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When the Amazon Echo made its wide debut back in 2015, people went crazy for it — and rightfully so. At first glance, it seemed like a cutting-edge device straight out of a science fiction film 6 New (ish) Science Fiction Movies Better Than Star Wars 6 New (ish) Science Fiction Movies Better Than Star Wars Is Star Wars really the pinnacle of science fiction movies set in space? Haven't several films already surpassed the Star Wars series? Here are six we consider to be better... Read More . And while the novelty has certainly worn off a bit, the Echo remains as one of Amazon’s most successful products.

But one common complaint against the Echo was that it had too many features and cost too much Amazon Echo Review and Giveaway Amazon Echo Review and Giveaway Amazon’s Echo offers a unique integration between voice recognition, personal assistant, home automation controls, and audio playback features for $179.99. Does the Echo break into new ground or can you do better elsewhere? Read More , so if you only wanted it for one specific purpose, it was hard to justify the purchase. Amazon’s response to that? Releasing two pared-down variations with smaller price tags: the Tap and the Echo Dot.

In other words, you can think of both of these as Amazon Echo Lite, but each one caters to a different kind of end user. Here’s our comparison of all three to help you decide which one is the right one for you.

Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo is, at its core, a “smart wireless speaker” — and while the term is fully accurate, it fails to capture the full potential of this cutting-edge device. It technically isn’t a personal assistant, but considering just how much it can do, you’ll feel like you have your very own helper making your life easier.

But the thing that really sets the Echo apart from other “personal assistant devices” is its ability to recognize and process voice commands Alexa, How Does Siri Work? Voice Control Explained Alexa, How Does Siri Work? Voice Control Explained The world is moving towards voice commands for everything, but how exactly does voice control work? Why is it so glitchy and restricted? Here's what you need to know as a layman user. Read More  through its Alexa operating system. Sure, Siri and OK Google have been around for years prior, but Alexa is the first to exist outside the smartphone.

It currently retails for $180.

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The Echo has seven microphones and an omnidirectional speaker, which means you can activate it from across the room and hear its response no matter where you are. Its voice recognition is spotty at first, but after training it over time, it will understand you just fine — even if you have an uncommon accent or dialect.

By default the Echo can answer questions, order items from Amazon, stream music (not just Amazon Prime Music Why You Should Give Amazon Prime Music a Second Chance Why You Should Give Amazon Prime Music a Second Chance There are several reasons why you might want to give Amazon Prime Music a second chance. It certainly deserves much more credit than it's currently getting. Read on to find out why. Read More , but also Pandora, Spotify, etc), read out audiobooks, report news and weather information, deliver sports schedules and results, and even provide details on local businesses and restaurants.

The greatest feature, however, is that the Echo can integrate with hundreds of affordable smart home products How Amazon Echo Can Make Your Home A Smart Home How Amazon Echo Can Make Your Home A Smart Home Smart home tech is still in its early days, but a new product from Amazon called "Echo" may help bring it into the mainstream. Read More  like WeMo, Philips Hue, SmartThings, Nest, and more. It can also integrate with IFTTT recipes 7 Creative Uses for Amazon Echo and Alexa 7 Creative Uses for Amazon Echo and Alexa You’ve seen the ads starring Alec Baldwin, but you're still not sure what Amazon Echo does or whether you need one in your home. We’re about to find out. Read More  for all kinds of automated and responsive tasks.

Amazon Echo Dot

The Amazon Echo Dot is a miniature version of the Amazon Echo — it doesn’t come with the dedicated speaker that you’d find in the Echo, instead opting for a basic speaker that still gets the job done but allows the Echo Dot to be much smaller and lighter.

The Echo Dot is actually Amazon’s reply to customers who want to connect their own high-quality external speakers, which currently isn’t possible with the original Echo. With the Echo Dot, speakers can be hooked up by way of Bluetooth or a standard 3.5mm audio cable.

It currently retails for $90.

Other than that, the Echo Dot offers pretty much everything that the original Echo does: ordering from Amazon, streaming music from multiple sources, news and weather information, and yes, integration with smart home products. It’s also powered by the same Alexa-based voice recognition system.

At half the price, the Echo Dot is the perfect choice for when you want an Echo in every room of your house. Set one up as an alarm in your bedroom, another as a jukebox for the recreation room, another in the kitchen as a controller for all your smart appliances and gadgets, etc.

The one big downside is that the Echo Dot can only be ordered through Alexa Voice Shopping, which means it’s only available to Prime users who already have an Echo or an Alexa-enabled Fire TV The 8 Best Devices for Streaming Movies to Your TV The 8 Best Devices for Streaming Movies to Your TV There are several ways to stream media to your TV, and deciding which way is right for you can be overwhelming. Let us help you explore what's currently available. Read More . It’s unclear if this limitation will eventually be lifted or not, but I’d that bet it will.

Amazon Tap

The Amazon Tap is a simpler and more portable version of the Echo. Whereas the Echo is 9.25 inches tall and 3.27 inches wide, the Tap is significantly smaller at 6.2 inches tall and 2.6 inches wide. If you plan on moving the device regularly from room to room, the Tap is the far more convenient option.

Another big difference is that the Tap is powered by battery unlike the Echo and Echo Dot, both of which must be plugged into an outlet at all times. What’s nice is that the Tap gets close to 9 hours of battery life on a single charge while playing music — three weeks on standby mode — which should be more than enough for most folks.

It currently retails for $130.

Why is it called the Tap? Because it doesn’t have a voice-activated wake word like the Echo and Echo Dot have. Instead, you have to press a button on the device before you can give it a command. A bit of an inconvenience, but on the plus side, you won’t have to worry about it spying on you with always-on listening Your Smart TV is Watching You - and It's Not the Only One! Your Smart TV is Watching You - and It's Not the Only One! Are Vizio smart TVs capturing information about you and transmitting it back to Vizio without telling you about it? And if so, is this something you should be worried about? Read More .

The Tap can answer questions and stream music through Alexa, but also has a unique feature in that it can connect to your mobile devices through Bluetooth and stream music directly off of them. So, for example, you can take the Tap to the beach and play music right from your phone.

Which One Is Right for You?

All in all, it really comes down to this:

  • Get the Echo if you only need one device and you only intend to use it in a single room without ever moving it.
  • Get the Echo Dot if you want to hook up your own speakers OR if you want an Echo-like device in multiple rooms.
  • Get the Tap if you need battery-powered portability and if you want to stream music directly from your phone.

But don’t stop there. These Amazon products are just a foretaste of what’s possible when you really get your hands dirty with smart products and the Internet of Things The Internet of Things: 10 Useful Products You Must Try in 2016 The Internet of Things: 10 Useful Products You Must Try in 2016 The Internet of Things is ramping up in 2016, but what does that mean exactly? How do you personally benefit from the Internet of Things? Here are a few useful products to illustrate. Read More . Worried that you’ll blow your budget? Fear not and start with some of these highly-affordable gadgets for newbies 6 Types of Home Automation You Can Actually Afford 6 Types of Home Automation You Can Actually Afford Are you ready to join the smart home revolution but worried that it's beyond your budget? Smart homes aren't that expensive, and there are plenty of components that the average homeowner can afford. Read More .

If you need ideas on what to get first, we’d recommend something intensely practical such as the Nest Thermostat for slashing your heating bills 7 Nest Automation Tricks to Cut Your Heating Bill in Half 7 Nest Automation Tricks to Cut Your Heating Bill in Half If there were a Nest thermostat in every home, it would have the biggest single impact on energy consumption in history; and it could save you more money than you might imagine. Here's how. Read More , or maybe a smart door lock for convenient home access Buy One of These Electronic Door Locks and Ditch Your Ancient Keys Buy One of These Electronic Door Locks and Ditch Your Ancient Keys One area where smart home technology shines is home security. And while security cameras and motion sensors are great, neither has more of a wow-factor than an electronic door lock. Read More , or even a smart plug for controlling devices from afar Which Smart Plug Is the Best One for You? Which Smart Plug Is the Best One for You? Even if you aren't into the whole smart home automation trend, you really should get yourself a few smart plugs. They're one of the easiest smart home products to use. Read More .

Just remember to stick with one of these reputable smart home brands 9 Reputable Smart Home Brands With Products You Can Trust 9 Reputable Smart Home Brands With Products You Can Trust The modern world is moving toward all kinds of smart home automation, and the longer you hold out, the more difficult it's going to be when your day of conversion finally comes. Read More  your first time around.

How do you feel about the Amazon Echo or its lesser variations? Are they pointless gimmicks? Or are they truly as useful as advertised? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

  1. Bryan Wolfe
    May 21, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    I'm looking forward to checking out the Triby soon. It's the first third-party product that integrates with Alexa.

    • Joel Lee
      May 25, 2016 at 3:25 am

      This is the first I'm hearing of it but it sounds pretty cool. What about it has you excited? :D

      • Bryan Wolfe
        May 25, 2016 at 10:42 am

        It takes Amazon's concept and then adds its own. So it will be neat to see how third-parties are using it in their own way.

  2. Haider Lasne
    May 18, 2016 at 5:19 am

    Thank you for explaining the differences of these devices.

    • Joel Lee
      May 25, 2016 at 3:24 am

      You're welcome! Glad it was useful to you, Haider!

  3. Robert
    April 26, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Amazon did a terrible job of explaining the differences of these devices when the Dot and Tap were released. It wasn't clear which device would serve what purpose.

    I own the Echo and the Tap. I have the Echo in my kitchen where the always on hands free operation comes in handy. My main uses are timers, adding items to my shopping list, and playing music when I cook. I have the Tap in my office and use it mainly for audio books and podcasts.

    The best thing about the Echo ecosystem is that it is constantly evolving, both by Amazon and 3rd party. Even though it may not do it today, it may be added in the future.

    • Joel Lee
      April 29, 2016 at 8:43 pm

      Yeah, right on both counts Robert! Amazon didn't explain it very well, but the ecosystem is evolving and getting better at a pretty fast pace. Does that mean you recommend it? Are you happy you got the Echo and the Tap?

      • Robert
        April 29, 2016 at 8:59 pm

        Yes, I would recommend them, if they will satisfy a need for you.

        I think the Echo would be a great Mother's Day gift if your mother cooks and uses technology. The hands free timers, shopping lists, and back ground music are all great features.

        This week's "updates" are Star Wars jokes for Star Wars days (May 4th). A lot of the "updates" are actually features that already exist but they want to point out for current events, like the Stanley Cup Playoffs or March Madness.

        Like a lot of technology, I just use the bare minimum of the features, but there are many more if I wanted to take the time to explore..

  4. Norm
    April 25, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    I have streamed the same music in different rooms, but I don't see away to sync the music.

  5. Bill Williams
    April 15, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Great write up - can you use Tap and Echo to stream the same music in different rooms? in other words can you "tether" them to increase range?

    • Joel Lee
      April 18, 2016 at 10:08 pm

      Thanks Bill! Unfortunately I don't have them on hand so I can't test that out. Hopefully someone can comment and answer you better than I can. Sorry!

    • Kilroy
      April 26, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      Currently streaming is based on a per device basis. However, Amazon has been evolving the Echo since it has been released and new features are constantly being added.

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