The best Amazon Echo smart speakers and smart displays

  • Amazon's Echo devices are known for their reliable Alexa capabilities and easy-to-use smart home features. 
  • The new fourth-generation Echo is the best of the bunch with helpful digital assistant functions, good audio performance, and an updated design.
  • Echo devices usually go on sale for the holidays, so be sure to check out our Black Friday 2020 guide for all the latest deals on Echo speakers and other tech products.

When it comes to smart speakers and smart displays, few products offer the value and convenience of Amazon's Echo lineup. Though Echo devices vary in size and price, all Echos feature built-in support for Alexa, Amazon's reliable digital assistant platform.

With Alexa, you can control a wide variety of compatible smart home accessories using only your voice. Echo speakers also make it easy to listen to Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, and other services. Echo displays can even stream movies and shows, and make video calls. 

Though Amazon's Echo lineup has retained a similar cylindrical design over the years, the company recently released its all-new fourth-generation series of smart speakers with a completely updated look. The new Echo and Echo Dot now feature an orb-shaped design, along with a few performance upgrades.  

After testing the new and old models, we've selected the best Echo devices on the market for a variety of needs and budgets.

Here are the best Echo devices you can buy:

  • Best Echo overall: Echo
  • Best budget Echo speaker: Echo Dot
  • Best Echo with a big screen: Echo Show
  • Best Echo with a small screen: Echo Show 5

Updated on 11/13/2020 by Steven Cohen: We replaced the third-generation Echo with the new fourth-generation Echo as our top pick and explained why. We also explained why the third-generation Echo Dot remains our budget pick instead of the new model. Added links to our full reviews of the new Echo and Echo Dot.

The best Echo overall

The newest Amazon Echo features an updated design, improved sound, and Amazon's super-smart Alexa digital assistant built right into it.

Pros: Impressive sound quality, affordable, integrated Zigbee hub, 3.5mm port, attractive design

Cons: Amazon still saves your voice recordings by default, Google offers more color choices for its speakers

The fourth-generation Echo feels like a realization of everything Amazon has been building toward in previous models — a smart speaker that finds just the right balance between audio performance, price, and smart home capabilities. 

The first thing most people will notice about the latest Echo is its completely new look. Unlike the cylindrical design of older models, the new Echo is shaped like a sphere with a flat bottom, making it look more like a glowing orb than a typical speaker.  

Audio quality has also been improved thanks to the addition of a second tweeter and new front-firing placement. Our reviewer notes that the fourth-generation Echo sounds better than its predecessor in every way, with louder, deeper, and more full-bodied audio.

The new Echo also features an integrated Zigbee hub, which was something previously only included in the more expensive Echo Plus. Zigbee is a smart home standard that accessories use to pair with one another. A third-generation Echo would have to talk to a separate smart home hub to access and adjust some devices, like light bulbs. The new Echo can create a direct link without another hub. 

Of course, Alexa capabilities are built-in as well, enabling easy access to Amazon's reliable digital assistant. You can ask Alexa questions, play music, set timers, order products, control other compatible smart devices, and more just using your voice. A blue light glows on the bottom of the speaker when Alexa is listening. Amazon has also implemented its new first-generation AZ1 neural edge processor to enable more responsive Alexa performance.

A handy microphone mute button is included for buyers concerned about privacy. On the downside, however, Amazon still uses your voice recordings by default to help improve Alexa's functionality. Thankfully, you can disable this from the Alexa app under the Alexa Privacy section in the settings menu.

For most people, this is going to be the go-to Echo option. It has better speakers than the Echo Dot and the third-generation Echo, but it's not huge, ugly, or techy looking. The Echo can be the center of your smart home without being obtrusive. 

  • Read our Amazon Echo (fourth generation) review here

The best budget Echo

The Echo Dot may be the entry-level option on this list, but it's still just as smart as its siblings, plus, its small size is its biggest asset.

Pros: Small, smart, affordable, works just as well as all the others

Cons: Audio quality isn't as good as the standard Echo

It's ok if you want to keep your love of technology out of eyeshot. Subtlety is an art, but if you have an Echo Dot, it's not that hard.

Though there is a new fourth-generation Dot on the market, the third-generation Echo Dot is still the best entry-level smart-home hub you can buy. For less than half the price of the standard Echo, you get a hockey puck-sized gadget that can help you control your lights with your voice, answer questions about the universe, and connect to external speakers through a Bluetooth signal. 

The Echo Dot's best feature is definitely its small size. You can stick it just about anywhere, and because it has the same microphone array as its bigger siblings, it won't have a problem hearing your requests. Whether you're going for subtlety, or want the best way to dip your toe into the smart-home ocean, this is your best choice.

Third-generation Echo Dots remain on sale at Amazon for a discounted price, but buyers should keep in mind that a fourth-generation model is now available as well. The latest Dot features a new spherical design and slightly improved sound quality, but overall performance is essentially the same. Since the third-generation Echo Dot is less expensive, we still recommend it over the newer version. 

The best Echo with a big screen

The Echo Show can display information that its screenless siblings can only read to you, making it extra useful for timers and calendar events.

Pros: 10.1-inch screen, the ability to see Alexa's responses to you

Cons: No audio out, a higher price than the screenless options, improved third-generation model is coming soon

The Eco Show is one of the newer members of the Echo family and the first one to have a display. To put it simply, this is an Echo with a screen. It can do anything a standard Echo can, but it shows the information visually, in addition, to audibly. 

For instance, if you set a timer you'll be able to watch it countdown, you'll be able to see your calendar when you ask Alexa about your upcoming events, and you can even watch Prime Video, Hulu, and more.

How useful the Echo Show will be to you ultimately depends on how you use your Echo. If it'd help to see a measurement conversion instead of just hearing it said out loud (there are 16 tablespoons in a cup, by the way), the Echo Show is a really good option.

Its speakers are also better than the ones found in the original Echo, although it's still to be seen whether or not they compare well to newer models. Still, if you love the idea of seeing Alexa's responses to your questions and requests, the Echo Show is your best option.

For buyers willing to wait a bit and pay a little more, a new third-generation Echo Show 10 is set for release latest this year. The new model includes a handy auto-framing feature that allows the screen to rotate so it stays in view as you move around your room. 

The best Echo with a small screen

The Echo Show 5 has a smaller 5-inch screen than the original model, making it perfect for use as a smart alarm clock on your bedside table.

Pros: 5-inch screen, the ability to see Alexa's responses to you

Cons: No audio out, a higher price than the screenless options

The Show 5 is a smaller version of the original Echo Show. It has a 5-inch screen, so it can display video content, the time, and visual representations of Alexa's answers. 

Just like the original Echo Show, you can watch Prime Video, view security camera footage, and other video content on the Show 5. 

It can also display the time and you can use it to set alarms to wake you up in the morning, making it a great smart alarm clock for your bedside table.

If you love the idea of seeing Alexa's responses to your questions and requests, but you want a smaller device, the Echo Show is a great option. — Malarie Gokey

What else we considered

Echo Dot (fourth generation):  Like the standard Echo speaker, the new Echo Dot swaps out its old puck-shaped design for a new spherical shape. Despite the updated look, however, the new Echo Dot still uses a single 1.6-inch speaker driver. 

Though the new Dot is an impressive compact smart speaker in its own right, the less expensive third-generation model sounds very similar and is actually easier to wall mount. With that in mind, we still recommend the older Echo Dot as our top budget pick. 

Amazon also has a new fourth-generation Echo Dot with Clock. As the name implies, this version adds a built-in digital clock, enabling customers to easily see the time or temperature. 

Pros: Affordable price, attractive design, 3.5mm port, solid audio quality for its size

Cons: Hard to wall mount, the cheaper third-generation Echo Dot offers very similar performance

  • Read our Amazon Echo Dot (fourth generation) review here

Echo Show 10 (third generation)

The new Echo Show 10 features an updated design with a 10-inch adaptive HD display. The screen can now automatically rotate to follow your movements so you can always see the display. Unlike the older model which has a 5-megapixel camera, the new version uses a 13-megapixel camera for video calls. Dual 1-inch front-firing tweeters and a 3-inch woofer are also integrated, enabling directional sound.

An exact release date for the new Echo Show hasn't been announced yet, but the smart display is set to launch in time for the holidays. Color options will include Charcoal and Glacier White. 


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