Best Amazon Echo devices: which Alexa speaker to buy as a Christmas gift? Our expert has the smarts

Want tips on choosing the best Amazon Echo devices? We've compared the most popular models to help you make the right choice

Amazon Echo Studio
(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon’s Alexa has been guiding households with her wisdom and smart home expertise for five years now. Whether you’re asking her the weather or getting her to prepare your smart home for bedtime, she really has carved the path – not only in terms of what smart assistants can do, but what people expect from them.

To house such an excellent smart assistant, Amazon has produced a whole family of speakers to suit your needs, all under the Echo branding. But what are the differences between them and which should you pick?

Remember, no matter which one you go for, each one is capable of Alexa’s capabilities in full. What separates them is their design and added functionality, particularly when it comes to sound quality.

While it’s near impossible to list everything Alexa can do, we’ve recapped some of the biggest benefits to having an Alexa-powered speaker below, along with the more specific information on each product following.

Totally new to the world of smart speakers? Below, we've answered the question: what can an Alexa speaker do? Once you're done reading, browse each of the Amazon Echo devices to decide which model is right for you.

The best Amazon Echo deals

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd gen) |£49.99 at Amazon
A great entry into the world of smart home tech, the Amazon Echo Dot may be small, but it's perfectly formed. Aside from a super stylish design, it offers all of Alexa's best features – including voice activation, weather forecasting, reminders and more. Plus, Currys are currently price matching Amazon. So, you can pick it up for the same price if they're your preferred retailer.View Deal

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd gen) with clock and Alexa |£59.99 at Amazon
Looking for a smart device to sit on your bedside table? Or in your home office? Look no further than the Amazon Echo Dot – it's got everything we raved about in our description of the Amazon Echo Dot, but also comes with a built in clock.View Deal

Amazon Echo Flex |£24.99 at Amazon
Amazon's cheapest Echo device just got even cheaper and we're totally here for it. Perfectly simple to use, it plugs into a plug socket which means there's no need for trailing wires or lost surface space. Brilliant.View Deal

Amazon Echo Show 5 |£79.99 at Amazon
Family or friends live further away than you might like? The Echo Show was one of the first Amazon devices with a screen (perfect for video calling) and makes the perfect thoughtful Christmas gift. 

Read our Amazon Echo Show 5 review View Deal

Amazon Echo Show 8 |£119.99 at Amazon
Designed with an impressive eight inch screen, the Echo Show 8 is the perfect addition to an existing smart home set-up. Why? Well, because a screen makes it super easy to control everything from your home security system and video doorbell to your smart lighting set up, with the simple press of a button. Plus, if you have friends or family members who live further away than you might like, this model is perfect for video calling.View Deal

Which Alexa speaker should I buy?

Amazon Echo Dot

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Generation)

The best Amazon Echo device for those on a budget

Specifications
Dimensions: 42 x 99 x 99mm
Weight: 300g
Audio: 40mm driver
Colours: Charcoal, Heather Grey, Plum, Sandstone
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, 3.5mm output
Reasons to buy
+Affordable price point+Small, yet stylish, design
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best sound quality – though not terrible

The Amazon Echo Dot is the smallest Echo speaker you can buy, as well as the cheapest, making it great for those on a budget or short on space. It’s also the one for those who want the convenience of a smart assistant but don’t really want a smart speaker, since you can tuck it away out of sight.

While this Echo Dot has had its sound improved from before, it’s still not going to do great things with music playback. You can pair it with a second Echo Dot or even connect it to an existing speaker over Bluetooth or 3.5mm jack, but you should probably look to spend more if audio performance is important to you.

Still, offering all the power of Alexa for less than £35 makes this a steal for those not fussed by music, plus provides a cost-effective way of introducing Alexa into multiple rooms of the house.

Amazon Echo

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon Echo (3rd Generation)

The best Amazon Echo device for under £100

Specifications
Dimensions: 148 x 88 x 88mm
Weight: 821g
Audio: 1 x 76mm woofer, 1x 20mm tweeter
Colours: Charcoal, Heather Grey, Red, Sandstone, Twilight Blue
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, 3.5mm input/output
Reasons to buy
+Affordable price point, considering quality+Choice of five fabric finishes
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most impressive sound quality

Now the middle child of the Echo family – but also the original - the Amazon Echo is also in its third generation, with an updated design and improved sound. It’s probably one of the most popular in the family for its ability to balance being good enough at most things while staying underneath the all-important £100 mark.

It’s available in a choice of five fabric colours that wrap around the outside: charcoal, heather grey, red, sandstone and twilight blue, and like the Dot, you can pair it with other Echo devices around your home should you wish. 

Sound is still average though, so if you want something that’s going to do your music proud, you’ll be better off looking towards the head of the family.

Amazon devices

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Generation)

The best Amazon Echo Device for smart home control

Specifications
Dimensions: 148 x 99 x 99mm
Weight: 821g
Colours: Charcoal, Heather Grey, Red, Sandstone, Twilight Blue
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, 3.5mm input/output
Reasons to buy
+Comes with built in Zigbee for easier smart home control+Built in temperature monitor+Local voice control – perfect for use when the internet is down
Reasons to avoid
-Size and audio hardware no more impressive than the Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo Plus was originally created to appease the Echo’s critics of its sound quality, and was larger, but now actually matches the Echo (3rd Gen) for size and audio hardware, with a 76mm woofer and 20mm tweeter. Now the “Plus” name is for the added smart home functionality.

The Echo Plus has a built-in Zigbee hub, which helps you more easily set up and control your compatible smart home devices, automatically detecting new devices on your network and adding them to your Alexa profile. This saves the need to have a separate hub or app from the manufacturer, and makes things a bit more straightforward.

There is also a built-in temperature sensor in the Echo Plus, which will allow Alexa to tell you the temperature of your room but also build a smart home routine for when it hits a certain level.

Finally the Echo Plus supports Alexa’s more recent feature of local voice control. It means that even if the internet is down, Alexa can still control compatible lights, plugs and switches, without needing to speak to the cloud to make it happen. Pretty handy indeed.

Amazon echo studio

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon Echo Studio

The best Amazon Echo device for music

Specifications
Dimensions: 206 x 175 x 175mm
Weight: 3.5kg
Audio: 3 x 51mm mid-range, 1x 25mm tweeter 1 x 133mm woofer
Colours: Charcoal
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, 3.5mm input/output
Reasons to buy
+Seriously impressive sound quality – especially for the price+Enjoy 360-degree audio from Sony and Dolby+Stylish design
Reasons to avoid
-One of the more expensive Amazon Echo devices

The newest Echo on the block is the Amazon Echo Studio, a much beefier speaker compared with the others in the family, but also with a lot more audio smarts to shout about too.

This is the one to buy if you’re looking for a smart speaker that’ll do your music proud. It also has a few tricks up its sleeve, including an upwards firing speaker, which makes the Studio compatible with the new 360-degree audio formats released by Sony and Dolby. 

The idea is to create a more spacious sound experience, but the jury is still out on just how effective it is. There aren’t lots of tracks available just yet either, so while it’s fun to test it out, it’s not a reason to buy.

No, the reason to buy is because of how good it sounds with your regular music for the money. It even uses clever technology to adapt its sound to your room, so you can be sure you’re getting the best performance you can get.

Amazon echo show 5

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon Echo Show 5

The best Amazon Echo device for smart display in smaller rooms

Specifications
Dimensions: 148 x 86 x 73 mm
Weight: 410g
Screen size: 5.5in (960 x 480)
Audio: 1 x 43mm mid-range
Colours: Black, White
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3.5mm input/output, microUSB
Reasons to buy
+Comes with a handy touch screen+Perfect for controlling a wider smart home system
Reasons to avoid
-Not particularly impressive from an audio perspective-Screen may be too small for some

While not officially a speaker, the Amazon Echo Show 5 does everything that an Echo speaker does, but they add in a screen for a touch of visual flair and added functionality. 

This means you can watch YouTube videos, make video calls with the built-in camera, use the Echo Show to bring up your smart doorbell or security camera footage, or just enjoy a more visual Alexa search, with supporting images that might help or further your search.

Its tiny speaker means it is not going to do a great job with music, but Alexa’s spoken text and dialogue on YouTube videos is clear enough that you’ll get you by.

The Echo Show 5 is on the small side for a main smart display, but works great as a secondary device in offices and bedrooms. You aren’t going to want to watch much by way of video on it, but it’s fine for the odd short clip.

It is also a great size to be used as a bedside alarm clock, and there’s a clock face interface you can use for that very purpose. There’s even an ambient light setting that wakes you gently by mimicking sunrise.

Amazon Echo Show 8

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon Echo Show 8

The best Amazon smart device for smart display

Specifications
Dimensions: 200 x 136 x 99 mm
Weight: 1037kg
Screen size: 8in (1280 x 800)
Audio: 2 x 51mm mid-range
Colours: Black, White
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3.5mm input/output, microUSB
Reasons to buy
+Practical screen size – perfect for controlling a wider smart home system+Sound quality better than other Echo Show devices+Physical camera shutter for extra security
Reasons to avoid
-Sound quality not the greatest

The extra screen size and resolution here compared with the Echo Show 5, without the bulk and price tag of the largest Echo Show makes the Amazon Echo Show 8 the Goldilocks choice of the trio. 

Its screen is a better size for using it as a smart home hub, and overall it makes a lot more sense to invest the extra £40 to use this as a main smart display than its smaller sibling.

There is a small boost to the sound compared with the Echo Show 5, though once again, the Echo Show 8 is still not something you’d want to leave solely in charge of your music – it’s all about that display and the extra functionality it offers.

There’s Bluetooth and the physical camera shutter for privacy concerns as there is on the rest of the range, plus of course, all of Alexa’s smarts built in. We reckon this will be the best choice for most.

Amazon Echo Show

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Generation)

The best Amazon echo device for video

Specifications
Dimensions: 246 x 174 x 107 mm
Weight: 1755kg
Screen size: 10.1in (1280 x 800)
Camera: 5MP
Audio: 2 x 56mm mid-range
Colours: Black, White
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, microUSB
Reasons to buy
+Empty List
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

The original Amazon Echo Show, now in its second generation, is the largest of the Echo Show bunch, and is the same screen size as most tablets. This makes it great for watching videos, while its 5MP camera means it is the best for making video calls too.

There’s a bit more oomph to those speakers, which is a good support for the bigger screen, though we still wouldn’t suggest sitting down for a movie on it. Recipes, workout videos and other YouTube-type content is what the Echo Show is aimed at.

For the extra £100 on the price, most people will probably be fine to stick with the Echo Show 8, but if you’ll benefit from the larger screen and better camera, it’s still worth considering. 

What can an Alexa speaker do?

Answer questions

One of the most common uses for any smart speaker is settling family debates, and Alexa is full of answers for just about every question going. So throw her questions about people, books, movies, historical occasions and everything else in between, and she’ll be able to dig out the answer for you.

Play music

You can sign into your Spotify or Amazon Prime Music accounts and have Alexa play certain songs, playlists, genres or artists, or ask her to play a certain radio station from TuneInRadio instead. You can also use Alexa to control playback and volume, use her to discover new music ('Alexa, play music similar to Ed Sheeran'), or even get her to wake you up to your favourite tunes.

Got multiple Echo devices throughout your home? You can sync your music with them for a smart multi-room set up, and then control it all with your voice.

Get organised

You can use Alexa to set to-do lists, alarms and reminders, add and manage events on your calendar, as well as find out what you have in your diary for today. Much easier than digging through your phone to do it. 

Control your smart home

Alexa is one of the most supported smart home assistants on the market, and works with the large majority of smart home kit – even Google’s Nest products. If you’re hoping to build a smart home ecosystem, an Alexa speaker is a good start.

Control your boxset binges

If you have an Echo speaker and a Fire TV device, you can pair them together and have Alexa search for and play shows and movies you might ask for, as well as control playback with your voice. 

Keep you informed

Want to keep in the loop with the latest headlines? Alexa’s Flash Briefing will tell you the latest headlines, as well as give you a weather update for your area. You can control the news sources from within the Alexa app, though for the UK it is just BBC News at the moment.

You can also find out about traffic on a regular route, such as your commute to work. Once again, you can set this in the Alexa app.

Stay in touch

You can use your Echo speaker to make an announcement to the rest of the Echo speakers in the house, to save you shouting up the stairs that 'dinner is ready' more times than you care to count. There’s also the Drop In functionality to open up two-way communication between your Echo speaker and those owned by family and friends.

For those who don’t have a speaker for you to call, Echo speakers now also allow you to make outgoing calls to UK mobiles and landlines, and Vodafone customers can answer phone calls through their Echo speaker too.

Put her on mute

Privacy is a hot topic surrounding smart speakers, and for good reason. Thankfully all Echo devices can be muted from listening in, which disconnects the microphones electronically to give you peace of mind.

For more on smart speakers, read our no-jargon guide on everything you need to know about smart assistants.