Guidemaster: Want an Alexa device? Here’s every Amazon Echo, compared

EnlargeValentina Palladino

Amazon debuted the original Echo a few years ago, and it raised eyebrows in the tech industry. The Echo is a smart home speaker that houses Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant, an AI helper that helps you complete daily tasks using only your voice. Since its debut, users of all levels of tech prowess have embraced Echo and Alexa, finding practicality in a voice-controlled assistant and all the things it can do.

Both Alexa and the Echo have evolved since then to meet the needs of an ever-growing market. After the Echo and Alexa came Google Home with the Google Assistant, the Harman Kardon Invoke with Microsoft's Cortana, and the forthcoming Homepod with Apple's Siri. Amazon has an advantage over all these competitors because it has had the time to develop many different Echo devices and expand Alexa to be a multifaceted assistant, thanks to third-party integrations and skills. ("Skills" is Amazon's word for apps, in this case.)

Plenty of smart home device manufacturers have integrated Alexa into their products, and Alexa now has more than 25,000 skills made by third-party developers. Alexa skills are features that Alexa can leverage to do more than what its built-in features allow. For example, Alexa has native features that let it tell you weather and traffic forecasts, control smart home devices, and buy things from Amazon. Using third-party skills, Alexa can play soothing sleep sounds at night, read stories to your children, tell you random food facts, and act as the host of a trivia game for you and your friends.

Alexa has a plethora of features ready for you to use no matter which device acts as its home in your home. In the relatively short time since the debut of the original Echo, Amazon has made a number of other Echo devices in the hopes that any users can find one that fits their needs. With so many choices in Amazon's Echo family, deciding which is best for you can be hard. We've outlined the major differences and use cases for all Amazon Echo devices here to help you decide which to buy.

Specs compared: Amazon Echo products
Device Echo Buttons Echo Connect Echo Dot Echo (2017) Amazon Tap Echo Spot Echo Plus Echo Look Echo Show
Price $20 for 2 Buttons $35 $50 $100 $130 $130 $150 $200 $230
Availability Coming "this holiday season" Preorder now, available December 13, 2017 Available now Available now Available now Preorder now, available December 19, 2017 Available now Available now, by invite only Available now
Alexa integration No, must connect to Echo device No, must connect to Echo device Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Speaker specs No speaker No speaker 0.6" speaker 0.6" tweeter, 2.5" woofer dual 1.5" drivers, dual passive radiators, Dolby audio 1.4" speaker 0.8" tweeter, 2.5" woofer 1.6W speaker dual 2" stereo speakers
Screen specs No screen No screen No screen No screen No screen 2.5" No screen No screen 7"
Camera specs No camera No camera No camera No camera No camera low-res front-facing camera No camera 5MP, Intel RealSense SR300 for depth-sensing 5MP
Smart home control No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes, also includes built-in device hub Yes Yes
Free calling with Alexa No Yes, but through home phone service Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes
3.5mm audio port No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Can be used wirelessly Yes No No No Yes No No No No
Primary use Alexa game controllers/buzzers Voice-controlled calling with Alexa through your home phone connection Alexa commands in any room in a tiny device that connects to Bluetooth speakers Updated classic Alexa speaker Portable Bluetooth speaker with Alexa built in Alexa speaker with a small screen (video chats and skills) Alexa speaker with built-in smart home hub Alexa camera to take outfit photos for suggested styles Alexa speaker with a large screen (video chats and skills)
  • Echo Buttons, which cost $20 per pack of two. Amazon
  • Buttons connect to an Echo device and act as buzzers in voice-based games. Amazon

Echo Buttons

Amazon's Echo Buttons are the most mysterious of its devices thus far. Announced along with a slew of other Echo devices in a September event, Echo Buttons were demoed as devices that "bring game night back." They act like buzzers in trivia games, allowing different players to press the top button to answer questions in various Alexa-based games.

Each Button has a glowing top that can shine in different colors so each player can have their own individual color in group games. While playing a game skill through Alexa, each player can press their Button to answer a question and move the game forward. Alexa already has a bunch of game skills, but we know of three so far that will support Echo Buttons: Beat the Intro from Musicplode, Dungeon Escape, and Sounds Fun with Mike Epps from Ground Control.

The catch with Echo Buttons is that they must be connected via Bluetooth to an existing Echo device. Amazon hasn't stated which Echo devices will support the Buttons, but it's likely that most full-featured Echo devices (like the Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show) will connect to the Buttons. The Buttons are also the first "Alexa gadgets," or devices that are meant to connect to an Echo device you already have and let you interact with Alexa in new ways. Amazon claims the Echo Buttons will be available for this holiday season, but we do not know about any other forthcoming Alexa gadgets yet.

  • Buy this if: you regularly have game night with friends and family.
  • Don't buy this if: you don't already have an Echo device.
  • The $35 Echo Connect landline adapter. Amazon
  • Side view of the Connect with its ports. Amazon

Echo Connect

Amazon added voice calling and messaging with Alexa to Echo devices recently, and the Echo Connect brings that feature to landlines. The $35 box connects via your phone jack or VoIP adapter and Wi-Fi network. After completing the setup in the Alexa mobile app, you'll be able to use your voice to ask Alexa to call anyone. Your landline number will be the one that shows up on the receiver's caller ID, so there's no confusion when you're calling another landline.

However, much like the Echo Buttons, you need an existing Echo device to use the Connect. The Connect box basically acts as a bridge between your phone line and Alexa, with Amazon's voice assistant living in the Echo device you already have. When you ask Alexa to call a contact, a local business, or any other number, you're asking the voice assistant in an Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, or another full-featured Echo device. The Connect ensures that those calls go through your landline rather than your mobile phone.

  • Buy this if: you want Alexa to make calls for your landline phone.
  • Don't buy this if: you don't already have an Echo device.

Amazon Echo Connect

Price: $34.99 at Amazon (available on 12/13)

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  • The $50 Echo Dot in white (it also comes in black). Amazon
  • The Dot is much smaller than the Echo and is built to put Alexa in any room. Amazon

Echo Dot

The Echo Dot has two big advantages over other fully featured Echo devices: size and price. For just $50, the hockey-puck-sized device gives you access to most of Alexa's more than 25,000 skills and all of Amazon's built-in features for its virtual assistant. The Echo Dot can read off weather forecasts, tell you about your daily schedule, provide traffic updates, control smart home devices, read the latest news, and more. The only features it isn't compatible with are any Alexa skills that require a screen—there are some available now, but those are exclusively for the Echo Show and the forthcoming Echo Spot, the only two Amazon-made Echo devices with displays.

The design of the Echo Dot is a huge plus, and not just because of its size. Measuring 1.3×3.3×3.3 inches, it looks like Amazon sliced off the top-quarter of a regular Echo device and turned it into its own product. The Echo Dot has a 0.6-inch speaker inside to play music, but its compact size doesn't make it the best music maker. However, the device has an audio-out port for connecting to whatever other speakers and sound system you may have, and it works with Bluetooth speakers as well. That means you can connect your favorite sound device to the Echo Dot, ask Alexa to play tunes from Spotify, iHeartRadio, or other sources, and the Echo Dot will play those tracks through your favorite speaker.

The Echo Dot is the device to get if you want the voice-controlled convenience of Alexa and already have a sound system of your own in place.

  • Buy this if: you want Alexa but don't want to spend a lot of money.
  • Don't buy this if: you want a high-quality speaker.

Amazon Echo Dot

Price: $49.99 at Amazon

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  • The new Amazon Echo with its updated internal and external design. Amazon
  • All of the available veneers for the new Echo. Amazon


The device that started it all got an update this year with the new Amazon Echo. Not only did Amazon lower the price of the Echo to $100, but the new device has an updated speaker system, improved far-field microphones for Alexa to use to hear you, and a refined design that makes it look more like a home furnishing than a piece of technology. The new Echo sounds better than the original, but it's not our favorite smart home speaker in terms of audio quality. However, if you're upgrading from a smartphone speaker or a cheap Bluetooth device, the Echo will be a solid speaker capable of filling a few rooms with sound.

The major case to be made for the Echo is that it's a decent speaker that also houses Alexa. If you purchase an Echo Dot, there's no question that you'll want to connect it to a better sound system—it's built to be more of a home for Alexa than a good speaker. On the other hand, the Echo is meant to provide both of those features at a relatively affordable price. If you're not a stickler for sound quality and just want a decent speaker with Alexa, the Echo is a solid device. You can connect the Echo to a larger speaker system as well, as it has the same audio-out port that the Echo Dot has.

  • Buy this if: you want the most Alexa features for a decent price.
  • Don't buy this if: you want access to Alexa skills that use a screen.

Amazon Echo

Price: $99.99 at Amazon

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