How we test: Reviewing Smart Speakers

A detailed explainer on how we test smart speakers, in order to deliver our comprehensive reviews.

In the rapidly evolving realm of smart home technology, smart speakers have emerged as pivotal hubs for voice-controlled smart home management and communication.

These versatile devices offer a plethora of smart functionalities, boasting voice assistants, home automation integration, and seamless communication across various protocols.

They are also speakers too – so audio playback is obviously a key aspect too; although our testing on The Ambient is often focused on the smart home integrations first and foremost.

To ensure the reliability, functionality, and effectiveness of these smart features, comprehensive testing procedures are paramount.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how, as a dedicated smart home authority, we meticulously test various aspects of smart speakers in order to deliver our comprehensive reviews.

Voice Assistant Integrations

The core of smart speaker testing revolves around evaluating the integration and responsiveness of voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple Siri.

We scrutinize the accuracy of voice recognition, response time, and the assistant's ability to execute various commands seamlessly.

We also, whether that’s in our homes or at our testing labs, have the speakers we have on test living alongside other smart speakers to analyze the voice assistant’s performance in busy households.

Voice Recognition Accuracy

We rigorously evaluate the accuracy of voice recognition across different accents, languages, and speaking styles.

This ensures that the smart speaker can understand and process commands from a diverse range of users effectively.

Home Automation Control

Smart speakers serve as central control hubs for various smart home devices. During our review process we test a smart speakers compatibility with a wide range of smart home ecosystems and wireless protocols, assessing its ability to manage lighting, thermostats, security cameras, and more through voice commands or dedicated apps.

Seamless Communication Across Protocols

One of the highlights of smart speakers is their communication prowess across diverse protocols like Zigbee, Wi-Fi, Thread, and Matter (formerly Project CHIP).

We put smart speakers through their paces in real world scenarios, to analyze whether there is seamless communication between the smart speaker and devices that employ these protocols, allowing for comprehensive control and integrations in your own smart homes.

Integration with Music and Media Services

While audio quality sometimes takes a backseat, we still test audio quality – using alternative, similarly priced and spec’d speakers – and asses whether smart speakers effectively integrate with popular music and media streaming services.

We evaluate the speaker's ability to play music, podcasts, and audiobooks while also verifying the accuracy of song and artist recognition.

Smart Home Routine Execution

Creating and executing smart home routines is a central feature of smart speakers.

Our review team assesses a speaker's ability to execute complex routines, where multiple smart devices are coordinated to perform specific actions in response to a single command.

We do this in the labs and in our actual homes, where smart home automations are already a big part of our connected home-life.

Privacy and Security

Privacy and security are paramount concerns with smart speakers – after all, you are effectively letting Amazon. Google, Apple and co into your house with their big ears always listening.

We therefore, assess whether a smart speaker's microphone can be securely deactivated when not in use, assess the effectiveness of security features like voice authentication for sensitive commands.

App Integration and Control

During the review process we scrutinize mobile app functionality, ensuring that users can control and customize their smart speakers' settings, manage connected devices, and access advanced features through user-friendly interfaces.

The Final Word

Testing smart speakers entails meticulous evaluation of voice assistant integration, home automation control, seamless communication across diverse protocols, media service integration, voice recognition accuracy, smart home routine execution, privacy, security, and app integration.

In short, there’s a heck of a lot we have to test before we publish our reviews as we want to make sure we paint the full picture before our readers make any buying decisions.

As smart speakers redefine modern living, thorough testing assures homeowners that they can rely on the reliability, functionality, and smart capabilities of these devices, enriching both their convenience and their smart home experience.

At The Ambient our dedication to being the ultimate smart home authority extends to our unmatched testing and reviewing of smart speakers, with a heavy emphasis on how these speakers live inside smart home ecosystems.

We also compare and contrast smart speakers to alternatives already in the market and consider that all important price-point when delivering our verdict.

Our team of expert reviewers are committed to ensuring the highest standards.