Amazon Echo vs. Dot vs. Tap: Which Should You Buy?

Amazon has three devices that can respond to your voice commands: the original Echo, the Echo Dot and the Tap. All three will listen to your voice and perform a wide number of tasks, such as streaming music from Spotify, Pandora and others; controlling smart-home devices such as thermostats and lights; looking up the weather; and even ordering you food. So which Amazon device is right for you?

How Much Do You Want to Spend?

On price alone, the $49 Echo Dot is the most cost-effective of Amazon's voice-controlled devices. You could purchase three of them with the money for a single Amazon Echo and still have $20 left over.

Amazon also offers a number of deals on the Dot. If you buy five Dots ($250), the sixth one is free; if you purchase 10 Dots ($500), you get two more for free. The Dot is also being bundled with compatible smart-home devices (such as the $249 ecobee3 thermostat or $99 Philips Hue Starter Kit), whereby you essentially get the Dot for free.

MORE: Amazon Alexa Guide: Tips, Tricks and How-Tos

Do You Have a Big House?

If you want to extend voice control to a large number of rooms, the Echo Dot is probably the way to go. With the smaller design and lower price of this device, it's easier to buy several and tuck them away into the corner of your kitchen or bedroom.

Amazon EchoAmazon EchoHowever, if you've got a smaller apartment or want voice control in only one room, the larger Amazon Echo could make better sense.

Do You Already Have a Bunch of Speakers?

While the Echo Dot has a built-in speaker, it's intended only for Alexa to respond to you, and not for playing music; if you want playback, Amazon recommends you connect the Dot into another speaker via Bluetooth or the 3.5mm audio jack. If you already have a stereo system, or some other speaker setup, this is probably the way to go.

Amazon Echo DotAmazon Echo DotHowever, the Amazon Echo's larger, 2.5-inch woofer and 2-inch tweeter put out enough sound — and pretty good sound at that — to make it an effective device for playing music if you don't have a home entertainment system.

MORE: Best Bluetooth Speakers for Home or On-the-Go

Do You Want to Take It Outside?

Amazon TapAmazon TapWhile you can buy a third-party battery for the Echo, neither this device nor the Echo Dot are portable. That's where the Amazon Tap comes in: It doesn't have as good voice-recognition capabilities, but the Tap does have a built-in battery that will last up to 9 hours. And, Amazon updated the firmware on the Tap so that you no longer have to press a button to activate Alexa. So if you want to stream some music while you're sitting in your backyard or on your deck, the Tap could be the best choice.

Do You Want to Control the Device from Across the Room?

The second-generation Echo Dot now has the same technology as the larger Echo: Seven microphones use beam-forming technology to better isolate your voice, even if there's music playing. While the Amazon Tap can also respond to your voice, its microphones aren't as sophisticated, so it may have a tougher time hearing you. While Amazon doesn't give specific ranges, it says the Echo and Echo Dot can hear you from "across the room," but doesn't make any such claims for the Tap.

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  • Rich_Stevenson
    And if you own Sonos speakers, support for those will be here early 2017, possibly making the Dot the better choice.
  • lourson
    I can't wait to see the Sonos integration with Alexa!
  • Erik_Eriksen
    why would they say anything about being heard across the room (Tap) when you have to be AT THE DEVICE to activate it with a "tap"?