In 2017, Amazon released an all-new Echo, which is a smaller, more attractive and, at $99, less expensive version of its original Echo Alexa speaker. However, this past September, Amazon also released the $149 second-generation Echo Plus, a larger speaker with a new design, bigger sound and a smart-home hub inside.
So which smart speaker should you get? Here's how the two Amazon devices compare.
Amazon Echo versus Echo Plus: Smart Speakers Compared
|Amazon Echo (2nd gen)||Amazon Echo Plus (2nd gen)|
|Microphones||7-mic array||7-mic array|
|Speakers||2.5 inch woofer and 0.6-inch tweeter||3-inch woofer and 0.8-inch tweeter|
|Features||Alexa, streaming music over Wi-Fi, free voice calls||Alexa, streaming music over Wi-Fi, free voice calls, Built-in smart-home hub, built-in thermometer|
|Size ||5.9 x 3.5 x 3.5 inches||5.8 x 3.9 x 3.9 inches|
|Weight||1.8 pounds||1.7 pounds|
The Echo Plus looks like a larger version of the original Echo. It's a stout cylinder with a fabric, removable outer shell. You can get it in black, grey, or white. Credit: Tom's Guide
The all-new Echo has a very similar removable shell. It comes in a few more styles: comes in several styles: a light, dark and charcoal-gray fabric, and an oak, walnut or silver finish.
The Echo Plus is the same height as the Echo (5.8 inches). Despite its extra features and larger speaker, the Echo Plus is actually a bit lighter, at 27.5 ounces to the Echo's 29 ounces; unfortunately, you can't swap out its shell, but it comes in a cloth-covered white, gray, or black.
When the second-generation Echo first debuted, we were unimpressed by its audio. However, Amazon released a firmware update that greatly improved the listening experience.
That said, the new Echo Plus delivers noticeably better audio than the Echo does. The two are pretty evenly matched when it comes to midrange tones, but the Echo Plus does a significantly better job defining treble and bass. While neither can hold a candle to the pricier Sonos One, both will suffice if you're looking for a decent speaker for your entertainment needs.
Here's where the real difference between the Echo and the Echo Plus lies; the latter has a Zigbee smart-home hub built in. This means that you can connect smart-home devices, such as Philips Hue lights or a smart lock directly to the Echo Plus, without having to set up a bridge or third-party smart-home hub first.
This means that, instead of purchasing the starter packs for Philips Hue, Sengled or other smart bulbs, which come with a Wi-Fi bridge, you can simply purchase extra bulb kits. Philips sells four of its white dimmable bulbs for $50 ($12.50 per bulb), while Sengled's bulbs go for $10 each (a pack of eight costs $75, or about $9.40 per bulb).
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom's GuideUsing the Alexa app, you can create routines for these lights to turn on and off at a set time, or when you tell Alexa a specific phrase.
Keep in mind, though, that Alexa's smart home skills aren't as sophisticated as other smart- home hubs. For example, the SmartThings hub allows you to create rules, such as "turn the lights on if a camera detects motion." If you have colored lights, you can tell Alexa to change them to a specific color, but you can;t use the Alexa app to pick from a color wheel, or select a particular lighting scheme, as you can in the Philips Hue app.
In addition, the Echo Plus also has a built-in temperature sensor, which can be used in conjunction with other smart home devices.
I have no doubt that Amazon will add more functionality as time goes on, but for now, the Echo Plus is pretty basic as smart-home hubs go.
The Echo costs $99, while the Echo Plus costs $149. The second-generation Echo's price is $79 less than the original, making it a good deal. The Echo Plus costs $50 more than the second-gen Echo, but it includes a smart-home hub. A separate dedicated hub can do more, but they tend to cost around $100.
If you're looking for basic smart-home functionality, the $149 Echo Plus is a good deal; it would cost you at least $50 more if you were to purchase an Echo and a smart hub separately.
If you're looking to set up a more complex smart home, then purchasing the $99 Echo and a third-party hub makes more sense.
Regardless of which Echo you choose, you can still use them with Wi-Fi-enabled smart devices, such as smart plugs, which don't require you to connect them to a hub first.
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- Amazon Alexa Guide: Tips, Tricks and How-Tos