USA Today’s Jefferson Graham suggests tips on the best way to shop through Amazon’s home assistant, Alexa. USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES — With seven different choices in its Amazon Echo family, consumers are naturally confused about which smart speaker, if any, to buy.
The entry-level Dot is the most affordable and Amazon’s best seller, but has the worst sound. The video versions of Echo haven’t caught on, but are now costing about the same as the regular, full-featured Echo. What to do?
USA TODAY is here to help, with a guide to all seven speakers, pros and cons on each, and a summation at the end. Amazon’s Monday/Tuesday Prime Day sale is expected to have the best deals on Amazon’s own products, with especially good discounts on the Echo speakers.
With a smart speaker, you can use your voice and the “wake” word commands “Alexa” to do a host of different things. Most often that’s playing music or podcasts, getting weather reports, the morning news, recipes, and controlling your smart home.
Pro. Amazon improved the sound emanating from the Echo in its second generation, compared to the since- discontinued original Echo. It has a nice fabric design, supports Bluetooth streaming and has a standard audio jack.
Con. Sound is better than before but still just ok. There are better sounding speakers out there.
Pre-Prime Day price: $149.99
Pro. Aimed at those who want to use the unit for controlling your home automation. It comes with a free Philips Hue smart lightbulb.
Con. Smart home controls can improve. Cylindrical speaker is not as attractive as latest regular Echo.
Pre-Prime Day price: $49.99
Pro. Compact and cheap (and often discounted). Small size makes these easy to place anywhere, including on nightstands. Audio jack. Bluetooth support.
Con. Poor sound quality for listening to music.
Echo Dot Kids Edition
Pre-Prime Day price: $79.99
Pro. Kid-friendly version of the Dot comes with red, green or blue protective case, and free one-year subscription of Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited with protected child-centric content. Strong parental controls. Alexa caters answers to youngsters.
Con. Critics fret about commercial offerings to kids and privacy concerns. Expensive.
Pro. The first Echo with a display can show a range of video content, from movie trailers to news to song lyrics to a view from your security camera. And you can make “drop-in” video calls. Price has already been heavily discounted by $100.
Con. Amazon-Google bickering means no YouTube on Echo Show and that means not much video content to watch.
Pre-Prime Day price: $129.99
Pro. Alarm-clock sized Spot is like a cross between the Dot and Show, resulting in the second Echo with a screen. You can use Show for drop-in calls or for much the same content as the Show.
Con. Screen is small. Formatting issues on some videos. Expensive.
Pre-Prime Day price: $84.99
Pro. Portable, battery-operated Bluetooth speaker lets you take Alexa on the go. Price is already discounted. Now voice activated, which means like the Echo devices it will respond to the “Alexa” wake word.
Con. Middling speaker quality. Requires Wi-Fi, which may not always be available when you’re out and about.
The Echo was the first but there are a bunch of Alexa enabled Amazon products to choose from these days. So which one is the best for you? Check out the video! Reviewed.com – Mike Roorda, Jackson Ruckar
Best overall Echo:
Jefferson Graham: Echo. The speaker that started it all is still the best. And the sound differences between the small Dot and the larger Echo are too great to skimp for. However, our overall pick for a smart speaker isn’t an Amazon product at all, if you’re willing to spend a little more money.
Ed Baig: Dot. It’s the cheapest and even with the inferior sound, you can improve it dramatically by using Bluetooth and piping it to a better speaker. With the Dot, you can still can take advantage of just about all the various Alexa skills.
Best overall connected speaker: Sonos One. For just about an extra $100, you get a smart speaker with stronger Hi-Fi than you’ll hear on one of the smaller Amazon or Google units. And if you listen to music every day, it’s money well spent. It’s a more versatile speaker with better sound than any of the Echo speakers. It will let you play, for instance, music from Apple’s subscription service, which no Echo can do, while also offering all the same full Alexa functionality.
Amazon or Google? Amazon dominates the connected speaker market, with Google catching up with its Google Home speaker. Google’s advantage is smarts — it can answer trivia, compute percentages and the like with more precision than Alexa can. And its speakers generally cost less than Amazon’s. However, we (Graham and Baig) give the nod to Amazon. It built the smart speaker market from scratch and has made it a cornerstone of everything they do.