Amazon has released a wide variety of Echo devices since the release of the first-generation Echo back in 2014. The smart speaker market has changed significantly over the years, but we think Alexa still dominates when it comes to smart home integration thanks to the innumerable Alexa Skills out there. And there are more ways to bring Alexa into your home than any other digital assistant, and it’s getting increasingly difficult to keep an eye on the growing number of Echo devices.
If you’re overwhelmed by all the Echo devices out there, then we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll break down the best of the best Alexa-compatible devices available right now to help you figure out which Amazon Echo device is best for you.
Navigate this article:
- Overall best Echo speaker: Amazon Echo (4th gen)
- Best Echo speaker for beginners: Amazon Echo Dot (4th gen)
- Best Echo speaker for kids: Amazon Echo Dot (4th gen) kids
- Best Echo speaker for music: Amazon Echo Studio
- Best smart display: Echo Show 8 (2nd gen)
Overall best Echo speaker: Amazon Echo (4th gen)
There’s no shortage of Echo speakers on the market but we think the Amazon Echo (4th gen) is the best option overall. It’s perfect for those who are looking to pick up a reliable smart speaker that also sounds good. As we mentioned in our Amazon Echo (4th gen) review, it’s worth the extra spend over the Echo Dot for music lovers because it packs a punch with its three-speaker setup delivering big sound. Its audio output is not nearly as powerful as the Echo Studio, but there’s still plenty to like, especially for its size and the asking price.
The design of the Echo (4th gen), as you can see, is also a lot different from some of the previous cylindrical Echo speakers. The new spherical ball design looks pretty neat, with the controls laid on top for easy access. The move to a spherical design does mean the new Amazon Echo speaker is a lot wider than any of its predecessors, but we think the overall form-factor of the Echo (4th gen) is perfect for most setups and rooms. It’s not too small like the Echo Dot, nor is it obnoxiously big like the Echo Sub. You can easily place one of these in each room of your house without worrying about it grabbing too much attention.
The Amazon Echo (4th gen) comes with full support for Alexa, meaning you can use your voice to interact with Amazon’s digital voice assistant to play music, get information from the web, control your smart home devices, and more. You can easily pair it with your Android phone or an iPhone via the Alexa app and start using it. It’s also fairly easy to pair a bunch of these Echo speakers to create a group and play music on all of them simultaneously. You can also pair two Echos to create a stereo pair and use it with your TV.
Another interesting thing about the Amazon Echo is that it comes with a built-in Zigbee smart hub. A local Zigbee hub, for those that don’t know, doesn’t require a data connection to connect with compatible devices like the Philips Hue lights, for instance. Alexa is still great and will work as advertised but having a built-in Zigbee hub makes it that much more versatile. The Amazon Echo doesn’t leave a lot of room to complain about, but if we were to nitpick, then we would’ve liked an Amazon Echo variant with an LED clock, similar to the Echo Dot. It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, although it does seem like a glaring omission for a speaker that’s so similar to the Echo Dot in almost every other way.
Overall, though, the Amazon Echo is an excellent speaker that’s very easy for us to recommend if you’re shopping for a smart speaker and you only have $100 to spare. It may not be the best-sounding Echo speaker out there, but it’ll get the job done for the most part.
Best Echo speaker for beginners: Amazon Echo Dot (4th gen)
If you want to test the waters with the smallest, most affordable Echo speaker then we think the Echo Dot is worth checking out. It’s essentially just a shrunken-down version of the regular Amazon Echo (4th gen), but that’s not really a bad thing for beginners. We say that because you get all the essential features to get started with smart speakers, and it also sounds surprisingly good for its size. The smaller Echo Dot doesn’t get all the bells and whistles as the regular Amazon Echo, but the overall user experience is going to be largely the same, especially if you’re new to the world of smart home devices.
You pair the Echo Dot to an Android phone or an iPhone, the same way you’d pair the regular Echo speaker. You can also pair multiple Echo Dots together and create a stereo setup or even bigger groups to play music simultaneously. The fact that you can get two Echo Dot speakers for the price of just one regular Echo makes it great for those who want to add a bunch of Alexa-enabled Echo speakers in their house.
Compared to the regular Amazon Echo, the Echo Dot lacks a built-in Zigbee hub, meaning all your connected smart home devices will need to work with Alexa. But that’s really the only missing feature here, and we don’t think it’s a deal-breaker considering the size and the asking price of the Echo Dot. In terms of the design, the Echo Dot is also a spherical ball now with a flat base to rest on. Yes, it is physically bigger than the older Echo Dots that came out before it, but it’s still small enough to blend in nicely within most setups.
You can purchase the Echo Dot in Charcoal, Blue, and White colors, all of which have physical controls on the top, a power port and a 3.5mm audio jack at the back, and an LED ring at the bottom. Notably, you can also spend $10 more to get the Echo Dot with Clock. It’s essentially the same speaker as the regular Echo Dot, except this one has a neat LED on the front to tell you the time. It comes in handy if you want to keep one of these on your bedside to quickly glance at the time when it’s dark.
Despite the relatively small form factor, the Echo Dot packs a punch in the audio department. Unlike the regular Echo speaker, the Echo Dot only packs a single driver but it’s powerful enough to fill a small-sized room. You can always pair multiple Echo Dots or even an Echo Studio to get better audio output for your room. You can learn more about the audio quality and a lot of other features with great detail in our Amazon Echo Dot (4th gen) review, so be sure to check it out. The Echo Dot (4th gen) also supports Alexa, which means you can use this tiny speaker to control all your smart home devices too.
Alternate best starter device for beginners: Echo Flex
The Echo Flex is also a good device to consider if you’re looking to buy a tiny smart speaker for your room. It’s a plug-in Echo device that lets you use your voice to control compatible smart home devices. Think of it as a tiny Echo speaker which plugs right into the wall socket. And because it’s cheaper than even the Echo Dot, it’s relatively affordable to buy a bunch of these and add Alexa to all the rooms in your house if that’s something you want.
The Flex is also good for those who don’t necessarily want to use an Echo speaker for listening to music but want something handy to summon Alexa and control smart home devices. If you already have a good set of speakers, for instance, you can simply buy an Echo Flex and plug it into the wall socket. Not only will it save you some money, but it’ll also save you the hassle of making space for another speaker.
One of the best things about the Echo Flex is that it also has a USB port to charge a phone, and it can accept add-on modules too. You can either add a motion detector and have it trigger an Alexa Routine when a motion is detected. Alternatively, you can also buy the night light add-on with dimmable, color LEDs. Both of these are relatively affordable add-ons that can greatly increase the functionality of the Echo Flex.
The audio quality of the Echo Flex speaker isn’t great, so it’s not a replacement for the Echo Dot. We don’t recommend picking up the Echo Flex for listening to music because it’s not going to be any better than, say, an average quality smartphone speaker. It’s loud enough to fill a small-sized room with music, but it lacks any form of bass or fidelity. You can, however, connect a better speaker to it via a 3.5mm connector or use pair a Bluetooth speaker for better audio output.
Long story short, the Echo Flex shines as an always-listening Alexa device that can control your smart home devices. It only has two microphones — fewer than seven microphones you find inside an Echo Dot — but they should be enough to catch your voice from a short distance away. The add-ons can make the Echo Flex more useful but it’s best used as a voice control access point for your Alexa-enabled smart home devices. You’re still better off buying an Echo Dot if you’re looking for an affordable Alexa-enabled Echo speaker, so keep that in mind while making a purchase decision.
Best Echo speaker for kids: Amazon Echo Dot (4th gen) kids
If you decide to buy a smart speaker for your kids at home then we think the Amazon Echo Dot (4th gen) Kids edition is a good choice to consider. The Kids Edition costs $10 more than the regular Echo Dot, but it essentially has the same hardware. The Kids Edition comes with a fun Tiger or Panda print on the fabric, as you can see in the image above, so it looks different from your regular Echo Dot speakers that are only available in solid colors with no design elements.
For the additional cost, the Echo Dot for kids comes with an Amazon Parent dashboard with parental controls. You also get a two-year guarantee just like the Amazon Fire Kids tablets. The two-year guarantee means you can get a no-questions-asked replacement in case your kids decide to, you know, use the Echo Dot as a ball. Additionally, you also get a year’s subscription to Amazon Kids+ with a collection of kid-friendly filtered content.
Amazon says it’s working around the clock to make Alexa more kid-friendly. You may hear some custom responses from Alexa but the overall experience is largely going to be the same. The regular Echo speakers don’t really get an unfiltered version of Alexa that’s not safe to be used in front of kids, so don’t expect to see a huge difference here. Amazon has made it a point to disable some standard Alexa features on the Kids Edition of the Echo Dot, though. This includes voice purchasing to keep your kids from placing random orders of toys and games from Amazon with their voice. Explicit lyrics from on Amazon Music, Apple Music, or Spotify are also blocked by default, which is good.
Besides the added benefits that we’ve mentioned above, the Echo Dot (4th gen) Kids Edition is exactly the same as the regular Echo Dot. The overall audio output of this speaker is great and it also works well with voice commands. In terms of the actual hardware itself, you get the same set of physical controls on the top, a 3.5mm audio jack at the back, and an LED ring at the bottom towards the base.
Overall, the Echo Dot (4th gen) kids is a great smart speaker for kids. Whether you want your younglings to have a smart speaker in their room is entirely up to you, but if you decide to buy them one right now then let it be the Amazon Echo Dot (4th gen) Kids Edition.
Best Echo speaker for music: Amazon Echo Studio
Amazon’s current crop of Echo speakers all sounds great for the most part, if you truly want to enjoy listening to music then we think you should consider buying the Echo Studio. While we think it’s due for an update to go against some other premium speakers on the market, it’s still got 350 watts of power and a downward-firing subwoofer to pump out the best audio in the Echo lineup of speakers. It’s a significant upgrade over the Echo Sub and it’s also a lot better than other Echo speakers in the audio department. For $200, it’s the most expensive Echo speaker you can right now, but it’s relatively cheaper compared to plenty of other Alexa-enabled third-party speakers out there.
As for the hardware itself, it Echo Studio stands roughly eight-inch tall and is about seven-inch wide. It’s also a fabric-covered cylinder just like the Echo Sub that came out a year before. The Studio, however, packs better audio drivers compared to the Sub. It has five drivers in total, including a 5.25-inch downward-firing woofer, a one-inch forward-facing tweeter, and three two-inch midrange speakers firing audio on the left, right, and the top. All these drivers are powered by a 330-watt amp with a 24-bit DAC.
One of the best things about the Echo Studio is that it’s a standalone speaker that works independently without having to rely on other Echo speakers for a connection. Unlike the Echo Sub, this one comes with full support for Alexa, meaning you can control your smart home devices or play music and get other information with just your voice. The Echo Studio even has the Zigbee hub built into it that lets you directly connect smart home devices. In terms of the hardware, you get physical controls on the top along with an LED ring that lets you know when you trigger Alexa.
The Echo Studio, as we mentioned earlier, is slightly bigger than other Echo speakers. It’ll take more space in your room, but it’s still smaller than the Echo Sub. Not to mention, it doesn’t need other speakers for a connection, meaning you don’t need any additional space to set up those companion speakers too.
If you find yourself torn between the Echo Sub and the Echo Studio, then we suggest you pick up the Studio. It costs more than the Echo Sub, yes, but you’re also getting a standalone speaker that sounds significantly better and even supports 3D audio. With the Echo Sub, you’ll have to spend more money on another Echo speaker to use it as it doesn’t have brains of its own. You can check out our Echo Sub vs Studio comparison if you want to learn more about the differences between these two Echo devices.
Best smart display: Echo Show 8 (2nd gen)
The Echo Show 8 (2nd gen) is a great Echo device that fits right in the middle of Amazon’s growing Echo Show product line. This is one of those products that takes everything good about the previous Echo Show devices and puts it in a form factor that makes it easy to use. The Echo Show (2nd gen) is not as big as the Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen), nor is it as small as the Echo Show 5, making it easy to watch videos or make video calls without taking too much space.
The Echo Show 8 comes with a high-quality HD screen found on the larger Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen) and it also has some powerful speakers to fill a small-sized room very easily. Notably, it also gets a lot of great privacy features including a physical camera shutter and on-screen Privacy Hub controls. Another notable addition is the 13MP camera which is the same as the one found on the Echo Show 10 (3rd gen). That’s a significant upgrade over the previous-gen Echo Show 8 which only had a 1MP camera. Not to mention, it’s also better than a lot of products from the competitors.
Echo Show 8, for those that don’t know, also comes with support for Alexa, meaning you can use it as a smart speaker to get things done. The added display also makes it that much easier to control smart home devices, in addition to helping you watch videos, take video calls, read recipes if it’s placed in your kitchen, and more.
If you’re torn between the smaller Echo Show 5, the Echo Show 8, and the relatively bigger Echo Show 10, then we’d say the Echo Show 8 sits in a sweet spot for most people. The purchase decision between three devices comes down to the screen size, some added functionality, and the price, really. The Echo Show 5 can be too small for most people, so it makes more sense to pick up the Echo Show 8 for all practical purposes. The Echo Show 10, on the other hand, can be a little too big, making it difficult to place in a lot of places within your home. It does, however, come with a rotating screen and better-sounding speakers overall, so keep that in mind.
With the Echo Show 8 (2nd), you get the same resolution display in a smaller size, so the pictures and videos are going to look more clear. You’ll also look just as good to other people while you’re on a video call because it sports the same 13MP camera found on the Echo Show 10. The Echo Show 8 (2nd gen) is a solid option to consider for most people, whereas more advanced users can opt for the Echo Show 10, provided you have a bigger space to set it up in. Meanwhile, the Echo Show 5 (2nd gen) can be a good option to consider if your kid’s room, if that’s something you want your younger ones to have.
Well, that brings us to the end of this particular Echo buying guide. We think the Amazon Echo (4th gen) is good enough for most users out there. It’s a great-sounding speaker that can fill your room with good music, and it also supports Alexa to control your smart home devices. If you’re new to the world of smart speakers, however, then we think the Echo Dot (4th gen) is a solid speaker to kick things off with. We suggest you pick up a couple of smart home products like smart bulbs and start playing with the idea of controlling your devices with an Echo before upgrading to a bigger, more expensive speaker. We’ve also added a couple of other products to the list, so be sure to check them out. Lastly, if you want to check out smart speaker options that are available on the market, then be sure to stop by our collection of the best smart speakers to see all the available items.
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