The Best Amazon Echo In 2021: Smart Speaker With Alexa - Rolling Stone
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Amazon Has More Echo Speakers Than Ever — Here Are the Best Ones to Get Right now

There are more Amazon Echo devices than ever, but these are the best ones you can get right now

Amazon Echo

Amazon

Amazon’s Echo speakers have come a long way since the original model was launched in 2015.

The line has grown to include devices in a variety of different sizes and styles. Most importantly: each generation has received far better audio hardware, and the latest models sound great.

The biggest reason to get an Amazon Echo is Alexa, Amazon’s smart assistant. Alexa is built into every Echo speaker, and allows you to play music, control smart home accessories, set times, make reminders, play games, create or edit grocery lists, check time time or weather, and a lot more.

You can access Alexa by saying one of three wake words: Alexa, echo, or computer. You can decide which wake word works best for you when you set up the device using Amazon’s Alexa app on a phone or tablet.

Amazon has done an incredible job making Alexa the most robust, responsive smart assistant available right now. A recent software update allows you to have a multi-question conversation with the device, which makes it easy to get the information you need.

If you’ve been curious about starting a smart home, or want to upgrade from an older Amazon Echo to a new model, we’ve broken down the best ones you can get right now.

What Are The Best Amazon Echo Smart Speakers?

There are many factors to consider when choosing the right Amazon Echo for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.

Size: The current line of Amazon Echo devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the differences aren’t just aesthetic. Larger Echo speakers have room for better audio hardware, which makes them better for large spaces. Smaller Echos sacrifice sound quality, but are a better fit for a nightstand. Think about *where* you want your Echo to stay while deciding which one to get.

Screen: Amazon’s large family of Echo devices includes models with and without a display. The ones with screens are part of the Amazon Echo Show family; they have all the same smart features as a regular Amazon Echo, but allow you to stream video and start a video chat thanks to a built-in webcam.

1. Amazon Echo (Fourth Generation)

Amazon Echo

Amazon

The fourth-generation Amazon Echo is still the best smart speaker from the e-commerce giant.

This new model was released late last year and features a new circular shape that looks a lot cleaner than the tall cylinder it replaced. The full-sized Echo has a three-driver audio system that features a 3 inch woofer and a pair of .8 inch front-firing tweeters. Amazon also added support for Dolby audio processing this time around to optimize its sound.

Another difference is that this Echo’s LED light ring, which comes on to let you know it’s listening to a request, has moved from the top to the bottom. This is a subtle change that makes this Echo more visually appealing. Finally, the fourth-generation Amazon Echo has a Zigbee antenna inside, which means it can communicate directly with more smart home accessories instead of requiring a hub.

The fourth-generation Amazon Echo is not only the best device in its family, but one of the best smart speakers you can get right now. Its new design, upgraded audio hardware, and increased smart features are good enough that it’s even worth upgrading if you have an earlier model.

Buy: Amazon Echo (Fourth Generation) at $99.99

2. Echo Dot (Fourth Generation)

Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon

The Fourth-Generation Echo Dot is Amazon’s smallest smart speaker, and it carries over most of the great features from its larger sibling.

It received the same visual upgrade as the fourth-generation echo, changing from a hockey-puck shaped speaker to a circle. It’s bigger than the previous-generation Echo Dot, but Amazon used the additional space to build in a better speaker system. The single 1.6 inch front-firing speaker is a dramatic improvement over the speaker in older Echo Dots.

The biggest differences between the Echo Dot and Amazon’s fourth-generation Echo is its lack of Dolby audio support and Zigbee antenna. Those are great features, but shouldn’t be deal breakers if you want a small smart speaker for a bedside table or desk.

The Echo Dot is the best smart speaker in its size class and price. If you have a small space in your house that could use a good speaker, get this one.

Buy: Amazon Echo Dot (Fourth Generation) at $49.99

Note: Amazon also offers a version of the Echo Dot with a subtle LED clock for $59.99.

3. Echo Studio

Amazon Echo Studio

Amazon

One of the biggest early criticisms of the Amazon Echo was the quality of its speaker; the Echo Studio answers those complaints.

This smart speaker features five drivers (the part of a speaker or headphone that creates sounds) pointed in different directions, including upward and downward. This audio system contains three 2 inch midrange drivers, one downward-firing 5.25 inch woofer, and a single front-firing 1 inch tweeter.

We’ve tried the Echo Studio for ourselves, and it sounds very good overall. We found it to be a little bass heavy at times, but not enough to make songs sound muddy. Vocals and live tracks sounded especially clear in our testing. If you want the best possible sound out of the Echo Studio, we recommend getting two of them and setting them up as a stereo pair, which is a feature available on the fourth-generation Echo and Echo Dot.

If you have a subscription to Amazon Music HD or Tidal, you can use the Echo Studio to play music mixed for Dolby Atmos. This new spatial audio technology is different than surround sound because some sounds are sent upward and downward. Music mixed for Dolby Atmos is more dynamic, because sounds aren’t limited to coming from a certain direction (back left, back right, front left, front right, center). The Echo Studio is one of the few smart speakers that can properly play Dolby Atmos music.

The Echo Studio is designed to fill a large room with great sound, and the right choice if you need a smart speaker for your living room.

Buy: Amazon Echo Studio at $199.99

4. Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen)

Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen)

Amazon

The Echo Show is Amazon’s line of smart speakers with a screen, and its Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) is the one we recommend most people get.

The Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) has an 8-inch HD display with a pair of 2-inch stereo speakers built in. Amazon has done an excellent job designing small-but-powerful speakers in its newest Echo devices, and great sound complements high resolution videos. Despite its relative large size, the Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) won’t look out of place on a kitchen counter top, bedside table, or home office desk.

The Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) has all the same features as Amazon’s other smart speakers, but it can display answers to your questions on its screen instead of just reading them aloud. If you ask for the weather, you’ll be able to see a full, five day forecast instead of waiting to hear the highs and lows for every single day.

If you have an Alexa-compatible smart security camera, you can view a live feed from it on the Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen)at any time, which is convenient if you live in a two floor house. The ability to quickly check why your security camera’s motion sensor was tripped without leaving the room can help keep you safe.

The biggest upgrade Amazon made when designing this generation of the Echo Show 8 is greatly improving its front-facing camera. This device’s 13MP sensor can capture an incredible amount of detail compared to earlier models of the Echo Show, or the webcam in most laptops. Plus, Alexa enables you to place free video calls to other Echo Show owners without opening an app, signing into an account, or pressing any buttons.

Amazon recently enabled the ability to make Zoom calls from the Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen), so you can even use it to take work calls. Amazon built a physical camera shutter to hide and disable the Echo Show (2nd Gen’s) camera when you’re not making calls to maintain your privacy.

Considering all of these impressive technical features, the Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) is the right choice if you want a smart speaker with a display.

Buy: Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) at $129.99

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