What to Look for in a Smart Speaker with Alexa

Whatever your budget—or your taste in music—there’s a speaker for you.

Amazon Alexa on counter.
“Alexa, tell a joke!”Fabian Hurnaus, Pexels

If you’ve seen a smart speaker, you’ll know how useful they can be. From setting a timer, and telling you the weather and the news, to controlling your internet-connected home and even just playing music, their versatility has made them indispensable in our modern lives. If you’re in the market for one of your own, here are some things you should bear in mind.

Echo Dot (3rd Gen) - Smart speaker with Alexa - Charcoal
Hugely popular, this small device combines a microphone, for voice control, with sound output, allowing you to capitalize on all of your home assistant’s features.Amazon

There are various different types of speaker that will work with Alexa. The first are Amazon-branded speakers, usually called Echos. The earliest ones were primarily for communicating with Alexa and giving her tasks, such as turning off the lights. However, over the years, these have evolved and there are now a range of different Echo speakers of different sizes, offering different levels of sound quality and, in some cases, pictures too as they have integrated screens.

Echo Flex - Plug-in mini smart speaker with Alexa
Communicates with compatible devices in other rooms and can also be purchased with a night light for kids.Amazon

You don’t have to have an Echo device for your speaker to work with Alexa though. Alexa can be configured to link to a Bluetooth speaker so that while the Echo picks up your voice commands, any sound is played from the separate speaker. This can be a good option for Bluetooth speakers of any brand, and doesn’t require any additional skills to be installed by your Alexa—you can just tell Alexa to “Connect to the speaker” when your speaker is in Bluetooth mode.

Bose Wave SoundTouch Music System IV, works with Alexa, Platinum Silver
Combines a cassette player with AM/FM radio as well as one touch access to music streaming services and can be configured to work with your home assistant via an app.Bose

Using speakers in conjunction with Alexa, you can play different types of music—from any of the streaming services you are connected to—on speakers in different rooms. Most speakers connect easily via Bluetooth or via an app.

Bose Home Speaker 300, with Amazon Alexa built-in, Black
High quality sound via WiFi, Bluetooth and Apple Airplay. Also comes in silver and can be combined with other soundbars and devices.Bose

Some speaker brands have worked with Amazon to integrate Alexa technology into their newer speakers. This means you get all the quality that you’d expect from a branded speaker, but all the functionality of an Echo speaker, without needing to have a separate Echo device, or having to download an additional Alexa skill.