At a surprise event in Seattle today, Amazon announced multiple new Echo models—some similar to the original Echo, and others very, very different. Here’s every Echo you can buy right now, and what the difference between them all is.
Before we dive into the new stuff, let’s remember the current lineup of Echo products, starting with the original Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and Amazon Tap. (If you want to skip right to the new line of products, scroll down to “The Echo, Generation Two”.)
The Original Echo: Voice Control with a Beefy Speaker
The first-gen Echo was a wine-bottle-sized speaker, with far-field always-listening microphones that allowed you to talk to it from across the room. It can answer questions, play music, control smarthome devices, and act as an intercom of sorts with other Echos. Many of these new features came as software updates, and if you have an Amazon Echo now, it’ll hopefully still get some new features in the future. Here’s a roundup of everything you can do with the Echo.
Amazon has stopped selling the original Echo on its website, but you can still get it at Whole Foods while supplies last, as well as grab both the black and white versions refurbished for $130 on amazon.com. But we recommend grabbing them used for cheap—apparently a lot of people are buying them, not using them, and then trying to fence them on Craigslist later on.
The Echo Dot: Small, Compact, and Works with Your Stereo
The Echo Dot ($50) is a tiny version of the original Echo—it can do everything the original Echo could, without taking up as much space (although it’s missing the nice, big speaker). However, to make up for the lack of speaker, it contains a line out port that lets you hook it up to your stereo or other big, high-quality speakers. (The original Echo did not have this, but all the new Echos do.)
The original Echo Dot contained a volume wheel along the top, just like the regular Echo. However, that was shortly discontinued, and replaced with a cheaper version that contained volume buttons instead.
The Amazon Tap: A Battery-Powered Bluetooth Speaker with Alexa
While not officially part of the “Echo” line, the Amazon Tap ($130) is basically a battery-powered Amazon Echo. It’s designed to be more of a travel Bluetooth speaker with Alexa built in, but now that it has always-on listening, there are almost no other differences between it and the original Echo beyond its slightly smaller size. In fact, it was probably a better deal than a regular Echo anyway—at least until the launch of the second generation Echo (more on that in a moment).
The Echo Show: Echo with Video
The Echo Show ($230), released earlier this year, can do everything the original Echo can—but it contains a touch screen that can show the information as well as say it. You can also watch videos on it, see a feed from your security cameras, video chat with other Echo owners, and do a few other things that require a screen.
The Echo, Generation Two: Smaller and Cheaper
The original Echo has been discontinued, and as of today, is replaced by a slightly shorter second generation. It’s currently available for pre-order for $99 on Amazon, and will be released on October 31. It comes covered in a few different finishes, some fabric, others silver or wood for an extra $30. You can also grab a three-pack available for $50 off the total order (in an effort to compete with Apple’s HomePod and the Sonos for affordable multi-room audio).
The new Echo also appears to eschew the volume wheel for volume buttons, much like the Echo Dot, and a line out port, also like the Echo Dot. It uses a newer version of Amazon’s far-field microphone technology, as well as a dedicated woofer and tweeter for better sound.
The Echo Plus: The Original Echo + a Smarthome Hub
The Echo Plus ($150) will also be released on October 31, but is available for pre-order now. It uses the same wine-bottle-sized form factor as the original Echo, but with the newer microphones, woofer, and tweeter, and line out port of the second-generation Echo (though the tweeter is slightly larger). It’s also available in black, silver, or white, and contains a built-in ZigBee smarthome hub.
If you aren’t sure what that means, check out our explainer on smarthome hubs—essentially, the Echo Plus will allow you to use generic ZigBee devices without a separate hub like the Wink. Devices with their own proprietary hub, like Insteon, will still require their original hub. The Echo Plus appears to only work with ZigBee products—there is no mention of Z-Wave anywhere. This makes the Echo Plus’ smarthome hub pretty weak sauce, since many sensors, smart locks, and other smarthome devices use Z-Wave. Philips Hue being the one big exception that uses ZigBee. There are other ZigBee devices out there, of course, but they are slightly less popular than their big name Z-Wave counterparts.
The Echo Connect: Your Phone Landline, Connected to Alexa
All Echos can make calls to US phone numbers today, but it uses an IP calling service that doesn’t hook up to your existing landline. For that, there’s the new Echo Connect ($35), available for pre-order and shipping on December 13. It’s essentially a box that connects your existing landline to your other Echo devices, allowing you to make voice calls that actually come from your phone number. It also means you can call 911 and call international numbers, which is nice.
The Echo Spot: The Echo Show in Alarm Clock Form
The Echo Spot ($130), available for pre-order and shipping on December 19, is similar to the Echo Show, but with a circular 2.5″ screen that acts as a clock when not showing you other information. Designed to be set by a bedside, the “clock” can also show you the weather, play music, make video calls, and perform other similar tasks.
Echo Buttons: A Weird Gimmick for…Trivia Games, I Guess?
The weirdest announcement so far, Amazon also announced Echo Buttons. While we couldn’t find these on amazon.com yet, they cost $20 for a two-pack, and according to Amazon, are designed to act as “buzzers” for the many trivia games available on the Echo. Yeah, I don’t really get it either. Maybe they’ll add more useful functionality to them in the future.
Other Devices with Alexa
The above comprises most of Amazon’s Echo lineup, but they aren’t the only devices with Alexa. You might also be interested to learn about:
- The Fire TV ($70): Amazon’s Fire TV is a set-top box similar to the Roku or Apple TV, but focused a bit more on Amazon services—including Alexa, which is built into the remote. (Amazon also announced a new generation of Fire TVs today with 4K and HDR support.)
- Fire Tablets ($50 and up): Amazon’s inexpensive Fire Tablets also contain Alexa built-in. The Fire Tablets are okay on their own, but pretty great if you install Google Play on them.
- The Amazon Dash Wand ($20): The Dash Wand is a small barcode scanner that lets you order any product from your pantry on Amazon, just by scanning its label. It also contains Alexa, and while it isn’t “always listening” like an Echo, you can press the button to ask it questions or make kitchen conversions.
- The Echo Look ($200, shown above): Still invitation-only, the Echo Look is an Echo device with a camera, designed to give you fashion advice by taking pictures of you in different outfits.
- Third-Party Alexa Devices: Amazon allows other companies to add Alexa to their products. This can range from standalone devices like the Anker Eufy Genie ($35) to BMW cars, which Amazon announced will include Alexa in the near future.
That’s a pretty big lineup, but we’ve found them to be a lot more useful than they seem, especially if you have other smarthome products. We’ll be testing out more of these new Echos as they’re released, so stay tuned.