A Guide to Digital Assistants 

A digital assistant is a program that helps you do stuff. Chances are you have one on your phone and computer. You can also buy a smart speaker that comes with a digital assistant, and these ones in particular are geared towards use at home. Many can do cool stuff like operate other smart devices in your home. Here are a few of the bigger names on the market. 

Amazon Echo 

The fourth-generation Amazon Echo ($129.99), more robust Amazon Echo Studio ($259.99), and budget-friendly Amazon Dot ($54.99) bring Amazon’s Alexa into your home. Alexa’s biggest advantage is that she has a huge directory of skills you can install on your version of Alexa. They include things like a program to find your phone, trivia games, and even language coaching. As you might expect, Alexa is also good at interacting with other Amazon products, like Amazon Prime. 

Google Nest

Google Nest ($99) is taking over from Google Home as Google’s new digital assistant for the household. It is designed to be a hub for a suite of home smart devices, such as thermostats, lights, security cameras, TVs, and more. Tasks like finding a specific show on TV, turning off lights in other rooms of the house, checking on your door camera to see who is there, and more all become the kind of tasks you can do by asking your virtual assistant to do them for you. It’s like you’re on the Starship Enterprise. Except that Google isn’t selling teleporters yet. 

Sonos One

The Sonos One ($249) bills itself as a smart speaker for music lovers. You can use either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant with it. The idea is it has better sound fidelity, so if most of the tasks you’ll be asking of your assistant is to play music, maybe this is the assistant for you. 

Bose Home Speaker 500

Of course, if you want wall-to-wall stereo sound in addition to Alexa or Google Assistant functionality, maybe you want a Bose Home Speaker 500 ($399.99). Again, this one is geared towards audiophiles. 

Apple HomePod

If you like Siri or are more at home in an Apple ecosystem, then the HomePod may be more your speed. The HomePod Mini ($129) essentially brings Siri into your home, allowing you to access any of your apps or smart devices via voice. The HomePod ($399) does all that but also comes with an array of speakers, giving you access from anywhere in your home and effectively allowing you to communicate room to room without shouting or texting. It also lets you do cool stuff like having your music follow you around room to room. 

But Which Is Best?

Since smart speakers and their digital assistants are built to serve as a “hub” of your many devices you use at home, the main thing to shop for is compatibility. Will your device interact harmoniously with your phone, computer, printer, TV, thermostat, door camera, smart lock, or whatever else you have installed? Chances are there is interactivity, but it’s best to be sure before you buy.