The Amazon Echo isn’t the only Alexa device available. Amazon sells six different ones and they all do things a little differently. Combined, they hold 75% of the UK smart speaker market, according to an April 2018 YouGov survey.
Most of them are smart speakers. These are devices suited to indoor home use that respond to voice commands when connected to Wi-Fi.
You can say something simple like ‘Alexa, what’s the time’ right up to ‘Alexa, turn the lights on in the kitchen’ – the latter if you have set up a compatible product.
This is the cool thing about Alexa products. You can use them as simply or as intricately as you like.
Here is an overview of all the Echo products currently on sale, their main features and why you should buy them. If we have reviewed them, we’ll also give them a score. Those we haven’t reviewed aren’t available in the UK, but are in the US.
If you think you want a voice assistant smart speaker, one of these Echo devices is going to fit the bill.
All of the Echoes on this list can do basic things like answer web searches, play music and radio and even call other Echoes or smartphones. Read on to see what they all do differently.
Best Echo 2018
Amazon Echo Dot
- Best Echo for: Simple queries, multi-room set ups
The Echo Dot is the cheapest Echo device at £49.99/$49.99. It is also the simplest. It’s basically a hockey puck with a mic and a small speaker.
You won’t want to play music out of it as it’s so small and the sound is very tinny, but is good enough for talk radio, alarms and answers to simple questions.
They are also good if you can afford to buy several and put them in lots of rooms. You can then connect smart home devices like your kettle, heating and lighting to the network and talk your way around the house.
We like it for its ability to connect to a Bluetooth speaker so if you have a decent one, the Dot becomes a handy, cheap voice remote control.
Amazon Echo 2
- Best Echo for: Basic radio and music playback
This second generation of the main Amazon Echo speaker is cheaper and better looking. It’s the one to go for if you want a mainstream smart speaker for under £100/$100 that gives acceptably decent audio for music playback.
Radio sounds great out of it too, but you won’t want to turn it up too loud and it’s too underpowered to soundtrack a house party. But for most people looking to play tunes, check recipes, set alarms and listen to the news it’s the best choice
Amazon Echo Plus
- Best Echo for: Smart home hub set up, better music playback
While the Echo devices are good for hearing your calendar or doing a web search, Amazon sees Alexa as a smart home platform in the making. That is evidenced by the Echo Plus, the Echo that is designed to be a true smart home hub device.
At the time of writing, Amazon is giving away a free Philips Hue bulb with the Echo Plus to get you started. With built-in ZigBee tech, it lets you set up more compatible smart home devices than the cheaper Echo devices.
ZigBee is a smart home standard lots of companies like Philips and Samsung use with their products, so if you want to use an Echo as a hub to talk to them, you’ll have to get the Echo Plus.
It allows for the easiest set up and can best find the devices compatible with the network, simplifying what can be a complicated process that would otherwise require you to buy a separate, non-Amazon hub.
It’s also got a more powerful speaker set up for better sounding music playback. For the full lowdown, read our review:
Amazon Echo Spot
- Best Echo for: Alarm clock, basic video and visuals
This is the smallest Echo that has a screen. It can be used to ‘drop in’ (video call) other Echo Spot or Echo Show devices. You can drop in on anyone at any time though, so if you don’t want your friends and family looking at you whenever they like make sure to change the settings.
Think of it as an Echo Dot but with visuals: ask to see the weather or the news and you’ll see the headlines as well as hear it spoken to you. If you use Amazon Music you will see lyrics to songs you are playing, and it acts as a clock when nothing else is displayed.
You might not want a device with a camera right next to your bed, but it’s a good way to see quick info as well as hear it, though it’s a tad expensive for this still niche use case.
Amazon Echo Show
- Best Echo for: Video calls, watching the news
This is the most expensive Echo, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best one for you. The speakers are surprisingly good but it’s not the one to go for if you want room-filling audio.
The screen is bigger than the Echo Spot, and it’s able to play supported newsflashes and video – though at the time of writing, Google has blocked it from being able to show YouTube clips, stunting its usefulness to most people.
It can connect to smart devices like security cameras and doorbells, show you recipe videos and of course video calls with other Spots or Shows. But it needs mains power, and many people should just opt for a more versatile tablet to get most of the features, wherever they want.
Amazon Echo Look
- Best Echo for: If you want a personal shopper in your bedroom
The Look is an experimental device that you can only get in the US, as Amazon sees how comfortable early adopters are with having a camera in their bedroom.
The Look is designed to take pictures of your outfits and tell you what you look best in – and then recommend clothes for you to buy to complement your look, from Amazon.
It shows you from every angle and offers a second opinion with a service that uses algorithms from specialists to suggest what to change. To some people this is invasive, but if it sounds like your thing then you won’t be bothered by the obvious security implications of having a camera in your wardrobe or on your dresser.
It’s the most experimental Echo yet, and an interesting idea if slightly more invasive.