When Amazon first launched the Echo smart speaker, it was easy to work out which one to buy. Just over a year on, the product range has ballooned, including everything from small and cheap devices up to smart speakers with built-in screens. In addition, there are even some third-party devices that have Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant built-in.
The breadth of the range means that you’re very likely to find a smart speaker to match your needs perfectly. Conversely, whittling down your options has become more complicated. We’ve now updated this guide to cover the new Echo speakers released recently.
The all-rounder – Amazon Echo 2nd Generation (2017)
The first Echo was good, but it was fairly basic in terms of its overall look and was that little bit too expensive. Step forward, the second-generation Amazon Echo.
With prices starting at just £89.99, it’s near-on £70 cheaper than the original Echo. Even better, this standard Amazon Echo is smaller and comes in a wider array of finishes than its predecessor. Truly, this product has been designed to fit into a variety of homes, and it’s one attractive-looking smart speaker.
Audio quality lags behind the best Bluetooth speakers, but the Amazon Echo is still more than good enough to fill a decent-sized room and for occasional listening. Its audio prowess is better suited to voice content, such as radio, talking books, or for replying to your questions.
Related: Amazon Alexa guide
For general smart home control and occasional radio – Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)
The Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) is a big improvement over the original Dot (featured below). It’s nicer to look at and has upgraded audio that makes it easier to understand. And, you can even use the new Echo Dot for a bit of music or, more realistically, listening to radio.
This model still has the 3.5mm audio output and Bluetooth option, so you can connect it to a more powerful stereo. That feels like a slight waste of its capabilities, and if you want something to hook up to an existing stereo, the older Echo Dot is a cheaper option.
For use around your home, the new Echo Dot is a far better product than the older model, and its clearer audio improves the entire Alexa experience. Even better, it’s the same price as the old model at £49.99.
For use with an existing stereo – Amazon Echo Input
If you think that the Amazon Echo Input looks like an Echo Dot with the speaker part cut off, you’re pretty much right. Designed to be plugged into an existing speaker, the lack of a speaker cuts the cost down and makes this the cheapest Echo device. You can connect to a speaker using a 3.5mm input or Bluetooth, although if you use the latter the drop-in and call features are disabled, which is a little annoying.
The only other thing to watch out for is volume. If you want to control volume with your voice, set your Input to the maximum volume, then set your speaker to the maximum volume you want. Now, when you control volume with your voice, you’ll get the results that you want.
The Echo Dot (3rd Gen) is the more flexible option, but if you definitely want a device to connect to an existing speaker, the Amazon Echo Input is the model for you.
The ultimate experience – Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen)
With a larger 10.1-inch screen, the new Echo Show (2nd Gen) is the perfect Alexa device for when you want to enjoy video as well as sound. With the ability to play Amazon Prime Video content, the Echo Show makes a decent second screen option for catching up on shows. Video quality from the 1080p screen is excellent, too.
For audio, the Echo Show has some of the best internals, producing loud and vibrant audio. This is one Echo speaker where you won’t want to upgrade to a larger set of speakers.
The Echo Show also gives the best overall Alexa experience, showing you information on screen as well as by voice. This makes it easier to understand more complicate questions, such as the details of a calendar appointment, and you also get additional features, such as recipes. Amazon has added in smart home control from the touchscreen, so you can toggle devices on or off without having to use your voice. A Zigbee hub and improved app mean you can even control devices directly, such as Philips Hue bulbs, without extra hubs.
This is an expensive product at £219.99, but it’s the one that shows off Alexa to its full capabilities.
For the best Echo audio experience – The Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen)
While the original Amazon Echo Plus felt like a bit of an odd product, with its smart home hub not giving the level of control we’d expect, the new model is an improvement. Now, with the Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen) you get a better overall experience.
First, the speaker has been redesigned and looks far nicer. Internally, Amazon has boosted the audio quality, and the new Echo Show is now the best-sounding Echo speaker. That’s particularly true if you use the speakers in a stereo pair, and if you then add in an Amazon Echo Sub subwoofer, too. With two Echo Shows and a Sub, you get a music experience that rivals other smart speakers.
The Echo Show has the Zigbee hub that the old product had, but this time around the app has been improved, giving more control over things such as Philips Hue bulbs. There’s even a temperature sensor built in that you can use to control Amazon Alexa routines, with. At £139.99 for one the Echo Plus is great value for its mid-range audio; buy a pack of two with a Sub and you save £100 for a total cost of £299.97.
For the bedroom – Amazon Echo Spot
The Amazon Echo Spot is essentially a smaller, more attractive Echo Show. Once again, it’s the combination of touchscreen and voice control that makes the Spot rather special, giving the best of both worlds.
The compact and curved body makes the Echo Spot the perfect bedside companion, replacing a more traditional alarm clock – or, in fact, it’s ideal for anywhere you might be tight on space. The 2.5-inch 480 x 480 pixel display is perfect here, and sharp enough to view any on-screen information.
The homescreen can be customised with your own choice of clock faces, or you can pick the information you want it to display, such as up-to-date news reports. Ask Alexa anything, and the Spot’s screen will show detailed information and let you interact with some results, such as diving into your calendar appointments. Being able to combine touch, visual and voice in a single unit makes any task easy.
At night, the Spot can automatically dim its light, so you’re not kept awake by a bright screen. Add to this excellent voice or video calling and it’s hard not to love this device.
Audio quality is fine, with clean and balanced sound. However, this really isn’t a speaker designed for high-end audio, so you’ll want to stick with a dedicated hi-fi: you can wire up the Spot using Bluetooth or its 3.5mm output.
The Echo Spot is a little expensive, but it really is the perfect smart speaker for your bedroom or, perhaps, an office. The only thing to watch out for is the newly-announced Amazon Echo Show 5, which has a 5-inch screen and will cost just £79.99. That will probably be the better choice for most people.
For high-end audio – Sonos One
Sonos is the best multi-room audio system; Alexa is the best smart assistant. Wouldn’t it be great if the two could work together? Well, luckily, that’s just what you get with the Sonos One.
Effectively, a Sonos Play:1 speaker with Alexa built-in is a match made in silicon heaven. This weighty speaker is small enough to fit anywhere in your home but delivers sound that blows all other smart speakers out of the water. And just as with the Play:1, you can pair two Sonos Ones together, or add a sub to boost audio fidelity further.
Alexa integration is excellent, with the Sonos One responding just as any other dedicated Echo devices. As well as controlling music playback through this device, you can control any other Sonos speakers in your home using the Alexa Skill.
Coming this year is Google Assistant support, too, which could make the Sonos One the best smart speaker overall, letting you choose the assistant you want to use.
If you already have a full house of Sonos kit, go for the Echo Dot and use that for voice control instead.