One of the biggest trends from CES earlier this month was the emergence of 3rd party Alexa-powered goodies in the form of new smart speakers, smart cameras, smart cars, and more. It’s clear that 2017 is going to be a big year for Amazon’s Alexa, with more choices than ever. But for those that would rather stick with Amazon directly, there remains three main choices: Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Tap.
So what are the difference between these three products and which speaker is the best fit for you? Great question, let’s dive right in.
The smart speaker that started it all. The Amazon Echo is a 9.25-inch-tall cylindrical speaker that features a seven microphone array and packs reasonably decent immersive 360-degree sound thanks to its 2.5-inch woofer and 2-inch tweeter.
On the sound front, it’s certainly not the most impressive speaker ever to grace the market (with Google Home arguably doing a better job here), but it is the top tier option when it comes to the Echo family and unless you are a major audiophile, you’ll find nothing to complain about.
Amazon Echo - The smart speaker that started it all.
As for the feature set, the Echo utilizes a Wi-Fi connection to respond to voice commands using the wake word Alexa (alternatively it can use Amazon, Echo, or Computer). You can ask it to do all sorts of things including play music from a variety of services like Spotify and iHeart Radio, read audiobooks, tell you the weather, answer basic search questions and more. Amazon also has a growing library of 3rd party skills that allow you to further expand the Echo’s functionality.
The Echo also plays nicely with your smart home devices, allowing you to control lights, thermostats, and more — all with your voice.
- Nothing else to buy – everything self-contained in one unit
- The best built-in sound out of the three
- A bit pricey at $180
- There is no way to connect it to your existing speaker setup
Amazon Echo Dot
The little guy who can do it all. I’ll admit I’m a bit biased here, as this is my own personal preference. At a fraction of the price of its bigger brother, the Dot does everything that the Echo can as far as voice functionality, smart home control, and other functions are concerned.
So what’s the difference? Sound. Unlike the Echo, the Dot has a tiny little speaker inside that really isn’t good enough for music, though it’s “okay” for just asking the Dot questions. This would make the Dot less desirable if not for its biggest advantage: Bluetooth and a 3.5mm jack that allows you to connect to your existing speaker setup.
At a fraction of the price of its bigger brother, the Dot does everything that the Echo can do.
If you already have a good pair of Bluetooth or wired speakers, the Dot is a no-brainer. The Dot also makes more sense if you are an extreme audiophile and are looking for a better sound experience than the all-in-one package you get with the Echo.
At the end of the day, for $50, the Dot Echo delivers all the functionality of the Dot minus built-in sound and so it is no wonder that it is quickly becoming the most popular member of the Echo family.
- Super affordable price tag
- Small design makes it pretty easy to move around your home, if needed
- You can connect it to your existing sound setup via wires or Bluetooth
- The built-in sound really doesn’t do the job, so 3rd party speakers are a must
Amazon Echo Tap
All the power of Alexa, but on the go. Like the Echo Dot, the Tap can do all the same things that you can with the full-fledged Echo including smart home control, music playback, 3rd party skills, and the list goes on. However, the catch here is that you have to get up and “tap” it to use it.
The Amazon Echo Tap ditches the always-on capabilities of its other two brothers, trading this functionality for portability. The 6.2-inch-tall speaker offers a seven microphone array, 36o-degree sound via dual 1.5-inch drivers and dual passive radiators, and features a built-in battery that make it the perfect way to listen to your tunes on the go with battery life of about 9 hours on a full charge.
The Amazon Echo Tap ditches the always-on capabilities of its other two brothers, trading this functionality for portability.
The Echo Tap might be just as functional as the Echo and Echo Dot, but the fact that you have to actually hit the mic button to use it means it is somewhat limited for smart home control. Even things like controlling music require almost as much effort as it would take to whip out your phone and change the song on your ‘non-smart’ Bluetooth speaker.
Still, if you want a great speaker that doesn’t require you to bring along your phone, the Echo Tap is a great option — just remember you still need to have a Wi-Fi network though.
- All the key functionality of the Echo, but on the go
- Arguably a bit expensive at $130
- Requires you to physically ‘tap’ the Mic button to use its smart features
Ultimately, all three speakers are worthy of your consideration, though the right one for you largely depends on what kind of experience you are aiming for.
If portability is your thing, the Tap is naturally suited for it. If you want a lightweight design that connects to existing speakers, the Echo Dot makes a lot of sense. And last but not least, the original Amazon Echo is built for those that want a one-fits-all solution where you don’t have to bring anything else to the mix.
Which Amazon Echo model do you prefer, and why? Let us know in the comments. Conversely, if you don’t think any of these models gets it right, be sure to check out our Google Home review to get a better look at the competition.