Which Amazon Echo smart speaker is the best?

Amazon has a huge range of smart speakers and smart displays. Deciding which one to buy can be difficult, but we’re here to help.

Most of the Echo range is comprised of smart speakers, but three models have screens – they’re called Echo Show.

That’s because they can show photos, play videos from various streaming services (now including Netflix), news headlines, weather forecasts and even games.

In 2021 there are a few new models including the second-generation Echo Show 5 and Echo Show 8. Those are minor updates, but the Echo Show 10  is very different from the previous model and has a screen that can turn to face you – it’s great for video calls or any room where you move around a lot, such as the kitchen.

The fourth-generation Echo and Echo Dot also have some key updates, and you’ll find reviews below.

Every one of these devices runs on mains power (they’re not portable) and responds to voice commands when connected to Wi-Fi. You can say something simple like “Alexa, what’s the time?” as well as more advanced commands such as “Alexa, turn on the lights in the kitchen”, which requires you to have compatible smart lights, or a smart switch / plug.

You can do a lot with Alexa. It’s possible to play music in sync on multiple Echos, and pair two together for stereo sound. You can “drop in” on Echo devices around your home to have a quick conversation with a family member, or call friends and relatives with Echos – or the Alexa app – and this can be a video call if you and they have an Echo Show.

This is the great thing about Echos. You can use them very simply, or really take advantage of the full range of capabilities.

Alexa is available from other manufacturers too, such as Sonos, and is built into some TVs, sound bars – even dash cams and cars – but we’re focusing on Amazon-made device here. 

Read on to see what they all do differently, but also check out these great accessories for the various Echo devices including the Wall Clock and Echo Connect. There’s also the Echo Sub which can be paired with one or a pair of Echos to provide better bass (but only when streaming music from the internet).

If you want tips on the things you can do with an Echo, here’s how to use Alexa.

Best Amazon Echo 2021

  • Pros: Excellent sound quality;Supports spatial audio
  • Cons: Relatively expensive

This is the Amazon Echo to buy if you care about sound quality. You still need to subscribe to a music streaming service that offers ‘HD’ music and, not coincidentally, Amazon’s own is the current one to go for.

The Studio doesn’t only do hi-res audio: it also supports so-called 3D audio. Currently it can play Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio, which can be both music and video soundtracks.

Best of all, it’s way cheaper than rivals from Apple and Google. It also sounds even better when paired with the Echo Sub, but do be warned that the sub only works with streamed music, not via Bluetooth from your phone.

Read our full Amazon Echo Studio review

Amazon Echo (4th-gen)

  • Pros: Built-in Zigbee hub;AZ1 processor
  • Cons: Can be hard to see light ring

The Amazon Echo 4 looks completely different to the Echo 3 in terms of design, and its sound quality is also noticeably better, thanks to extra bass.

As you’d expect, it can’t compete with the Echo Studio but it’s much cheaper. And if you really want an inexpensive Echo with great sound, hunt around for an Echo Input on ebay (Amazon discontinued it) and connect it to a sound system of your choice.

The Echo 4 is one of the best-value smart speakers because it now has the smart hub from the Echo Plus, allowing it to connect to and control Zigbee devices such as Philips Hue lights. 

The bottom-mounted light ring can be harder to see than previous Echos, but it really depends upon where you put it in your room.

It also has the newer Amazon AZ1 processor which enables a more natural-sounding Alexa voice as well as the ability to process some commands without needing an internet connection.

Read our full Amazon Echo (4th-gen) review

Amazon Echo Show 10

  • Pros: Rotating display faces you;Great sound
  • Cons: Expensive

It’s a lot more expensive than the 5- and 8-inch Echo Show smart displays, but the Echo Show 10 largely justifies its cost with a good quality sound and its ability to follow you around the room.

It sounds a bit gimmicky but it should be useful in larger rooms or kitchens where you’d otherwise have to turn the screen manually to see it.

You can also use its ability to rotate to keep an eye on your room when you’re away, swiping the screen of your phone to turn the camera remotely.

Other than that, the experience is much like its predecessors and the smaller-screened versions. We’d be open to an even larger screen, but as long as you’re not trying to replace a TV with the Echo Show, it’s big enough.

Read our full Amazon Echo Show 10 review


Amazon Echo Dot (4th-gen)

Amazon Echo Dot (4th-gen)

  • Pros: Good value;Useful clock display
  • Cons: Not the best sound

The Echo Dot has always been an affordable way to get Alexa in your home. The latest model has better bass, looks even better than the third-gen Dot and when you factor in the more powerful processor, is great value at this price.

You can even pair two Dots for stereo sound.

We think it’s well worth spending the extra £10/$10 to get the clock version as it’s so convenient to see the time, and how long is left on a timer.

It’s a great entry into the world of Alexa to listen to radio, podcast and music as well as ask queries. You can have one, or put several about the house. 

Read our full Amazon Echo Dot (4th-gen) review


Amazon Echo Show 8 (2021)

Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd gen)

  • Pros: Use like a security camera;Camera keeps you in the frame
  • Cons: No Zigbee hub

It may not have the Zigbee hub that’s built into the more expensive – and larger – Echo Show 10, but this model offers the best compromise of features, screen size and audio quality.

And at this price, those aren’t compromises you’ll ever regret making: Alexa is just as capable here as she is on the Echo Show 10, able to show the video feed from compatible cameras; lyrics for many songs from Amazon Music and more.

Plus, this second-generation model has a 13Mp camera which has plenty of resolution for digital zoom. This is used in video calls to keep you in the middle of the frame even if you move around the room – just like the Facebook Portal and latest iPad Pro. It’s not as versatile as the 360° Echo Show 10, but it’s a good compromise.

Thanks to the recent addition of Netflix on all Echo Show models, they’re a good choice for entertainment. Just note that YouTube isn’t easily available, unlike Amazon’s Fire TV devices and, naturally, Google’s own Nest Hub smart display.

Read our full Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd gen) review


Amazon Echo Dot (3rd-gen)

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd-gen)

  • Pros: Very affordable
  • Cons: No longer offered with clock display

The third-generation Echo Dot is still being sold alongside the 4th-gen model, at a lower price.

It sounds pretty good for its size – especially when listening to the radio. But it does lack the newer processor of the fourth-generation Dot, and there’s no ‘with clock’ model available any more.

That said, it all depends upon the price you find it for. Amazon regularly discounts Echos and we’ve seen the Dot sell for less than the Echo Flex. If the price difference between third- and fourth-gen Dots is only a few pounds or dollars, then it’s worth opting for the newer model.

Read our full Amazon Echo Dot (3rd-gen) review


Amazon Echo Show 5 (2021)

Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd gen)

  • Pros: Can be used like a security camera
  • Cons: Mediocre sound

The Echo Show 5 costs less than the fourth-gen Echo, yet has a 5.5in screen and camera for video calls. It’s a little small for watching videos from Amazon Prime (or Netflix), but it’s a great size for a bedside table.

Sound quality isn’t as good as the Echo 4, or the Echo Show 8, which is the only real drawback. This latest second-gen model has a higher-resolution camera (which isn’t as good as the 8’s) and can also be used a kind of security camera as you can view the camera feed remotely.

Essentially, it’s a good choice if you have a tight budget but want an Echo with a screen and don’t need music to sound amazing.

Read our full Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd gen) review

Amazon Echo Flex

  • Pros: Inexpensive
  • Cons: Not suitable for music

The Flex is a different type of smart speaker: it’s a utility device, not one for listening to music or the radio, and is designed to plug directly into a wall socket in your hallway, garage or other area where you just need basic audio.

It’s brilliant for asking Alexa for information, and controlling your lights, switches and plugs. You can plug in a motion sensor (or night light) to make it even more useful.

Read our full Amazon Echo Flex review

Amazon Echo Auto

  • Pros: Alexa in your car!
  • Cons: Hard to hide cables

The Auto is an unusual Echo because it is the only option – from Amazon’s range – for putting Alexa in your car. This means you can’t really compare it to other Echo models.

There are alternatives if you’re considering a device that adds Alexa to your car such as the Roav Viva (which is around the same price) and a dashcam from Nextbase’s latest range.

The Echo Auto is the easiest to set up of these options, but the Viva is the more discreet option as it plugs directly into your car’s 12V socket.

Read our full Amazon Echo Auto review


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