Amazon Alexa is the most popular smart voice assistant in the world, and you can find her in all kinds of products, from microwaves and wall clocks to cars and printers. But the best way to get the most out of Alexa (and your Alexa devices) is with an Amazon Echo smart speaker.
Since not every Echo has the same range of capabilities, we examined each speaker in the line for its unique characteristics, sound quality, and responsiveness to help you decide which one is best for your home. In doing so, the fourth-generation Echo(available at Amazon for $99.99) rose to the top of our testing results. Of all the Echo speakers in our round up, it has the most universal appeal and would be perfect in any room of the house. But there are multiple models available, each with something notable to offer.
These are the best Amazon Echo smart speakers we tested, ranked in order:
Echo (4th Gen)
Echo Dot (4th Gen)
Echo Dot (3rd Gen)
Amazon Echo (4th Gen)
The 4th-gen Echo looks nothing like previous generations of Echo speakers, taking on an even more modern and minimal aesthetic as a fabric-covered orb. The status light ring is now around the base of said orb, which is a little more difficult to see from across the room, but it also has the smart home hub capabilities of the previous Echo Plus, and it comes loaded with a new processor that speeds up Alexa's response time.
The sound on the 4th-gen Echo is certainly respectable, though it can’t compete with the bass produced by larger speakers like the Bose Home 300. But committed Alexa users won’t be disappointed in this new Echo, using it solo, as a stereo pair, or for multi-room music when connected with other Echo speakers. It also functions as a bluetooth speaker.
The 4th-gen Echo has unique features like a built-in temperature sensor, which means you can open the Alexa app and see what the temperature is in the room where the Echo resides, and compatibility with Amazon Sidewalk. It's the only Echo speaker, aside from the Echo Studio, that doubles as a Zigbee hub to help allows for easy connection to other smart home devices like Hue Bulbs and Kwikset smart locks.
While its sound doesn’t compete with our favorites, especially in the bass department, it does well for a speaker at its cost. If you’re committed to the Amazon ecosystem, upgrading to the 4th-gen Echo is a worthy investment.
Hi there, I'm Rachel Murphy, the senior staff writer for Reviewed’s smart home section. My work in this article was built on top of the original piece, which was written and tested by Sarah Kovac, Reviewed’s former smart home editor. I live and work in an actual smart home, where I can test products using Alexa voice control in real-life scenarios and run into all possible hangups and annoyances (and there are many). Echo speakers are some of the most polished smart devices on the market, and I have several in my home.
Because every Echo speaker has its strengths and features, our testing couldn't be standardized across each device. Instead, we used each Echo for several weeks before deciding which one is best for which uses.
Echo Speakers and Privacy
Privacy might seem like a thing of the past, as everywhere you go, there's some computer watching or listening. But in your own home, you can do a few things to protect yourself, even from naturally invasive smart home devices.
You can stop your Echo speaker from listening for (and possibly mishearing) your wake word by turning off your mic via the mute button on the top of the device. Or, turn on audible alerts within Settings in the Alexa app to know when your Echo is listening beyond just the indicator light.
You can opt-out of having your voice recordings included in the review process by going to Settings > Alexa Privacy > Manage Your Alexa Data, then toggling off the setting that says Use Voice Recordings to Improve Amazon Services.
In these privacy settings, you can also delete voice recordings, which are accessible to anyone you share the app with. You can even set up auto-deletion every three or 18 months.
Other Amazon Echo Speakers We Tested
Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)
There are three versions of the 4th-generation Dot: the Dot, the Dot with Clock, and the Dot Kids Edition.
The Dot with Clock has a numerical display on the front that shows the time or status of timers you've set, while the Kids Edition is covered in fun animal designs and comes with a free year of Amazon Kids+ programming and a 2-year guarantee (because kids aren't easy on tech!).
Dots have always had a sleek aesthetic, but the orb-like design of the 4th generation is as minimal as it gets, matching with the larger 4th-gen Echo The Dot looks like a small mesh ball, and with three color options, it will blend nicely with most décor.
While you can't expect mind-blowing sound from a speaker barely larger than a baseball, the Dot allows for a surprisingly decent listening experience, especially when linked with another Dot as a stereo pair. Playing bass-heavy tunes makes for a somewhat disappointing experience, but acoustic tracks sound pretty respectable.
Larger, more expensive Alexa speakers like the Echo Studio will deliver far superior sound quality, but the Dot is certainly sufficient for smart home control, Alexa interactions, and background tunes at dinner.
If you’re looking for the best sound quality in the Echo lineup, the Echo Studio is absolutely the best pick. It's also a great choice for smart homes because, like the 4th-gen Echo, it has a built-in Zigbee hub.
This speaker is considerably larger than other Echo speakers, but the additional size allows for deeper bass, better clarity, and immersive sound. The Studio is also unique in this space as it is designed to deliver 3D sound, thanks to its Dolby Atmos compatibility, including an upward-firing driver that bounces sound off your ceiling to better immerse you.
Usually, we think of surround sound in reference to movies, but there is a burgeoning genre of music that takes advantage of 3D-audio technology like that in the Echo Studio to deliver sound that seems to come from everywhere–even above you, though at the present it's limited to a small list of artists and streaming services, such as Amazon Music Unlimited and Tidal.
Regardless of whether you use this speaker to play 3D music, the sound it delivers will be satisfying, and impressively full for a speaker of its size
The 3rd-gen Dot may be an older model Echo speaker, but it still gives you access to all the standard Alexa features at a fraction of the price of its larger siblings. However, with the price break, you do have to sacrifice sound quality.
The small speaker delivers noticeably low-quality audio playback, though this generation presents a major improvement in that area over its predecessors. Like the 4th-gen Echo Dot, the 3rd-gen has a 3.5mm input on the back and Bluetooth connectivity, so you can easily connect it to any existing speaker for a boost in audio quality.
Given that the price difference between the two speakers is nominal, the 4th-gen Echo Dot is a better buy (if you can swing the small price increase). The only reason to buy the 3rd-gen Echo Dot is if you prefer the hockey puck-like shape to the 4th-gen Echo Dot’s revamped orb design.
Sarah Kovac is an award-winning author and accessibility editor for Reviewed. Previously, she worked with a multitude of outlets such as Wirecutter, TIME, PCMag, Prevention, The Atlantic, Reviews.com, CNN, GOOD, Upworthy, Mom.me, and SheKnows.
Rachel Murphy is Reviewed's home editor. She holds a journalism degree from the University of Central Florida. Prior to joining the team, she worked as a freelance writer for publications like Insider and Mashable, and as an associate editorial producer for Good Morning America. Aside from smart home tech, her interests include food, travel, parenting, and home renovation. You can usually find her sipping on coffee at any time of the day.
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