page title icon DOES A SMART SPEAKER MAKE A GOOD CHRISTMAS PRESENT?

In the UK, currently around 30% of homes have a smart speaker – and as homes become more connected, sales of smart speakers are increasing all the time.  But what is a smart speaker?  What is the difference between a smart speaker and a bluetooth speaker?  Does a smart speaker make a good Christmas present?  In this article, we’ll answer all these questions and will offer our recommendations on some of the best that are currently available. This article contains affiliate links to Amazon, if you purchase through the links on this page, we may earn an affiliate commission.  For  our Affiliate Disclosure please see our website terms and conditions.

What is a smart speaker?

In simple terms, it is a loudspeaker and virtual assistant which connects to your home wi-fi.  It can not only stream radio and playback music, it can answer questions, perform various automated tasks – and can be an entire smart home hub.  Some can integrate with smart locks, your telephone for conference calls, heating thermostats, security systems and even control colour changing lights!

So, what is the difference between a smart speaker and a bluetooth speaker?

A bluetooth speaker is simply a portable, battery powered loudspeaker which extends the sound quality of a connected device, such as a mobile phone.  It doesn’t usually connect to your home wi-fi and most don’t have a built in microphone, so it can’t respond to any commands.  In reality, sales of standalone Bluetooth speakers are now in decline.  Music playback via Bluetooth can never be as good as that played back via wi-fi and consumers these days, much prefer the enhanced technology and connectivity that a Smart Speaker delivers.

Does a smart speaker make a good Christmas present?

Smart speakers are becoming increasingly popular and the latest generation speakers are better than ever!  There’s a huge range to choose from.  The largest units tend to have better sound quality, with room-filling sound and punchy bass.  The smaller units may lack some of the bass response and loudness but will still deliver punchy sound, usually beyond expectation for its size.  

Currently, Amazon Echo has the market share with around 68% of all sales.  Google is next at around 30% and others, including Apple HomePod make up around 18%.  The good news is that most smart speakers are platform agnostic – meaning that they’ll work with both Android and iOS devices – except the Apple HomePod which needs an Apple device to set up.

With decent smart speakers starting from just £39.99, a smart speaker makes a great Christmas present – but with so many to choose from, it can be a challenge deciding on which one to buy.  In this article, we’ll take a look at our favourite Amazon Alexa enabled devices – a perfect device made especially for kids – and a left field alternative that might just make a perfect Christmas gift!

1:  BEST BUDGET SMART SPEAKER – ECHO DOT WITH ALEXA  £39.99

The third generation Echo Dot from Amazon offers superb value for money. It looks and feels like a high-quality product with it’s charcoal fabric covering and bright blue lighting. The sound quality has been vastly improved over previous generations, with stereo imagary and punchy bass that will not disappoint. For just £39.99, this is hard to beat!

BUY IT HERE: Echo Dot (3rd Gen) – Smart speaker with Alexa – Charcoal Fabric

2:  BEST MID RANGE SMART SPEAKER – AMAZON ECHO £89.00

For just a little more money, the 4th generation Echo from Amazon truly delivers premium, detailed (Dolby) sound, with clear highs, dynamic mid range and rich bass that automatically adapts to any room. The product can be ordered in a range of colours – not just charcoal – and has built-in Zigbee smart home technology.

BUY HERE: Echo (4th generation) | With premium sound, smart home hub and Alexa | Charcoal

3: BEST HI-FI SMART SPEAKER – AMAZON ECHO STUDIO £189.99

For the ultimate hi-fidelity listening experience, you should consider the Echo Studio. Though the most expensive at £189.99, this large and weighty unit is actually 5 speakers in 1, delivering a rich and bassy sonic room-filling performance. The sound can be tailored to your requirements – and it has Zigbee built in, so you can control things such as Philips Hue Bulbs without the need of an additional hub.

BUY IT HERE: Echo Studio | High-fidelity smart speaker with 3D audio and Alexa

4: BEST HYBRID – ROBERTS DAB/INTERNET REVIVAL RADIO WITH ALEXA £199.99 LYMM RADIO FAVOURITE

For it’s gorgeous retro looks and capability, the Roberts Revival i-Stream is our ultimate winner in this list.. It’s a traditional AM/FM/DAB radio (ideal for when Lymm Radio goes live on DAB next year), internet radio and smart speaker all in one. The wooden cabinet, clad in teal blue vinyl looks wonderful, but its also available in other colours too. The Revival is solidly built and sounds amazing for its size. *You need to already have a echo device connected to your home wi-fi – or the free UNDOK app (iOS/Android) to use Alexa.

BUY IT HERE: Roberts Radio REV-ISTREAM3TB Retro DAB/DAB+ FM Wireless Portable Digital Bluetooth Radio Alexa Voice Controlled Smart Speaker Revival iStream 3 – Teal Blue

5: BEST FOR CHILDREN – ECHO DOT KIDS WITH PARENTAL CONTROL £59.99 KIDS LIVE @5 FAVOURITE

The Echo Dot Kids Edition looks brilliant and offers all the sound quality of the fourth-generation Echo Dot, but with some very useful additional features, including 1 year subscription to Amazon Kids+ (which gives access to hours of child-friendly audio books, interactive games and educational content). Easy to use parental controls can set daily time limits, explicit filters and tracks all activity in the parent dashboard. We love the Tiger edition – but it’s also available as a Panda too! Kids Live @5 on Lymm Radio will never sound better!

BUY IT HERE: All-new Echo Dot (4th generation) Kids | Designed for children, with parental controls | Tiger

6: BEST STOCKING FILLER – YONTUNE MUSIC BEANIE HAT WITH BLUETOOTH £22.99

Although not strictly an Alexa-enabled Smart Speaker, we thought we’d include this unique woolen beanie in our lineup as it would make a lovely Christmas present. the YonTune Music Hat connects via bluetooth to a smartphone and delivers 3D stereo music playback and hands-free calling for up to 10 hours. It is rated highly for its quality and comfort.

BUY IT HERE: YonTune Bluetooth Beanie Hat Wireless Knitted Winter Caps Hands-Free Headphones Beanie Washable Music Speaker Hat for Running Skiing Skating Unique Christmas Tech Gifts for Women Men Teens Boys Girls

In conclusion

Smart Speaker technology is developing at a fast pace.  Who would have thought, just a few years ago, that such a small speaker device could deliver such a room filling sound, let alone give you weather updates and control the central heating!

The few suggestions we have made here (with exception of the beanie hat) all integrate seamlessly with Amazon Alexa – which by all accounts, is the world’s most popular virtual, computer-generated intelligent personal assistant.  We’ve also selected these items based on what we think offer the best user experience, build quality and ultimate value.

We’ve mentioned that decent smart speakers start from around £40.  Of course, a quick scan of online shopping sites will reveal a vast selection of devices for sale well below this figure.  But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.  Many of these cheap, PRC built plastic items may look funky, but in reality are of very poor quality and are usually unreliable.  Spend wisely today, and your new Smart Speaker will serve you well for many years to come.  That’s why our ultimate pick is the Roberts Revival.  Not only would this retro radio look good in any home – it is superbly built right here in Great Britain.  

What do you think?  Please be sure to let us know your thoughts – and if you need any help connecting your new Smart Speaker device to Lymm Radio just give us a shout!