- The name Alexa is synonymous with the term smart speaker because Amazon’s Echo is the best one you can buy.
- Amazon has lots of Echos now, but its new Echo is the best choice for most people.
- It’s more compact than the original Echo, costs less, and has an auxiliary port to physically connect to a better sounding speaker.
Amazon’s Echo was the first smart speaker to find its way into millions of people’s homes. Since the original Echo launched in 2014, Amazon has launched several new versions of the original speaker as well as a host of other Echo devices that have Alexa voice control built in.
There are so many different Echos now that we’ve put together this guide to help you find the best one for your needs. Before we get into the specifics, though, it’s worth pointing out that there are some features every Echo has, regardless of its specialty.
All of the Echo models below can control a wide variety smart home accessories using your voice or the Alexa App. Each has access to the thousands of third-party skills developers have made over the past couple of years as well as your Prime Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, or Spotify library. Most Echos have an audio-out port to connect to external speakers, too.
In the slides below, we’re going to focus on what makes the best Echos stand out, be it the Echo Plus’ extra smart-home radio, the Echo Dot’s small size, or the Echo Show’s screen. For a deeper dive into the smart speaker ecosystem, you can read our full buying guide to smart home speakers on Insider Picks.
Also, note that this guide is for Amazon’s Echo smart speakers with Alexa built inside. We have another guide to the best Alexa smart speakers that aren’t made by Amazon.
Here are the best Echo devices you can buy:
- Best Echo overall: Echo
- Best Echo for smart home: Echo Plus
- Best budget Echo speaker: Echo Dot
- Best Echo with a big screen: Echo Show
- Best Echo with a small screen: Echo Show 5
Updated on 11/20/2019 by Lisa Sabatini: Updated the Echo in this guide to the current model. Updated prices, links, and formatting.
The best Echo overall
The Amazon Echo is well-designed, sounds good, and has Amazon’s super-smart Alexa digital assistant built right into it.
The new Echo 3rd generation costs a lot less than the original, but it’s just as smart. While the third-generation model is a bit bigger than the second Echo, that larger size means it’s better equipped to handle high volume.
Audio quality is one of the new Amazon Echo’s major selling points. It has some updated hardware, including a 3-inch woofer (the previous version had a 2.5-inch subwoofer, for comparison), and the equalizer in the app allows you to adjust the bass, treble, and midrange. Online reviewers say the sound is on par with the Echo Plus, Amazon’s significantly more expensive smart speaker.
Speaking of audio, you can also stereo pair this Echo with another 3rd-gen Echo or 2nd-gen Echo Plus. And like the 2nd gen Echo, there’s also an audio-out port in the back so you can connect it to your favorite speakers or home entertainment center.
This slim, modern cylinder will fit in with any room’s decor. When you awaken Alexa, a subtle blue light flicks around the round top of the speaker as it listens in.
For most people, this is going to be the go-to Echo option. It has better speakers than the Echo Dot, but it’s not huge, ugly, or techy looking anymore. The new Echo can be the center of your smart home without being obtrusive.
Pros: An audio-out port, better sound quality, affordable, smart home controls
The best Echo for smart homes
The Echo Plus can communicate directly with certain smart home accessories without having to go through a third-party hub.
If you’ve packed your place to the limit with smart home accessories, you might want to consider the Echo Plus.
It looks like the first generation Echo, but has an improved speaker system, and more importantly, a Zigbee antenna built in. Zigbee is one of the standards smart home accessories use to communicate with one another. Traditionally, an Echo would have to talk to a third-party smart home hub to access and adjust accessories like light bulbs. The Echo Plus lets you ditch that hub and creates a direct link between itself and some of your favorite smart home tech.
You can find a full list of Zigbee-compatible smart-home accessories here, but I’m happy to see that Philips’ Hue bulbs are on the list. As someone who uses those bulbs every single day, it’ll be nice to save myself an outlet and some additional space.
Because of its antenna, the Echo Plus still looks like a big piece of tech, but if you’re the type (like me) who has smart home accessories around your home, you probably don’t care. The Plus also received the auxiliary out port so you can connect it to speakers if you’d like.
Pros: Improved audio quality over the original Echo, direct communication with smart-home accessories, decent price
Cons: Pricier than standard Echo
The best budget Echo
The Echo Dot may be the entry-level option on this list, but it’s still just as smart as its siblings, plus, its small size is its biggest asset.
It’s ok if you want to keep your love of technology out of eyeshot. Subtlety is an art, but if you have an Echo Dot, it’s not that hard.
Though it didn’t receive a hardware update, the Dot is still the best entry-level smart-home hub on the market. For less than $50, get a hockey puck-sized gadget that can help you control your lights with your voice, answer questions about the universe, and connect to external speakers through a Bluetooth signal.
The Echo Dot’s best feature is definitely its small size. You can stick it just about anywhere, and because it has the same microphone array as its bigger siblings, it won’t have a problem hearing your requests. Whether you’re going for subtlety, or want the best way to dip your toe into the smart-home ocean, this is your best choice.
Pros: Small, smart, affordable, works just as well as all the others
Cons: Audio quality isn’t as great
The best Echo with a big screen
The Echo Show can display information that its screenless siblings can only read to you, making it extra useful for timers and calendar events.
The Eco Show is one of the newer members of the Echo family and the first one to have a display. To put it simply, this is an Echo with a screen. It can do anything a standard Echo can, but it shows the information visually, in addition, to audibly.
For instance, if you set a timer you’ll be able to watch it countdown, you’ll be able to see your calendar when you ask Alexa about your upcoming events, and until recently you could even watch YouTube videos. Google put a stop to that, sadly.
How useful the Echo Show will be to you ultimately depends on how you use your Echo. If it’d help to see a measurement conversion instead of just hearing it said out loud (there are 16 tablespoons in a cup, by the way), the Echo Show is a really good option.
Its speakers are also better than the ones found in the original Echo, although it’s still to be seen whether or not they compare well to newer models. Still, if you love the idea of seeing Alexa’s responses to your questions and requests, the Echo Show is your best option.
Pros: 10.1-inch screen, the ability to see Alexa’s responses to you
Cons: No audio out, a higher price than the screenless options
The best Echo with a small screen
The Echo Show 5 has a smaller 5-inch screen than the original model, making it perfect for use as a smart alarm clock on your bedside table.
The Show 5 is a smaller version of the original Echo Show. It has a 5-inch screen, so it can display video content, the time, and visual representations of Alexa’s answers.
Just like the original Echo Show, you can watch Prime Video, view security camera footage, and other video content on the Show 5.
It can also display the time and you can use it to set alarms to wake you up in the morning, making it a great smart alarm clock for your bedside table.
If you love the idea of seeing Alexa’s responses to your questions and requests, but you want a smaller device, the Echo Show is a great option. – Malarie Gokey
Pros: 5-inch screen, the ability to see Alexa’s responses to you
Cons: No audio out, a higher price than the screenless options