When you’re thinking of buying a smart speaker, choosing the right model can be really tricky; even if you’ve settled on a brand, the best smart speaker brands often have a number of different models for every occasion.
If you’ve discounted the Apple HomePod, and don’t fancy the speakers in the Google Home range, you might be looking to buy an Amazon Echo speaker – but how do you choose between an Amazon Echo and its smaller sibling, the Echo Dot?
Both offer the smarts of Amazon’s Alexa and the company’s now-iconic design. You can even use both speakers to place phone calls to phone numbers in the US, Canada, Mexico, and the UK, by assigning your mobile number to your Amazon account, and giving it access to your contacts book.
But, which one is more expensive? Which model is best for students and which one offers better audio quality?
We’ve taken an in-depth look at both smart speakers so you can make an informed decision.
[Update: The Amazon Echo and the Echo Dot have been given huge design overhauls, as announced at Amazon's 2020 event. The all-new Echo range sports a strange, spherical design that looks quite unlike any Echo speaker we've seen before, though prices for the smart speakers hasn't increased as a result.
The Amazon event saw in a huge range of exciting new tech, with everything from flying drones to a new games streaming service called Amazon Luna. Check out our guide to everything that was announced at the Amazon 2020 event for the lowdown on all the new tech.]
What about Amazon Prime Day 2020?
Amazon Prime Day is coming up soon, and though the official date is yet to be announced, it's expected to fall in mid-October. The massive sales event will be a great place to find discounts on Amazon Echo speakers, as well as lots of other tech – so if you're thinking of buying an Echo, you should wait until then. Not ready to commit? Black Friday 2020 follows soon after on November 27, giving you another chance to save big on your next tech purchase.
- 5 exciting announcements from the Amazon 2020 event
- The best Amazon Alexa prices and deals this month
Amazon Echo vs Amazon Echo Dot: overview
Smart speakers may be ubiquitous these days, but that wasn’t always the case. When Amazon released the Amazon Echo Dot in 2014, the craze for connected devices and voice assistants truly took off.
Now in its second generation, the Amazon Echo is still one of the best smart speakers on the market.
Combining Amazon’s voice-enabled smart assistant Alexa with home audio, the Echo stormed the smart home market, before branching out into a number of different speakers and smart displays, including the Echo Show, Echo Plus, and Echo Dot.
The Echo Dot may be the smallest Echo speaker, but it’s also the best-selling according to Amazon, thanks to its compact size and modest price tag.
Designed to fit into any room of your home, the Echo Dot is now available in its third iteration.
Amazon Echo vs Amazon Echo Dot: price and availability
The Amazon Echo Dot is the cheapest of the two smart speakers, but you can currently get both the Echo and the Echo Dot at a discount from a number of retailers worldwide, making both prices more palatable than ever.
At launch, the Amazon Echo cost $180 / £150 / around AU$230, while the Echo Dot cost $49.99 / £49.99 / AU$79.
However, both speakers have seen sizable discounts since then, and you can currently get your hands on the Amazon Echo for as little as $83 / £69.99 / AU$149 and the Echo Dot for $30 / £30 / AU$48.
In Australia the Echo Dot is still being sold for AU$79 on Amazon, but with Amazon Prime Day fast approaching, it might be worth holding on until then to buy your new Echo speaker.
- Amazon Prime Day 2020: expect 48 hours of deals and sales this August
Amazon Echo vs Amazon Echo Dot: design
With a wraparound fabric grille in stylish ’Charcoal’, ‘Heather’ and ‘Sandstone’ shades, both the Amazon Echo and the Echo Dot sport a cool, minimalist design that looks great in most homes.
On the top of both speakers you’ll find volume buttons, a button to mute the inbuilt microphones, and a button for summoning Alexa for when you don’t feel like calling out the voice assistant’s name.
The most obvious difference between the Echo and the Echo Dot is the size. The cylindrical Amazon Echo’s measurements are 5.8 x 88 x 88mm, and it weighs 821g.
The hockey puck-shaped Echo Dot on the other hand, is just 99 x 99 x 43mm, and is less than half the weight of the Echo at 300g – this means the Echo Dot is ideal for squeezing into small spaces like a bedside table, and could be ideal for those who are short on space, like students living in a shared house, for example.
Amazon Echo vs Amazon Echo Dot: smart features
Both the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot share a lot of the same features; they’re both Alexa-activated, web-connected speakers that can play music as well as control your smart home.
Saying the speakers’ wake word, ‘Alexa’ and they are both ready to respond straight away, thanks to inbuilt microphones that are constantly listening out for your commands.
The kind of tasks your Echo or Echo Dot is capable of carrying out depends largely on which Alexa ‘skills’ you have enabled; Alexa skills are like tricks that your smart speaker can perform for you.
There are skills for controlling your smart home gadgets, for playing music and radio, for giving you recipes step-by-step, and even ordering pizza from Dominoes.
These features are available on every Amazon speaker, so in terms of smart features, the Echo and the Echo Dot are matched equally.
- The best Alexa skills and commands: the ultimate in Amazon Echo tips and tricks
Amazon Echo vs Amazon Echo Dot: sound performance
In terms of audio quality, there’s a clear winner; the Amazon Echo’s 65mm woofer, 15mm tweeters, and Dolby processing means it offers a more expansive sound than its smaller sibling.
That’s not to say that the Echo Dot sounds terrible; its sonic output means its fine for putting on some background music while you’re pottering around the kitchen, but you’re not going to get audiophile-quality sound.
What the Echo Dot is great for, is for adding Alexa’s smarts to otherwise ‘dumb’ speakers. With audiophile brands like Sonos, Denon, Marantz, Onkyo, Pioneer, Yamaha, and many more offering Alexa-compatible products, you can tell your Echo Dot to play your music on a much more powerful speaker hands-free.
Why not do this with the Amazon Echo? It comes down to price; if you’re going to use your Echo speaker to control other audio devices, you may as well buy the cheaper version. After all, the Amazon Echo offers better sound than the Echo Dot, but not much else.
Amazon Echo vs Amazon Echo Dot: takeaway
Whether you should buy an Amazon Echo or an Amazon Echo Dot largely depends on what you want to use it for. Want a voice-activated speaker that will do your music justice? Go for the Amazon Echo. Looking for something to control your other connect gadgets? The Echo Dot is probably your best bet.
Aside from size and cost, the only real difference between the two speakers is the sound quality on offer – after all, both the Echo and the Echo Dot support the same Alexa smarts.
So, if you’re planning on using your Echo speaker for casual background listening, or as a device to control your more powerful audiophile speakers, you should save your money and buy the cheapest option, the Echo Dot.
It’s worth taking the size of the speakers into account too, of course; perhaps you already have an Echo in your living room and you want to bring Alexa to your bedside table – in that case, too, it’s probably best to go for an Echo Dot.
If you have a large room that needs filling with sound, go for the Amazon Echo, or even its larger sibling, the Echo Plus.
- Amazon Echo vs Echo Plus: which Alexa speaker is the one for you?