Which is the best Amazon Echo for you? A buying guide
In order to get Alexa to as many customers as it can, Amazon offers the Echo in 7 different variants, coming in all shapes, sizes, and with different price tags. Basically, if you want an Echo, Amazon made sure that it'd have the right one for you. Now, we only need to make sense of all the different features each one has, in order to pick the best one in accordance with our needs.
That said, we present to you the PhoneArena buying guide for the Amazon Echo speakers:
Cheap and effective — Amazon Echo Dot (2nd generation)
Cheapest does not necessarily mean worst. In fact, we do think the Echo Dot will cross multiple items off your “smart speaker requirements” list. It only costs $50, it's super-tiny and easy to plop down just about anywhere in the house, it still has that cool ring light that moves around when Alexa is listening to you or processing a request.
Now, the built-in speaker is not one you'd like to use for music, but the good news is that the Echo Dot can connect to your favorite external speakers either via Bluetooth or a simple 3.5 mm Aux jack.
The flagship smart speaker — Amazon Echo (2nd generation)
The newest Amazon Echo is pleasantly compact and can be stylized with different fabric or wood covers so that it can fit right and look good in any room. It's still much taller than the Echo Dot and there's a good reason for that — the Echo houses two speakers, a woofer and a tweeter, to deliver a better-quality audio.
Now, it won't blow you away, but you can still listen to your favorite tunes through the Echo without cringing. Its base is defined, its highs are crisp (with a tendency to get tinny sometimes), so it's an OK speaker to blast music through while washing the dishes or going through whatever routine. If you want to get a bit more serious, you can always connect your external speakers via Bluetooth or the Aux jack.
Is it worth $50 more than the Dot? Well, if you really need the smart speaker to be stylized and blend in with your furniture and if you believe you will be blasting music through the smart speaker, then yes, it could be worth the extra investment.
The best sound — Sonos One
OK, we are taking a little detour here, but if you want an Alexa-enabled speaker that also sounds really, really good for music — the Sonos One is a great choice. It's a smart speaker that puts sound quality first — the Sonos One will analyze the acoustic properties of the room it is in and will fine-tune its sound output to optimize its quality. It will also sync up with other Sonos products you may have around the house for multi-room audio, which is a super-cool feature.
To top it off, the Sonos One will also support the Google Assistant at some point in 2018. So, you get Alexa, Google Assistant, and awesome sound in one package.
But it's not all flowers and butterflies. The Alexa in the Sonos One is a bit limited in accessing other Amazon services and a bit slow to respond. There's also no light for visual feedback when she's listening. If you want a full-on Alexa experience and awesome sound, maybe invest in a separate Sonos Play:1 and Echo Dot. That combo will also cost you $200 and get you the best of both worlds.
With a screen — Amazon Echo Show
A relatively new Amazon smart speaker, the Echo Show comes with its very own 7-inch display that can show you more information, like the weather or calendar, and let you watch videos through Amazon Prime Video or YouTube. Its dual 2-inch speakers also sound bigger and fuller than your regular Echo, so you can crank up some tunes through it with no issues.
Additionally, the Amazon Echo Show has a video-calling service with a special feature — it's called Drop In and can be enabled on a per-contact basis. Basically, it allows anyone with the permission on to open a video call with your Echo Show without you picking up at all. Yes, it does sound creepy on one hand, but it's a great tool for parents that want to check up on their kids, or if you just want to have a quick peek in your apartment when you are away.
The Echo Show does sound like it can replace that kitchen tablet that you use to check recipes on and watch videos or listen to music while cooking, washing the dishes, or doing any other chores. However, do keep in mind that its interface favors voice commands over touch input, it's bulky, and it needs to stay in one spot, connected to an outlet, so it's not an all-out tablet killer.
Portable Alexa — Amazon Tap
The Amazon Tap is your regular, rugged, battery-powered Bluetooth speaker with an Alexa twist to it. You can take it anywhere to listen to music with, but if you share your phone's Internet with it, or if it gets hooked up to a Wi-Fi, you get full Alexa functionality out of it.
By default, you need to hold the little side button on the speaker to activate Alexa, but after a software update, you can have a hands-free mode, which will respond to the "Alexa" hot word.
It's not really considered an Echo device, however — you can't sync it to Echos for multi-room music, add it to groups, or make calls with it. It also doesn't sound as good as some other $100 Bluetooth speakers. So, you have to make some sacrifices if you want to have Alexa on the go.
The ones we left out
Amazon Echo Plus
The Amazon Echo already supports some smarthome functionality, but you do have to go in the app and pair it with each individual item at a time. The Echo Plus is a bigger Echo (it's the same size as the 1st gen Echo), which comes with slightly upgraded speakers and an integrated smart hub. Basically, you just ask it to connect to all your devices and it does so. The idea is to streamline the whole process and to make it easier for the end user to quickly add and control smarthome devices. All for the price of $150, it's a nice offer, but it's also a bit basic in what it can do with connected devices and doesn't have more in-depth controls and color fine-tuning like what the Philips Hue offers.
It's a nice package if you want to get started with a smart home, but a rather niche device through and through. Yes, Amazon does issue regular software updates, but hubs that have specific jobs and specific partner brands are still a bit better.
Amazon Echo Spot
The Echo Spot is a smaller Amazon speaker with a screen. The thing is, it's round-shaped, as it's meant to replace your alarm clock. It does still have the video-calling service with Drop In and it can stream video, but it has a 2.5-inch, round screen. So, it's not the best for that. Its sound quality is OK, but not as good as the bigger versions.
Ideally, the Echo Spot is meant to replace your alarm clock. But for $130, we guess one must really like Alexa to get this exact smart speaker.
Amazon Echo Look
The Echo Look is a "Personal Style Assistant". Basically, it's a voice-activated selfie camera, which you put somewhere around your dressing space. The camera will take a picture of your outfit and the AI will "judge" your style. The Echo Look also has Alexa on board to offer you clothes that fit your style to buy directly from Amazon.
So, yeah, style is subjective and we are not sure whether you should trust the Echo Look over a mirror and your own sense. We do tend to favor the latter, though.