Tech

When to upgrade to a bigger smart speaker



Chris Monroe/CNET

Smart speakers are now a common household item. A 2020 National Public Radio survey estimated that 60 million Americans over 18 own at least one smart speaker. By household, that number is expected to reach 75% of American households by 2025

When you’re shopping for a smart speaker, you likely have three main things in mind: size, price, and audio quality. The requirements for each of those things vary by person and situation. Your budget, space needs, and your sound quality requirements will all factor in. Just as important, your needs may change over time and so your smart speaker may need to change, too. 

If you think it may be time to upgrade to a bigger smart speaker, but aren’t sure what your options are, here you’ll find the various options available right now to help you make an easy transition.  

Do I need a bigger smart speaker?

Before you start looking into options, let’s talk about why you might need a bigger smart speaker. Here are some common reasons you might consider going bigger. 

  • You moved to a larger home or relocated your smart speaker to a larger room.
  • You’re looking for additional features and think bigger might be better. 
  • You’re pairing the smart speaker with a stereo and want a bigger sound and better sound quality.

If you have a smaller smart speaker like the Echo Dot or the Nest Mini, you already know those devices are great for things like smart home device control, small space music playback and the standard array of virtual assistant tasks. But one area where they don’t quite meet the mark of bigger smart speakers is room-filling audio performance. 

Regardless of your situation, if the need is bigger sound and better sound quality, it might be time to upgrade. With so many options, deciding where to begin can be daunting. I reviewed our list of the best smart speakers of 2021 and picked out the bigger ones to give you some options. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Echo Studio is one of the best-sounding speakers Amazon has produced, and it offers Dolby Atmos playback for movies and music. This speaker packs a big sound and could be great if you’re looking for a smart speaker and consistent sound across a large space. 

The Echo Studio also gives you the option to stereo pair with another Echo speaker and even an Echo Sub. Using Amazon’s Alexa as a personal assistant, you can issue commands without ever having to leave your seat. Though the Echo Studio didn’t make the list specifically, several Amazon Echo devices made our Best Alexa devices for 2021 list. 

Read our Amazon Echo Studio review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you want sound quality, consider the Sonos One. It’s competitively priced in line with the Echo Studio — you can upgrade to this bigger smart speaker for $199. Also, like the Echo Studio, the Sonos One uses Amazon Alexa as a hands-free personal assistant. This device offers you the freedom to create a home studio sound by wirelessly connecting to additional Sonos speakers in other rooms. 

If you’re a music lover and that’s what you use your smart speaker for, the Sonos One is a great choice. And no matter how loud your favorite song is blaring, the six built-in microphones will hear you any time you want to issue a command.

Read our Sonos One review.

 

Chris Monroe/CNET

Google created the Nest Audio to replace the Home smart speaker and made some nice improvements along the way. The Nest Audio runs around $100, making it the least expensive of our favorite bigger smart speaker options. If you’re a lover of podcasts, audiobooks and music you might enjoy Media EQ, which helps tune the speaker’s audio based on what’s playing. Compared to Google Home, the Nest Audio is an improvement and maybe a great option for someone familiar with Google smart speakers already and who wants to keep the familiar set of features and ease of use. The Nest Audio also has better sound quality than its smaller family member, the Nest Mini. 

The Nest Audio uses Google Assistant as an easy, hands-free personal assistant and made our list of the Best Nest and Google Assistant devices of 2021. If price is top on your list with sound quality next in line, the Nest Audio may be the right smart speaker choice for you.

Read our Nest Audio review.

 

The takeaway on upgrading to a bigger smart speaker

There’s nothing wrong with updating your home technology as life and needs change. A smart speaker is a helpful addition to the home, but to make it worth its cost, it needs to be suited for your individual needs. That may mean selling or donating your smaller smart speaker and upgrading to a larger one. Consider the Amazon Echo Studio, the Sonos One or the Google Nest Audio. 



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