Amazon Echo (3rd Gen) vs. Echo Plus (2nd Gen): Which should you buy?

Amazon Echo 3rd Gen lineup
Amazon Echo 3rd Gen lineup (Image credit: Android Central)

Amazon Echo (3rd Gen)

Amazon Echo 3rd Gen Sandstone

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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 color options.

Amazon Echo (3rd Gen)

Standard-bearer gets better

Plush styling like Echo Plus (2nd Gen)
Much improved sound architecture
More color options
Sits in weird middle ground of Echo lineup
No smart display or LED clock functionality

Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen)

Echo Plus 2nd Gen official render

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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.

Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen)

Smart speaker with home hub

Zigbee hub built-in for easy control of smart products
Premium sound compared to smaller Echos
Available with a free smart bulb
Possibly irrelevant with the new Echo (3rd Gen) release
Zigbee hub feature not something many will understand

If you compare the all-new Echo (3rd Gen) vs. the Echo Plus (2nd Gen), you may be a bit confused at first. After all, the all-new Echo doesn't look that different from the Echo Plus. 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's Certified for Humans program to make smart home setup easier, where does that leave the aging Echo Plus (2nd Gen) with its built-in Zigbee hub?

All New Echo vs. Echo Plus: 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 often see older devices listed as "Currently Unavailable" on Amazon's website, save for third-party sellers, or refurbished items. The Echo Plus (2nd Gen) is technically a different 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.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Echo (3rd Gen)Echo Plus (2nd Gen)
Size5.8" x 3.9" x 3.9"5.8" x 3.9" x 3.9"
Weight27.5 oz27.5 oz
Far-field MicrophonesYesYes
Speakers.8" tweeter and 3" woofer.8" tweeter and 3" woofer
Dolby ProcessingYesYes
Line-out with 3.5 mm cable or BluetoothYesYes
Smart Home ControlsYesYes
Smart Home HubYes with Certified for Humans programYes with Zigbee hub
Music StreamingYesYes
Pair Multiple for Stereo SoundYesYes
Free audio calls to the U.S., Mexico, and CanadaYesYes
FinishesFabric (4 colors - charcoal, heather gray, sandstone, twilight blue)Fabric (3 colors - charcoal, heather gray, sandstone)

All New Echo vs. Echo Plus: Echo chamber

The original Echo Plus was introduced in the fall of 2017 at a time when there were several 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 reflect better 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) to the full-on entertainment mini-monitor of the Echo Show (opens in new tab), 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 love the twilight blue and hope that look comes to more Echo devices.

All New Echo vs. Echo Plus: 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 and wondering which is the best Alexa speaker, it seems pretty clear that the Echo (3rd Gen) is the device to get.