Amazon recently released an all-new Echo, which is smaller, more attractive, and at $99, less expensive than the original.(Echo and Echo Plus, respectively. Credit: Tom’s Guide)
However, there’s also a new Echo Plus ($149), which has a smart-home hub built inside.
So which smart speaker should you get?
Amazon Echo versus Echo Plus: Smart Speakers Compared
||Amazon Echo (2nd gen)
||Amazon Echo Plus
||Buy the Amazon Echo
||2.5 inch woofer and 0.6-inch tweeter
||2.5-inch woofer and 0.8-inch tweeter
||Alexa, streaming music over Wi-Fi, free voice calls
||Alexa, streaming music over Wi-Fi, free voice calls, Built-in smart-home hub
||5.9 x 3.5 x 3.5 inches
||9.3 x 3.3 x 3.3 inches
The Echo Plus looks exactly like the original Echo.
It’s a tall plastic cylinder with perforations around the lower third.
You can get it in black, white or silver.
The all-new Echo is also a cylinder about the same diameter as the original, but not as tall.
Its outer shell is also removable, and comes in several styles: a light, dark and charcoal-gray fabric, and an oak, walnut or silver finish.
For a limited time, Amazon is also selling a red fabric cover for the Echo, too.
The Echo Plus is considerably taller than the regular Echo, at 9.5 versus 5.9 inches, because the Plus includes a built-in smart-home hub.
But it’s only a little bit heavier.
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.
After listening to the all-new Echo and the Echo Plus side by side, I found that they’re pretty evenly matched.
The Echo Plus does a bit better in defining both high and low tones, while the Echo is better at midrange.
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 hubfirst.
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).
Using 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.
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.
This article was originally published by tomsguide.com