Connects to Amazon Alexa
If you are not there for the music, the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (4th Generation) and google Nest Mini (7/10, WIRED recommends) will give you most of the benefits of owning a smart speaker, and you can use them to upgrade existing speakers inexpensively.
The sound is very similar between the models, and they have nearly identical footprints, so you can easily argue that one is better than the other just based on the ecosystem. We used to prefer the Nest Mini for this reason, but now that Amazon has added a simple clock to the front of the Echo Dot, we like the Alexa-powered option a little better.
The small screen of the Echo Dot With Clock is practical. It can tell you when your kitchen timers are going to expire or when your alarm is set for the morning. Of course, it also indicates the time. This makes it a better room and kitchen companion. You can also ask it for the weather, have it answer your random questions, and play white noise at bedtime to help you sleep. It also presents a simple way to install a smart assistant in places in your home where you don’t normally listen to music.
Another alternative: the Nest Mini ($ 49) is also a great mini speaker if you prefer Google Assistant.
Connects to Google Assistant or Alexa
If you’re looking for a great speaker for a socially distant party, Jeffrey Van Camp, Editor-in-Chief of WIRED, appreciated his time with the Sonos Move (8/10, recommend WIRED). It has an IP56 water resistance rating to withstand beer splash, a handle for carrying it, and a nifty charging cradle when you bring it back indoors. It gets around 10 hours per charge and is the first Sonos speaker to offer Bluetooth, when you want to get it outside of your home Wi-Fi.
Powerful, bold bass and a smart EQ that always listens to the sound around it make it way above its weight in terms of audio volume and quality for its size. It might not be enough to fuel a great outdoor dance party, but it certainly packs a punch for you and a few friends to snap up a few moves.