Standard-bearer gets better

Echo (3rd Gen)

Smart speaker with home hub

Echo Plus (2nd Gen)

Even though it may not look like a major update, Amazon significantly improved the speakers in this standard Echo (3rd Gen) and made the design a little less stark with a more plush fabric and new twilight blue colorway.

$100 at Amazon

Pros

  • Plush styling like Echo Plus (2nd Gen)
  • Much improved sound architecture
  • Now available in twilight blue

Cons

  • Sits in weird middle ground of Echo lineup
  • No smart display or LED clock functionality

With the changes to the Echo (3rd Gen), the Echo Plus (2nd Gen) days may be numbered. The two devices now look a lot alike and even have similar speaker setups. However, some may still consider the Zigbee support worth the additional money.

$150 at Amazon

Pros

  • Zigbee hub built-in for easy control of smart products
  • Premium sound compared to smaller Echos
  • Available with a free smart bulb

Cons

  • Possibly irrelevant with new Echo (3rd Gen) release
  • Zigbee hub feature not something many will understand

In the deluge of new product announcements from Amazon, this year's update to the "regular" Echo (3rd Gen) may have slipped under the radar a little bit. After all, it doesn't look that different from the previous model. It also kind of sits in this weird middle ground of Echo devices, where it has better sound than the smaller Dots but doesn't have a smart display like the larger Show series. With Amazon announcing its Certified for Humans program to make smart home setup easier, where does that leave the aging Echo Plus (2nd Gen)?

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Is there an Echo in here?

Often when Amazon updates a product line it will quickly remove the older version of the products from its listings so as not to overly confuse purchasers. You'll notice, for instance, that many of the Echo (2nd Gen) devices are listed as "Currently Unavailable" on Amazon's website, save for third-party sellers or refurbished items. The Echo Plus (2nd Gen) is technically a separate product to the Echo (3rd Gen), so we can see why it is still listed, but the two devices do share an awful lot in common.

Echo (3rd Gen) Echo Plus (2nd Gen)
Size 5.8" x 3.9" x 3.9" 5.8" x 3.9" x 3.9"
Weight 27.5 oz 27.5 oz
Far-field Microphones Yes Yes
Speakers .8" tweeter and 3" woofer .8" tweeter and 3" woofer
Dolby Processing Yes Yes
Line-out with 3.5 mm cable or Bluetooth Yes Yes
Smart Home Controls Yes Yes
Smart Home Hub Yes with Certified for Humans program Yes with Zigbee hub
Music Streaming Yes Yes
Pair Multiple for Stereo Sound Yes Yes
Free audio calls to the U.S., Mexico, and Canada Yes Yes
Finishes Fabric (4 colors - charcoal, heather gray, sandstone, twilight blue) Fabric (3 colors - charcoal, heather gray, sandstone)

Echo chamber

The original Echo Plus was introduced in the fall of 2017 at a time when there were a number of competing smart home protocols and standards. Its value proposition was that it included a built-in Zigbee hub to better allow Alexa to work with various smart devices since Zigbee was arguably the most popular smart home protocol.

The Plus was refreshed the following fall, and given a new design to better reflect the softer aesthetic Amazon was going for. It was one of the few Echos that were not updated this year, and with the introduction of the Certified by Humans program, we wonder how long this particular Echo will stick around in the lineup.

Despite Amazon's attempts to extend the Echo devices line from the plug-sized Echo Flex to the full-on entertainment mini-monitor of the Echo Show, the original namesake Echo has kept a spot in the lineup once again. Amazon says that it improved the "sound architecture" on the Echo (3rd Gen) with a larger tweeter and bigger woofer to make it comparable to the Echo Plus (2nd Gen), and the device now has a softened look to better match the Echo Dot and even the Show lines. And what else do you do when you want to generate interest in a minor refresh? You introduce a new color! We really love the twilight blue and hope that look comes to more Echo devices.

Bottom line

As we noted in our comparison of the all-new Echo Dot with Clock versus the Echo Dot (3rd Gen), we think Amazon made the decision here pretty easy when it comes to choosing between the Echo (3rd Gen) or the Echo Plus (2nd Gen). By beefing up the sound quality of the "regular" Echo (3rd Gen), moving the styling towards that of the Echo Plus (2nd Gen), and introducing a new program called Certified by Humans that facilitates easier smart home setup, it's getting difficult to justify purchasing the Echo Plus (2nd Gen) for $50 more.

If you are choosing between these two devices, it seems pretty clear that the Echo (3rd Gen) is the device to get.

Time to upgrade

Echo (3rd Gen)

Better sound and cooler colors

The 3rd gen Echo is built for better sound with a softer, plusher look that comes in four colors, including the soft new twilight blue.

Smart home hub

Echo Plus (2nd Gen)

Smart home support with solid speakers

The Echo Plus was one of the first Echo devices to really step up its sound game while making strides to better support smart home device integration.

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