One of the best things about smart speakers is how quick and easy they are to get working.  You only need to have three things to get started with Amazon Alexa.

What Do I Need Before I buy an Amazon Echo Device?

  1. A wireless network
  2. A smartphone or tablet with the Alexa App downloaded.  An alternative to setting up Alexa with the app is to use the web browser a web browser to set it up on your computer here:
  3. An Amazon account.
As long as you have these 3 things, you are ready to go ahead with purchasing an Amazon smart speaker.

Which Amazon Echo to Buy?

As of early 2018, there are 5 categories of Amazon Alexa devices.  The chart below outlines the purpose and pros and cons of each type of Echo device:  
Device Best For Purpose Pros Cons Cost
Echo & Echo Dot Every day usage. Voice assistant and smart speaker.  The Echo provides better sound quality than the Dot but the Dot is better suited to smaller areas like a bedroom or bathroom. Inexpensive entry-level Alexa devices that provide access to all Alexa skills available through the voice assistant.   While you can use Bluetooth to connect any Echo to any other Bluetooth speaker, the Dot & the Tap are the only Echo devices that provide an auxiliary out to connect directly to non-Bluetooth speakers or receivers. The Echo Dot provides very basic sound quality.   No video options.   Only controls wifi-enabled home automation devices (e.g. Nest, WeMo, Ecobee).  Requires an external hub (like Samsung SmartThings) to control other smart home devices (Zigbee or Z-Wave). $99.99 US/$49.99 US
Echo Plus People who want to use many Zigbee devices but do not want to purchase an external hub. Voice assistant plus built-in Zigbee smart home hub. You can control Zigbee devices like Philip Hue bulbs, Yale locks and GE switches without requiring an external Zigbee hub (like Samsung SmartThings hub or a Wink hub). You would still require an external hub to control Z-Wave or devices with protocols other than Zigbee. $149.99
Echo Show & Echo Spot People who will use the video features. Adds video-calling, video streaming, and visual prompts and information to the basic Echo devices. Adds functionality with the video options.  Can integrate with your home security system with the purchase of an additional Amazon Cloud Cam. Video calling is limited to the location of the device – the Echo is not portable as it must be plugged in during use.  There is a significant additional cost for these devices so they are not recommended unless you will be using the video features. $229.99/$129.99
Echo Look People with an interest in fashion or those with low vision seeking guidance on outfits. Designed with a focus on personal style Only Echo that offers a “style assistant” to provide advice on outfits and help you build your own personal lookbook of photos and videos.   Provides fashion guidance for people  with low vision. Sound quality is equivalent to a Smartphone speaker.     $199.99
Tap Those who want to take the Echo with them. Mobile, Bluetooth speaker that functions the same as the Echo when connected to Wi-Fi. Portability – The Tap has a built-in battery and will function like any mobile Bluetooth speaker. Battery needs to be charged.   The sound quality is better than the Dot but less than the Echo. $129.99

And the Recommended Echo is…..

The Amazon Echo (2nd Generation) is our overall recommendation.  It provides the best sound quality, fully functions as a voice assistant, and is reasonably priced.  If sound quality is not essential, the Echo Dot is great for a bedroom to function as an alarm clock or voice assistant.  Finally, if the video options are important to you, our recommendation is the Echo Show.