Amazon Unveils New Echo, Echo Plus, and Echo Spot: What's the Difference?

Amazon is greatly expanding its reach into the smart home space, today launching several products, including a second-generation Echo smart home speaker, an Echo Plus that doubles as a smart home hub and an Echo Dot with a display that doubles as an alarm clock. Here's how to make sense of the new lineup.

New Amazon Echo

The new Echo sports a smaller design than the original, as well as a Google Home-like removable cloth shell, and a lower price of just $99. The device will be available today for pre-order, and will ship on Oct. 31.

Like the original Echo, the Echo is cylindrical, with a ring of LEDs around the top edge that light up when Alexa is activated. Inside, Amazon improved the far-field microphones, so that the Echo can better pick up voices from across a room. The new Echo will also have a dedicated bass speaker and support Dolby Audio, so it should have better sound qualities than the original. Its new fabric covering is much more attractive than the original's black (or white) perforated plastic housing. And, multiple shells will be available, including ones made of plastic and wood.

In addition, Amazon will be selling them in a three-pack for $250, so that users can immediately take advantage of the recently introduced whole-home audio feature available with Alexa-enabled devices, which let you play the same songs on multiple speakers. It too, will start shipping at the end of October.

Amazon Echo (2nd Gen)

MORE: How to Use Multi-Room Music with the Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show

Echo Plus

The original Echo design is not going away; it's being reused in the $149 Echo Plus, a smart speaker that also has a built-in smart home hub, which can link to other Zigbee smart home devices, such as Philips Hue lights. In fact, the Echo Plus will come with a Philips Hue White bulb. It's currently available for pre-order, and will ship on Oct. 31.

Smart Home Hub

Echo Spot

If you were to combine the Echo Dot with the Echo Show, you'd get the $129 Echo Spot, another new device from Amazon. It's small and circular, but has a little 2.5-inch display and camera on its top. Among other things, the Spot supports video calls, can show feeds from security cameras, as well as display lyrics from songs that are playing. The Spot is available for pre-order now, but won't ship until Dec. 19.

Echo Spot

Echo Connect

For the baby boomers, Amazon is also launching the Echo Connect in Q4. This $35 box connects to a landline—remember those—and enables you not only to use it as an ad hoc speakerphone, but will also let you call 911 using a voice command if you've fallen and can't get up.

In all, this is a pretty significant update to Amazon's lineup of devices, and one that should further cement its place in the center of smart homes.

Mike Prospero
U.S. Editor-in-Chief, Tom's Guide

Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.