The range of Amazon Echos has much in common with Gremlins. Look away for a moment and they’ve doubled in number. And like Gremlins, I suggest you avoid watering them. So while the answer to “Which Amazon Echo should I buy?” has become increasingly tough, I’ll give it a go.
[UPDATE 6 March 2018: New prices for Echo Spot and Echo Show]
The range of Amazon Echo devices in a nutshell
Amazon Echo Dot, £49.99 (currently £39.99)
Small and with all of Alexa’s intelligence packed in, but not a great choice if you’re after amazing sound. Instead, think of the Echo Dot as a cheap way to extend Alexa into every room in your house, and to listen to Radio 4 when they’re not playing The Archers.
Amazon Echo, £89.99
The mainstream Echo, with decent sound and enough volume to fill a mid-range room. It has the advantage of being frequently reduced in price: as I write, it’s down from £90 to £75. Note that it doesn’t include a smart home hub, so if you want to control Hue lights it isn’t the best choice.
Amazon Echo Plus, £139.99
Notably superior sound to the Echo, and slightly taller – but priced accordingly and rarely reduced. As we cover in more detail below, it also has a built-in smart home hub, which is useful for controlling ZigBee-based smart lights such as the Philips Hue range.
Amazon Echo Spot, £119.99 (currently £99.99)
Latest addition to Echo range. Very cute and small, think of the Echo Spot as more of a bedside alarm than a fully fledged rival to the Echo Show. While it’s a bit quiet, sound quality is fine and it can still play videos and – as our image shows – be used in video calls.
Amazon Echo Show, £199.99 (currently £139.99)
Effectively a 7in tablet strapped onto a nice speaker. The Echo Show isn’t as high-fidelity as the Echo Plus, but its image quality is strong and it’s a great little device if you want to make Skype-style calls or view a video stream from your smart video doorbell.
Which Amazon Echo should I buy if sound quality is crucial?
That’s arguably the easiest question to answer: the Echo Plus is the best choice here. Note, though, that other smart speakers are even better. If you’re an Apple fan, look no further than the HomePod. If you’re more independently minded, consider indie smart speakers such as the KitSound One or the ever-popular Sonos One.
Which Amazon Echo should I buy for a smart home?
All of them work well, but we’d be tempted to buy a number of Echo Dots and spread them around the home so you’ve got access to Alexa everywhere.
For an extra helping of smartness, the Echo Plus makes a lot of sense: it includes a ZigBee smart home hub, which makes it simple to control and set up any compatible lights and plugs. That means that if you buy Philips Hue lights or Hive heating, then you don’t need to fiddle around with an extra hub.
If you’ve invested in smart doorbells and security cameras, consider adding the Spot or Show to your network – that way you can call up a video stream with a voice command.
Which Amazon Echo should I buy for my kids’ bedroom?
Again, we’d go cheap and cheerful: either the Echo Dot or an Echo during one of Amazon’s frequent flash sales. The first reason is price, the second is privacy – do you really want a camera in your kids’ bedrooms?
Which Amazon Echo should I buy for our bedroom?
Yes, I think I know what you mean. For watching some late-night TV or catching up on the headlines of a morning, right? Good. In which case, the Echo Show will make an excellent choice for the master bedroom. If you’re simply looking for a replacement to the Sony alarm clock, though, then consider the smaller, cuter Echo Spot.
Which Amazon Echo should I buy for the kitchen?
Let’s immediately rule out the Echo Spot and the Echo Dot: their speakers are too weedy, unless you have an external speaker to plug them into.
The Echo Show means you can call up recipe videos and TV to watch, but the 7in screen is small.
That’s why I’d lean towards the main Echo: it’s significantly cheaper than the Echo Plus, and unless you have an unusually acoustics-friendly kitchen the Plus’ audio talents will be wasted. Especially if the washing machine is on.
Which Amazon Echo should I buy for my home office?
Unlike the echoey kitchen, if you’ll forgive the pun, let’s assume that your office is softened by furnishings and unblemished by white goods. Let’s also assume you spend quite a bit of time in there. In which case, spoil yourself with the Echo Plus.
What about buying non-Echo smart speakers?
From the outside, it looks like Amazon is using monopoly-esque tactics to keep buyers within its range. I don’t mean it’s buying all the orange properties and building cheap houses. I mean that some of Alexa’s best features, such as Drop-In and accessing Spotify by voice command, aren’t always available from non-Echo hardware. Check before you buy.
Now read this: What are the funniest things to say to Alexa?