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Holiday Gift Guide: Smart speakers are the best home device a guy can have

Command it to play music, look up the weather, turn up the thermostat, and more
Tony Velasquez | Nov 15 2018

The House of Representatives can accomplish a lot with a smart speaker. But the smart speaker we’re looking at is no wily politician with control over pork barrel funds. It’s an  Internet-connected device that can understand and comply with voice commands, control other WiFi-enabled household devices like smart lights, smart TVs, or smart air conditioners. And since it’s a speaker, it can also play music. Here are five smart speakers that gained our votes.

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AMAZON ECHO DOT. Available in second- and third-generation models, which use Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa. Both Dots also have Bluetooth connectivity and 3.5mm jack. Firmware upgrade vastly improves audio on second gen dot. Follow-up mode allows user to give two successive but different commands. www.amazon.com 

GOOGLE HOME MINI. Google Home Mini is competitor to Echo Dot, but with better audio quality. It also connects to chromecast devices. “Continued conversation” feature allows Google home to answer follow-up questions even if these don’t begin with “hey google.” www.store.google.com 

SONOS ONE. This Alexa-powered speaker has six microphones to listen to commands. What’s great about Sonos One units is it can be linked to other Sonos speakers in an entire home. It’s audio quality is considered the best among Alexa-powered speakers. It works great with Spotify. www.sonos.com 

JBL LINK 20. It’s battery-powered and can last up to ten hours on a full charge. It’s water-resistant for up to 30 minutes, so you can take it to the beach or to the pool. This gadget also runs on Google assistant. www.jbl.com 

APPLE HOMEPOD. This comes with an array of speakers and supports multi-room audio. Beam-forming technology adjusts audio properties based on room it’s in. The Siri smart assistant only works with Apple music, but Spotify can stream to Apple Homepod using AirPlay. Plus, it can control lights and other smart home gadgets linked to Apple home. www.apple.com