It's hard to believe that the first Amazon Echo was released over five years ago, and since then, it's evolved from a standalone smart speaker into an entire ecosystem of radically different products. You'll find an Echo on just about every website and in every store these days, but with so many different models to choose from, how do you know which one is best for you? Well, we're experts on Amazon's Echo lineup, and below you'll find a detailed guide on buying an Alexa-powered speaker or screen for your smart home. We think the Echo Dot (3rd Gen) is the best choice for most folks, but if that's not your cup of tea, there are plenty of other options to choose from. Let's dive in.
- Best Overall: Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)
- Best Alternative: Amazon Echo Dot with Clock
- Best Mid-Range Speaker: Amazon Echo (3rd Gen)
- Best for Music: Amazon Echo Studio
- Best for Smart Homes: Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen)
- Best for Bass: Amazon Echo Sub
- Best for Kids: Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition
- Best for Old Speakers: Amazon Echo Input
- Best for Alexa Super Fans: Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen)
- Best Mid-Range Display: Amazon Echo Show 8
- Best Affordable Display: Amazon Echo Show 5
- Best on the move: Amazon Echo Buds
Best Overall — Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)
Start simple. If you're just not sure about this whole Alexa thing and really don't know how much you'll get out of an Amazon Echo, it's best to not spend a lot of money. So start with an Echo Dot!
The Echo Dot is insanely affordable, and the 3rd Gen model we have right now is better than ever. Its built-in speaker is louder and clearer, the new fabric design comes in four great colors (Charcoal, Heather Gray, Sandstone, and Plum), and it performs all of the same Alexa commands found on the more expensive speakers.
Another pro tip here is to keep an eye out for available bundles. Whether you're buying more than one Echo Dot at once or pairing it with something like the Amazon Smart Plug or Fire TV, you can usually find some sort of promo to save you a bit of coin.
The best bang-for-your-buck Echo.
Overall, the Echo Dot (3rd Gen) is the best Echo you can buy. It's compact, looks great, and has an outstanding price.
Best Alternative — Amazon Echo Dot with Clock
The idea behind the Echo Dot with Clock is simple. Take what makes the regular Echo Dot so great, add a digital clock, and call it a day.
That may sound a bit silly, but in reality, it results in the Echo Dot with Clock being one of the most appealing speakers in the Echo lineup. It's just a few more dollars than the regular Echo Dot, and along with showing you the time, the LED display can also showcase the outdoor temperature and any timers you have going.
That's a lot of extra functionality for such a small price hike, making the Echo Dot with Clock one of our top recommendations.
The runner-up to the best overall Echo speaker.
This is basically the Echo Dot (3rd) Gen, but with an LED display that shows the time, outdoor temperature, and ongoing timers.
Best Mid-Range Speaker — Amazon Echo (3rd Gen)
The Amazon Echo is the speaker that started it all. This is the third iteration of Amazon's classic smart speaker, and generation three is the best we've seen.
Amazon seriously upgraded the sound quality for ths model, with the Echo delivering 360-degree audio that's powered by Dolby. It's loud, booming, and makes everything from music to podcasts sound outstanding. You can fine-tune the audio with the available EQ settings, or pair two of these together for stereo sound.
We also love the fabric design, responsive microphones for Alexa voice commands, and playback controls on the top of it.
Best Mid-Range Speaker
The best mid-range Echo speaker.
If you want a mid-range speaker, the Echo (3rd Gen) is really compelling. It sounds fantastic and has a pretty solid price to boot.
Best for Music — Amazon Echo Studio
If you want an Echo speaker that'll make your music sound as good as can be, the Echo Studio fits the bill perfectly. This is Amazon's premier Echo speaker in regards to sound quality, featuring an array of five speakers that kick out impressive bass, midrange, and highs.
Dolby's Atmos technology is included to round out the listening experience, along with a feature that allows the Studio to sense the room it's in and adapt its speakers accordingly for the best experience.
The Echo Studio also has smarts over some of its siblings, thanks to the built-in Zigbee hub that allows supported smart home devices to connect directly to the Studio rather than another hub you need to place somewhere in your home.
Best for Music
The best-sounding Alexa speaker you can get.
Amazon's Echo Studio sounds phenomenal. It has five speakers, Dolby Atmos support, and more for incredibly-sounding tunes.
Best for Smart Homes — Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen)
Want a top-notch Echo experience? That's where the Echo Plus comes in. Featuring a stunning fabric design and great speakers, the Echo Plus impresses.
The highlight of the Echo Plus is its ability to serve as a smart home hub — if the devices you're looking to support use Zigbee to connect (you're forgiven if you don't know what Zigbee is — it's not something an end-user should ever have to worry about). It likely won't solve all your smart home problems, but it's a nice little addition nonetheless.
Best for Smart Homes
The best Echo speaker for smart homes.
The Echo Plus has packs quite the punch. Along with great audio, it also acts as a Zigbee hub for supported smart home gadgets.
Best for Bass — Amazon Echo Sub
Unlike the other Echo devices on this list, the Echo Sub doesn't actually serve as a standalone Alexa speaker. Instead, it's designed to sync up with your other Echo devices and supplement their audio with powerful bass thanks to its 6-inch subwoofer.
You can pair the Echo Sub with an Echo or Echo Plus to drastically improve your music jamming sessions, or pair it with two Echos or Echo Pluses for a 2.1 surround sound system.
While the Echo Sub isn't cheap, it's a great way to enhance your Echo setup if you want to take your music to the next level.
Best for Bass
The best bass in an Echo speaker.
While not a standalone speaker, the Echo Sub works with other Echo devices to provide big, booming bass for all your music.
Best for Kids — Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition
Amazon has an Echo Dot that is made especially for kids, and it was most recently updated to be based on the third-generation Echo Dot with its better-sounding speaker and nicer fabric-based design. Of course, this being for kids, it comes in two colorful new hues, including rainbow and an Alexa-friendly blue. Plus, each unit comes with one year of Amazon Freetime Unlimited.
That's the part that justifies its price tag, which is a bit more than the Echo Dot at retail. Amazon Freetime Unlimited gives you (and your kid) access to a whole bunch of kid-friendly content, including books, music, audiobooks, podcasts, games, and more.
Plus parents get access to the Amazon Parent Dashboard, which lets you set how long the kid can use any of this newfangled tech. It'll also block non-kid-friendly content, shut off the Echo Dot at bedtime, and teach your kids to remember to say please and thank-you to not-quite-sentient tech (we have a feeling that'll be more important than we realize).
Best for Kids
An Echo Dot designed just for kids
Need an Echo for your kids? The Echo Dot Kids Edition has a fun design and helpful tools that parents and kids alike will love.
Best for Old Speakers — Amazon Echo Input
Echo speakers are great, but what if you already have a collection of dumb speakers that you don't want to completely replace? With the Echo Input, you can add full Alexa capabilities to any speaker for just a few bucks.
The Echo Input connects to your speakers via a 3.5mm cable or Bluetooth and has an array of microphones that are always listening for the "Alexa" command. You can ask the Input anything you'd ask a regular Echo speaker, and once it hears you, it'll kick back its response through the speakers it's connected to.
Alternatively, if you've been eyeing a new speaker that doesn't support Alexa, you can buy it and the Input together and be ready to go from day one (Amazon has a few bundles like this on its website).
Best for Old Speakers
The best Echo for old speakers.
If you have old speakers you really love, get the Echo Input. It brings Alexa smarts to your existing hardware, and it works great.
Best for Alexa Super Fans — Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen)
All of the Echo speakers we've talked about so far are great, but there's something they've all been missing — a screen. With the Amazon Echo Show, you get all the power of Alexa in addition to a screen that can be used to view the weather, calendar appointments, make video calls, and even watch Amazon Prime Video.
The original Echo Show failed to live up to the hype Amazon created for it, but the 2nd Gen version proved to be well worth the wait. The screen is a lot bigger despite the overall body of the Echo Show being smaller, the speakers are ridiculously good, and the build quality is top notch. Also, just like the Echo Plus, the Echo Show can double as a smart home hub for compatible devices.
The Echo Show's definitely not cheap, but if you want the best Echo money can buy, this is it.
Best for Alexa Super Fans
The most powerful, and expensive, Echo you can get.
For you Alexa super fans, the Echo Show (2nd Gen) is for you. It's big, loud, and powerful in all the right ways.
Best Mid-Range Display — Amazon Echo Show 8
Sitting in between the Echo Show and Show 5 is the Echo Show 8. This is Amazon's middle-of-the-road smart display, and for some buyers, it just may be the perfect one.
The Echo Show 8 comes equipped with an 8-inch display with a crisp resolution of 1280 x 800. You get two 2-inch speakers that kick out 10W of power per channel, along with a 1MP camera for video chats. When you want some added privacy, there's a physical shutter that goes over the camera — as things should be.
For the price, the Show 8 is pretty great. It's larger and sounds better than the Show 5, but is considerably more affordable than the flagship Echo Show.
Best Mid-Range Display
The best middle-of-the-road Echo display.
We love the Echo Show 8. The display looks great, it sounds pretty good, and the price is perfect. What's not to like?
Best Affordable Display — Amazon Echo Show 5
The Echo Show is big and it's expensive. The Echo Show 5, however, is neither of those things. The newly-announced miniature version of the Echo Show maintains that product's core features but shrinks everything down to a 5-inch screen and a much less powerful speaker.
The makes it perfect for putting on a bedside table or tucked behind a kitchen appliance. It also has a small camera to facilitate Skype calls and, of course, the microphones are fantastic for an awesome Alexa experience.
Costing less than the other two Shows, this could be the best Echo experience for the price.
Best Affordable Display
The best Echo display that's super affordable.
The cheapest display in the Echo lineup is the Show 5, and for folks that want the smallest Echo screen out there, it fits the bill.
Best on the move — Amazon Echo Buds
One of the frustrating parts of the Echo/Alexa experience has been the inability to bring your favorite Amazon smart assistant with you, wherever you may go. The Echo Buds do a great job at handling calls, and sound pretty increadible for the price.
These earbuds feature Active Noise Reduction (powered by Bose technology), and also allow you to hear the world around you via a Passthrough mode that you can adjust to your preferences. Hands-free Alexa is super convenient, but if that's not your cup of tea you can invoke Google Assistant or Siri at a tap.
These earbuds look a bit chunky, but they are very comforable in the ear. We've worn them on multiple runs, hikes, and trips to the gym, and they have never managed to fall out. For the price, these smart earbuds are hard to beat!
Best on the move
Be connected to Alexa wherever you are.
These wireless earbuds feel great and sound great, and you'll love having Alexa whispering sweet nothings in your ears. With Active Noise Reduction, outside ambient Passthrough sound, and in-app EQ settings, they're fairly full featured as well..
Best for the Car — Amazon Echo Auto
Ever wish that you could bring Alexa into your car? That's exactly what Amazon wants to do with the Echo Auto.
The Echo Auto is a little piece of plastic that sits on top of your dashboard and connects to your car's speakers. Once set up, you can talk to it and use all Alexa commands for streaming music, making calls, checking the weather, etc.
We certainly recommend keeping your eyes and mind on the road at all times, but for those instances where you need to talk to Alexa for whatever reason, having the Echo Auto can be quite handy.
Best for the Car
Bring Alexa inside your car.
Who says Alexa has to stay in the house? With the Echo Auto, you can easily bring the assistant on your next road trip.
Best for Home Theater Nerds — Amazon Echo Link/Link Amp
Have a high-end stereo system that you want to upgrade with some streaming smarts? That's where the Echo Link and Link Amp come into play.
When connected to your sound system, the Link and Link Amp allow you to seamlessly stream music from services like Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and more.
Where the Echo Link depends on you having your own amplifier, the Link Amp has a built-in amp (as the name suggests) to give you an all-in-one solution for a higher price.
With so many different Echos being offered, it's kind of impossible to say that one of these is 100% better than everything else. Everyone has different wants/needs, and as such, everyone will gravitate to a certain Echo device that speaks to them the most. With that said, we do think that the Echo Dot (3rd Gen) offers the best overall experience, all things considered.
The Echo Dot is one of the cheapest Echos that Amazon sells, and even so, it's a joy to use. You can place it in virtually any room thanks to the compact size, the fabric design looks gorgeous, and for having such a small form factor, it's shocking how good the speaker sounds.
Considering the price that Amazon's asking for the Echo Dot, you can buy a few of them, scatter them throughout your entire home, and come out the other end without having blown through your bank account.
Echo Show 8 vs. Echo Show 5
The Echo Show 8 and Show 5 are Amazon's two most appealing smart displays, largely thanks to their wide feature set and low prices. Both are fantastic smart displays, but we have to give the upper-hand to the Show 8.
Amazon struck gold with the Echo Show 8. It has a display that's big enough for comfortable content consumption while being in a small enough form factor so that it's easy to put in just about any room. The display is also crisp and colorful, the speakers are great, and you get a video camera with a physical cover to hide it. Add all of that together with the low price, and you have a winner on your hands.
The Show 5 stands out thanks to its ultra-compact design and even lower price, but for just a few dollars more, the Show 8 delivers a better-looking screen and better-sounding speakers. If space is limited, however, the Show 5 probably makes more sense.
Echo Dot (3rd Gen) vs. Echo Dot with Clock
You can't go wrong with an Echo Dot. The Dot series is Amazon's cheapest and most popular for Echo speakers, and right now, the two highlights are the Echo Dot (3rd Gen) and Echo Dot with Clock.
With the Echo Dot (3rd Gen), you're getting a lot of speaker for not a lot of money. It fits anywhere, has a great design, sounds better than you'd expect, and works with every Alexa command out there. There's a reason this thing has become as popular as it is.
The Echo Dot (3rd Gen) is an easy purchase, but if you spend just a little more, the Echo Dot with Clock makes things pretty interesting. It does everything the regular Dot does, but its LED display serves as a showcase for the time, outdoor temperature, and a timer countdown. That may not sound like a lot, but for all of those times when you want to quickly glance and see what time it is, the Echo Dot with Clock does that automatically and saves you a voice command in the process.
Echo Studio vs Echo Plus (2nd Gen)
Amazon's Echo Plus used to stand out as Amazon's best-sounding Echo speaker, but that title now belongs to the Echo Studio. The Echo Studio is big, bulky, expensive, and sounds insanely good. If you're an audiophile, it's the Echo speaker you want.
So, where does that leave the Echo Plus? The Echo Plus still sounds great, and it also still has the built-in Zigbee hub that makes it a solid choice for smart-home enthusiasts. This is something you'll also find in the Echo Studio, but the Plus benefits from a smaller size and lower price.
You'll get the best audio experience with the Echo Studio, but if you're mostly interested in the Zigbee hub and want to spend as little as possible, the Plus is still a great purchase.
Echo Plus (2nd Gen) vs Echo (3rd Gen)
At first glance, you may not be able to tell the difference between the Echo Plus (2nd Gen) and the Echo (3rd Gen), and that appears to be intentional. When Amazon refreshed the "regular" Echo (3rd Gen) in late 2019, it even called this out, saying that the device was inheriting the "sound architecture" of the earlier Echo Plus (2nd Gen), along with the Plus's more plush, softer design.
The biggest (and only real) difference between these two Echos is the fact that the Echo Plus (2nd Gen) has a built-in Zigbee smart hub, which allows it to communicate more easily with more smart home products right out of the box. This increased functionality results in a slightly higher price over the Echo (3rd Gen), but we question whether it's worth the additional money. Amazon has introduced a new Certified for Humans program which promises easier setup and use of smart home devices with its Echo products, so having a built-in smarthome hub is not the selling point it once seemd to be.
Echo Show 5 vs. Echo Show (2nd Gen)
While it may seem obvious, choosing between the larger Echo Show and the new smaller Echo Show 5 is quite difficult. The former has a massive 10-inch screen and a super-loud, bass-heavy speaker to go with it. If you're into music at all, the Echo Show (2nd Gen) is the one to get.
However, if you value space, or have another speaker for music, the Echo Show 5 is a perfect compromise. You still get a bright, decently-sized display that can show you the news, weather, and any Echo-related updates you may want to see. There's also a camera for Skype video conferencing, and the price is more palatable.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Joe Maring is Android Central's News Editor and has had a love for anything with a screen and CPU since he can remember. He's been talking/writing about Android in one form or another since 2012, and often does so while camping out at the nearest coffee shop. Have a tip? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Daniel Bader is the Managing Editor of Android Central. As he's writing this, a mountain of old Android phones is about to fall on his head, but his Great Dane will protect him. He drinks way too much coffee and sleeps too little. He wonders if there's a correlation.
Jeramy Johnson is proud to help to Keep Austin Weird and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about Amazon products and services, he's defending his relationship with his side-chick Alexa to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.
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