Which Amazon Echo is best for you? I have no idea. But here's how I'd approach each one.
I own too many Amazon Echo speakers. From the original Echo to the Echo Dot and the newfangled Echo Show with its screen and camera. Plus the Amazon Tap, and Echo Look, which you can't even buy without an invitation. (And you probably shouldn't but it, for reasons I'll get into in a second.
This isn't a cookie-cutter list of all the Echo speakers and why you should buy them. Hell, a couple I think you probably should stay away from. This is a list of how I see things after having used them all for months and months. Hit the links below to jump on down to the Echo that tickles your fancy.
Echo Dot: The best Amazon Echo for starting out
Start simple. If you're just not sure about this whole Alexa thing and really don't know how much you'll get out of an Amazon Echo, it's best to not spend a lot of money. Start with an Echo Dot.
The Echo Dot costs $49 retail, but it's not uncommon to see it on sale for as low as $30. And at that price it's kind of a no-brainer. Buy one and give it a go.
Another pro tip here is to buy more than one at a time. Amazon typically has deals if you buy multiple Echoes Dot at one time — $20 is the usual savings. So if you're like me and you know you'll want too stash a few of these around the house, save yourself a few bucks and take advantage.
Echo Show: The best Amazon Echo, period
I wrote in our official review of the Amazon Echo Show that it's the best Echo you can buy today not because of what it can do today, but because of its potential. And that's still true.
For just $50 over the original (and aging) Echo, the Echo Show looks better and comes with a 7-inch display. So you have the added bonus of being able to watch video, view recipes, actually see products you're searching for through Echo — and of course make video calls to another Echo Show, or to a friend's phone via the Alexa app.
It sounds great, and it looks great.
I still want to see Echo Show get a good bit smarter — the current crop of skills doesn't take advantage of the display as much as it should. But that's the sort of thing that's solved through software, and it can and will get better.
The OG Amazon Echo: Great if you can get it on sale
The original Echo Show is getting a little long in the tooth. (And I'd argue it wasn't much of a looker in the first place.) And while I'll again stress that it's probably not worth paying $180 at retail for it at this point, it occasionally goes on sale for something like half that. And $90 for this sort of connected speaker ain't bad at all.
What you get is a tall cylinder that sounds pretty darn good and has all the Alexa you could want with the multiple microphones and skills and what not.
Also with this sort of design you can tuck it away in a corner a little easier than you can the Echo Show.
But, again, I wouldn't recommend it at this point over the Echo Show unless you can get it at a deep discount, refurbished, new, whatever. Just make sure you're not paying more than $100 or so. And keep in mind that we're very much expecting to see some sort of redesign of the Echo later this year.
Amazon Tap: Smaller, portable, expensive
For whatever reason, this isn't an "Echo" device. It's "Alexa-enabled." OK. (Maybe it's because the "Alexa" hotword isn't enabled by default, and instead you're supposed to push the microphone button. But no matter. For all intents and purposes it's an Echo, and it's meant to be portable.
The Tap has a charing base that allows you to just pick up the speaker and take it wherever you want. And it sounds decent. Not great, but good. Good enough for $129 retail, though? Eh, now Amazon is starting to ask a lot — particularly when you can get a portable battery base for the original Echo for just $50 and get a much better speaker for your troubles. Or you could stick an Echo Dot in this little cordless speaker and get a decent experience — again, for just $50.
Personally, I don't really see the necessity of a portable Alexa speaker — especially since the speaker itself is going to need to be connected to the Internet at all times for the Alexa stuff to work. And hotspotting to your phone just isn't something I want to bother with.
Your money probably is better off with any other Echo — or just a traditional Bluetooth speaker.
Echo Look: How much do you care about what you wear?
There's a pretty good chance you shouldn't buy the Echo Look. Unless you really care about fashion — to the point that you want to take a picture of what you're wearing and send it to Amazon for cataloging and analysis — then you'll just want to ignore this. For that's what Echo Look is good at. It's got a camera and it own app for taking your picture from head to toe, and it does a nice job of highlighting you while downplaying everything else.
From there it lets you flip back through what you've worn day after day, and you can have it compare two outfits and decide which it thinks looks better on you. (To varying degrees of success, I found.)
You very much will get out of Echo Look what you put into it. I don't care so much about what I'm wearing, so this wasn't really $200 well spent for me. Your wardrobe mileage may vary.
And to be fair, you can't just go out and buy an Echo Look. You'll have to tell Amazon you're interested in it, and then wait for an invitation.
Updated August 2017: New thoughts on Echoes old and new, and new rankings to go along with them.
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