Smart speakers can double as music streaming devices and personal assistants, depending on which model you choose. Many of today’s smart speakers are outfitted with Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity to ensure a constant connection and communication when needed. Some speakers are voice controlled for hands-free assistance with tasks such as making a phone call, sending a message, or getting the latest weather forecast. Other speakers offer the same level of convenience with the push of a button.
If you’re heading off to college and have room in your budget for a smart speaker, consider these top best models. You’ll find options ranging from around $50 to over $150. Don’t worry if this list doesn’t have the right speaker for you, as you can find more smart speakers on Amazon. You can also check out our list of the Top 5 Best Smart Speakers of 2017.
1. Echo Dot
The Echo Dot is a best buy for college students seeking an affordable smart speaker. Although it’s smaller than the original Amazon Echo, this smart speaker is equal in terms of features and performance. The voice-controlled device plays music, sends texts, and even controls smart home devices via Alexa voice service. You can use Bluetooth or a 3.5 mm stereo cable to connect with other speakers.
The newly introduced Echo Show also has a screen so that you can watch YouTube as well as monitor security cameras, see the latest weather forecast, and more.
- Voice control
- Can connect to other speakers
- App could be more intuitive
- Some wish the volume was louder
- Limited color options
2. Zettaly Avy Wireless Smart Speaker
It’s a bit pricier than some of the other smart speakers on this list, but the Zettaly Avy offers plenty of features for the price. For starters, it’s powered by an Android operating system and has a crisp seven-inch display screen. Some consumers like to think of the device as an Android tablet with speakers. You can use it to listen to music as well as play movies, watch YouTube videos, browse Facebook, and more. There’s an HDMI output along with a front camera and a built-in microphone. A micro USB is also included. The 8 GB storage can be expanded to 32 GB.
Price: $129.99 (35 percent off MSRP)
- Internal storage space can be expanded
- HDMI output
- Built-in microphone
- Some wish the processor was faster
- Speakers are a bit weak
3. Omaker WoW Handsfree Smart Speaker
The Omaker WoW Handsfree Smart Speaker partners with Amazon’s Alexa for convenient hands-free communication. The speaker is designed to hear your requests despite background noise. You can ask the device to play your favorite music, as well as order pizza and control other smart home devices. Dual built-in batteries provide the juice this speaker needs for hours of uninterrupted playback. Use it as a single speaker or pair it with others for richer sound.
Price: $88.99 (47 percent off MSRP)
- Microphone designed to pick up requests over background noise
- Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity
- Dual built-in batteries
- Subpar app
- Instruction manual could be better
4. FABRIQ Portable Smart Speaker
You can activate this speaker with your voice or by touch. Combined with Alexa, you can use it to play your favorite music, set an alarm, control smart home devices, and more. Just ask Alexa to play your favorite tunes from Amazon Music, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or other popular subscription services. You can also choose to access your favorite Audible books. This fun speaker comes in three distinct colors.
- Voice and touch activated
- Easily portable
- Comes in three colors
- Requires two separate apps for full operation
- Lacks forward and back buttons
- Need to press a button to summon Alexa
5. Sonos PLAY:1 Compact Wireless Smart Speaker
If you’re looking for a high-quality smart speaker that allows you to wirelessly stream your favorite music, consider the Sonos PLAY:1. Setup takes just a few minutes using your existing WiFi connection. It’s also wall or stand mountable for added convenience. As an added bonus, the speaker is resistant to humidity and can be used outdoors or even in the bathroom. WiFi streaming ensures that your songs won’t stop in the event of a phone call.
- Fast and easy setup
- Wall and stand mountable
- Humidity resistant
- Lacks voice control
- Some wish it also had Bluetooth connectivity