There’s team Alexa, team Siri, and team Google Assistant. Which one are you?
If you’re confused about which smart speaker to invest in, I don’t blame you. There have been quite a few to hit the scene in the last few months. It’s highly likely, though, that you’re stuck choosing between the big three: Apple’s HomePod mini, Google’s Nest Audio, and Amazon’s Echo. All of which are competitively priced at $99.
I know… that shared price point doesn’t help make the decision any easier.
But beyond pricing, there are a few other things to take into consideration when choosing which smart speaker is right for you, specifically design, audio quality, connected apps, and voice assistant capabilities.
Having used all three speakers, I can definitely confirm that there are plenty of differences between each one that might sway your opinion — whether it’s the very small size of the HomePod mini, the ability to quickly order items from your Amazon account using the Echo, or the large ecosystem of compatible Google Nest accessories.
While your ultimate choice might be based simply on personal brand preference, some of you may just be looking for the best smart speaker out of the bunch. So to help you out, we’ve pitted the HomePod mini against the Amazon Echo against the Google Nest Audio to find out which of these $99 smart speakers is the worthiest investment.
Which smart speaker looks better in the home?
All three smart speakers are certainly sleek and neutral enough to fit in with any home decor, especially after recent design overhauls for the Nest Audio and Amazon Echo.
The Nest Audio, for one, no longer looks like a Glade air freshener (thank goodness!). Google retired the original Home build in favor of a rectangular shape with rounded edges. It’s completely covered in fabric and comes in quirky colors like sky, sage, and sand along with more muted options like chalk and charcoal. It’s also buttonless, so you operate it by tapping on the corners to adjust the volume, and tapping the middle to pause or playback audio.
While the Nest Audio’s new body is a refreshing change from the dated design of its predecessor, it looks really bare on its own. But that’s not a coincidence considering it’s meant to be enjoyed in pairs (via its stereo pairing feature).
I’d typically keep the Amazon Echo and HomePod mini separate when discussing their looks, but both speakers have all too similar orb-like, fabric-covered designs. Each one also comes in same-y muted colors like black and white, though the Echo does offer an extra twilight blue shade if you’re looking for a pop of color.
Both the mini and Echo have controls on top, but their respective implementations are different. On the Echo, you’ll find physical buttons to increase and decrease the volume, along with a button to mute Alexa and another button to trigger her. On the HomePod mini, the volume controls are touch sensitive. Additionally, the LED lights (which flash whenever the speaker is triggered) sit on the top of the mini while the Echo’s are located on the bottom.
The HomePod mini wins when it comes to design cred. It’s tiny enough to fit in any space and looks a lot more futuristic than the other two speakers. Plus, the glass top that fills with swirls of purple, red, and blue LEDs whenever Siri is activated are mesmerizing. It’s a small touch that differentiates it from the LED lights that other brands typically use.
Winner: HomePod mini
Which smart speaker has the better voice assistant?
Do we really even need to discuss this one in detail? I ask this particularly because we all know Siri sucks. It doesn’t matter what type of speaker it’s packed into, Apple’s voice assistant always struggles to answer even the most basic questions. It also doesn’t help that Siri forces me to constantly repeat myself because she can’t understand what I’m saying.
Then there’s Alexa, which works well when it comes to quickly comprehending commands. But Amazon has had a bit of an iffy privacy track record when it comes to its smart home devices — like that time it was reported that contractors and employees were listening to users’ audio recordings — so I can’t say I feel the safest while using it.
Google isn’t perfect when it comes to privacy either, but at least it allows you to delete audio recordings via a simple voice command. All you have to say is: “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you” and it’ll delete anything it picked up while the mic was on. With both Amazon and Apple, you have to do that manually through Settings.
In general, Google’s voice assistant is just far more knowledgable. It’s Google, after all. With an entire search engine’s worth of information, it’s expected to work really well.
Winner: Nest Audio
Which smart speaker sounds better?
When considering any type of speaker, whether smart or not, sound quality is of the utmost importance. To me, these three speakers all sound quite good, but I’m not an audiophile, so my opinions on sound quality aren’t as critical. Still, I’m able to easily identify a winner out of the three.
Even though Google managed to improve its audio quality by upgrading some of the Nest Audio’s internal parts to provide for a less muffled sound, it’s still not comparable to other high-quality smart speakers. In my review of the Nest Audio, I noted that it doesn’t really enhance the sound other than making it feel more present.
As for the HomePod mini, I can easily say I was very surprised by how loud it gets for such a small speaker. I knew the standard HomePod had received high praise for its sound quality, but I was initially skeptical of this miniature version. Turns out, its sound is very impressive. The mini has good audio clarity and even the more subtle instruments can be heard with ease.
Out of all three smart speakers, the Amazon Echo definitely sounds the best. It has a deeper bass, fuller sound, and also packs more of a punch. While the HomePod mini is ideal for listening to audio in a smaller room, the Echo makes more of an impact in a larger space than even the Nest Audio does. It’s also the preferred speaker in my apartment when my roommates and I are hanging out in the living room and listening to music.
Winner: Amazon Echo
Which smart speaker has the better connected app?
If we’re talking about which smart speaker has the best-looking connected app, I’d have to go with Apple’s. It’s sort of easy to use, too, but if you’re not familiar with the Home app, then navigating the different features (like scenes and automations) will take a little while to get used to.
If we’re talking worst-looking app, then that dubious honor goes to Amazon. It’s super clunky and overwhelming with tons of information presented under each tab. In comparison to connected apps from Apple and Google, it looks really dated, too. I dread having to open the app each time because I spend more time searching for a specific setting than I do changing it.
I’m giving this one to the Google Home app particularly because it values function over aesthetics. Google’s app isn’t as flashy as Apple’s or packed with unnecessary suggestions like Amazon’s. It’s simple and clean, providing you with an easy-to-follow visual of all the devices you have connected to each room in your home as soon as you launch the app.
Winner: Nest Audio
Which smart speaker is worth your $99?
While each smart speaker has its own perks, the Nest Audio offers the best bang for your buck.
Sure, it’s not the best when it comes to sound quality, but that’s in comparison to the HomePod mini and the Amazon Echo. Google’s audio improvements are definitely noticeable and I’m more than content with it as my primary smart speaker at home.
It’s also a lot easier to use when it comes to controlling it through the Google Home app or connecting it to other smart home accessories.
And speaking of third-party smart home accessories, the Nest Audio is compatible with a lot more devices than the HomePod mini and Echo. If you do plan on investing in the mini, make sure to check Apple’s before purchasing any connected accessories to go along with it.
Lastly, Google Assistant is just far less frustrating to use than either Alexa or Siri. This is a smart speaker after all, and you’ll be interacting with your voice assistant more often than not. You might as well make sure that it not only works, but works well.
Winner: Nest Audio
And the winner is …
If it wasn’t already clear, the Nest Audio takes the title for best $99 smart speaker. It checks off a majority of the boxes when it comes to the ideal smart speaker: It looks sleek, sounds good, and is easy to use and control. Plus, it’s compatible with tons of smart home accessories.
That isn’t to say that both the Amazon Echo and HomePod mini aren’t great choices either. But the Nest Audio provides an overall seamless experience that doesn’t feel limiting or disappointing (unless you’re super critical of sound quality).
I will say though, if you’re loyal to the Apple ecosystem, then you’re better off with the HomePod mini since it plays nicest with the rest of your Apple devices.
That said, if you’re willing to venture out, the Nest Audio won’t disappoint.