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- A great smart speaker can play music, answer questions, and control other smart home devices through voice commands.
- Larger smart speakers with premium audio can cost a lot of money, but there are several affordable options available with very solid performance.
- We think the Amazon Echo Dot is the best budget smart speaker around, thanks to its wide array of smart features and simple, intuitive design.
The original Amazon Echo launched in 2014, unleashing a whole new ecosystem of products with support for digital assistants. And while the first-generation model retailed for $200, prices for these devices have dropped pretty dramatically since then. Other companies, like Google, have also released their own entry-level smart speaker models, bringing even more options to buyers.
Now, there are a number of great budget smart speakers for those who want access to a digital assistant but prefer not to shell out a ton of cash. Though they don’t offer the audio performance that flagship speakers provide, these entry-level smart speakers are a convenient way to get basic music playback and voice control support for other smart products in your home. Budget smart speakers are also a great buy if you plan on picking up multiple units and placing one in each room of your house.
Before you decide on a smart speaker, you should take into account which compatible devices and services you already own or subscribe to. Alexa still dominates the virtual assistant space (it currently has over 80,000 skills worldwide), but if you already use a lot of Android products, you may want to go for a speaker that syncs up with Google Assistant instead.
It can be tricky to figure out which affordable smart speaker fits your needs — you may even want to learn a bit more about what they can do, the devices they support, and the privacy concerns surrounding them. To help narrow the field, we went ahead and tested and researched the most popular wallet-friendly options on the market to bring you a list of the best of the best.
Options trading Here are the best budget smart speakers you can buy:
- Best budget smart speaker overall: Amazon Echo Dot
- Best budget smart speaker with Google Assistant: Google Nest Mini
- Best portable budget smart speaker: Fabriq Riff
- Best budget smart speaker with a display: Amazon Echo Show 5
Options trading The best budget smart speaker overall
The Amazon Echo Dot features all the awesome smart features that you get on any other Alexa speaker, but comes at a fraction of the price.
Looking for a great smart speaker with (almost) all the benefits of the Amazon Echo? There’s a fun-sized Echo perfect for your needs — and it’s called the Amazon Echo Dot.
For starters, it comes fully-loaded with Amazon Alexa — so just like on the Amazon Echo, you’ll be able to use it to control smart home devices, search for information from the web, play music, and more. But the best thing about it is how inexpensive it is.
The design of the speaker is also pretty nice. It features a fabric covering (available in colors like Charcoal, Heather Gray, Plum, and Sandstone), along with easy-access buttons on the top for things like muting the microphone and controlling volume.
One downside — the Dot’s sound quality isn’t as good as the more expensive Amazon Echo’s, though that’s to be expected of a device that’s substantially smaller. As a workaround, the Dot comes with an audio out port and Bluetooth, so you can connect it to a larger audio system.
If you’re willing to pay a little extra, you should also consider Amazon’s new Echo Dot with clock. This model adds a simple LED display for showing the time and temperature.
Pros: Well-designed, compact, super smart, very affordable
Cons: Audio quality isn’t amazing
Options trading The best budget smart speaker with Google Assistant
Google Assistant offers great smart home performance, and you can get it in a super affordable speaker — the Google Nest Mini.
If you like the idea of the Amazon Echo Dot but prefer to stick within Google’s ecosystem, then the Google Nest Mini is a better fit for you. The compact smart speaker is designed to serve as a replacement for the original Google Home Mini.
The Nest Mini is about as small as the Amazon Echo Dot, but instead of Alexa you’ll get Google Assistant support, which offers a lot of the same smart features.
With Google Assistant, you can play music from a variety of services through voice commands, including Google Play, Spotify, YouTube Music, and more. You can also ask the speaker general questions, receive news briefings, get weather updates, set alarms, and control other compatible smart devices.
The Google Nest Mini is pretty well-designed too. It’s a little less angular than the Echo Dot, but it still offers a very similar puck-shaped design with a fabric covering around the top and capacitive controls for things like volume. It’s also available in a few colors, like Charcoal, Sky, Coral, and Chalk. A handy keyhole is integrated on the back as well, making it easy to mount on a wall.
While the Google Nest Mini is super smart and pretty stylish, it’s not perfect. Like Amazon’s Echo Dot, audio playback on the device is a little limited, so it’s not the best speaker for those that want to enjoy loud, full-sounding music. With that said, the audio performance has been improved compared to Google’s older entry-level smart speaker, the Google Home Mini.
Unlike the Amazon Echo Dot, however, the Nest Mini lacks a 3.5mm audio out port. This means you can’t use a wired connection to hook the Mini up to another speaker for better audio playback. If you want that feature, you’ll have to go for the Echo Dot instead.
Pros: Google Assistant built-in, affordable, nice design, keyhole for easy wall-mounting
Cons: Audio quality isn’t great, doesn’t include a 3.5mm audio out port
Options trading The best portable budget smart speaker
The Fabriq Riff features Alexa support and a built-in battery for portable Bluetooth playback.
Perhaps you’re looking for a smart speaker that you can move around the home with ease — in which case it’s worth considering the Fabriq Riff. This speaker is perhaps most unique because of its design, but it also offers Alexa support and comes at a very affordable price.
As a smart speaker, you’ll get the primary benefits that come with any Alexa device, including voice control and support for various skills. With that said, you will need to press a physical mic button on the speaker in order to activate Alexa. Alexa also requires a Wi-Fi connection to work, but you can still play music via Bluetooth when you don’t have access to the internet.
When it comes to battery life, the speaker is rated for five hours of use, which is decent for the price. As the name implies, the Fabriq features an attractive fabric design. It’s available in several unique patterns — including “Arrows,” “Blue Steel,” and “Jack Plaid” — offering a bit more style than typical speakers.
The Fabriq Riff doesn’t sound as good as some larger, more expensive portable speakers, but considering its price, it offers a nice balance between portability and smart features. As Tom’s Guide notes in its review, there are some quirks, but the Riff is a solid buy if you want a portable speaker with Alexa on a budget.
Pros: Interesting design, Alexa built-in, integrated battery for portable use
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Cons: Sound isn’t as good as more expensive speakers, battery life could be better
Options trading The best budget smart speaker with a display
The Echo Show 5 is a little pricier than most entry-level smart speakers, but it’s the most affordable Alexa product you can buy with a built-in touchscreen display.
Building upon the company’s lineup of smart speakers, Amazon now offers Echo devices with screens as well. Though technically a smart display rather than just a smart speaker, the Echo Show 5 is the most affordable Alexa device on the market with support for audio and video.
Like an Echo Dot, the Echo Show 5 features integrated microphones for hands-free Alexa voice control support, offering all of the digital assistant features buyers have come to expect from Amazon’s lineup. The device also includes a full-range 1.65-inch speaker, which offers very similar audio performance to the Echo Dot.
What really makes the Show 5 so special, however, is its built-in 5.5-inch touchscreen display. Instead of just listening to music, the Show 5 can play videos from Prime Video and even view footage from connected security cameras and door cameras. A 1MP camera is also integrated for video calls. If you’re concerned about privacy, the device includes an off button for the camera and microphone. You can also slide down a physical shutter to cover the camera when not in use.
Most buyers who just want a simple smart speaker will be better off paying less for the Echo Dot, but as Amazon’s entry-level Alexa speaker with a display, the Echo Show 5 is still a very good value.
Pros: Built-in touchscreen display, integrated camera
Cons: More expensive than a regular smart speaker, audio quality still isn’t the best
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