Amazon's intelligent loudspeakers are taking over households. In this article we compare all the Echo’s. What are the differences and the advantages of each one and which one is the best Echo of 2020?
The Echo family can be roughly divided into three categories:
- Echo loudspeaker without display: Interaction with Alexa takes place purely via speech. The devices differ in the quality of the audio output.
- Echo displays: Alexa can also display information visually on these devices (e.g. recipes, videos or the like). There are different display sizes to choose from.
- Other Echo devices: These usually only have an integrated microphone and make use of existing analog devices (e.g. stereo systems or the telephone) voice-controlled via Alexa.
All Amazon Echo speakers offer the full range of functions of the integrated voice assistant Alexa and support thousands of functions that are provided by third-party providers.
Amazon currently has three current Echo speakers without a display in its range: Echo Studio, Echo and Echo Dot. The 4th generation Standard Echo currently offers the best price-performance ratio. The intelligent speaker has the new Amazon "AZ1 Neural Edge" processor for better speech recognition and supports three wireless standards for the smart home with WLAN, Bluetooth Low Energy Mesh and ZigBee. Dolby stereo sound rounds off the good features.
The performance of the Amazon Echo voice control lies in the hardware, which consists of a voice input processor and the microphone array. For this purpose, Amazon far-field technology is used in its Echo speakers. This ensures the identification of the activation word, an optimized directional beam technology and an improved noise suppression.
The echo loudspeaker still understands its owner when, for example, the light is to be turned down for the first chords of Beethoven's ninth. By means of the ring-shaped arranged microphones, the hardware can separate different sound sources in the room from one another and to localize them precisely. The coloured LEDs on the top of the device indicate in which direction the Amazon Echo is listening.
Amazon Echo Plus 2, Echo 3 and Echo Dot 3
Until September 2020, the Echo devices consisted of the models Echo Plus (2nd generation), Echo 3 and Echo Dot 3. Of the intelligent speakers, only Amazon Echo Plus and Amazon Echo Studio offered an integrated ZigBee hub. The tube design has been adopted from the previous generation, but in comparison to the past, it has been provided with a fabric covering.
The intelligent loudspeaker Amazon Echo 3 is available in four colours and, compared to the Echo 2, shines with improved sound properties. A 76 mm neodymium woofer and a 20 mm tweeter are built into the interior. The previous model had a 63 mm woofer and 16 mm tweeter. The difference is clearly audible in music streaming.
Owners of an Echo 3 can control Alexa-compatible smart home devices via the intelligent speaker. Like the Echo Plus, the Alexa speaker hides seven microphones, directional beam technology and noise cancellation inside. The Echo recognizes voice commands even when the television is on in the background. The tweeter is slightly smaller than that of the Echo Plus, but the Amazon Echo also works with Dolby technology and delivers 360-degree sound reinforcement into the room. If several echo loudspeakers are in use in different rooms, a multiroom application to be set up. This is made possible by the multiroom music function. The same music is played in all rooms at the same time. Or you instruct the Echo to play classic in the bedroom, pop in the children's room and rock in the living room.
The Echo Plus 2
Amazon's intelligent loudspeaker Echo Plus in the second generation of devices has an integrated smart home hub that is equipped with the Zigbee wireless standard. This is a radio standard for home automation that is used in a smart home for communication between connected smart home devices and the "device control centre", the hub. Compatible Zigbee devices such as Philips Hue lights can be set up directly without the need for an additional device hub. But: Many Zigbee device manufacturers with their own hub have integrated premium functions. This means that if you want to operate Zigbee devices with the Echo Plus without the manufacturer's original hub, you may not be able to use all functions.
In terms of sound technology, the Echo Plus (2nd generation) offers omni-directional 360-degree sound with Dolby Processing and, with the 76 mm woofer and 20 mm tweeter built into the housing, it has the best audio equipment in the Echo loudspeaker family. A high-quality two-way speaker system is located inside the almost 148 mm high Amazon Echo cylinder. The tweeters and mid-woofers are aligned one above the other, with the membrane facing down, so that the sound can spread equally well laterally in all directions. The transmission line winds in the upper part of the housing with a diameter of almost 99 mm. The mechanical controls are also located there: the outer ring serves as a volume control and contains the array of seven microphones for voice input and a light ring made of RGB LEDs.
Echo Dot 3 with all Alexa functions
The Echo Dot 3 is often referred to as the "little brother" of Amazon Echo. Instead of a rotary ring for the volume as in the Echo 2 or Echo Plus (1st generation), the Echo Dot 3 only has two buttons for volume control on the top. In its shape, the Echo Dot 3 is similar to an ice hockey puck and is not intended as high-quality audio equipment, but mainly for voice interaction with Alexa and for voice control of Alexa-compatible smart home components.
Unlike the Echo Plus and Echo, Echo Dot does not offer Dolby functionality either. The tweeter, which in the second generation provided good treble reproduction and clear sound, was replaced in the third generation with a larger, centre-weighted loudspeaker. The Echo Dot, which is now wrapped in fabric, has significantly more bass and has reached a new league in terms of sound, but the voice reproduction is no longer as good as its predecessor. If you want to verbally control your entire house, several Echo Dots are a good alternative to the much more expensive Echo.
Amazon Echo 4
In September 2020 Amazon presented its new generation of Echo speakers. One of the highlights: the intelligent loudspeaker Amazon Echo 4. The new standard Echo replaces Echo Plus, whose product line thus ended in the 2nd generation. Echo 4 has several special features: It has taken over the integrated ZigBee hub of the Echo Plus, which Amazon Echo Studio also offers. However, compared to the Echo Studio, the Amazon Echo 4 offers another special feature, because it has the BLE Mesh, which means Bluetooth Low Energy Mesh.
This gives users three ways of integrating smart home devices into their homes. On the one hand via WLAN and via the two wireless standards Bluetooth Mesh and ZigBee. The latter are characterized by the fact that they are mesh-capable, which means that each device expands and strengthens the wireless connection. With WLAN, the mesh functionality usually must be retrofitted with a mesh WLAN system.
But Amazon has also upgraded its standard loudspeaker in terms of sound. The Echo 4 features a 76.2 mm neodymium woofer and two 20 mm high-frequency speakers. Amazon promises Dolby Stereo sound. For comparison: the previous model only had a 20 mm tweeter and was therefore a mono device with 360-degree sound. With the speaker equipment, the Amazon Echo 4 promises to offer a good sound
Overall, the Amazon Echo 4 has seen many technical improvements compared to its predecessor. Amazon's new "AZ1 Neural Edge" processor is also not missing in the Echo 4. However, the sphere design might take some getting used to for some users.
Amazon Echo Dot 4
The new Amazon Echo 4 Dot comes up with a new spherical design like the Echo 4, but otherwise does not offer any ground-breaking innovations at first glance. Inside, Amazon has installed a 41 mm loudspeaker, which is probably a mid-range speaker. A 20 mm tweeter still worked inside the Echo Dot 2. The difference was noticeable in the Echo Dot 3 sound. Centre-weighted speakers sound more voluminous and emphasize bass more prominently, but make voices appear a bit dull. Amazon promises "clear sound" for the Amazon Echo Dot 4 and speaks of "crisp vocals”.
The 3.5 mm jack plug can also be found in the Amazon Echo Dot 4. This is good, because you can also connect analog playback devices or headphones to the small Alexa ball, for example. The ring of light that was previously always on the top of the echoes has now moved down on the Echo Dot 4 and Echo 4 and surrounds the base. For the user, this means that he can no longer see the entire ring and the Echo Dot 4 and the large Echo 4 lose their attention.
A new feature of the Amazon Echo Dot 4 is the energy-saving mode, in which the device reduces energy consumption when it is not used for a long time. However, the function is associated with restrictions: This is how the energy-saving mode works e.g. B. not if the Echo Dot 4 is connected to Spotify or to a WLAN, ZigBee or Bluetooth device, which is usually the case in a smart home.
Amazon Echo Studio
Amazon Echo Studio differs from its brothers in terms of design. The slot at the bottom of the box is striking. This serves as a bass opening for five-tone frequencies. Inside the intelligent loudspeaker work three 51 mm mid-range speakers, a 25 mm tweeter and a 133 mm woofer for bass. In contrast to all other Amazon Echo’s, the Amazon Echo Studio has an optical input that can be used to connect a CD player, for example.
Amazon Echo Studio is the only Echo to offer an optical input and real high-fidelity sound.
The fact that Amazon takes the demands of audiophile customers seriously with its flagship can already be seen when setting up the smart speaker. The loudspeaker automatically adjusts the room so that the sound waves are optimally emitted into the room. The room acoustics are continuously adjusted. This means that users can be sure that optimal audio playback is ensured even when the device is moved. However, the loudspeaker can only exploit its full potential in connection with an HD-capable streaming service such as Amazon Music HD, or if a digital source device is to be connected to the Alexa loudspeaker.
Echo Show, Show 5, Show 8 and Echo Spot
With the Amazon Smart Displays Echo Show 10, Echo Show (2nd Gen.), Echo Show 5, Echo Show 8 and Echo Spot, Amazon has equipped intelligent speakers with a display.
As with the intelligent speakers without a display, Amazon's smart displays support the connection via dual-band Wi-Fi 2.4 and 5 GHz. A connection to peer-to-peer Wi-Fi networks is not possible. Hands-free voice control via Bluetooth from Mac OS X devices or the connection of Bluetooth speakers with PIN entry is unfortunately also not supported.
If you are looking for a smart display that is also suitable as a small TV for video streaming via Amazon Prime Video or Netflix, as well as provides a good picture for video communication, the Echo Show is in good hands. It is Amazon's most expensive smart display, but it offers a ZigBee hub, a 13 MP camera and a large 10.1-inch screen.
Amazon Echo Show 10
Amazon Echo 10 is the latest intelligent smart display from Amazon, which at the same time heralds a generation change. Like the previous model, the Echo Show (2nd generation), the device has a 10-inch display. The device differs greatly in its camera functions. Echo Show 10 has a 13 MP camera and a swivel joint that offers a turning radius of 127 degrees. Thanks to object tracking, Echo Show 10 can keep a person in focus, even if they are moving freely in the room. This is useful, for example, when a person wants to pre-cook a recipe in a video conference.
But the swivel joint also offers the user more possibilities of use. When watching Netflix series, the display always rotates towards the user when he changes his location. In addition, owners can access the camera remotely via smartphone and B. Check that everything is in order from work at home, of course with the option to pan the camera.
In terms of sound, Amazon has also improved the Echo Show 10. A 76 mm woofer now works inside, which is responsible for the mids and basses. Two 25 mm tweeters provide stereo sound. For comparison: Echo Show (2nd generation offers two centre-weighted 50 mm stereo drivers and passive bass radiators. The sound image of the new Echo Show 10 should thus bring out voices more clearly and give bass more punch. Echo Show has to determine how good the sound actually is 10 can only be proven in a test The device is currently not available, which is why an Echo Show 10 is still pending and the evaluation is based on the technical data.
Inside, Amazon has installed its new AZ1 Neural processor, which helps Alexa better understand. This means that users are already prepared for the coming speech recognition functions, because currently only US users benefit from the processor properties. Connectivity is provided via Bluetooth low energy and WLAN. This means that the Echo Show 10 can not only be used for streaming, but also as a Bluetooth speaker.
The Echo Show (2nd Gen.)
The Amazon Echo Show 2 differs from the other Amazon Smart Displays in terms of size and an integrated ZigBee Hub. The intelligent loudspeaker has a 10.1-inch display, which is why video streaming is also fun. For example, Amazon Prime Video is supported.
But Echo Show also provides real added value in the smart home, such as the video image transmission from security cameras to the screen. Supported are e.g. B. Ring security cameras. The display also enables video calls with friends or relatives who also have an Echo Show or Echo Spot device or a smartphone with video function and Alexa app. Echo Show 2 offers the highest resolution of all Amazon Smart Displays with 5 megapixels.
The sound of Echo Show 2 is one of the best of all Echo speakers. Inside work dual 50 mm neodymium stereo drivers as well as passive bass radiators and integrated Dolby support. The camera and microphone can be switched off using a microphone / camera button. Thus, users can be sure that the voice assistant Alexa is not listening in or watching what is going on.
Echo Show 5
Echo Show 5 is the smallest model in the Echo Show series to date. With the Echo Show 5, you get an intelligent, 5.5-inch display with Alexa that can be placed anywhere. Whether in the kitchen or on the bedside table, the Echo Show 5 has potential for versatile use. Hobby cooks can use the Smart Display as a kitchen helper and display inspiring recipes or cooking streams directly in the kitchen. Those who like to come into the day can be woken up by the daylight wake-up function. The user can choose his preferred one from various dial designs. The Echo Show 5 also cuts a fine figure as a bedside clock. If you want, you can call up important information such as the weather report, current news or traffic information when you get up.
By linking it to services such as Spotify, radio.de, Audible or the chef, the little Echo Show becomes an entertaining companion in every part of the household. So, users of the Echo Show 5 can make convenient video calls to their loved ones and have their hands free. For example, instead of having a live stream while cooking, you can also have a video chat. Thanks to the Alexa integration, the Echo Show 5 also serves as a smart home control. Compatible devices can be conveniently controlled via the user-friendly display. If that is too cumbersome for you, you can simply ask Alexa by voice command to show the pictures from the door camera on the display, to switch the lights on or off or to lower the shutters.
Technically, the Echo Show 5 does not have to hide from its big brothers. It does have fewer microphones and no Dolby sound, but these are relatively acceptable downgrades. The Echo Show can be used very flexibly and impresses with its low price for a smart display.
Echo Show 8
With the Amazon Echo Show 8, Amazon closes the gap between the Echo Show (2nd generation) and the Echo Show 5. As with the Echo Show 5, the 8 stands for the display size of the smart display. 8-inch displays play a major role here, because they are on the one hand still handy enough to find space everywhere and on the other hand large enough so that users can enjoy video streaming without needing a magnifying glass.
Compared to the Echo Show 5, the Echo Show 8 has two 51 mm speakers with an output power of 10 watts each, which enables real stereo sound - but without Dolby support, which is still reserved for the Echo Show (2nd generation) among current devices. The integrated camera cover, which is also available on the Echo Show 5, is nice. With both devices, the camera can not only be switched off, but the lens can be covered.
Overall, the Echo Show 8 offers a particularly good price-performance ratio: strong sound, sufficient display and all Alexa functions at first hand. Only the weak camera for video calls spoils the otherwise exceptionally good impression.
The Echo Spot
Just like the idea of an intelligent kitchen TV in Echo Show, the spherical Echo Spot tempts you to think of a clock radio in the bedroom. Indeed, the Echo Spot would cut a fine figure on the bedside table.
The microphone and camera can be deactivated by pressing a button on the Amazon Echo Spot to ensure privacy.
At 2.5 inches, the display is much smaller than that of the Echo Show, but it is also more of an information display than a video screen, although videos can of course also be played on Show. With only four microphones, it only has half as many microphones as the Echo Show, but the comparison is poor. In fact, the Echo Spot is more closely related to an Amazon Echo Dot than to an Echo Show. It looks cute, and the display is more used to get information. For example, to display the time without having to send a verbal time request to Alexa. Or using weather icons to know what to expect outside when you wake up in the morning.
Amazon Echo Spot has a built-in camera that users can use to hold video conferencing. However, the resolution of 1 MP is rather low. Even if the display only offers a resolution of 480 x 480 pixels, it is sufficient to be able to display important information well. Of course, slide shows of private pictures can also be displayed on the Echo Spot.
Echo Input and Echo Flex
With Amazon Echo Input and Echo Flex, the e-commerce company has two Echo models on the market that go their own way. Amazon Echo Input is aimed at users who do not need a loudspeaker but prefer to use their existing stereo system for audio output. Another possible use is to make older devices capable of streaming with echo input.
Echo Flex largely dispenses with high-quality sound properties and primarily serves to spread Alexa as far as possible in the house. The device is cheap, and in principle a socket with integrated Alexa. As a bonus, there are two USB interfaces for charging USB devices and a USB port to which smart additional devices such as night lights or motion detectors can be docked.
Amazon Echo Flex is a compact Echo speaker that sits in a socket housing. There are two microphones on the front, which suggests that speech recognition does not work as well as other devices that have four or more microphones. In view of the price, however, not surprising. Savings have also been made on the loudspeaker, which only measures 15 mm. However, this should be enough to stream a fairy tale in the children's room.
A special feature of Echo Flex is the USB-A connection integrated on the underside, as is also known from the computer. Users can use this to connect charging cables and thus charge their tablet or smartphone. A main advantage is the use of the device as an intercom. There are also accessories for the Amazon Echo Flex: For example, a motion detector or night light can be docked in the USB-A interface of the socket outlet echo.
If you want to use your own system, but cannot do without Alexa, Echo-Input is recommended. This is not a standalone speaker, but an additional device with the functions of the Echo Dot, which can be used on your own home system. All you must do is connect the echo input to your own system so that voice commands, for example to play music, are also recognized and the music can come from your own speakers.
The Echo Input can perform all skills that an Echo Dot can do. Thanks to the four integrated microphones, speech recognition is excellent even in the smallest version. The device has a special position, as it is only a hardware addition to make your own speakers smart via Bluetooth or 3.5 mm audio output. The functions of the Echo Input can also be used via the free app and if you invest more money, you can even have a good additional speaker built in with the Echo Dot (3rd generation).
Which is the best Amazon Echo?
Amazon Echo Plus and Amazon Echo Studio are among the top speakers in the Amazon Echo models. Both offer an integrated ZigBee Smart Home Hub, which enormously expands the range of smart home devices. Amazon Echo Plus also has an integrated temperature sensor. Echo Studio can play HD audio.
Amazon Echo Dot 3 offers an exceptionally good and inexpensive entry into the Alexa world. If you value sound more, you should use the Amazon Echo Plus. It costs only a little more than the standard Amazon Echo speaker and offers an integrated ZigBee Smart Home Hub. Amazon Echo Studio offers even better sound.
Amazon Echo Studio offers the best sound among the Amazon Echo speakers. It offers three 51 mm midrange speakers, a 25 mm tweeter and a 133 mm woofer with a bass port to maximize bass output. The speaker supports CD quality audio (16 bit) and 24 bit Hires sound. However, Amazon Echo Studio is dependent on appropriate HD source material in order to be able to develop fully. Ultimately it depends which Alexa device is best suited to your household and your needs.