Amazon Echo v Echo Plus: Which smart speaker is best for your home?

We round up the differences and help you decide

Echo vs Echo Plus
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With the Amazon Echo range growing ever popular, the need for different versions of the smart speakers has also risen dramatically. And though choice is king, it makes deciding between similar speakers, like the Echo and Echo Plus, all the harder.

Both lines are now in their second generation, complete with new designs, boosted internals and representing a major upgrade over the original devices. Even still, though, the differences between the Echo and Echo Plus are minimal.

The Ambient verdict: Amazon Echo review | Amazon Echo Plus review

And that's why we're here, to guide you on everything you need to know about the pair. Read on for all the details on design, features and price, as we help you decide which is best for your home.

Echo vs Echo Plus: Design

Amazon Echo vs Echo Plus: Which is best for you?

As you can see from the image above, deciphering which Echo speaker is which can be a tricky task until you familiarise yourself with the subtle design differences.

This, as we alluded to up top, has been made even more difficult since the introduction of the second-gen Echo Plus (shown below), which now features a fabric knit exterior and ditches the plastic cylinder - much like the regular Echo did a year back in late 2017. The new Echo Plus landed just shortly after, with Amazon adding a subtle curve to the top control panel - matching the Echo Dot.

In terms of the specs, the Plus model (148 x 99 x 99mm) is slightly stouter than the original Echo (148 x 88 x 88mm), but both share the same height and, when you pick them up, a similar weight - the Plus comes in at 790g, while the Echo is 30g heavier.

Amazon Echo vs Echo Plus: Which is best for you?

(The Amazon Echo Plus has a curved edge to its cylinder, as shown above)

Colors, you say? Well, prepare your eyeballs, friends, because this pairing now have a range of options to choose from. It's more complete for the Echo, which comes in a range of six finishes - charcoal, sandstone, heather, oak, walnut or silver - with the Plus simply sticking to the charcoal, sandstone and heather fabric. But, still, it's better than the unsightly monochrome-ness of the older generation models.

Both are controlled by the same top panel, featuring buttons to mute, increase/decrease the volume and prompt Alexa. However, it's on the inside is where the true differences lie - such as the Echo's 2.5-inch woofer and 0.6-inch tweeter, compared to the Plus' 3-inch woofer and 0.8-inch tweeter - and the features that are powered as a result. There's simply too little to split these two on design. And maybe, for our money, the Echo Plus' curved top and bottom give it a slight edge, but you simply can't lose either way. So, let's keep digging...

Echo vs Echo Plus: Sound and features

Amazon Echo vs Echo Plus: Which is best for you?

The Echo and Echo share all of the same basic features, meaning you can access Alexa skills, set your timers, check the weather, listen to news updates and play tunes through the likes of Spotify or Apple Music.

Both can also connect over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, with support for 801.22 a/b/n/g/ac in either 2.4GHz or 5GHz, though the initial setup is simplified for the Echo Plus thanks to Amazon's Wi-Fi Simple Setup.

As Dolby Audio tech is now built into both speakers, crisp sound now fills the room and comes with a noticeable bass increase over their first generation counterparts.

Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo

But does the slightly stronger speaker tech packed inside the Echo Plus really propel it beyond the regular Echo? Well, the Plus can certainly go louder and routinely offers more bass, but it's not the kind of dramatic difference that you'll find between an Echo Dot and Echo, for example.

However, if top notch sound quality is your priority, keep in mind that you have the option two hook either two Echo Plus speakers or two Echo speakers to the Echo Sub. Or, y'know, you could look at the Sonos One or Bose Home Speaker 500, instead.

Amazon Echo Plus
Amazon Echo Plus

Interestingly, the Plus also offers another slight internal edge over the regular Echo, thanks to its temperature sensor. You can ask Alexa for the temperature in the room it's sitting in, and you can also use the sensor to create routines. Very handy.

The sound performance and feature set is slightly bolstered on the Plus, but, as with anything in the speaker space, you get what you pay for in this regard. But these features alone don't represent the biggest difference between the two - that's reserved for the section below.

Echo vs Echo Plus: The biggest difference

Amazon Echo vs Echo Plus: Which is best for you?

The key difference for those interested in connecting and controlling their Echo device with the rest of the smart home - which, to get the most out of it, you should be - is undoubtedly the presence of a Zigbee hub in the Plus.

What is Zigbee? Well, you can read all about the protocol in our full Zigbee guide, but this is essentially what lets your Echo speaker talk to other devices in the home. The fact the Plus can speak this language means you can reduce the number of hubs plugged into the back of your router, simply because the speaker is doing the work.

Let's use an example of this in practice. Say you want to buy a Philips Hue lightbulb. Well, using the Echo Plus has a Zigbee hub means that once the bulb is screwed in, it can be discovered and added within the Alexa app without the need for the Hue Bridge or the Hue app. In this case, it does mean the loss of proprietary Hue features – but they simple stuff (on/off/brightness/color) can all be done through the Plus. The regular Echo, meanwhile, lags behind in this regard.

Echo vs Echo Plus: Price

The Amazon Echo second generation is $99.99, while the Echo Plus - packed with a few more extras - is up at $149.99 and closer to the likes of the Sonos One.

Amazon also offers the aforementioned Echo Sub bundle, which includes two of each device, for $249.99 if you want the Echo and $329.99 for a Plus duo.

Echo vs Echo Plus: Which is better?

We've rounded up the key points in this comparison, giving you a snapshot at how both these devices compare when put head to head, but which is best?

Well, although the Echo Plus is undoubtedly the better smart speaker, that doesn't mean it's best for every home. While you get superior sound, connectivity and control, it does result in the cost being driven up considerably - and some people may not find the differences between the pair to justify the increase.

If you want more of a smart controller with respectable sound, it's tough to beat the Plus. However, if you're just interested in the very basics of Alexa - or you're on a mission to have Alexa's presence filling every room - the more cost-effective option is definitely the standard Echo model.

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