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No smart home is complete without some form of a voice-activated command center. Depending on the technology, smart speakers can serve as a hub for everything from turning on your sprinkler system to setting the thermostat, listening to music, watching movies, or just randomly consulting a web-based oracle of boundless information. In today’s world, a little backtalk around the house can be a good thing. Here are the basics when searching for a modern smart speaker.

You can voice-control this device through an app. Sonos

The most important consideration in buying a smart speaker is to decide what you want the device to do. If that is limited to playing music, watching TV, and surfing the web, a basic smart speaker with integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi will suffice. Focus on sound quality rather than technical substance. But when it comes to controlling home automation devices like security, lighting, and appliances, you must make sure that the speaker not only has smart-home functionality but also is compatible with your auxiliary systems. The speaker and the fridge must speak the same language.

This device has terrific sound quality. Sonos

Virtual-assistant technology at the heart of any smart speaker changes depending upon the manufacturer. From Alexa to Siri, Google Assistant, and others, each brand has strengths and weaknesses. Some are better at free-form voice commands or facilitating online shopping, while others excel at web-based searches for information. The number of compatible third-party devices also varies widely. So, keep this in mind: Like cordless drills and politicians, you are not choosing a tool, you are choosing a platform.

This unit is water-resistant. Bose

As smart-speaker technology advances, integration is becoming less of an issue. The leading developers are always expanding third-party compatibility. Once you have determined which platform best suits your objectives, focus on sound quality. Not surprisingly, audio performance is a function of price.

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