The 4 best Amazon Echo smart speakers and smart displays of 2021


Echo devices vary in size and price, but all have built-in support for Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant. Alexa's capabilities have significantly improved since its debut. You can ask Alexa questions, set timers, order products, control compatible smart home devices, and more just using your voice.

You can also listen to Amazon Music, Spotify, and other music services. Some Echo speakers sound better than others, so you'll want to go with a larger model if you're planning on using yours to play lots of music. Certain Echo devices also have screens that can stream shows, display recipes, and even make video calls.

While the newest Echo smart speakers and displays are Amazon's best so far, there are certain models that may be better suited for specific budgets and tasks. With that in mind, we selected the best Echo devices for a variety of needs. Buyers should also keep in mind that many of our picks are expected to go on sale during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so be on the lookout for deals.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky Here are the best Echo devices you can buy: Best deals on Amazon Echo smart speakers from this guide

Amazon's Echo smart speakers are some of the most affordable and most widely-compatible smart gadgets on the market. As with all of Amazon's products, Echo speakers see discounts of $10 to $20 regularly and can sometimes be bundled with other smart home gadgets. The best deals tend to crop up during Prime Day, Amazon's yearly sales holiday. 

However, we expect some big discounts during Black Friday and Cyber Monday as well, and some great early deals are already available. Below, we gathered up the best deals on Echo products right now. Before any deal is featured here, we check the historical listing price on Amazon, the prices offered by competitors, and consult our in-house tracking spreadsheet.

Here are the best deals we found on our Amazon Echo smart speaker picks.

Echo (4th Gen) (medium, Preferred: Amazon) Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) (medium, Preferred: Amazon) Echo Dot (3rd Gen) (medium, Preferred: Amazon)

Read more about how the Insider Reviews team evaluates deals and why you should trust us.

Best Echo overall 4th gen echo dot speaker

Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider

The fourth-gen Amazon Echo features an updated design, improved sound, and Amazon's super-smart Alexa digital assistant built right into it.

Pros: Impressive sound quality, affordable, integrated Zigbee hub, 3.5mm port, attractive design

Cons: Amazon still saves your voice recordings by default, Google offers more color choices for its speakers

The fourth-generation Echo feels like a realization of everything Amazon has been building toward in previous models — a smart speaker that finds just the right balance between audio performance, price, and smart-home capabilities. 

Unlike the cylindrical design of older models, the latest Echo is shaped like a sphere with a flat bottom, making it look more like a glowing orb than a typical speaker.  

Audio quality has been improved thanks to the addition of a second tweeter and new front-firing placement. Our reviewer notes that the fourth-generation Echo sounds better than its predecessor in every way, with louder, deeper, and more full-bodied audio.

The new Echo also features an integrated Zigbee hub, which was something previously included only in the more expensive Echo Plus. Zigbee is a smart-home standard that accessories use to pair with one another. A third-generation Echo would have to talk to a separate smart-home hub to access and adjust some devices, like light bulbs. The new Echo can create a direct link without another hub. 

Alexa capabilities are built-in as well, enabling easy access to Amazon's reliable digital assistant. A blue light glows on the bottom when Alexa is listening. A handy microphone mute button is included for buyers concerned about privacy.

On the downside, Amazon still uses your voice recordings by default to help improve Alexa's functionality. Thankfully, you can disable this from the Alexa app, under the Alexa Privacy section in the settings menu.

Best budget Echo best budget Echo echo dot

Amazon

The third-gen Echo Dot may be the entry-level option on this list, but it's still just as smart as its siblings. Plus, its small size is its biggest asset.

  • Dimensions: 3.9 x 3.9 x 1.7 inches
  • Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Colors: Charcoal, Heather Gray, Plum, and Sandstone
  • Mute button: Yes

Pros: Small, smart, affordable, works just as well as all the others

Cons: Audio quality isn't as good as the standard Echo

Though there's a newer fourth-generation Dot on the market, the third-generation Echo Dot is still the best budget Echo you can buy thanks to its lower price. For less than half the cost of the standard Echo, you get a hockey puck-sized gadget that can help you control your smart devices with your voice, answer questions, and connect to external speakers through a Bluetooth signal. 

The Echo Dot's best feature is definitely its small size. You can stick it just about anywhere, and because it has a similar microphone array as its bigger siblings, it won't have a problem hearing your requests. Whether you're going for subtlety or want the best way to dip your toe into the smart-home ocean, this is your best choice.

Third-generation Echo Dots remain on sale at Amazon for a discounted price, but buyers should keep in mind that a fourth-generation model is available. The latest Dot features a spherical design and slightly improved sound quality, but overall performance is essentially the same.

Since the third-generation Dot is less expensive and is likely to see big discounts for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we still recommend it over the fourth-gen version for budget shoppers. If you really prefer the newer model's orb-shaped look, however, it could be worth the extra money. 

Best Echo with a big screen Amazon Echo Show 10

Amazon

The Echo Show 10 can display information that its screenless siblings can only read to you, making it extra useful for timers and calendar events.

  • Dimensions: 9.9 x 9 x 6.7 inches
  • Weight: 90.3 ounces
  • Screen size: 10.1-inch HD touchscreen
  • Mute button: Yes, along with built-in camera shutter
  • Read our Echo Show 10 review

Pros: 10.1-inch screen, the ability to see Alexa's responses to you, ability to follow you as you move in your home

Cons: Not entirely accurate in facing the right direction, higher price than the screenless options

To put it simply, this is an Echo with a 10-inch screen. It can do anything a standard Echo can, but it shows the information visually, in addition to audibly.

For instance, if you set a timer you'll be able to watch it count down. You'll be able to see your calendar when you ask Alexa about your upcoming events, and you can even watch Prime Video, Hulu, and more.

The Echo Show 10 is a particularly handy companion in the kitchen. If it'd help to see a measurement conversion instead of just hearing it said out loud (there are 16 tablespoons in a cup, by the way), the Echo Show is a really good option. You can also visually follow recipes, which is sometimes easier than audio. 

In February 2021, Amazon released the third-generation Echo Show 10. The device is a step up from its predecessor as its screen now has the ability to turn toward you when you say the wake word or engage in an activity. Its 13-megapixel camera can also center you in its frame for any video calls you make. Though beneficial in some cases, this new following feature is not always the most accurate and it takes some getting used to.

Best Echo with a small screen best Echo with a small screen amazon echo show 5

Amazon

The Echo Show 5 has a smaller, 5-inch screen than the original model, making it perfect for use as a smart alarm clock on your bedside table.

  • Dimensions: 5.8 x 3.4 x 2.9 inches
  • Weight: 14.5 ounces
  • Screen size: 5.5-inch touchscreen
  • Mute button: Yes, along with built-in camera shutter

Pros: 5-inch screen, the ability to see Alexa's responses to you

Cons: Camera is lower resolution than more expensive models, screen isn't HD

The Show 5 is the smallest Echo with a screen that Amazon sells. It has a 5-inch display, so it can show video content, security camera footage, and visual representations of Alexa's answers. 

It can also display the time, and you can use it to set alarms to wake you up in the morning, making it a great smart alarm clock for your bedside table.

If you love the idea of seeing Alexa's responses to your questions and requests, but you want a smaller device, the Echo Show 5 is a great option. 

The latest second-generation Echo Show 5 launched in June 2021. Not much has changed compared to the first-gen version except for the camera. The new device has a 2-megapixel camera, a step up from the older model's 1-megapixel camera.

If you can find the original Show 5 in stock and on sale for a good deal price, it's still a solid buy. But since they're usually priced about the same, the second-gen model is the one to get.

What else we considered Amazon Echo Dot fourth-gen on a table

Christian de Looper/Business Insider

Echo Dot (fourth generation):  Like the standard Echo speaker, the latest Echo Dot swaps out its old puck-shaped design for a new spherical shape. Despite the updated look, however, the new Echo Dot still uses a single 1.6-inch speaker driver. 

Though the new Dot is an impressive smart speaker in its own right, the less expensive third-generation model sounds very similar and is actually easier to wall mount. With that in mind, we still recommend the older Echo Dot as our top budget pick. 

Amazon also has a fourth-generation Echo Dot with Clock. As the name implies, this version adds a built-in digital clock, enabling customers to easily see the time or temperature. 

Read our Amazon Echo Dot (fourth generation) review here.

Amazon Echo FAQs Amazon Echo, Charcoal

Amazon

Are Amazon Echo and Alexa the same thing?

Amazon Echo and Alexa are not the same thing, but the two are closely related. Echo is the brand name for Amazon's lineup of smart devices, while Alexa is the name of Amazon's digital assistant found in Echo devices. All Echo devices support Alexa, so it's best to think of Alexa as the primary feature of an Amazon Echo. 

What does the Amazon Echo do?

Amazon Echo smart speakers and displays are capable of many useful features. Most notably, Echo devices include integrated support for Amazon Alexa. This enables Alexa voice commands so you can ask questions, set timers, check weather, get news updates, play music, and control other compatible smart devices.

Do I need to have an Amazon account to use Echo?

In order to set up and use an Echo device with Alexa you need to have an Amazon account. That said, Echo products don't require a paid membership to Amazon Prime. Buyers can simply use a free Amazon account to get started with the device and use its main features. 

Should I wait until Black Friday/Cyber Monday to buy an Amazon Echo? 

Amazon Echo devices get big discounts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If you're planning to buy an Echo this holiday season, you should wait until these deal events to snag one for the best price.

Echo devices also get deals on Prime Day, Amazon's annual sale that typically lands during the summer. If you miss out on a Black Friday deal, Prime Day is the next best time to get an Echo.

Read the original article on Business Insider

[Author: [email protected] (Malarie Gokey,Steven Cohen,Ben Blanchet)]


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