Amazon Echo vs. Dot vs. Tap vs. Show: Which should you buy?

Control your music and way more with Amazon’s line of Echo smart speakers.

The world of the connected home is still very much a disconnected mess. As Apple and Google each compete with their own standards — and other companies doing the same with their own — Amazon has quietly snuck in the side door with its smart, attractive, and intelligent speaker. Or, rather, speakers. After more than a year with just the Amazon Echo to lead the way, Amazon’s line of smart speakers embodies that future. The Echo, Tap, Dot are very similar smart speakers, in that they perform nearly all the same functions, with some minor differences. And the new Echo Show adds a screen, and a whole new way of interactiveness.

If you’re in the market for a smart speaker but can’t decide between these three, we’ll outline the key differences and let you know which one is best for you.

Amazon Echo

The first of its kind, Amazon Echo is a 9-inch speaker that at first glance resembles a tube of Pringles. However, this unit is far more than just a speaker that can play all your favorite tunes from Pandora, Spotify, Prime Music, and more. (Tell it to “Play the Android Central Podcast,” too!) It can easily become the smart controller for your entire home, connecting to smart lights (like Philips Hue), Nest thermostats, Samsung SmartThings, and much more.

It’s basically a smartphone search appliance without the screen. It can answer questions, read audiobooks, check traffic and weather updates, and essentially act as your voice-activated butler (aside from actually bringing you a snack, though you can use it to order pizza from Domino’s…).

In a somewhat creepy display of semi-AI, the Echo is always connected to Amazon’s Alexa network, which is in the cloud and always getting smarter. The more you use it, the more it learns your preferences, speech patterns, and vocabulary, to better deliver on what you’re asking for. It’s always learning.

Check out our review for more!

Is it for me?

You’ll want the Echo if you want the total package. If you want a whole-home control center coupled with a decent speaker, then the Echo is your best choice. It’s an especially prudent choice if you already have your home rigged with smart devices. This one is designed to truly integrate with your home and therefore become a relatively permanent fixture. It comes in white and black.

See at Amazon

Echo Dot

The Dot is essentially the Echo’s “Mini-Me.” It has a smaller, quieter speaker and, in size, is more akin to a hockey puck. It does everything the Echo does, but also has a 3.5mm output jack and Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to connect it to your current sound system. Truly, it’s as though someone just decapitated the Echo and then scrunched up the full-size speaker and jammed it up into the neck, and boom, the Dot.

Connect to and control all of your smart home devices, as well as your existing audio set-up, making the Dot perhaps the most desirable of the Echo family, especially since it’s only $50.

Check out our review for more!

Is it for me?

It is if you have an existing audio setup and several smart devices around your home that you’d like to control with just your voice. Don’t go looking for real sound quality from the Dot, though it will do in a pinch if nothing else is available. Like the Echo, the Dot is constantly learning and adapting to your voice and your preferences. Comes in white and black.

See at Amazon

Echo Tap

The Tap is the next in line and brings most of the same features that the Echo has, with the added benefit of portability. With up to nine hours of playback, the Tap is rechargeable and comes with a handy wireless charging cradle.

Like the Echo and Dot, the Tap can control your smart home devices, and it can also act as you futuristic assistant, adding items to your calendar and helping with searches. It connects to your phone and other smart devices, like tablets, via Bluetooth, but just for playback.

The Tap is the only somewhat customizable Echo option, with the Tap Sling cover available in six colors.

The Tap has also been updated to allow for an “always listening” mode, so it’s now basically the same as the Echo and Dot in terms of control. Its portability is really what separates it from the others.

Is it for me?

It is if you want a portable speaker that also lets you stream music from many of your favorite services. The Tap can do all of the assistant-related things that the Echo and Dot do. If you just want a Bluetooth speaker that doubles as a personal assistant (by using the Alexa app), then the Tap is your best choice. Only available in black.

See at Amazon

Echo Show

The Echo Show is the next evolution of the Amazon Echo. Whereas Alexa could only tell you about stuff before, now she can show you. Before, you could simply listen to your flash briefing, which was dynamite — a quick overview of the day’s news. Now you can watch your flash briefing, as well as YouTube videos. See where this is going?

Thanks to Alexa’s new calling skill, you can also video call — hands-free — like it’s the future. Calling isn’t all it’s for, since you can also see music lyrics, listen to music straight out of it, thanks to excellent Dolby processing, and you can even connect compatible security cameras, then ask Alexa to show you those cameras, so you can keep an eye on things from wherever you are in the house.

The Echo Show features eight microphones and noise cancellation, so it can hear you from just about any direction — even while music is playing.

Is it for me?

If you’re looking for one of the most futuristic devices available that not only lets you control your smart home hands-free but also lets you take and make hands-free video calls, watch YouTube videos on the fly, see your flash briefing, and much more, with a well-balanced speaker to boot.

Echo Show is the perfect stationary Alexa vehicle, so if you’re looking for something portable, go with one of the other options.

See at Amazon

How do you choose?

If you want the total package — decent speaker, whole-home control, and a personal assistant, all controlled by your voice — then go with the Echo.

If you want the exact same thing, but smaller, since you already have a sweet home-audio setup, then go with the Dot. It’s definitely the best value.

If you want a portable Bluetooth speaker that can also act as a personal assistant, and you don’t mind getting up to tap it when you want to control your smart home devices, then the Tap is your bag, baby.

But if you want it all — and have the money for it — grab an Echo Show right now.

Updated June 2017: Make reference to the Echo Show being available for purchase.

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