A complete guide to the Amazon Echo family, the smart speakers that will change your home forever

source
Shutterstock

  • Amazon currently sells several Echo devices.
  • If you’re considering buying one, it can be hard to decide between them.
  • Here’s a guide to the Echo family, and which device to buy depending on your lifestyle.

These days, it’s hard to keep all the Amazon Echo devices straight.

Amazon offers six Echo devices total, and they’re available from $50 all the way up to $230. With so many different options and price points, it’s hard to tell which device might be right for you.

So whether you’re looking to buy your first Echo, upgrade to a new device, or add to your smart speaker collection, here is a comprehensive guide to Amazon’s Echo family to help you find the device that’s right for you:


If you just want to dip a toe in the smart-speaker waters: Echo Dot.

source
Amazon

The Echo Dot is Amazon’s gateway smart speaker. It’s tiny, easy to use, and only costs $50 (and it’s often on sale for even less than that). Amazon revamped the Echo Dot this past September, and it’s better-looking than ever before.

The Dot can do many standard smart speaker tasks, like play music, make calls, order products from Amazon, and control your smart home devices.

But the Dot doesn’t have a very powerful speaker, so it’s not a great solution if you’re just looking for a solid Bluetooth speaker.

And while it can easily be a standalone device, it also works great when combined with a full-size Amazon Echo – you can have your Echo live in one room, and place Echo Dots in other rooms throughout your house.


If you want the device that does it all: Amazon Echo.

The Echo is the first mainstream – and arguably most successful – smart speaker you can buy. The device launched in 2014, and has since helped Amazon dominate the smart-speaker game – as of September 2017, analysts estimated that Amazon owned 76% of the smart-home market.

Three years after launch, the Echo was due for an upgrade. So in September, Amazon revamped the original Echo, introducing a second-generation version with new finishes and a reduced price tag of $100.

The new Echo has dual speakers, so it’s a good option for playing music. With the new device, Amazon introduced multi-room audio, so you can play music from several Echo devices at once across rooms. The new Echo also has a powerful built-in Alexa, so it can also make calls, check the weather and traffic, request an Uber, or turn down the heat.

The original Echo does it all, and it’s likely the best option for most people.


If you’re ready to start a smart home: Amazon Echo Plus

source
Avery Hartmans

With more and more smart-home products coming online, it can be overwhelming to try to control them all. Enter the Amazon Echo Plus, which acts as a smart-home hub.

Amazon redesigned the Echo Plus in September, giving it the same fabric-coated exterior as the standard Echo. The Plus, as its name denotes, is more powerful than the standard Echo, and costs $50 more at $150. But it can do many of the same things, like play music, send messages, and give you a daily news briefing.

What sets the Plus apart is its ability to control other “smart” devices. You can say, “Alexa, discover my devices,” and it will find anything else online, like smart light bulbs or locks, and set them up for you. Plus, you’ll be able to give the device a single voice command to control multiple actions from multiple devices at once. And if the internet goes down, the Echo Plus can still control your smart home devices using a feature called local voice control.

Other Echo devices control your smart home, too, but the Echo Plus lets you integrate everything into one place with no need to download any of the “skills” you’d need to operate those features on the standard Echo.

And if you’re in the market for a better speaker for playing music, the Echo Plus may be a good option. Amazon improved the speakers on the new device to provide crisper vocals and better bass.


If you’re a clothes horse, a fashion blogger, or just need some help getting dressed: Amazon Echo Look

source
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for IMG

The Echo Look is an Alexa-enabled camera that can take full-length photos or videos of you, help you build a “personal lookbook,” and give a second opinion on your outfit.

By saying, “Alexa, take a picture” or “Alexa, take a video,” the device uses its depth-sensing camera and LED lighting to capture your look and create a lookbook of all your outfits. Amazon even built in “computer vision-based background blur” to make your outfit photos look more high-quality.

The device’s app also has a feature called Style Check, which uses machine learning and a team of “fashion specialists” to help you compare two looks and decide which one is better.

The Echo Look can do many of the things a standard Echo can do, too. It can check your calendar, set timers, play music, control your smart home, and more.

The device was Amazon’s first specialized device, and it’s pretty clear that the Look isn’t for everyone – it began as an invitation-only device, but it’s now available for anyone to buy for $100.


If you want all the features of a tablet combined with Alexa: Amazon Echo Show

source
Amazon

The $230 Echo Show is the most high-end Amazon device on the market, mainly because it can do it all.

The Echo Show debuted in 2017, but it got a face-lift last September – now, it has a bigger screen and better speakers.

Like the Echo and Echo Plus, the Show has a full-service Alexa built in, smart-home controls, and music streaming.

But the Echo Show also has a seven-inch screen, which means you can watch videos and make video calls using the the device. You can also access a lot of popular Echo features in video form, like video flash briefings, on-screen music lyrics while you’re streaming music, and visual weather forecasts and to-do lists.

You can also use the Echo Show to display your photos or see feeds from your security cameras or baby monitors. Like the Plus, the Show can serve a smart home hub.

There’s one major limitation of the Echo Show, unfortunately: Due to the standoff between Amazon and Google, you can’t watch YouTube videos on the device.


If you want a high-powered alarm clock: Amazon Echo Spot

The Echo Spot is one of Amazon’s newest devices, and arguably the best-looking one. The Spot – which costs $130 – is about the size of a softball, comes in black or white, and features a round screen.

The Spot is a good option for your bedside table, desk, or kitchen counter, much like the Dot, but it has a screen like the Show. On the surface, it actually seems like a fancy, tech-enabled alarm clock.

The Spot can do a bit more than tell the time, though. The device has Alexa built in, can play videos – which looks pretty unusual on a round screen – and it can make video calls to other Echo devices with screens, or anyone with the Alexa smartphone app.

Much like the Show, the Spot can also handle video news flash briefings, set a visual timer, or show you the forecast. You’ll also be able to watch live video feeds on the Spot and control your smart home.

The Spot is also limited, however, in what videos it can play, and has a much smaller screen than the Show.


Bonus: Fire TV Cube, for when you want a two-in-one device.

source
Amazon

The Fire TV Cube isn’t technically in the Echo family, but it does do a lot of the same things – and more.

The device seems aimed at becoming something of a hub, a place where your home technology and your entertainment technology live together in harmony. The Cube has Alexa built in, so it can do all of the same things that a standard Echo can do. But the device can also work like a streaming stick, meaning you can plug it into your TV and watch Prime Video, Hulu, and more. The best part? You can use Alexa to control what’s playing on your TV, switch inputs, and even change channels on live TV.

The Fire TV Cube originally cost $120, but it’s often on sale for less. Right now, you can get it for $80.