. The device also has a compact and lightweight design, making it very easy to carry around with you

wherever you go.

Additionally, it has multiple USB ports, allowing you to charge multiple devices at once. Also, it has fast charging technology, so you can charge your device quickly and efficiently. If you are seeking a powerful and portable charging solution for your devices in 2023, then the Anker PowerCore 10000 Portable Charger is one of your best options.

6. Philips Hue Smart Bulb

This smart bulb can be controlled with your voice or through the Philips Hue app. You can also set schedules and routines for your lights.

The Philips Hue Smart Bulb is a great gadget because it allows you to control your lighting with your voice or through an app on your smartphone. This gives you the ability to set schedules and routines for your lights, so you can come home to a well-lit house, or even set the mood for a party.

The bulbs are also energy-efficient and long-lasting, which may save you a lot of money in the long run with the ability to choose from 16 million colors, you can customize the lighting to your taste or match any occasion.

Additionally, the bulbs can be integrated with other smart home devices, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can use voice commands to control your lights.

Overall, the Philips Hue Smart Bulb is an excellent choice for anyone looking to upgrade their home lighting and automation simply and efficiently.

7. Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Headphones

These wireless headphones offer excellent sound quality and noise cancellation. They also have a built-in microphone for making phone calls.

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Headphones are a must-have to buy in 2023 because they offer excellent sound quality and noise-cancellation technology, which makes them perfect for blocking out background noise and allowing you to focus on your music or work. They are wireless, which means you don’t have to deal with cords, and you can easily connect to your devices via Bluetooth.

They also have a built-in microphone for making phone calls, so you don’t have to take off the headphones to answer a call.

Additionally, they are comfortable to wear and have a long battery life which means you can enjoy your music or make calls for hours without interruption. They also have a sleek and stylish design which makes them suitable for any situation.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Headphones are a great choice in 2023 when it comes to high-quality, versatile, and comfortable headphones. The Bose headphones are one of the best over-ear headphones out there.

8.GoPro HERO9 Black

This action camera is perfect for capturing all your adventures. It has 5K video, 20MP photos, and built-in mounting.

The GoPro HERO9 Black is a good gadget choice for people who are looking for a powerful and versatile action camera. It features 5K video, 20MP photos, and built-in mounting, making it perfect for capturing all your adventures.

It also has a waterproof design, so you can take it with you for water activities. It has a variety of shooting modes, such as time-lapse, slow-motion, and night-lapse, which allows you to be creative and capture unique footage.

The camera also comes with a touch screen and voice control, which makes it easy to navigate and start recording without having to press any buttons. Additionally, the GoPro HERO9 Black has improved image stabilization, which makes for smooth and steady footage. You can also easily share your footage via the GoPro app, which allows you to live stream or share your footage on social media.

Overall, the GoPro HERO9 Black is an excellent choice for any tech lover who is looking for a high-quality, durable, and versatile action camera to capture their adventures.

These eight cool gadgets are just a few examples of Amazon's great offerings for new an cool gadgets for 2023. Remember that technology is always evolving, and new products are constantly being released. Therefore, it's important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and advancements to find the best gadgets for your needs.

The post Best Gadgets to Look Out for in 2023 on Amazon appeared first on Walyou.

The best smart home devices and kitchen gadgets that make great gifts

Everyone wants their home tidy, organized and safe, but it’s not always easy to keep it that way. Fortunately, there are gadgets that can help make all of it a little easier. We often review smart speakers, robotic vacuums and more here at Engadget, and for the holiday season we’ve compiled a list of favorites that will make excellent gifts for you or your loved ones. Plus, they don’t need to be super tech savvy to use these either – most of our suggestions are simple enough for those new to the smart home world.

Instant Vortex Plus

Instant Vortex Plus air fryer
Engadget

Air fryers might seem like just glorified convection ovens, but in our tests, we found that they do produce astoundingly crisp foods, with results that are either better or comparable to convection toaster ovens. The Instant Vortex Plus is easily our favorite, thanks to its clear viewing window so your giftee can see the food while it’s cooking, plus there’s an odor-removing filter that helps reduce cooking smells. It’s roomy enough to fit four large chicken thighs and it heats up much faster than a conventional oven. Best of all, clean-up is near effortless – the rack is dishwasher-safe and the non-stick drawer basket can be washed with soap and water.

Buy Instant Vortex Plus at Amazon - $133

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

If your loved one frequently complains about stolen packages or simply wants a way to see who’s at the front door without opening it, consider gifting them a video doorbell. Our favorite is the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell, which is compatible with Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple Homekit. They’ll be able to get a 180-degree view of their visitor from head to toe, plus it alerts your phone with a video call whenever someone rings the bell. It comes with a three-month trial to Arlo’s Smart subscription service right out of the box, which also includes motion detection that differentiates between a person, package, vehicle or animal.

Buy Arlo Essential Video Doorbell at Amazon - $150

Google Nest Hub (2nd gen)

Google Nest Hub (2nd gen)
Google

Google’s Nest Hub smart display is a great device to have around the home — especially if your gift recipient already uses the Google Assistant. It works as a digital photo frame and they can use it to watch YouTube and Netflix. It can also make calls via Google Duo and offers recipe videos along with step-by-step cooking instructions. If the user so chooses, they can track their sleeping patterns if they place the device next to their bed. Additionally, if they already have a Nest Doorbell camera, they can easily use the display to see who’s at the front door.

Buy Nest Hub at B&H - $100

Amazon Echo Show 8

Amazon Echo Show 8
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

For those who prefer Alexa over the Google Assistant, the Echo Show 8 is a great alternative to the Nest Hub. It also works as a digital photo frame and its 8-inch display is a good size for streaming shows from Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu while prepping dinner. It can also be used to keep up with the news, check the weather and control smart home devices. Since Amazon has a partnership with Allrecipes and Food Network Kitchen, users can find assorted recipes and instructional videos as well.

Buy Echo Show 8 at Amazon - $130

Blink Indoor camera

Blink Indoor camera
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Blink’s indoor camera offers the gift of peace of mind in a compact and affordable package. Your loved one will appreciate the fact that Blink is wireless and battery-powered; since they don’t have to place it near an electrical outlet, it can sit almost anywhere. They also won’t have to worry about recharging the camera since it can last up to two years on its two included AA batteries. Aside from just letting them monitor their home, it also features customizable motion alerts so they’ll only get alerted when they want to. There’s also two-way audio so they can hear and speak to the person (or pet) on the other end.

Buy Blink Indoor at Amazon - $80

iRobot Roomba 694

iRobot Roomba 694
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Maybe you have someone in your life who could use a little help cleaning up after themselves. For that, we recommend getting them one of our favorite robot vacuum cleaners, the iRobot Roomba 694. It can suck up dirt and debris from both hardwood and carpeted floors, with an edge-sweeping brush taking care of dusty corners. The companion app lets them control it remotely, or they can set up a cleaning schedule so the little robot can do its thing at a set time. It even automatically docks and recharges itself if it’s low on battery.

Buy Roomba 694 at Amazon - $274

August WiFi smart lock

August Smart Lock 4th gen
Engadget

Smart locks are a great way to add security and convenience to any home. We recommend August’s WiFi smart lock because it’s easy to use, and since it fits over an existing deadbolt, it’s great for homeowners and renters alike. It lets your loved ones unlock the door completely hands-free, which is handy if they have their arms full of groceries. They can set it so that it automatically locks once the door is closed, or after a set period of time. If someone’s at the door but they’re at the office or in the backyard, they can easily let them in with a single finger tap. They can also grant access for specific friends or family members, which means they might never need to put the key under the doormat ever again.

Buy August WiFi smart lock at Amazon - $230

Mila air purifier

Mila air purifier
Mila Cares

Air purifiers are great gifts for anyone who has allergies, lives in a polluted area or just wants to breathe easier at home. And if you want to give someone a smarter air purifier, consider the Mila Air. It ships with one of seven pre-configured HEPA filters that can filter out particles and allergens like pollen and dust. It also has a ton of customization options: There’s a “Housekeeping Service” mode that goes full blast when no one’s in the room, a “Sleep Mode” that turns the lights off and reduces the fan speeds at night, plus a “White Noise” option that mimics soothing sounds like waterfalls. The Mila also has a bevy of sensors that can tell you if there’s carbon monoxide in the air, or if the humidity is too high.

Buy air purifier at Mila - $349

TP-Link Kasa smart plug

TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

With a smart plug, any appliance can be part of a connected home for not a lot of money. TP-Link’s Kasa smart plug is a particularly good one because it is both affordable and incredibly compact (and if you’re really short on space, there’s a mini version that’s even smaller). Together with its companion app, they can schedule a timer to turn on and off anything from Christmas lights to a coffee maker. It’s also compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant, which lets them add voice control to any outlet.

Buy Kasa smart plugs at Amazon - $30

Eero 6 WiFi Mesh router

Eero 6 WiFi Mesh router
Eero

With most of us having so many gadgets and smart home devices, perhaps the best thing you can give your loved one is the gift of better WiFi to keep things running smoothly. Amazon’s Eero routers will deliver just that. The latest models support WiFi 6, the latest and fastest WiFi standard, and will support 75-plus devices simultaneously. It also covers up to 1,500 square feet with WiFi speeds up to 900 Mbps, so it’s unlikely they’ll ever have to deal with dead spots or buffering again. The Eero 6 also comes with a built-in Zigbee smart home hub that lets them connect compatible devices without having to purchase a separate device.

Buy Eero 6 at Amazon - $89

Philips LED Smart Bulb starter kit

Philips LED Smart Bulb starter kit
Engadget

Add some color to your loved one’s life with the Philips LED smart bulb starter kit, which comes with four multi-color bulbs plus a Hue Hub that connects them all together. The bulbs can fill the room with millions of different colors so they can choose from warm moody lighting for a cozy atmosphere or rainbows for parties. In the companion app, they can create timers and routines so that their lights gradually turn on in the morning or off in the evening. And it’s scalable: They can eventually have up to 50 lights connected to one Hue Hub, giving them the freedom to outfit their whole home with smart lights if they wish.

Buy Philips Hue starter kit at Amazon - $200

Amazon Halo Rise is a sleep tracking bedside lamp for ones who don’t like wearables

Amazon has revealed quite a chunk of new as well as improved products at the fall Echo and Alexa hardware event, and I’m quite intrigued by one of them. This is the all-new Halo Rise sleep tracker and bedside lamp that comes just at a time when wearable sleep trackers are gaining traction in the wellness market.

The USP here is the fact that the Halo Rise tracks your slumber without the need to wear a smartwatch or fitness band. This will pique the interest of insomniacs who don’t like wearing any gadget overnight.

Designer: Amazon

All the data gaging is done by radar sensors and low-power radio signals, sans any microphone or camera which makes the wellness and lifestyle gadget different. As you toss and turn during the night every micro movement is detected, along with the patterns in breathing to ascertain the sleep score.

According to Amazon, the product has been extensively tested for its efficacy in daily life situations and the algorithm has been validated, “against the clinical gold standard for sleep analysis.” Instances where two people are sleeping on the same bed or your dog cuddles alongside. Things like age, body type, the ambient temperature of room, humidity, and other factors are also considered.

Halo Rise sits on your bedside table and employs machine learning technology to learn better about your sleep patterns. Things like REM and deep sleep, to access the quality of sleep for better suggestions via the accompanying app. The important thing to note here is that the Halo Rise will track the person closest to the device. There are loads of ambient light settings depending on mood or one can choose presets for things like simulated sunrise or wake-up based on the stage of the sleep cycle.

Amazon has put much emphasis on the encryption of the data sent back to the servers and said that they’ll never use it for any advertising or marketing purpose. According to Melissa Cha, Vice President of Amazon Smart Home and Health; quality sleep is very important for overall well-being, and Halo rise is designed to work seamlessly in the background for, “a new and effortless way to manage your sleep and achieve sleep-life harmony.”

The gadget supports Alexa and with a compatible Echo device, one can add soundscapes for morning alarms to sync with the lamp’s timing. Alexa can also be prompted to talk about the sleep summary for a quick morning update. The app can be used to personalize sleep routines and get a more in-depth summary of the sleep in long term.

Amazon will begin shipping Halo Rise in the US later this year with a price tag set at $139.99. This will include six months of free Halo membership which will cost $3.99/month after that period. When the gadget will be released in other parts of the world is still shrouded in mystery though.

 

 

The post Amazon Halo Rise is a sleep tracking bedside lamp for ones who don’t like wearables first appeared on Yanko Design.

New Kindle finally lets you write notes on your ebooks

There are three kinds of book lovers (at least in terms of format): those who still prefer print above all else, those who are wholly digital, and those that can work with both. I am of course, the last one. And those that are ebook readers and hybrid readers, the Kindle is a holy grail. The E-Ink display is the closest that you can get to an actual book and is better for the eyesight and concentration of readers as compared to normal tablets. Now, we’re getting the next step in the Kindle evolution and it has got me reaching for my wallet and that pre-order button.

Designer: Amazon

It’s been a while since we’ve gotten a totally new Kindle and now, we have Kindle Scribe, a 10.2-inch device with the E-Ink screen we’ve gotten used to. This new model is not just a reading device but also a writing tool as you can use it with a stylus to take notes, edit files, and “write” on the margins of your ebook. Kindle users have been dreaming of a device like this as it actually mimics the action that some readers have been doing for years on their actual, physical books, only the notes you write here can be saved and accessed digitally.

The E-Ink display really is a blessing for those whose eyesight have been affected by the tablet or phone displays that we’ve been using for years. It is the first 300ppi, front-lit display and you’ll be able to adjust the light and the contrast that will best suit your preference. The handwritten notes that you’ll be adding to your book will be stored in your Kindle collection. You can even directly import word documents from Microsoft directly to your device and work on them using your stylus. PDF markup and display of saved webpages are also allowed on the device.

But don’t think this device can be your new tablet as it’s still basically a Kindle which means it’s built for reading and note-taking. The display is still black and white although a future device may sport a colored E-Ink display. In terms of design, the device is similar to the Kindle Oasis with a bezel on one side so you can hold it properly while reading. But the Scribe itself is not chunky at all as it’s only 5.8mm thick and may be thinner and lighter than the thinnest of tablets, the newest iPad Air.

I for one, cannot wait to get my hands on these and start writing notes all over my ebooks. It is still for pre-order but will cost you $339.99 while you have to add a few more dollars to get either the Basic Pen or the Premium Pen which can both be attached to the side of your Scribe.

The post New Kindle finally lets you write notes on your ebooks first appeared on Yanko Design.

The best smart speakers for 2023

When Amazon first introduced Alexa and the Echo speaker years ago, the idea of talking to a digital assistant wasn't totally novel. Both the iPhone and Android phones had semi-intelligent voice controls — but with the Echo, Amazon took its first step toward making something like Alexa a constant presence in your home. Since then, Apple and Google have followed suit, and now there's a huge variety of smart speakers available at various price points.

As the market exploded, the downsides of having a smart home device that's always listening for a wake word have become increasingly apparent. An unintentional voice command can activate it, sending private recordings back to monolithic companies to analyze. And even at the best of times, giving more personal information to Amazon, Apple and Google can be a questionable decision. That said, all these companies have made it easier to manage how your data is used — you can opt out of humans reviewing some of your voice queries, and it's also less complicated to manage and erase your history with various digital assistants, too.

The good news is that there's never been a better time to get a smart speaker, particularly if you're a music fan. For all their benefits, the original Amazon Echo and Google Home devices did not sound good. Sonos, on the other hand, made great sounding WiFi-connected speakers, but they lacked any voice-controlled smarts.

That's all changed now. Sonos released its own voice assistant in 2022 and also includes both Alexa and Google Assistant support in its latest speakers. Google and Amazon, meanwhile, made massive improvements in sound quality with recent speakers. Even lower-end models like the Echo Dot and Nest Mini sound much better than earlier iterations. With the growing popularity of these speakers, there are now more options than ever. Let’s walk through our choices for the best smart speakers at different price points and for different uses.

Picking an assistant

The first thing most people should do is decide what voice assistant they want to use. Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa are both well-supported options that are continually evolving, with new features added at a steady clip. A few years ago, Alexa worked with more smart home devices, but at this point, basically any smart device worth buying works with both.

It's mostly a matter of personal preference. If you already use Google Assistant on your Android phone, it makes sense to stick with that. But while Alexa isn’t quite as good at answering general knowledge questions, it syncs just fine with things like calendars from your Google account. And it works with perhaps the widest variety of smart home devices, as well. If you’ve never used Alexa or Google Assistant, you can download their apps to your smart phone and spend some time testing them out before buying a speaker.

If you buy a Sonos device with a microphone, you can also use the company's own voice assistant, voiced by Giancarlo Esposito. It's focused purely on music control, so you won't use it to do things like send messages or ask the weather forecast. But as a music assistant, Sonos Voice Control is generally quite fast and reliable. 

As for Apple, you won’t be surprised to learn its HomePod mini is the only Siri-compatible speaker on the market, now that Apple has discontinued the larger HomePod. Siri has a reputation for not being as smart as Alexa or Google Assistant, but it’s totally capable of handling common voice queries like answering questions, controlling smart home devices, sending messages, making calls and playing music. Technically, Siri and Apple’s HomeKit technology doesn’t work with as many smart home devices as the competition, but it’s not hard to find compatible gear. And since the HomePod mini arrived last fall, Apple has added some handy features like a new Intercom tool. Apple is also starting to support music services besides Apple Music. Currently, Pandora is the only other option, but Apple has confirmed that Amazon Music will eventually work natively on the HomePod mini as well.

Best smart speaker under $50: Amazon Echo Dot

Most people's entry point into the smart speaker world will not be an expensive device. Amazon's fourth-generation Echo Dot and Google's Nest Mini are the most obvious places to start for two important reasons. One, they're cheap: Both the Nest Mini and Echo Dost cost $50. Two, they're capable. Despite the low price, these speakers can do virtually the same things as larger and more expensive devices.

The Google Nest Mini was released in late 2019, but Amazon just refreshed the Echo Dot this year. After testing both devices, I think the Echo Dot is the best small smart speaker for most people. Amazon keeps improving the audio quality across its Echo device line, and the Echo Dot is no exception. It produces much louder and clearer audio than I’d expect from a $50 speaker. The Nest Mini doesn’t sound bad, and it’s perfectly fine for listening in the bedroom while getting ready for the day, but the Echo Dot is a better all-purpose music listening device.

From a design perspective, Amazon broke the mold with the latest Echo Dot. Instead of a small puck like the Nest Mini, the new Dot is shaped like a little globe. It’s much bigger than the Nest Mini, but that size gives it room for higher-end audio components. The Dot keeps the handy physical volume buttons and mute switch on top, along with a button to activate Alexa's voice control. While the Dot doesn’t look as sleek as the Nest Mini, having physical buttons makes it easier to adjust volume and mute the mic. I do wish the Dot had a way to physically pause music; on the Nest Mini, if you tap the middle of the device, the music stops.

Another benefit the Amazon Echo Dot has over the Google Nest Mini is its 3.5mm audio out jack, which means you can plug it into other speakers and instantly upgrade the audio quality. When you do that, you can ask Alexa to stream music, and it'll output to whatever speaker you have connected. That'll help you get more mileage out of the Dot in the long run. The Nest Mini answers with a handy wall mount, for people who want to keep their counter or shelf clear. The Echo Dot’s new bulbous form is definitely not suited to this, so if you want a speaker you can really hide, the Nest Mini is probably the better choice.

Overall, the Dot is the best choice for most people, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the Nest Mini, either. I generally prefer using Google Assistant over Alexa, and anyone who feels the same should go ahead and get the Nest Mini. The Dot does sound notably better, so if you plan to listen to audio on a regular basis, that’s probably the way to go. But if you only plan to use it for a quick song or podcast when you’re getting ready in the morning, just pick your favorite assistant and go from there.

Best smart speaker under $100: Amazon Echo

Amazon, Apple and Google all have $100 smart speakers: the fourth-generation Echo, the HomePod mini and the Nest Audio, respectively. All three companies claim superior audio quality, so for lots of people these speakers will be the sweet spot between small speakers like the Echo Dot and Nest Mini and bigger, more expensive models like the Sonos One.

Once again, Amazon punches above its weight. Like the Dot, the new Echo is totally redesigned and the new internals were made with music in mind. It combines a three-inch woofer with two 0.8-inch tweeters — a more advanced setup than either the Nest Audio or HomePod mini. (The Google Nest Audio uses a three-inch woofer but only a single 0.75-inch tweeter, while the Apple HomePod mini makes do with a single “full range” driver and two passive radiators.)

In practice, this means the Echo is noticeably louder than either the Nest Audio or HomePod mini and much better suited to filling a large room than the competition. It also delivers an impressive bass thump and powerful mid-range frequencies. In fact, my main complaint with the speaker is that highs aren’t quite crisp enough. Compare the Echo to a Sonos One and the One sounds much more lively, while the Echo comes off a bit muddy. Then again, the Sonos One costs twice as much as the Echo.

While the Echo may beat the Nest Audio and HomePod mini on volume and bass, Google and Apple’s speakers are not bad options. The HomePod mini is the quietest of the three speakers, but it still sounds balanced across the entire audio spectrum. The bass isn’t too assertive, but there’s more presence than I would have expected given its tiny size (it’s by far the smallest of these three speakers).

And it has a few nice perks if you’re using an iPhone 11 or newer. Thanks to the U1 “ultra-wideband” chip in recent iPhones, the HomePod mini can tell when there’s a phone near it, which makes handing off music from your phone to the speaker (or vice versa) quite simple. Playback controls for the HomePod mini will automatically pop up as well, and your phone’s lock screen will display music suggestions if the speaker isn’t currently playing. Setup is also dead-simple — just bring an iPhone or iPad near the speaker and it’ll automatically start the process.

Google’s Nest Audio is also quite pleasant to listen to. It’s a little louder than the HomePod mini, and has stronger bass, to boot. It doesn’t have the same overall power and presence that the Echo does, but for $100 it’s a well-balanced speaker that should serve most people’s needs.

All three of these speakers support stereo pairing as well, if you want more volume or crave a more immersive experience. For $200, two Echoes will fill a large room with high-quality sound and enough bass to power a party. A pair of HomePod mini or Nest Audio speakers aren’t quite as powerful, but it makes for a great upgrade if you’re a more avid listener. A pair of Nest Audio or HomePod mini speakers sounded great on my desk during the workday. I don’t need overwhelming volume but can appreciate the stereo separation. And two of those speakers together can easily power a larger living space, although the Echo is the better choice if volume is a priority.

Here too, I think that picking the assistant that works best in your house and with your other gadgets is probably the most important factor — but given Alexa’s ubiquity and the new Echo’s superior sound quality, I think it’s the best smart speaker at this price point.

Best midrange smart speaker: Sonos One

If you have more than a passing interest in music, the Echo Dot and Nest Mini aren't really going to cut it. Spending more money to upgrade to a speaker designed with audio quality in mind is one of the best decisions I've made. For years, I didn't have a proper home music solution, but in the end the modest investment has made my life much more pleasant.

For a long time, my default recommendation was the $219 Sonos One. It hits a sweet spot of size and convenience, and it's a huge upgrade in sound quality over the Nest Mini or Echo Dot, not to mention the larger Echo and Nest Audio. You can use the Sonos Voice Assistant, Alexa or the Google Assistant with it, and Sonos supports a huge variety of music services. But most importantly, it simply sounds great, especially if you tune the speaker to your room using the Sonos iOS app. It takes just a few minutes and makes the One sound lively, with punchy bass and clear highs.

But Amazon flipped the script in 2019 with the Echo Studio, a $200 Alexa-powered smart speaker that can stand up against the Sonos One. Yes, it's larger than nearly every other speaker in this guide, but the bang-for-the-buck factor is extremely high with the Echo Studio. Naturally, it's a full-fledged member of the Alexa ecosystem, which means you can do multi-room playback with other Echo speakers or set up two Studios in a stereo pair. All of Alexa's features are on board here, and it has a built-in Zigbee smart home hub, if you happen to need that.

The Echo Studio has a few other unique features for music lovers. If you sign up for Amazon's hi-def music service, you can play a (very limited) selection of songs in Sony's 360 Reality Audio format; Amazon refers to this as "3D music." It may sound great, but the selection is so sparse that we can't recommend it as a reason to buy into the Echo Studio — but it will be nice as Amazon expands its catalog over time. That said, the Echo Studio’s five-speaker, 360-degree design naturally provides a more 3D effect than a speaker like the Sonos One, which has a more traditional forward-firing design.

The Studio also supports Dolby Atmos, making it a candidate for a home theater setup — but it only works with Amazon's own Fire TV devices. And using a single speaker for watching movies is odd; it may sound great, but it's not the immersive experience you'll get with a dedicated soundbar and surround speakers. A stereo pair plus Amazon's Echo Sub should sound notably better, but we haven't been able to get that setup yet.

Given the quality of the Studio, the speaker shines when used with a high-def streaming service, like Amazon Music HD or Tidal's HiFi tier. The downside is that you'll pay for those — but if you want to stick with standard Spotify or Apple Music, the Studio still sounds great.

While the Studio is comparable to the Sonos One in terms of pure audio quality, the Sonos ecosystem does have a few advantages over Amazon. Sonos speakers that support voice commands, like the One, work with either Alexa or Google Assistant. So if you prefer Google, Sonos is probably the way to go. And Sonos speakers work with a much broader set of music services. I’ve spent a lot of time recently comparing the One to the Echo Studio, and I go back and forth on which is superior in terms of music quality. They definitely have different profiles, and while I have come to prefer Sonos over Amazon, I know plenty of people (including my colleague Billy Steele) who find the opposite to be true.

If you have a smaller home and aren't concerned with multi-room playback, the Echo Studio should be your pick. But if you're interested in building out a multi-room setup over time, Sonos currently provides a greater variety of speakers for that mission. But either way, you'll end up with a setup that puts something like the Echo Dot or Nest Mini to shame.

Best smart speaker for music lovers: Sonos Five

As nice as the Echo Studio and Sonos One are, there's only so much you can get out of them. If you crave more bass, clarity and stereo separation, the Sonos Five is one of our favorite pure music speakers. It has all the conveniences of the One (except for one, which we'll get to) and sounds significantly better than any other Sonos speaker. It also sounds much better than the Echo Studio and anything Google is currently selling.

That said, the Five stretches our definition of a smart speaker here because it doesn't have a built-in voice assistant. But it's so good at music playback that it's worth recommending you pick one up along with an Echo Dot or Nest Mini. Both of those speakers work with Sonos, so you can use voice commands to control the Five just as you would a dedicated Alexa or Google Assistant device. It’s also easier to recommend than it was a year ago, because Sonos refreshed the speaker last spring with a new wireless radio as well as more memory and a faster processor. This means it should stay current and work with future Sonos software updates for years to come.

Since we're talking "best" here, I'm going to go ahead and recommend that true music junkies splash out on two Five speakers and pair them in stereo. Put simply, it's the most enjoyable experience I've had listening to music in years; I found myself picking up new details while listening to albums I've heard over and over again. It's a wonderful experience and worth saving for if you're a music lover. Put simply, I didn't know what I was missing until I tried the Five.

Best portable smart speaker: Sonos Roam

While many people will be happy with a few speakers strategically placed throughout their home, you might want something that works outside as well as inside. Fortunately, you can find speakers that pair voice controls and strong music playback performance with portable, weatherproof form factors. For my money, it's hard to beat the Sonos Roam for sheer versatility, not to mention audio quality.

When used inside the home, the Roam works like any other Sonos speaker. It fits in with an existing multi-room Sonos setup, or you can get a pair for stereo playback. Like most other Sonos speakers, it works with the Sonos Voice Assistant, Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, and it supports essentially every major music service available. It sounds very good given its tiny size; it’s quieter and not quite as clear as the Sonos One, but it still packs a surprising bass thump and distinct highs.

Since it was designed with on-the-go usage in mind, the Roam has a battery and Bluetooth so you can take it anywhere and use it far away from your WiFi network. And its diminutive size makes it easy to take it everywhere, both around the house and out and about. It’s also the first Sonos speaker that is fully waterproof, as well as dust- and drop-resistant, so you shouldn’t worry about taking it to the pool or beach.

The Roam gets about 10 hours of battery life, whether you're on WiFI or Bluetooth. There are other portable speakers that last longer, so if you’re really going to push the battery you might be better served by another option.

Sonos also has another portable option, the Move. Like the Roam, it’s a full-fledged Sonos speaker when on WiFi and works with Bluetooth when you’re away from home. But it’s $400 and much larger than the Roam, and even bigger than the Sonos One. This means it is very loud and has better audio quality than all the other speakers I’ve mentioned, but it’s not something you can toss in a bag and bring with you anywhere. When I reviewed it, I liked having a speaker I could tote around the house with me and out to my porch, but the Roam does that all just as well in a much smaller package. The Move is a good option if you want a high-quality speaker for a living room with the option to occasionally drag it to the backyard.

While this guide is all about smart speakers, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention all of the solid portable speakers out there that either have limited smart features or none at all. We have an entire guide to the best portable Bluetooth speakers, and some of our favorites that support smart voice commands come from Bose. The $149 SoundLink Flex supports Siri and Google Assistant commands, plus it has an IP67 design that's roughly the size of a small clutch bag. It pumps out bright, dynamic sound and can pair with other speakers for stereo sound, too.

On the higher end of the spectrum, the $399 Bose Portable Smart speaker supports Alexa and Google Assistant commands, and since it can connect to WiFi, you can ask your preferred assistant to play music from Spotify, Amazon Music and other services. On top of that, it produces well-rounded sound, sports an IPX4 design with a convenient carry handle and will last up to 12 hours on a single charge.

The best smart speakers you can buy

When Amazon first introduced Alexa and the Echo speaker years ago, the idea of talking to a digital assistant wasn't totally novel. Both the iPhone and Android phones had semi-intelligent voice controls — but with the Echo, Amazon took its first step toward making something like Alexa a constant presence in your home. Since then, Apple and Google have followed suit, and now there's a huge variety of smart speakers available at various price points.

As the market exploded, the downsides of having a device that's always listening for a wake word have become increasingly apparent. They can get activated unintentionally, sending private recordings back to monolithic companies to analyze. And even at the best of times, giving more personal information to Amazon, Apple and Google can be a questionable decision. That said, all these companies have made it easier to manage how your data is used — you can opt out of humans reviewing some of your voice queries, and it's also less complicated to manage and erase your history with various digital assistants, too.

The good news is that there's never been a better time to get a smart speaker, particularly if you're a music fan. For all their benefits, the original Amazon Echo and Google Home devices did not sound good. Sonos, on the other hand, made great sounding WiFi-connected speakers, but they lacked any voice-controlled smarts.

That's all changed now. Sonos is including both Alexa and Google Assistant support in its latest speakers. Google and Amazon, meanwhile, made massive improvements in sound quality with recent speakers. Even lower-end models like the Echo Dot and Nest Mini sound much better than earlier iterations. With the growing popularity of these speakers, there are now more options than ever. Let’s walk through the best choices at different price points and for different uses.

Picking an assistant

The first thing most people should do is decide what voice assistant they want to use. Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa are both well-supported options that are continually evolving, with new features added at a steady clip. A few years ago, Alexa worked with more smart home devices, but at this point, basically any smart device worth buying works with both.

It's mostly a matter of personal preference. If you already use Google Assistant on your Android phone, it makes sense to stick with that. But while Alexa isn’t quite as good at answering general knowledge questions, it syncs just fine with things like calendars from your Google account. And it works with perhaps the widest variety of smart home devices, as well. If you’ve never used Alexa or Google Assistant, you can download their apps to your smart phone and spend some time testing them out before buying a speaker.

As for Apple, you won’t be surprised to learn its HomePod mini is the only Siri-compatible speaker on the market, now that Apple has discontinued the larger HomePod. Siri has a reputation for not being as smart as Alexa or Google Assistant, but it’s totally capable of handling common voice queries like answering questions, controlling smart home devices, sending messages, making calls and playing music. Technically, Siri and Apple’s HomeKit technology doesn’t work with as many smart home devices as the competition, but it’s not hard to find compatible gear. And since the HomePod mini arrived last fall, Apple has added some handy features like a new Intercom tool. Apple is also starting to support music services besides Apple Music. Currently, Pandora is the only other option, but Apple has confirmed that Amazon Music will eventually work natively on the HomePod mini as well.

Best smart speaker under $50: Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot 2020
Engadget

Most people's entry point into the smart speaker world will not be an expensive device. Amazon's fourth-generation Echo Dot and Google's Nest Mini are the most obvious places to start for two important reasons. One, they're cheap: Both the Nest Mini and Echo Dost cost $50. Two, they're capable. Despite the low price, these speakers can do virtually the same things as larger and more expensive devices.

Buy Echo Dot at Amazon - $50Buy Nest Mini at Walmart - $50

The Nest Mini was released in late 2019, but Amazon just refreshed the Echo Dot in 2020. After testing both devices, I think the Echo Dot is the best small smart speaker for most people. Amazon keeps improving the audio quality across its Echo line, and the Echo Dot is no exception. It produces much louder and clearer audio than I’d expect from a $50 speaker. The Nest Mini doesn’t sound bad, and it’s perfectly fine for listening in the bedroom while getting ready for the day, but the Echo Dot is a better all-purpose music listening device.

From a design perspective, Amazon broke the mold with the latest Echo Dot. Instead of a small puck like the Nest Mini, the new Dot is shaped like a little globe. It’s much bigger than the Nest Mini, but that size gives it room for higher-end audio components. The Dot keeps the handy physical volume buttons and mute switch on top, along with a button to activate Alexa. While the Dot doesn’t look as sleek as the Nest Mini, having physical buttons makes it easier to adjust volume and mute the mic. I do wish the Dot had a way to physically pause music; on the Nest Mini, if you tap the middle of the device, the music stops.

Another benefit the Echo Dot has over the Nest Mini is its 3.5mm audio out jack, which means you can plug it into other speakers and instantly upgrade the audio quality. When you do that, you can ask Alexa to stream music, and it'll output to whatever speaker you have connected. That'll help you get more mileage out of the Dot in the long run. The Nest Mini answers with a handy wall mount, for people who want to keep their counter or shelf clear. The Echo Dot’s new bulbous form is definitely not suited to this, so if you want a speaker you can really hide, the Nest Mini is probably the better choice.

Overall, the Dot is the best choice for most people, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the Nest Mini, either. I generally prefer using Google Assistant over Alexa, and anyone who feels the same should go ahead and get the Nest Mini. The Dot does sound notably better, so if you plan to listen to audio on a regular basis, that’s probably the way to go. But if you only plan to use it for a quick song or podcast when you’re getting ready in the morning, just pick your favorite assistant and go from there.

Best smart speaker under $100: Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo
Amazon

Amazon, Apple and Google all have $100 smart speakers: the fourth-generation Echo, the HomePod mini and the Nest Audio, respectively. All three companies claim superior audio quality, so for lots of people these speakers will be the sweet spot between small speakers like the Echo Dot and Nest Mini and bigger, more expensive models like the Sonos One.

Buy Echo at Amazon - $100Buy HomePod mini at B&H - $100Buy Nest Audio at Walmart - $100

Once again, Amazon punches above its weight. Like the Dot, the new Echo is totally redesigned and the new internals were made with music in mind. It combines a three-inch woofer with two 0.8-inch tweeters — a more advanced setup than either the Nest Audio or HomePod mini. (The Nest Audio uses a three-inch woofer but only a single 0.75-inch tweeter, while the HomePod mini makes do with a single “full range” driver and two passive radiators.)

In practice, this means the Echo is noticeably louder than either the Nest Audio or HomePod mini and much better suited to filling a large room than the competition. It also delivers an impressive bass thump and powerful mid-range frequencies. In fact, my main complaint with the speaker is that highs aren’t quite crisp enough. Compare the Echo to a Sonos One and the One sounds much more lively, while the Echo comes off a bit muddy. Then again, the Sonos One costs twice as much as the Echo.

While the Echo may beat the Nest Audio and HomePod mini on volume and bass, Google and Apple’s speakers are not bad options. The HomePod mini is the quietest of the three speakers, but it still sounds balanced across the entire audio spectrum. The bass isn’t too assertive, but there’s more presence than I would have expected given its tiny size (it’s by far the smallest of these three speakers).

And it has a few nice perks if you’re using an iPhone 11 or newer. Thanks to the U1 “ultra-wideband” chip in recent iPhones, the HomePod mini can tell when there’s a phone near it, which makes handing off music from your phone to the speaker (or vice versa) quite simple. Playback controls for the HomePod mini will automatically pop up as well, and your phone’s lock screen will display music suggestions if the speaker isn’t currently playing. Setup is also dead-simple — just bring an iPhone or iPad near the speaker and it’ll automatically start the process.

Google’s Nest Audio is also quite pleasant to listen to. It’s a little louder than the HomePod mini, and has stronger bass, to boot. It doesn’t have the same overall power and presence that the Echo does, but for $100 it’s a well-balanced speaker that should serve most people’s needs.

All three of these speakers support stereo pairing as well, if you want more volume or crave a more immersive experience. For $200, two Echoes will fill a large room with high-quality sound and enough bass to power a party. A pair of HomePod mini or Nest Audio speakers aren’t quite as powerful, but it makes for a great upgrade if you’re a more avid listener. A pair of Nest Audio or HomePod mini speakers sounded great on my desk during the workday. I don’t need overwhelming volume but can appreciate the stereo separation. And two of those speakers together can easily power a larger living space, although the Echo is the better choice if volume is a priority.

Here too, I think that picking the assistant that works best in your house and with your other gadgets is probably the most important factor — but given Alexa’s ubiquity and the new Echo’s superior sound quality, I think it’s the best smart speaker at this price point.

Best midrange smart speakers: Sonos One, Amazon Echo Studio

If you have more than a passing interest in music, the Echo Dot and Nest Mini aren't really going to cut it. Spending more money to upgrade to a speaker designed with audio in mind is one of the best decisions I've made. For years, I didn't have a proper home music solution, but in the end the modest investment has made my life much more pleasant.

For a long time, my default recommendation was the $219 Sonos One. It hits a sweet spot of size and convenience, and it's a huge upgrade in sound quality over the Nest Mini or Echo Dot, not to mention the larger Echo and Nest Audio. You can use either Alexa or the Google Assistant with it, and Sonos supports a huge variety of music services. But most importantly, it simply sounds great, especially if you tune the speaker to your room using the Sonos iOS app. It takes just a few minutes and makes the One sound lively, with punchy bass and clear highs.

Buy Sonos One at Sonos - $219Buy Echo Studio at Amazon - $200

But Amazon flipped the script in 2019 with the Echo Studio, a $200 Alexa-powered smart speaker that can stand up against the Sonos One. Yes, it's larger than nearly every other speaker in this guide, but the bang-for-the-buck factor is extremely high with the Echo Studio. Naturally, it's a full-fledged member of the Alexa ecosystem, which means you can do multi-room playback with other Echo speakers or set up two Studios in a stereo pair. All of Alexa's features are on board here, and it has a built-in Zigbee smart home hub, if you happen to need that.

The Echo Studio has a few other unique features for music lovers. If you sign up for Amazon's hi-def music service, you can play a (very limited) selection of songs in Sony's 360 Reality Audio format; Amazon refers to this as "3D music." It may sound great, but the selection is so sparse that we can't recommend it as a reason to buy into the Echo Studio — but it will be nice as Amazon expands its catalog over time. That said, the Echo Studio’s five-speaker, 360-degree design naturally provides a more 3D effect than a speaker like the Sonos One, which has a more traditional forward-firing design.

The Studio also supports Dolby Atmos, making it a candidate for a home theater setup — but it only works with Amazon's own Fire TV devices. And using a single speaker for watching movies is odd; it may sound great, but it's not the immersive experience you'll get with a dedicated soundbar and surround speakers. A stereo pair plus Amazon's Echo Sub should sound notably better, but we haven't been able to get that setup yet.

Given the quality of the Studio, the speaker shines when used with a high-def streaming service, like Amazon Music HD or Tidal's HiFi tier. The downside is that you'll pay for those — but if you want to stick with standard Spotify or Apple Music, the Studio still sounds great.

While the Studio is comparable to the Sonos One in terms of pure audio quality, the Sonos ecosystem does have a few advantages over Amazon. Sonos speakers that support voice commands, like the One, work with either Alexa or Google Assistant. So if you prefer Google, Sonos is probably the way to go. And Sonos speakers work with a much broader set of music services. I’ve spent a lot of time recently comparing the One to the Echo Studio, and I go back and forth on which is superior in terms of music quality. They definitely have different profiles, and while I have come to prefer Sonos over Amazon, I know plenty of people (including my colleague Billy Steele) who find the opposite to be true.

If you have a smaller home and aren't concerned with multi-room playback, the Echo Studio should be your pick. But if you're interested in building out a multi-room setup over time, Sonos currently provides a greater variety of speakers for that mission. But either way, you'll end up with a setup that puts something like the Echo Dot or Nest Mini to shame.

Best smart speaker for music lovers: Sonos Five

Sonos Play 5

As nice as the Echo Studio and Sonos One are, there's only so much you can get out of them. If you crave more bass, clarity and stereo separation, the Sonos Five is one of our favorite pure music speakers. It has all the conveniences of the One (except for one, which we'll get to) and sounds significantly better than any other Sonos speaker. It also sounds much better than the Echo Studio and anything Google is currently selling.

Buy Sonos Five at Sonos - $549

That said, the Five stretches our definition of a smart speaker here because it doesn't have a built-in voice assistant. But it's so good at music playback that it's worth recommending you pick one up along with an Echo Dot or Nest Mini. Both of those speakers work with Sonos, so you can use voice commands to control the Five just as you would a dedicated Alexa or Google Assistant device. It’s also easier to recommend than it was a year ago, because Sonos refreshed the speaker last spring with a new wireless radio as well as more memory and a faster processor. This means it should stay current and work with future Sonos software updates for years to come.

Since we're talking "best" here, I'm going to go ahead and recommend that true music junkies splash out on two Five speakers and pair them in stereo. Put simply, it's the most enjoyable experience I've had listening to music in years; I found myself picking up new details while listening to albums I've heard over and over again. It's a wonderful experience and worth saving for if you're a music lover. Put simply, I didn't know what I was missing until I tried the Five.

Best portable smart speaker: Sonos Roam

Sonos Roam portable speaker outside, standing vertically on a wooden railing.
Engadget

While many people will be happy with a few speakers strategically placed throughout their home, you might want something that works outside as well as inside. Fortunately, you can find speakers that pair voice controls and strong music playback performance with portable, weatherproof form factors. For my money, it's hard to beat the Sonos Roam for sheer versatility, not to mention audio quality.

Buy Sonos Roam at Sonos - $179

When used inside the home, the Roam works like any other Sonos speaker. It fits in with an existing multi-room Sonos setup, or you can get a pair for stereo playback. Like most other Sonos speakers, it works with either the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, and it supports essentially every major music service available. It sounds very good given its tiny size; it’s quieter and not quite as clear as the Sonos One, but it still packs a surprising bass thump and distinct highs.

Since it was designed with on-the-go usage in mind, the Roam has a battery and Bluetooth so you can take it anywhere and use it far away from your WiFi network. And its diminutive size makes it easy to take it everywhere, both around the house and out and about. It’s also the first Sonos speaker that is fully waterproof, as well as dust- and drop-resistant, so you shouldn’t worry about taking it to the pool or beach.

The Roam gets about 10 hours of battery life, whether you're on WiFI or Bluetooth. There are other portable speakers that last longer, so if you’re really going to push the battery you might be better served by another option.

Sonos also has another portable option, the Move. Like the Roam, it’s a full-fledged Sonos speaker when on WiFi and works with Bluetooth when you’re away from home. But it’s $400 and much larger than the Roam, and even bigger than the Sonos One. This means it is very loud and has better audio quality than all the other speakers I’ve mentioned, but it’s not something you can toss in a bag and bring with you anywhere. When I reviewed it, I liked having a speaker I could tote around the house with me and out to my porch, but the Roam does that all just as well in a much smaller package. The Move is a good option if you want a high-quality speaker for a living room with the option to occasionally drag it to the backyard.

While this guide is all about smart speakers, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention all of the solid portable speakers out there that either have limited smart features or none at all. We have an entire guide to the best portable Bluetooth speakers, and some of our favorites that support smart voice commands come from Bose. The $149 SoundLink Flex supports Siri and Google Assistant commands, plus it has an IP67 design that's roughly the size of a small clutch bag. It pumps out bright, dynamic sound and can pair with other speakers for stereo sound, too.

On the higher end of the spectrum, the $399 Bose Portable Smart speaker supports Alexa and Google Assistant commands, and since it can connect to WiFi, you can ask your preferred assistant to play music from Spotify, Amazon Music and other services. On top of that, it produces well-rounded sound, sports an IPX4 design with a convenient carry handle and will last up to 12 hours on a single charge.

The best student discounts we found for 2022

Your college years can be some of the best of your life, but we know it can be tough to enjoy them when you’re scrounging every dollar for textbooks, food and (if you’re lucky) the occasional outing with friends. Money is tight when you’re a student, and that financial stress can be compounded by the reality of having to stay on top of your studies.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s student discounts. Many companies offer their products and apps for less to those struggling through lectures, writing term papers and studying for finals. We’ve compiled a list of the best deals you can get on useful services, along with some things you’ll enjoy in your down time. Just keep in mind that most of these offers require you to prove your status as a student either by signing up with your .edu email address or providing some form of student identification.

Shopping

Amazon Prime Student
Engadget

Amazon Prime Student

If you’re not piggybacking off of your parents’ Amazon Prime account, you can have the subscription for less while you’re in school. College students can get Prime Student for free for six months, then it costs only $7.49 per month after that. That comes out to about $90 per year, and the membership includes the same perks as regular Prime does, including free two-day shipping, free same-day delivery in select areas, and access to the entire Prime Video library.

Buy Prime Student at Amazon - $90 a year

Best Buy

While it doesn’t offer a specific student discount, Best Buy has Student Deals that you can sign up to receive. Aside from proving your student status, the only requirement is for you to be a My Best Buy member; that program is free to enroll in. We actually recommend that most people sign up for My Best Buy because some items, especially during site-wide sales, will be even cheaper for members. All student deals will appear in the Member Offers page in your account.

Sign up for Student Deals at Best Buy

Apple

Apple offers some deals to students and educators in the form of knocking down the prices of its most popular laptops and tablets. There isn’t a flat percentage rate across all products; the discounts vary by device. For example, right now students can get a MacBook Air M1 starting at $899, which is $100 less than the normal starting price, and the iPad Pros start at $749, which represents a $50 discount. These are decent savings if you must have a brand new Apple product, but those with tighter budgets should also consider Apple’s refurb program. Also for 2022, students can get up to a $150 gift card and 20 percent off AppleCare when they purchase a qualifying Mac or iPad.

Shop Apple’s back-to-school promos

Samsung

Much like Apple, Samsung doesn't offer a blanket discount across all of its products for students. But you can save depending on what you're looking to buy. For example, you can save hundreds on the latest Galaxy S22 smartphones, and the discount will be deeper if you have a handset to trade in. On the laptop-and-tablet side of things, you can get a Galaxy Chromebook 2 for as low as $350 or a Galaxy Tab S8+ for. as low as $200.

Shop Samsung’s back-to-school promos

Microsoft

Microsoft also provides students and educators with up to 10 percent off its gadgets, including the already affordable Surface Go 2 and the Surface Headphones 2. And Microsoft’s online store doesn’t only sell Surface devices: You can also find Windows PCs from Lenovo, HP, Acer and others there at discounted prices.

Shop Microsoft’s back-to-school promos

Streaming

Spotify
Engadget

Spotify

Spotify Premium’s student plan gives you a lot for only $5 per month. Besides access to millions of songs, it also includes Hulu’s ad-supported tier and Showtime’s ad-free service. You’d spend roughly $27 a month if you paid for all three separately at their full prices, making this student offer one of the best you can get.

Buy Spotify Premium Student - $5 a month

Pandora

Pandora also offers students its Premium membership for $5 per month. Pandora’s offering doesn’t include any additional services, but you do get an ad-free experience, personalized music, unlimited skips and unlimited offline play. Plus, you’ll get 60 days of free use before your payments kick in.

Buy Pandora Premium Student - $5 a month

Apple Music

Apple also slashes 50 percent off its Apple Music subscription for students, bringing it down to $5 per month. The offer is available for up to 48 months so you can enjoy the rate for the entirety of your college experience. What’s more, the company bundles Apple TV+ in this student offer, so you can watch Apple originals like Ted Lasso and Severance.

Buy Apple Music Student membership - $5 a month

Paramount+

Paramount+’s student discount knocks 25 percent off the Essentials monthly plan, so you’ll end up paying around $3.75 per month for access to the service’s content with limited commercials. With this subscription, you can watch shows like Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, South Park, RuPaul’s Drag Race and more, but just keep in mind that this particular plan doesn’t include access to your local CBS station.

Buy Paramount+ Student - $3.75/month

Discovery+

Discovery+ knocks 40 percent off monthly plans for students, so you can get access for only $3 per month. You’ll pay for the Ad-Lite plan, so there will still be commercials to sit through, but you can get that discounted rate for as long as you are an enrolled student.

Buy Discovery+ Student - $3/month

Tidal

Tidal provides student discounts on both of its streaming services: Premium and Hi-Fi. Premium drops to $5 per month, down from $10, while Hi-Fi costs $10 per month, down from $20. Tidal is still often overshadowed by Spotify and Apple Music, but these discounts are a good way to give it a try without spending too much money.

Buy Tidal Student starting at $5 a month

Hulu

College students can sign up for Hulu’s ad-supported plan for only $2 per month. That’s $4 less than the normal price and a great deal considering all of the content that Hulu has to offer (think: The Handmaid’s Tale, Grey’s Anatomy, Rick & Morty and more). Yes, you have to deal with commercials, but it’s a small price to pay to binge-watch shows like Brooklyn Nine Nine, which can provide a much-needed laugh when you’re drowning in coursework.

Buy Hulu (ad-supported) - $2 a month

YouTube

If you’re already spending a lot of time watching YouTube, you may have a better experience with YouTube Premium. The Student plan cuts nearly 50 percent off the price so you’ll pay $7 per month for ad-free video viewing, background play, video downloads and access to YouTube Premium Music. The latter is YouTube’s attempt at a Spotify/Apple Music competitor, but it has a long way to go before it can really hold a candle to those services. However, if you listen to most of your music via YouTube already, Premium could be your one-stop-shop for music and video streaming.

Buy YouTube Premium Student - $7 a month

Headspace

Being a student is stressful even in the best of times, but now it’s even more difficult to concentrate and find peace. Headspace is just one of many meditation and mindfulness apps available that can help with that, but it stands apart with an excellent student discount: $10 for the entire year, or $60 less than a normal annual membership. In addition to a large library of meditation lessons and routines to follow, Headspace recently added SleepCasts, a collection of soothing voices reading bedtime stories to help you fall asleep, as well as “mindful” workout routines.

Buy Headspace Student plan - $10 a year

Tools

Adobe Creative Cloud
Engadget

Adobe Creative Cloud

You’re probably using Adobe products if you’re studying anything related to digital art or design. Adobe Creative Cloud is the industry standard in this space but the entire suite of programs is quite expensive at $53 per month. Thankfully, Adobe has education pricing for students that drops the entire creative suite to $20 per month for the first year. That includes the big programs like Photoshop CC and Illustrator CC along with Lightroom CC, Premiere Pro CC, Adobe XD and more.

After your first year, the monthly cost increases to $30 per month. While not ideal, it’s still more affordable for students than it is for industry professionals. If you’re not tied to Adobe programs, you might also consider Affinity Photo, Designer and Publisher apps from Serif ($50 each for the Mac or Windows versions), which compete with Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, respectively.

Buy Adobe CC - $20 a month

Ableton Live

Regardless of whether you’re studying music production, students can get 40 percent off Ableton Live Standard or Suite for as long as they are enrolled full-time. That brings Live 11 Standard down to $269 and Suite down to $449 — great discounts on some of the best music software available right now.

Buy Ableton Live starting at $269

Microsoft 365

Many students have to use Microsoft 365 tools on the regular. If your college or university doesn’t provide you with an account, you can still get Microsoft 365 for free by taking advantage of the company’s student and educator discount. This gives you access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and even Microsoft Teams free of charge, which is a solid deal considering an annual subscription costs $100.

Get Microsoft 365

Ulysses

Spending all day and night writing papers is even more frustrating when you don’t have all your writing organized in one place. Ulysses is a popular writing app for mac/iOS that can be used for note taking as well as thesis writing, with features like auto-save and auto-backup, word-count writing goals, markup, plain text support and DropBox integration. Normally, Ulysses costs $40 per year but students can get it for only $12 every six months, or $24 per year. There isn’t a direct alternative for Windows users, but you do have options including Scrivener (a one-time student price of $41.65), IA Writer (a $20 one-time price) and FocusWriter (free and open-source).

Buy Ulysses - $24 a year

Evernote

Evernote can be an indispensable tool if you like to keep all of your thoughts in one place — everything from class notes to web clippings to to-do lists. Students can get half off one year of Evernote Premium, which brings the price down to $4 per month or $48 for the year. Premium is the way to go if you’re investing in Evernote because it syncs your notes across unlimited devices, gives you offline access, lets you annotate PDFs and search saved documents.

Buy Evernote Premium (1 year) - $4 a month

Notion Personal Pro plan

Notion provides students and educators its Personal Pro plan for free just by signing up with a valid .edu email address. While the free version of the service has a ton of features, the Pro plan adds unlimited pages and blocks, file uploads and version history. That means you won’t be restricted if you want to collect your entire academic life in Notion, along with your personal to-do lists, agendas, notes and more.

Get Notion Personal Pro plan

Github Student Developer Pack

Aspiring developers can sign up for Github’s Student Developer Pack, which includes discounts and resources that developers can use to learn, create projects and more. Github partnered with a bunch of companies including Educative, Canva, Namecheap, Bootstrap Studio and others to offer students access to many of the services they’ll need as the expand their skills.

Get Github Student Developer Pack

Squarespace Student plan

Whether you’re itching to get a jump-start on your portfolio or just want an online space to show off your work, Squarespace is a good option as it gives students a 50 percent discount on any of its annual plans. The most affordable option will cost $72 for the year, which is half the normal yearly price of $144. Squarespace is one of many website builders out there, but it’s particularly popular with creative professionals. Its customizable templates make it easy to build a website and make it look exactly how you want it. Plus, you can upgrade down the line to add things like website analytics, custom JavaScript and CSS and e-commerce.

Buy Squarespace starting at $72 a year

News

The Atlantic
Engadget

You shouldn’t rely on Twitter to be your sole source of news. With foreign wars, new viruses, Supreme Court decisions and upcoming elections making headlines daily, it’s important to get your news from reliable sources. Yes, it’s daunting to get into the news on a regular basis, but it’s crucial to know what’s going on in the country and the world as a whole. Here are some reputable news organizations that offer student discounts on their monthly or annual subscription plans.

The Atlantic: Starts at $35 per year for digital-only access.

The New York Times: $6 every four weeks for a base subscription.

The Washington Post: $1 every four weeks for digital-only access.

The Wall Street Journal: Starting at $4 per month for the Student Digital Pack.

The best study-from-home essentials for students

Engadget recommends a variety of laptops every year as part of our back-to-school guide. But that’s not quite enough if you want a productive study environment. Whether you’re a student staying home this year or you’re returning to campus, you’ll benefit from a few additional essentials. A laptop stand is useful for preventing neck and arm pain, while a lumbar pillow supports the lower back. A pair of noise-cancelling headphones does wonders for blocking out distractions and a LED lamp helps ease eye fatigue. From an external keyboard to a USB dock, we think all our suggestions below will lead to much-improved setup for those long study sessions.

Soundance Laptop Stand

Soundance Laptop Stand
Engadget

While laptops are more convenient than desktops, using just your notebook for long periods of time is bad for your posture and can lead to neck ache. That’s why we strongly recommend getting a laptop stand. You can position your machine so that the screen is at the appropriate height. In general, you want your eye level to be one to two inches below the top of the display.

One of our team’s favorites is this one from Soundance, which can support laptops with 10- to 15-inch screens. It’s made from a sturdy aluminum alloy and the surface that holds the laptop is rubberized, which prevents it from sliding around. And, thanks to a series of detachable components, it’s also one of a few stands that’s easily portable. You can take it apart and put it together in minutes, making it great not just for your desk at home, but also for using it in the library.

The Soundance raises your laptop six inches above the desk, which should work well for most people. Also, the elevated design both facilitates better posture and helps ventilate your laptop. There’s even enough space underneath for you to store your keyboard and mouse when they’re not in use. If you want one with adjustable height, we recommend the Rain Design iLevel 2. It’s not quite as portable and it’s more expensive than the Soundance, but it’s a good option if you need a stand with more flexibility.

Buy Soundance laptop stand at Amazon - $40Buy Rain Design iLevel 2 at Amazon - $65

Logitech K780 multi-device wireless keyboard

Logitech K780 multi-device wireless keyboard
Engadget

If you do get a laptop stand, you’ll definitely want an external keyboard to go along with it. (It’s not going to be comfortable typing on your laptop while it’s docked in the stand.) We recommend a wireless model so you don’t have to worry about cords cluttering up your desk. Logitech’s line of Bluetooth keyboards is an Engadget favorite, and the K780 is one of the brand’s most versatile models. It’s a full-size keyboard complete with a numpad, but it still feels slim and compact. The keys are responsive and comfortable as well, and you can pair it with up to three devices. There’s even an integrated cradle if you wish to use it with a smartphone or iPad.

Buy Logitech K780 at Amazon - $65

Logitech M525 wireless mouse

Logitech M525 wireless mouse
Engadget

In addition to the external keyboard, you should get a wireless mouse to match. Logitech’s M525 is a great option thanks to its ergonomic design and affordable price point. It’s small enough that it won’t take up much space on your desk and It has an ambidextrous design that’ll fit both right and left-handed users. Its precision scroll wheel has a tilt function that allows for side-to-side scrolling as well. We should note, however, that this isn’t a Bluetooth mouse; you connect it to your computer via a USB receiver.

If you’d rather have the convenience of Bluetooth, consider the MX Anywhere 3. It has a 4,000-dpi Track Anywhere sensor that works on most surfaces, even glass. However, the MX Anywhere 3 is a lot pricier at $80 and it doesn’t include the aforementioned tilt wheel, so bear that in mind.

Buy Logitech M525 at Amazon - $40Buy MX Anywhere 3 at Amazon - $80

Purple Back Cushion

Purple Back Cushion
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Long study sessions often mean sitting for an extended amount of time, which can result in lower back pain. You could get a chair with better back support, but those can be expensive. Plus, if you’re living in a dorm, you probably don’t have much choice in furniture anyway. The next best option is to get a lumbar support pillow. I personally recommend the Purple Back Cushion because it has a cushy grid that’s malleable enough to mold to the contour of my spine. One of the features that sets it apart from other cushions is that it has hundreds of air channels, which means you won’t get a sweaty back after sitting in a stuffy dorm room all day long. It comes with a washable cushion cover and an integrated strap that helps you attach it to most chairs.

Buy Purple Back Cushion at Amazon - $59

AFROG Multifunctional LED Desk Lamp with Wireless Charger

AFROG Multifunctional LED Desk Lamp with Wireless Charger
Engadget

Studying into the wee hours of the morning will be more difficult if you have bad lighting. Not only will you strain your eyes to see anything, but you may be more inclined to climb into bed as the sun sets and you get deeper into the night. A versatile desk lamp like this one from AFROG is essential because it will illuminate your whole work space easily, plus this particular model has five color modes and seven brightness levels, so you can customize it to your liking. The color modes will be crucial since they allow you to change the light’s temperature, so you don’t have to stick with harsh, white light the whole time if you don’t want to. We also like the built-in wireless charger on this model, which allows you to keep your phone topped up while you study.

Buy AFROG desk lamp at Amazon - $40

Sony WH-CH710N headphones

Sony WH-CH710N headphones
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

A pair of noise-cancelling headphones is great for blocking out unwanted noise during study sessions, be it from annoying siblings or a raucous roommate. You might be hesitant to get one because you think noise-cancelling headphones are expensive, and for the most part that’s correct. Fortunately, there are some budget options that aren’t terrible.

Take Sony’s WH-CH710N wireless cans, for example. Engadget’s Billy Steele noted that it offers decent range and good clarity, adept ANC, plus it has dual noise sensors that can detect environmental noise. You can also switch to ambient sound mode if you need to quickly hear the world around you. They also offer an impressive 35 hours of battery life, plus USB-C quick charging that promises 60 minutes of playback on a 10-minute charge.

These headphones may look a little more basic than the higher-end XM5s, but Sony didn’t compromise on comfort here thanks to adjustable sliders and soft oval-shaped earcups. They’re also much more affordable at $148 (and we’ve seen them for less), giving you a lot of bang for your buck.

Buy WH-CH710N at Amazon - $148

Fully Cora standing desk converter

Fully Cora standing desk converter
Fully

A good workspace is key when you’re studying at home (or in your dorm room) and chances are you have a desk setup that’s not perfect, but merely suitable. One way to upgrade it is by adding a standing desk converter like the Cora from Fully. It sits on top of your desk and allows you to stand and work whenever you want, which is much healthier for your body than sitting all day. The Cora is made from liquid-resistant laminate and it comes with non-skid pads so it won’t damage any surface you put it on. Plus at $179, it’s much more affordable than buying an actual standing desk.

Buy Cora at Fully - $179

24-inch ViewSonic VA2456-MHD monitor

24-inch ViewSonic VA2456-MHD monitor
Engadget

Sometimes a laptop screen just isn’t big enough, and an external monitor is needed for you to do your best work. It’s useful for those who need more screen real estate for stats and charts, Excel spreadsheets, editing photos or video, or just looking over copious amounts of code.

However, monitors can be pricey. ViewSonic’s 24-inch VA2456-MHD, however, delivers an impressive feature set for the price. Though we haven’t reviewed it, it’s highly-rated on Amazon and we’ve liked ViewSonic’s other monitors in the past so we know the company has a solid track record for quality. The VA2456-MHD has HDMI, DisplayPort and VGA connections, which makes it pretty versatile for a budget monitor. It also has 1080p resolution and an IPS panel for wide-angle viewing. Its three-sided frameless design is sleek too, an important quality for such a relatively large object. Lastly, it has a blue light filter to help minimize eye strain.

Buy 24-inch ViewSonic monitor at Amazon - $190

Ironflask 32 oz Sports water bottle

Ironflask 32 oz Sports water bottle
Engadget

You have to stay hydrated while you’re rushing around campus and trying to get your work done while also trying to fit in a little fun now and then. A water bottle like this one from Iron Flask will make it that much easier for you to keep your favorite drink with you at all times. Its double-walled, vacuum-sealed design keeps cold liquids cold for 24 hours and hot drinks hot for 12 hours, plus it comes with three lids (straw, flip and stainless steel) so you can choose your favorite. We like the 32-ounce model because it’s big enough that you can fill it up in the morning and have enough water for a full day of classes and activities. However, the 32-ounce doesn’t fit in a standard cup holder, so if you spend a lot of time in the car, opt for the 22-ounce model or smaller.

Buy Iron Flask (32 oz) at Amazon - $24

This Echo Dot speaker stand has the Greek God Atlas holding up your Alexa device

Call it an eclectic piece of home decor or an odd metaphor for Amazon’s global dominance.

Meet Atlas. Greek Titan, mythical holder of planet Earth, and now a tabletop accessory to plop your 4th Gen Echo Dot smart speaker on. Designed and manufactured by Etsy seller MisfitGeekGifts, this rather quirky little relic comes 3D printed from a special PLA filament which gives it a marble-like finish. Available in plinth and no-plinth varieties, Atlas holds up your Echo Dot perfectly, as if it were a massive globe. My only gripe is that it isn’t designed to conceal the Echo Dot’s charging cable, which would honestly then make it the perfect smart speaker stand in my book!

Designer: MisfitGeekGifts

Legend has it that Atlas, a Titan, was condemned to hold up the earth and skies in eternity after losing the battle versus the Titan gods and Olympian gods. Most representations show Atlas holding up a globe while simultaneously succumbing to its incredible weight. In the case of this little tabletop accessory, though, the globe gets replaced for a spherical Echo Dot 4th Gen. (If you’re a flat earther, you could just use the flatter Echo Dot 3rd Gen too)

The 3D printed stand comes in a plinthed (below) and a non-plinthed (above) version depending on how much vertical space you have on your tabletop surface. The model isn’t aggressively detailed, although that works in its favor since the filament is just translucent enough to look cloudy against the light, looking exactly like marble from afar. You can choose from MisfitGeekGifts’ catalog of other filaments too, including sandstone, wood, rainbow, or even bronze/silver/gold-colored plastic filaments! MisfitGeekGifts will also resize the print for you if you’ve got the larger Echo speaker as opposed to the Echo Dot.

Prefer sci-fi over Greek mythology? Here’s another Echo Dot speaker stand that turns your smart device into the Mandalorian helmet!

The post This Echo Dot speaker stand has the Greek God Atlas holding up your Alexa device first appeared on Yanko Design.

The best smart displays you can buy

Smart displays have evolved quite a bit since the initial debut of Amazon’s first Echo Show back in 2017. In fact, the category didn’t really come into its own until Google joined the fray with its own line of hardware about a year later. Now, both of these companies are essentially dominating the smart display landscape, with each offering their own take on a smart assistant with a screen.

It’s that screen that makes smart displays so much more useful than smart speakers. Rather than just having a voice recite the current weather report, for example, you can see a five-day forecast as well. The same goes for when you ask about your shopping list or calendar; it's simply easier to see the whole list or your day's appointments at a glance.

Plus, displays offer other benefits that speakers can't, like watching videos or checking your webcam to see who's at your front door. They're especially handy in the kitchen, where you can use them for step-by-step cooking instructions. And, thanks to touchscreens, you can often navigate through functions and settings a lot faster than using your voice.

Amazon vs. Google

The first question you should ask is whether you'd rather be in Amazon's ecosystem or Google's. If you have a lot of Google products in your home, like Nest thermostats or Nest cams, then a Google-powered model makes more sense. If you have Amazon products, like a Fire TV Stick or a Ring cam, Amazon would obviously be a better choice. Of course, it's perfectly acceptable to have products from competing companies in the same home, but just realize they might not work seamlessly with each other.

Aside from that, the two systems also offer some unique features. Google, for example, works best if you have an existing Google account and use services like Calendar and Photos. In fact, we especially love Google smart displays because they work well as digital photo frames. You can set it up to automatically pull in pictures of friends and family from your Google Photos library, and the algorithm is smart enough to use what it thinks are the best shots — so less chance of blurry photos or images of your eyes half-closed showing up, for example.

It might seem like a minor point, but seeing as the display is on standby 90 percent of the time, its secondary function as a digital photo frame is very welcome. All Google smart displays also support YouTube and YouTube TV, step-by-step cooking instructions and all of the usual benefits of Google Assistant, like weather reports. As with Assistant on the phone, it also has voice recognition, so only you can see your calendar appointments and not others.

Amazon's smart displays, on the other hand, are slightly different. Instead of YouTube, they offer some alternative video streaming options, including Amazon Prime, NBC and Hulu. They also come with two browsers (Silk and Firefox), which you can use to search the web or watch YouTube videos – a handy enough workaround given the lack of a dedicated app.

Amazon devices offer step-by-step cooking instructions as well, thanks to collaborations with sources like SideChef and AllRecipes. In fact, the cooking instructions sometimes include short video clips. But although you can use Amazon's displays as digital photo frames, the process is not quite as intuitive as Google’s, and Amazon doesn’t have anything comparable to Google’s photo-sorting algorithm.

The best smart displays

Smart displays come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and some are better suited to certain rooms in the home than others. So while we do have some favorite all-around picks, we've also compiled a list of smart displays that would suit specific use cases as well.

The best Google smart display: Google Nest Hub

Google Nest Hub

We at Engadget tend to prefer Google smart displays because most people are likely already entrenched in the Google ecosystem due to the ubiquity of Google services like Gmail, Calendar and so forth. We also tend to find Google Assistant to be a little smarter than Alexa, especially when bringing up answers from the web. As mentioned earlier, we also really like the tie-in with Google Photos and the smart photo-sorting algorithm.

Our favorite smart display overall is Google's latest Nest Hub. Its 7-inch size is a better fit in more rooms, and its unobtrusive design combined with its soft fabric exterior blends nicely into your existing home decor. It does everything we think most people would want in a smart display, like YouTube videos, step-by-step cooking instructions, smart home controls and the ability to check in on your Nest cams if you have any.

In fact, the Nest Hub is especially useful if you have a Nest video doorbell, as the camera view of who’s at the front door will show up on the screen. An ambient light sensor helps to detect the light and color temperature of the environment and adjusts the screen to match. Plus, if you choose, it can help track your sleep patterns if placed next to your bed.

Another feature of the Nest Hub is actually a lack of one: It doesn't have a camera. That gives it that additional layer of privacy that many people covet, and it's also a lot more suitable for personal spaces like the bedroom. Sure, you could also cover up a camera with a shutter, but with the Nest Hub you don't have to remember to do that.

Buy Nest Hub at Walmart - $100

Runner up: Google Nest Hub Max

Google Nest Hub Max

If you like Google but you miss having a camera for video calls, or you just prefer a bigger screen, consider the Google Nest Hub Max. At 10 inches instead of seven, it works a lot better for watching videos from YouTube and YouTube TV. It's especially useful in the kitchen, where it functions as a kind of portable television, and you can see more of those step-by-step cooking instructions at a glance. The bigger display also means a larger photo frame, which you may prefer.

As mentioned, the Nest Hub Max adds a camera to the mix. It doesn't have a physical shutter, which is a concern, but you can shut it off with an electronic switch. You can use the camera for video calls with Google's Duo service as well as Zoom, and it can also function as a Nest Cam to help you keep an eye on your house when you're away. Another benefit of the camera is the addition of Face Match facial recognition for authentication purposes, which we found to be a little more accurate than just using Voice Match.

Last but not least, the Nest Hub Max's camera adds a unique gestures feature that lets you play and pause media simply by holding up your hand to the screen. It's not entirely necessary, but it's potentially useful if you're in a noisy environment and just want the music to stop without having to shout over everyone. Or perhaps you have messy hands while cooking and don’t want to dirty up the display.

Buy Nest Hub Max at Walmart - $170

The best Amazon smart display: Amazon Echo Show 8

Amazon Echo Show 8
Amazon

Our favorite Amazon smart display is the second-gen Echo Show 8. Its 8-inch screen is just right; it doesn’t take up as much space as the Echo Show 10, but it’s also more suitable for watching videos than the tiny Echo Show 5. Like other Amazon smart displays, it has a built-in camera, but there is a physical camera cover to help alleviate privacy concerns.

As such, the Echo Show 8 is a compelling choice if you want the option of using your smart display for video calls. Not only is the camera quality fantastic, but the Show 8 has a feature that automatically frames your face and follows your movements during video calls. It’s useful if you want to move around as you’re chatting, or if you have rambunctious children and pets running around the house and you want to involve them in the conversation. You can use the Echo Show 8 to make calls between other Echo Show displays, or through Skype or Zoom.

As with the other smart displays, the Echo Show 8 also works as a digital photo frame and can be used to keep up with the news, check the weather and control smart home devices. If you want to use your smart display to play music, we also really like the Echo Show 8’s audio quality on account of its deep bass and rich tone.

Buy Echo Show 8 at Amazon - $130

Runner up: Amazon Echo Show 5

Amazon Echo Show 5 smart speaker
Nicole Lee / Engadget

At only 5.5 inches wide, the Echo Show 5 is one of the smallest smart displays on the market, and as a result, will work nicely on a desk or a nightstand. In fact, one of the reasons we like the Echo Show 5 so much is that it doubles as a stellar smart alarm clock. It has an ambient light sensor that adjusts the screen's brightness automatically; a tap-to-snooze function so you can whack the top of it for a few extra minutes of shut-eye; plus a sunrise alarm that slowly brightens the screen to wake you up gently.

The Echo Show 5 does have a camera, which might make you a touch queasy if you are privacy conscious – especially if this is supposed to sit by your bedside. Still, it does have a physical camera cover, which can help ease any fears.

Buy Echo Show 5 at Amazon - $85

The best smart clocks

Lenovo Smart Clock

Perhaps a smart display doesn't appeal to you because you don't care about watching videos on it. But maybe the idea of a smarter alarm clock like the Echo Show 5 intrigues you. In that case, I’d recommend the 4-inch Lenovo Smart Clock 2, which isn't a full-fledged smart display because you can't play any videos on it, but it does use Google's smart display tech, so you can use it for controlling your smart home as well as checking out your Nest Cams.

We also like it because it lacks a camera, which makes it perfect for your nightstand. It has all of the features we want in a smart alarm clock, like an ambient light sensor, that tap-to-snooze function and a sunrise alarm. Plus, the latest version can double as a night light – you can swipe down the display to enable it – and you can get an optional wireless charging base to go with it.

If the Smart Clock 2 is too advanced for you, Lenovo does offer an even simpler version called the Smart Clock Essential. It really isn’t a smart display at all – it’s really more of a smart speaker with a clock – but it does perform many of the same functions as the Smart Clock 2.

Lenovo sells the Smart Clock Essential in two different versions: One has Google Assistant, while the other is powered by Alexa. The one with Google Assistant has a built-in night light, an extra USB port for charging devices and a mic-mute button. The one with Alexa, on the other hand, is compatible with an optional docking station that can be used with accessories such as a wireless charging pad or an ambient light dock (it comes in either a sea lion or a squid shape) that can act as a night light.

Buy Lenovo Smart Clock 2 at Walmart - $70Buy Lenovo Smart Clock Essential at Walmart - $33