Amazon’s popular Echo family of devices keeps growing. From the first can-shaped Echo, to the big-screen Echo Show, and even the cute Echo Dot, you can get Alexa into your home any number of ways. These Echo products can answer your questions, help you order essentials for your home, play all sorts of audio content, and even function as the control hub for your burgeoning smart home.
These are our favorite Amazon Echos for every home and every budget.
Amazon Echo Plus
The Echo Plus is the best-sounding Echo. Like the cheaper second-generation Echo, it has a tweeter and subwoofer, but it sounds impressive enough to justify its $50 premium. It’s also the best version to buy if you own smart home devices, thanks to its Zigbee support. Zigbee allows it to directly connect with products in your home that use that standard form of mesh networking—a network created by daisy-chaining devices together.
Buy the Echo Plus from Amazon for $150
At $150, it’s cheaper than most other Alexa speakers, and can make audio calls, which is a useful skill most third-party Alexa devices don’t have. If music and audio quality are your jam, the Sonos One is the speaker to own, but the Echo Plus blends price and features very well. It usually comes with a Philips Hue smart light too, which is a fun bonus.
Best Echo with a Screen
Amazon Echo Show
The Echo Show is a blocky chunk of a device to look at. It’s a single 8-inch screen, angled slightly upward, with a speaker grille below it. It looks like it’s designed to sit in a kitchen, but it’s completely black and is poorly shaped to wedge into corners or tight spaces. But living with it, I quickly began to understand the appeal. When you ask it for the weather, it tells you, but it also shows you. Alexa’s daily news briefing now has video with it, giving you a quick visual dose of what’s going on in the world. You can video call with other Echo Shows or even watch Amazon Prime videos on it. Lyrics for songs on Amazon Music scroll as they play. Amazon hasn’t tapped the full potential of the Show yet, but it has a bright future.
Buy the Echo Show from Amazon for $229
The sound quality is also higher than most any other Echo, except for the Echo Plus. That includes the Echo Spot (which we gave a 6/10 when we tried it), which is an alarm clock-y lookin’ Echo with a tiny round screen.
Best Echo for Voice Only
Amazon Echo Dot
If you want an Alexa speaker, but don’t plan on rocking out with it, the Echo Dot is for you. It’s a hockey puck-shaped li’l speaker that puts out decent spoken audio, but not much else. It’s ideal if you want to double down and add Alexa access in more rooms of your home, or add voice control to your smart home gadgets.
Buy the Echo Dot from Amazon for $49
It can also smarten up some older speaker systems, and oddly enough, some new speakers are beginning to ship with cutouts specifically made so you can insert an Echo Dot right in them. It’s weird, but it proves that this $50 is a great value, and worth considering.
Other Alexa Speakers Worth Considering
This article is all about recommending the best Amazon Echo speakers, but the best way to use Alexa isn’t with an Amazon device at all. Below are three speakers that we like more than the Echo Plus, Spot, Dot, Tap, or Show, though you won’t find a screen on any of them. Find more recommendations here.
Sonos One for Supreme Sound: The Sonos One is the WIRED Gear team’s favorite smart speaker and favorite multi-room speaker (we gave it 8/10 and our WIRED Recommends seal of approval). If you’re going to buy one (or two) speakers for your home, the One is a smart bet thanks to its Wi-Fi networking that lets you string any Sonos speakers together, and robust support for nearly every music and audio app you can imagine. It will also get Google Assistant in an update later this year, if you want to try out Alexa’s biggest rival assistant. It’s available for $199 on Amazon.
Ultimate Ears Blast and Megablast for Portability: The UE Megablast (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is the best-sounding portable smart speaker we’ve tested with the longest-lasting battery. Did I mention that its waterproof, just like UE’s smaller Blast speaker, which is fantastic as well. Be sure to buy the optional charging stand. You won’t regret it. It’s available for $230 on Amazon.
Harman Kardon Allure for Bass: If you’re all about dat bass, consider the Allure (it only earned a 7/10, a respectable score). It has a huge downward-firing subwoofer that will shake up any party and has Bluetooth support if you get tired of barking orders at it. It’s $250 on Amazon.
What’s WIRED and TIRED about all Echo Speakers?
Here is the good and bad of Amazon’s own Alexa speakers, summed up.
WIRED: Amazon’s own Echo speakers with are the easiest Alexa speakers to set up. You just download the Alexa app and you’re good to go. They also have some exclusive features, like screens, audio/video calling, and Zigbee smart home support, which other Alexa speakers don’t have. Amazon’s dedication to low prices also makes them quite affordable.
TIRED: They just don’t sound great, and in our experience Alexa is not as useful as Google’s Assistant. The Echo Show is the only Amazon-made speaker we recommend in our list of the Best Smart Speakers. Echo speakers have good qualities, but they just don’t sound as good as they should. Audio quality matters to us.
Is Now a Good Time to Buy?
Yes. The latest round of Echos came out beginning September 2017, which means we won’t see an upgrade for the standard Echos until at least then but likely later. Amazon doesn’t stick to a strict yearly update cycle, and even if your Echo is replaced, it will likely retain its functionality for many years. Amazon is still updating original 2015 Echos with new Alexa features.
Because competition is heating up with Google and its growing fleet of smart speakers, you can expect Amazon to introduce at least a couple new Echo models or refreshest this year. But even if they do, there’s a good chance your speaker will still look very current.
I advise against buying a refurbished 1st Generation Echo speaker. Buy one of the 2nd Generation Echo or Echo Dots to get a significantly better experience. The mild savings doesn’t justify having an older model that may not get supported as long. Take it from us—spend the extra $30 or so and get the latest and greatest.
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