Control your music and way more with Amazon's line of Echo smart speakers.

The world of the connected home is still very much a disconnected mess. As Apple and Google each compete with their own standards — and other companies doing the same with their own — Amazon has quietly snuck in the side door with its smart, attractive, and intelligent speaker. Or, rather, speakers. After more than a year with just the Amazon Echo to lead the way, Amazon's line of smart speakers embodies that future. The Echo, Tap, and Dot are very similar smart speakers, in that they perform nearly all the same functions, with some minor differences.

If you're in the market for a smart speaker but can't decide between these three, we'll outline the key differences and let you know which one is best for you.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo

The first of its kind, Amazon Echo is a 9-inch speaker that at first glance resembles a tube of Pringles. However, this unit is far more than just a speaker that can play all your favorite tunes from Pandora, Spotify, Prime Music, and more. (Tell it to "Play the [Android Central Podcast," too!) It can easily become the smart controller for your entire home, connecting to smart lights (like Philips Hue), Nest thermostats, Samsung SmartThings, and much more.

It's basically a smartphone search appliance without the screen. It can answer questions, read audiobooks, check traffic and weather updates, and essentially act as your voice-activated butler (aside from actually bringing you a snack, though you can use it to order pizza from Domino's…).

In a somewhat creepy display of semi-AI, the Echo is always connected to Amazon's Alexa network, which is in the cloud and always getting smarter. The more you use it, the more it learns your preferences, speech patterns, and vocabulary, to better deliver on what you're asking for. It's always learning.

Check out our review for more!

Is it for me?

You'll want the Echo if you want the total package. If you want a whole-home control center coupled with a decent speaker, then the Echo is your best choice. It's an especially prudent choice if you already have your home rigged with smart devices. This one is designed to truly integrate with your home and therefore become a relatively permanent fixture. It comes in white and black.

See at Amazon


Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot

The Dot is essentially the Echo's "Mini-Me." It has a smaller, quieter speaker and, in size, is more akin to a hockey puck. It does everything the Echo does, but also has a 3.5mm output jack and Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to connect it to your current sound system. Truly, it's as though someone just decapitated the Echo and then scrunched up the full-size speaker and jammed it up into the neck, and boom, the Dot.

Connect to and control all of your smart home devices, as well as your existing audio set-up, making the Dot perhaps the most desirable of the Echo family, especially since it's only $50 (and right now, if you buy a 6-pack, you'll only pay for 5!).

Check out our review for more!

Is it for me?

It is if you have an existing audio setup and several smart devices around your home that you'd like to control with just your voice. Don't go looking for real sound quality from the Dot, though it will do in a pinch if nothing else is available. Like the Echo, the Dot is constantly learning and adapting to your voice and your preferences. Comes in white and black.

See at Amazon

Amazon Tap

Amazon Tap

The Tap is the next in line and brings most of the same features that the Echo has, with the added benefit of portability. With up to nine hours of playback, the Tap is rechargeable and comes with a handy wireless charging cradle.

Since it is battery-powered, the Tap isn't always listening, so — as the name would suggest — you have to tap it to activate Alexa, which only works over Wi-Fi. It's kind of a pain in the keister.

Like the Echo and Dot, the Tap can control your smart home devices, but you'll have to get up and tap it to do so (at that point, you might as well pull out your phone). It can also act as you futuristic assistant, adding items to your calendar and helping with searches. It connects to your phone and other smart devices, like tablets, via Bluetooth, but just for playback.

The Tap is the only somewhat customizable Echo option, with the Tap Sling cover available in six colors.

Is it for me?

It is if you want a portable speaker that also lets you stream music from many of your favorite services. The Tap can still do all of the assistant-related things that the Echo and Dot do; you just have to get off your duff and tap it to get it to work. If you just want a Bluetooth speaker that doubles as a personal assistant (by using the Alexa app), then the Tap is your best choice. Only available in black.

See at Amazon


How do you choose?

If you want the total package — decent speaker, whole-home control, and a personal assistant, all controlled by your voice — then go with the Echo.

If you want the exact same thing, but smaller, since you already have a sweet home-audio setup, then go with the Dot. It's definitely the best value.

If you want a portable Bluetooth speaker that can also act as a personal assistant, and you don't mind getting up to tap it when you want to control your smart home devices, then the Tap is your bag, baby.