Why isn’t my Hotmail email address filtering out spam properly?

My mail email account is a Hotmail address, and I’ve set it up so that spam messages are automatically redirected into my junk folder. Until recently I could block these unwanted mails by selecting them (never opening), clicking Spam and then Block. Now it’s asking me to “view blocked senders” and add blocked domains to a list. Why can I no longer just block these unwanted mails? Gary, Wigan

Many spammers have many hundreds of email addresses at their disposal, meaning blocking individual addresses can be not only time-consuming, but effectively useless.

You may want to adjust the sensitivity of your junk email filter to ensure it’s winkling out more of the kind of messages you don’t want to be subject to.

Open up your Hotmail account, click Home > Delete group > Junk > Junk E-mail Options. Here you’ll be given the option to change your level of protection. By default, Hotmail is set to no automatic filtering, so you may want to change your protection to High, which should do a better job of catching the spam.

NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 07: Stock Image. Junk or SPAM unwanted email. (Photo by Fotopress/Getty Images)
Strengthening your email spam filter can prevent annoying messages from reaching your inbox (Photo: Getty)

If you’re fed up of deleting the messages in your Junk folder, you can easily set it to automatically delete anything suspected as spam. However, you won’t be able to check them before they’re spirited away into the ether. To do this, click Home > Junk > Junk E-mail Options > and tick Permanently delete suspected junk email instead of moving it to the Junk E-mail folder.

The most extreme method of filtering out spam is to turn on the Safe Lists Only option, which only directs messages from address you’ve marked as spam into your inbox and filters everything else into Junk. Obviously, activating this runs the risk of legitimate emails being marked as spam, so you’d need to keep a fairly close eye on your junk folder just in case.

Send Rhiannon your tech queries at rhiannon.williams@inews.co.uk

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Why aren’t my Virgin Media emails displaying properly?

I own a Samsung S8 mobile phone and a two-year old iMac. My internet email server is Virgin Media, which I have one address with. Around four months ago the emails on my mobile started displaying multiple messages in a single email, sometimes three to four within one message. This does not happen on my main computer or on my Gmail address emails on my phone – David, Guisborough

I contacted Virgin to ensure there wasn’t a known problem with how emails were being displayed on Samsung or other Android-running smartphones, but the company said your issue seems to originate from the settings on your device rather than a larger issue with Virgin Media email addresses.

This would explain why it’s displaying differently on your phone to your Mac, and why it’s limited to your Virgin Media email and not your Google account as well.

No more unread emails (Photo: Pixabay)
The Gmail account appears unaffected (Photo: Pixabay)

A Virgin spokesperson recommended you open the Mail app on your Samsung and select your Virgin Media email account. Once you’ve done that, tap on the Menu icon (the cog icon) before selecting Settings and tapping on View.

This should present you with two options. You can either view the emails as a conversation or in standard format. The conversation format will put all the emails from a chain into one message – which appears to be how your account is already set up – whereas the standard format should show them all individually, which is what you’d prefer. Select the standard format to display all messages in an email chain as individual emails.

If this doesn’t solve your problem, for whatever reason,  Virgin said it’d recommend posting some screen shots of how the emails are appearing on its Community Forum (https://community.virginmedia.com/). Its staff should be able to offer further assistance there.

Send Rhiannon your tech queries at rhiannon.williams@inews.co.uk

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Why is Google Chrome having difficulty running Adobe Flash Player?

I use Photobox to turn digital pictures of my granddaughter into printed photo albums, and recently downloaded Google Chrome because I’d been told it was a good browser. I tried to compose an album having logged on to Photobox and was asked to download Adobe Flash, presumably to run the editing suite. It wouldn’t download, much to my annoyance, so I had to exit and start again using my old Microsoft Edge browser. Any ideas as to why this should happen? — Philip, Kettering

You’re right, Photobox needs Adobe Flash Player running in your browser to access the creation studio for some of its products. While the best web browser for your needs is largely a matter of preference, Chrome is predominantly faster than Microsoft Edge.

Generally, when you open up Photobox in Chrome a notification should pop up asking you to enable Flash.

Click Continue on this before selecting Click to enable Adobe Flash Player. A pop-up should appear inviting you to click Allow – doing this once should be sufficient.

If this pop-up does not appear and only a blank page is displayed, head to the Settings menu in the top right-hand corner of the Chrome window (the icon is three vertical dots).  Click on Settings, then Advanced Settings and then select Site settings (if you’re using a computer running Windows), or Content settings (if you’re using a Mac) and click on Flash. On this new page you’re able to select Ask first to allow Flash Player to be run on any website you browse.

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If you happen to be using a Mac, you’re also given the opportunity to add www.photobox.co.uk under the Allow section, enabling the site to always run Flash Player unhindered.

Send Rhiannon your tech queries at rhiannon.williams@inews.co.uk. Regrettably, no personal correspondence can be entered into.

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How can I delete a Gmail account I no longer use?

What is the best way to delete a Gmail account I no longer use? – Sarah, Wales

While it’s an incredibly obvious thing to say, make sure you’re happy with the notion of never accessing your Gmail email address ever again before you finally hit delete. While you may be able to get the address back (depending on how unique it is) if you change your mind, your emails and other documents will be lost forever.

Consequently, when it comes to deleting a Gmail account, Google recommends you download any data you may have saved first. Whether or not you’ll want to will depend on if there’s anything worth saving, but if want to, go to https://takeout.google.com/ and select the Google products listed (there may not be any if you haven’t enabled any services for which data can be exported), select Next Step and follow the on-screen instructions.

Once you’ve finished the aforementioned steps or you’re not fussed about saving any data, go to https://myaccount.google.com/ to access your Google account. The following instructions are for if you’re using a computer, but Google also lists detailed information for how to delete accounts using an Android phone, iPhone or iPad online. The following is designed to delete your Gmail address but not your entire Google account, which you’ll still be able to access.

No more unread emails (Photo: Pixabay)
No more unread emails (Photo: Pixabay)

Click the Data & Personalisation tab at the top of the screen , before scrolling down to Download or delete your data. Click Delete a Service. It may ask you to sign in using your Google account, before clicking Delete next to Gmail.

If you’re looking to delete your entire Google account, follow the same steps but select Delete Your Account instead of Delete a Service. This should get rid of your Google account permanently.

Send Rhiannon your tech queries at rhiannon.williams@inews.co.uk

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8 best computer mice for work and gaming – how to pick between Apple, Microsoft and more

The computer mouse: such a simple concept in so many ways, and yet so many confusing variations to choose from. From horizontal to vertical, small and silent to large with loud colours; choosing the correct mouse to suit your individual needs can make the difference between an enjoyable working life and pain and discomfort.

Before you decide which mouse to buy, it’s advisable to consider what you’ll be using it for. Do you want a lighter mouse that can be thrown into a bag for travelling, or something larger with upright functionality to improve posture sitting at a desk? Be aware that some mice are designed more towards right-handed users: left-handed or ambidextrous people may prefer to seek a more symmetrical design with customisable buttons.

How we test

We aimed to test the featured mice by using them for a range of different activities, including working, browsing and gaming, over the course of a week. Comfort over a longer period of use was taken into account as a main priority, along with mouse sensitivity and battery life, if applicable. The sensitivity of each mouse is usually measured in DPI (dots per inch): the higher a mouse’s DPI, the faster the cursor on your screen will move when you do.

Here’s our guide to the best computer mice to suit a range of needs and budgets.

Computer mice are listed in price order.

Anker Vertical Ergonomic Optical

£13.99 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Comfort on a budget

anker vertical

Key specs – Wireless: Yes; Dimensions: 74.7 x 119.4 x 63.5 mm; Weight: 96g; Buttons: 5, including scroll, left click, right click, previous and next page buttons (previous and next page buttons not recognized on the Mac OS X); Tracking speed: Up to 1600 DPI; Batteries needed: Yes – 2 AAA batteries (not included)

There are a lot of expensive mice on the market these days – and the prices tend to go up even further when taking into account ergonomic or specialist design needs. Enter Anker – a very affordable option for users unwilling to compromise on comfort.

A manual scrolling button makes movement easy, and the soft matt finish feels pleasant to the touch. The mouse is Bluetooth enabled, which was very easy to set up thanks to a removable, wireless USB drive which slots inside the mouse itself when not in use. It does require two AAA batteries (not included).

Logitech M330 Silent Plus Wireless Mouse

£17.99 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Nervous dispositions

logitech silent plus

Key specs – Wireless: Yes; Dimensions: 105.4 x 67.9 x 38.4 mm; Weight: 91g; Buttons: 3 (right, left and scrolling); Tracking speed: 1000 DPI; Batteries needed: Yes – 1 AA battery (included)

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You heard it here first: Logitech is the first company in the world to receive the “quiet mark certification” from the UK noise abatement society for its computer mice. In all likelihood, the click of your mouse buttons has probably never bothered you before. But now you know the sound can be reduced by up to 90 per cent, it’s amazing how quickly you’ll get used to a near-silent working experience.

The mouse will suit night-owls quietly burning the midnight oil for that reason, and its slightly smaller size makes it practical for travelling. But it is also comfortable, straightforward to use and suited to left- or right-handed needs (many mice curve predominantly towards the left, making them awkward for left-handed users to hold).

Logitech M330 Silent Plus Wireless has a wireless range of 10 metres and comes with a two-year warranty. A USB port is needed for nano-receiver.

Razer DeathAdder Chroma

£58.99 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Gamers

razer deathadder

Key specs – Wireless: No; Dimensions: 127 x 70.1 x 43.9 mm; Weight: 104g; Buttons: 5 (right and left-click, scroll, two side buttons); Tracking speed: 10,000 DPI; Batteries needed: No

To the uninitiated, the Razer DeathAdder Chroma is a brash and attention-seeking mouse, with its lurid, changeable colours and larger stance. Clearly designed with gamers in mind, the mouse’s aesthetic will appeal to a certain type of user – but its sensitivity and flexible range of buttons will impress non-gamers, too.

The rubber sides ensure no loss of grip and a wider front design aims to prevent wrist fatigue over sustained use. All five buttons are fully customisable, as are the coloured lights which radiate from the palm and scroll buttons (apparently there are 16.8 million colour variations).

Somewhat unusually for such a high-tech mouse, it is not wireless – but then, who has time to change batteries or plug in a charging cable when they are busy saving the virtual world.

Microsoft Pro IntelliMouse

£59.99, Microsoft
Best for: Classic comfort

microsoft pro intellimouse

Key specs – Wireless: No; Dimensions: 132 × 69 × 43 mm; Weight: 140g; Buttons: 5 (3 customisable) including left and right click and scroll wheel button; Tracking speed: Up to 10,160 mm per second; Batteries needed: No

A modern take on the original two-button mouse device, the Microsoft Pro IntelliMouse was the easiest to get started of all those tested – just plug in the USB cable and go. It’s classic, comfortable design is perfect for day-to-day work activity, but buttons can also be customised for gaming purposes. You can also change the tail light colour, should you really want to.

We liked the extra-long, braided cable, which felt classier than the traditional plastic coated wires, but also practical for reaching far-away USB ports.

Microsoft Surface Arc Mouse

£79.99, Microsoft
Best for: Intuitive design

microsoft surface arc

Key specs – Wireless: Yes; Dimensions: 131 x 55 x 14 mm; Weight: 82g; Buttons: 2 – right and left click. Both act as a scrolling panel; Tracking speed: Up to 30 inches (762 millimetres) per second; Batteries needed: Yes – AAA batteries (included)

There is no denying the Surface Arc Mouse is cool. Slim, light and wireless, the device is easily portable. But its best feature is the on/off switch – simply snap the mouse back into a curve. When finished, snap flat to turn off. While the bluetooth connectivity took a little longer to figure than other mice, once in action the mouse was smooth and comfortable to use with super-fast reactions.

The Surface Arc Mouse has a battery life of up to 6 months and a wireless range of up to 10 metres. It is available in four colours; AAA batteries are required (included).

Logitech MX Vertical

£92.99, Logitech
Best for: Quality

logitech mx vertical

Key specs – Wireless: Yes and wired; Dimensions: 78.5 x 79 x 120 mm; Weight: 135g; Buttons: 4 customisable buttons, including back. Forward, DPI, middle click; Tracking speed: 4000 DPI; Battery needed: No

This vertical mouse is designed to fit like a handshake, which is shown to reduce muscle strain and pressure on wrists, in turn helping to prevent RSI and other discomfort. While it is similar in shape to the Anker Vertical Ergonomic Optical mouse, the difference in quality is clear- which indeed it should be, given this was the most costly mouse we tested.

A comfortable thumb-rest makes it easy for users more familiar with traditional flat mice to adapt to the vertical feel. The product is Bluetooth enabled and also comes with a charging cable, removing the need for batteries and counteracting waste. A full charge lasts up to four months.

Apple Magic Mouse 2

£99, John Lewis & Partners
Best for: Simplicity

apple magic mouse 2

Key specs – Wireless: Yes; Dimensions: 21.6 x 57.1 x 113.5 mm; Weight: 99g; Buttons: 1 – mouse uses intuitive scrolling and right/left click; Tracking speed: Not given; Battery needed: Yes – rechargeable battery included

Design nerds and show-offs have always flocked to Apple products, but there’s practical value in the Magic Mouse 2’s clean and simple form. The mouse is Bluetooth enabled and rechargeable using a standard iPhone charger, which makes life easier on the road.

Available in classic white or a space grey colour, we like the product’s pleasing weight and found it was able to glide with less resistance than most, thanks to two train track-like sleepers on the bottom.

As is customary with Apple products, the packaging is minimal and pleasingly sleek. While Magic Mouse 2 is designed primarily to work with Macs, it’s possible to pair the mouse with Bluetooth enabled Windows PCs and other products, although you may have to download additional software.

Apple Magic Trackpad 2

£149, John Lewis & Partners
Best for: Flexible working

apple magic trackpad 2

Key specs – Wireless: Yes; Dimensions: 4.9 x 10.9 x 160 mm; Weight: 231g; Buttons: 1; Tracking speed: Not given; Batteries needed: No

While not strictly a mouse, Apple’s trackpad is arguably the future of computer navigation. Once familiar with the different interactions (two fingers for scrolling, tap twice for right-click) the trackpad feels very natural – and it’s easy to become spoiled by having more space to move around on.

The latest edition is more sensitive than previous designs with four “force sensors” beneath the touchpad allowing for edge-to-edge use. As with the Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad 2 connects automatically to Mac products, but may require additional software to enable PCs to pair with it.

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Why is my firewall stopping my TomTom sat nav from updating?

I ran into all sorts of difficulties recently when I tried to update my Tomtom Go 610 sat nav. I ended up ringing customer support, and the helpful man explained that the problem lay with the antivirus/firewall built into my Windows 10 laptop. He suggested the easy way to solve the problem was use a Windows 7 computer which I happened to have but was thinking of dumping. He was right, but how do others with just Windows 10 manage?  Barry, Overton

I ran your issue past TomTom, who confirmed that the problem is directly related to the security running on the machine, rather than the Windows 10 software.

“There are a few elements which can cause problems depending on how the port configuration, https settings and so on are configured,” they said.

“Changing computers is a viable option but it would not really make a difference which OS [operating system] it’s running. People can always make exceptions in their security protocol but this is outside TomTom’s support boundaries.”

The good news is it should be fairly easy to adjust your firewall’s settings to allow your sat nav’s MyDriveConnect computer program to download and install the software onto your device.

“All the communication (inbound and outbound, local and remote) via the following TCP ports should be allowed,” the spokesperson said, adding that the TCP port was most important.

The main communication port should be configured to 80, HTTPS (required for logins, associations and all kind of encrypted contents) should be configured to 443,  Internal communication ports should be configured to 3128, 3129 and the web connector port of MyDrive (to communicate with the browser) should be set to 4000.

Hopefully this is helpful and you’ll be able to connect next time you need to update your software without issue.

Send Rhiannon your tech queries at rhiannon.williams@inews.co.uk

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10 best smart speakers for 2019, from Sonos to Google Home

Smart speakers are a link between us and many of the clever things our internet-connected home tech can do. Using voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri, they enable us to skip songs on Spotify, look up facts via web search, and perhaps even turn on our smart lighting or control a smart thermostat. The user just has to say the appropriate command when they’re within hearing range of the speaker’s microphone(s).

How to choose a smart speaker

As we’ll see, the range of smart speakers available are diverse. Some are focused on creating the ideal audio experience for music lovers, while others specialise on hearing voice commands with great clarity. Some have screens enabling users to see, as well as hear, the results of their requests. Some are battery-powered, portable and perhaps even waterproof, while others run off mains electricity and require careful handling.

Choosing the right smart speaker for you will be a matter of looking at all the attributes of each option and deciding which features you need, and which you can live without. You should think about the following:

  • How much do audio playback quality and power matter?
  • Which smart assistant will I use (most of you will be using Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant)?
  • Do I need the speaker to be portable?
  • What’s the right price range for me?

With these factors in mind, we’ve brought together a selection of speakers that will suit lots of different users.

Almost all the speakers we’ve reviewed can hook up to connected devices like phones and laptops to play music, and have a in-built ability for music to be voice controlled. The two exceptions are the Jual Furnishings San Francisco Smart Desk, which needs to be used with an Amazon Dot to enable voice commands, and the MIXX Audio Leen 7, which needs to be connected to a smartphone running a voice assistant app.

Smart speakers are listed in price order.

MIXX Audio Leen 7 Wireless Speaker

£23.50 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Your wallet

MIXX Audio Leen 7 Wireless Speaker

Key specs – Smart functionalities: Siri, Google Assistant; Speaker power: 15W; Inputs: Bluetooth, 3.5mm AUX

The Leen 7 sounds extremely good, considering it comes at such a reasonable price. The bass is aggressive but doesn’t travel too far: an ideal combo if you love the musical role of low-end, but don’t want to wake up the neighbours. It’s comfortably loud enough for everyday use, and if you need more volume, you can use two Leen 7s together to create an immersive experience. Two units will come in at under £50.

This speaker’s smart assistant connectivity with Siri or Google Assistant is via your connected phone, tablet or laptop. As such, it’s not quite as user-friendly as the in-built voice assistants of some of the other speakers featured here. Nonetheless, this device is a great introduction to smart speaker tech, and punches well above its weight in terms of sound quality.

Google Home Hub

£89, Currys
Best for: Showing off the full power of Google Assistant

Google Home Hub

Key specs – Smart functionalities: Google Assistant (with screen); Speaker power: 15W; Inputs: WiFi

Sound is only one side to the potential functionality of a smart assistant. Another side is visual output such as video or media-rich web search results, and the Google Home Hub does an excellent job of catering for this side of the equation. We used it with an in-built Google Assistant to check out recipes, look up facts on Wikipedia and view artworks.

We’ve also used it to listen to podcasts and music, which it managed with great clarity, albeit without the oomph you’ll get with a higher-spec speaker like the Stanmore ii Voice, the MEGABLAST or the ZIPP 2.

This is the perfect smart speaker for information transfer and smart home voice commands, thanks to its extremely receptive microphones, fast processing speed and novel ability to display visual results. It could also serve as a decent music player, for users who aren’t that fussy about audio.

Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Generation)

£139.99 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Getting the best out of Amazon Alexa

Amazon Echo Plus

Key specs – Smart functionalities: Amazon Alexa; Speaker power: Not given (3.0” neodymium woofer and 0.8” tweeter); Inputs: WiFi, Bluetooth, 3.5mm AUX

The Echo Plus is extraordinarily quick at retrieving answers to questions. Within a few seconds of us asking, “Who invented the game of Monopoly?”, or, “What’s the average yearly rainfall in the UK?”, it responded clearly, in some cases following up by asking if we wanted more detail.

This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the smart capabilities of the Echo Plus, which can operate smart lighting, tweak smart thermostats, and perform a host of other actions that would’ve been the stuff of science fiction a few years ago.

In terms of sound quality, this is a good speaker, not a great one, which is roughly what you’d expect given its mid-market price and smorgasbord of smart functions.

The status LED light around the rim gives useful, colourful indications of connectivity status and interactions, as well as giving the speaker added character.

Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST

£162.17 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Portability

Ultimate Ears Megablast

Key specs – Smart functionalities: Amazon Alexa; Speaker power: Wattage not given, volume up to 93dB; Inputs: Bluetooth, WiFi

We’ve dropped this speaker out of a first-floor window. We’ve submerged it in water. Somehow, we once accidentally played a Shawn Mendes song with it, and through it all, it survived.

The MEGABLAST is about as indestructible as a smart speaker can be. It has an outstanding IP67 waterproof rating, and has more than enough battery life to be the star of your picnic/garden party/festival campsite. Ultimate Ears says it can last up to 16 hours on one charge, and this roughly tallies with our experience.

Add to this the MEGABLAST’s distinctive, punchy sound and in-built Amazon Alexa, and you have a recipe for an exemplary smart speaker. The only potential drawback is that its Alexa skills are fairly limited, with a focus on music commands.

This speaker is available in a range of colours at varying prices.

Polk Assist

£179, Currys
Best for: Responsiveness to voice commands

Polk Assist

Key specs – Smart functionalities: Google Assistant, Chromecast; Speaker power: 40W; Inputs: Bluetooth, WiFi

This speaker comes with Google Assistant and Chromecast built-in, and we found the experience of using these functionalities impressively smooth. The Polk Assist gave us the quickest responses to our Google Assistant queries out of all the speakers we tested, whether we were asking for the weather forecast or for the definition of the word “transmogrify”.

It’s also exceptionally good at picking out your voice commands while playing music at high volume. We mumbled “Okay Google, stop” just about as quietly as we could while playing a song, and sure enough, the speaker turned off.

And then there’s the sound – punchy like the Megablast, but with some of the added detail you’ll get with the likes of the Marshall Stanmore II. We are mightily impressed.

This speaker supports a wide range of Google Assistant commands, including smart home controls.

Sonos One (Gen Two)

£199, Sonos
Best for: A smart approach to sound-tuning

Sonos One smart speaker

Key specs – Smart functionalities: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant; Speaker power: Not given (driven by two Class D amplifiers); Inputs: WiFi, Apple Airplay, Spotify Connect, TuneIn

The Sonos One (Gen 2) is chic and solid, with a low centre of gravity that’d make it difficult to knock off your bedside table with a stray swipe of a morning arm.

Once connected to your smartphone, it uses a system called Trueplay to tune its sound to the room. This involves waving your phone up and down while the speaker plays test sounds, which turns out to be an oddly enjoyable thing to do. This process enables sound quality that ranks right up there with the best, with snappy dynamics that brought out the space and detail in the songs we played during testing – “Evan Finds The Third Room” by Khruangbin, and “Dark Red” by Steve Lacy.

The One is also highly responsive to voice commands, with six in-built mics that proved highly receptive, wherever we stood in the room. A wide range of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant commands are supported, including smart home controls and info requests.

The only potential drawback to this outstanding speaker is its lack of support for Bluetooth streaming or wired audio connections, which remain favoured input methods for many users.

Pure DiscovR

£229.99, John Lewis & Partners
Best for: Top-notch sound quality in a mid-price smart speaker

Pure DiscovR smart speaker

Key specs – Smart functionalities: Amazon Alexa; Speaker power: 45W; Inputs: Spotify Connect, Apple Airplay 2, Bluetooth, WiFi, 3.5mm AUX

The first thing to say about the Pure DiscovR is that it sounds excellent – sharp and clear towards the top, and suitably growly when it needs to be. It really shows off the details in complex musical arrangements and nuanced performances, as we found out when listening to the beautiful “Two Thousand and Seventeen” by Four Tet. The sound this speaker creates is remarkably spacious, considering the fact it is about the size and shape of a jar of Douwe Egberts coffee.

Another highlight of the DiscovR is its design, which is a little sleeker and techier than many of its competitors. We love the coloured light strip around edge of the controls.

The DiscovR offers a comprehensive range of Alexa commands, including news, weather and smart home controls.

Libratone ZIPP 2

£279 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: User interface design

Libratone Zipp 2 smart speaker

Key specs – Smart functionalities: Amazon Alexa; Speaker power: Class D; Inputs: Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, Apple Airplay 2, WiFi, 3.5mm AUX

The ZIPP 2 has by far the best user interface we’ve encountered in any smart speaker, combining a discreet, attractive design with lots of functionality. It’s highly intuitive: swipe around the edge to change the volume, tap to pause or play, or long-press the nightingale symbol in the centre of the button to access features such as playlisting and connectivity.

Another string to the ZIPP 2’s bow is its style. It’s probably the best-looking tower-style speaker we’ve reviewed, especially in the Pine Green colour shown above.

In terms of sound quality, we’d place this speaker right in the middle of the pack. It’s clear and powerful, just not quite as spacious and detailed-sounding as some other higher-end options.

The ZIPP 2 has a range of Alexa skills including smart home controls, but with the notable exception of voice calls.

Marshall Stanmore ii Voice with Amazon Alexa/Google Assistant

£349.99, Marshall
Best for: Sound quality

Marshall Stanmore ii Voice smart speaker

Key specs – Smart functionalities: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant; Speaker power: 80W (50W + 15W + 15W); Inputs: Bluetooth, WiFi, RCA, 3.5mm AUX

If you’re into your music and want a real treat, you could do no better than picking up one of these. It is comfortably the best sounding smart speaker we’ve tested – the only potential downside is the price.

The Stanmore ii Voice is rich in audio functionality, from its impressive range of inputs to the EQ controls (bass and treble) you’ll find on top of the speaker. It looks exceptionally good, modelled on Marshall’s iconic guitar amplifier heads. And most importantly, it sounds streets ahead of any other speaker we’ve tested.

With in-built voice assistance thrown into the equation – there are separate models for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant – this is the complete smart speaker for those seeking both classic performance and cutting edge tech.

Interestingly, the Stanmore ii Voice has a stereo phono input, so you can use it as a speaker for devices like tape decks, record players and CD players.

There are separate models of this speaker with Amazon Alexa and with Google Assistant, so take care to buy the correct model for your preferred smart assistant. Unlike some other third-party speakers, the Stanmore ii Voice has a comprehensive range of smart functionalities that includes smart home commands.

Jual Furnishings PC711 San Francisco Smart Speaker/Charging Desk, Walnut

£398.99, Robert Dyas
Best for: Transforming your home or office

Key specs – Smart functionalities: USB charging port x 2; wireless charging; Speaker power: 2.1 system (moderate power, wattage not given); Inputs: Bluetooth

Who left this lovely piece of furniture lying around here in our best smart speakers roundup?

There’s far more to the Jual Furnishings San Francisco smart desk than your ordinary desk. It has a 2.1 speaker system – with one subwoofer and a pair of stereo speakers – built into the underside, plus Bluetooth connectivity enabling playback from your smartphone or laptop. The sound is very good, and we immensely enjoyed the experience of listening to radio through the desk while we sat and worked. A robust-looking power switch and digital display give it a great sense of quality.

Jual’s desk doesn’t have a smart assistant built-in, but you can make it “smart” in that sense of the term by connecting it to an Amazon Echo Dot, which will enable you to hear responses from Amazon Alexa via the desk’s superior speakers. It does have some technological features that most competitors lack: namely, a pair of USB charging ports, plus a Qi standard wireless charger for your smartphone built into the desktop.

This is also an outstanding desk in its own right, with a stunning walnut top, trendy, mid-century-inspired curves and a nice, smooth surface to work on.

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