Years ago, the “hub” was the center of the smart home, connecting all your smart devices. But there was one issue: that’s all it did. We shouldn’t be surprised that smart speakers, and especially Amazon’s Echo devices, changed everything. After all, the best Alexa speakers now feature bright screens and a cheery virtual assistant that makes controlling smart home devices easy.
The Echo Shows are by far the best Alexa speakers, as you’re no longer limited to controlling your smart devices by voice. Now you can see who’s at the door when your video doorbell rings or ask Alexa to show you the nursery camera to check on your child.
We’ve owned several Echo devices ourselves and recently upgraded a majority of our devices to Echo Shows. What is the best Alexa speaker? Read on to find out. But first, we’ll answer a few common questions we hear from readers.
What can you do with an Alexa smart speaker?
Alexa devices are great for a variety of uses. Here are just some of the things you can do with Alexa-compatible devices:
- Play music from Amazon and most music platforms
- Make phone calls
- Make video calls if you have an Echo Show with other Echo Show owners
- Control smart home devices, like smart lights, plugs, locks, etc.
- Set timers and reminders
- Get basic information on a variety of subjects
- Hear news and weather forecasts.
And with a variety of additional apps called “skills,” you can customize Alexa to your specific needs.
Is Alexa better than Google Assistant?
This is the question everyone asks us. Our response? They each have their advantages. Google Assistant seems to work very well with natural language commands and multiple commands at once: however, it doesn’t have the broad skill set of Alexa. Alexa on the other hand is much more widely supported, however sometimes it struggles to understand you if you don’t phrase voice commands in a certain way. We do recommend considering Google Assistant first if you have an Android device, however.
What music platforms is Alexa compatible with?
You might think that Alexa can only play Amazon Music. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Here’s a list of the services that Alexa can use:
- Apple Music
What video platforms is Alexa compatible with?
If you have an Echo Show, you aren’t limited to just audio. You can also stream video content as well. There are tons of video platforms, so we’ll mention the most common:
- Dish Network
- Vizio SmartCast
Several regional cable providers also have Alexa apps to allow you to watch your cable subscription only your Echo Show. Check with your provider for more information.
In addition, Alexa can read books from audible and Kindle, as well as control your Sonos system. Pretty cool if you ask us.
Why doesn’t Alexa support YouTube?
Google blocked Amazon from playing its videos several years ago. In retaliation, Amazon doesn’t provide support for its smart home devices like the Ring Video Doorbell on Google Assistant-powered devices. It stinks, but we’re caught in the middle of a spat between these two companies.
If you need YouTube videos, then you’ll need to buy a Google device.
The Amazon Echo Line
Amazon has several Alexa speakers. Which one is the best smart speaker for you will depend on what features you’re looking for.
Amazon Echo Show
Amazon has several different sized Echo Shows in its lineup, the Echo Show 5, the Echo Show 8, Echo Show 10, and the newest, the Echo Show 15. The smaller-sized Shows are great for smaller rooms, while we’d recommend picking up the Echo Show 10 for larger rooms as the smart display is large enough to be seen across the room. If you want a large picture frame-like display that can act as the digital hub, the Echo Show 15 is the way to go.
- Two color options, charcoal, and white
- 10.1" HD screen that moves to face you
- 13-megapixel front-facing camera
- Zigbee smart home support built in
- 2 x 1.0” tweeters and 3.0” woofer
Amazon Echo Studio
The Amazon Echo Studio is the company’s high-fidelity speaker, with 3D sound and Dolby Atmos support. If audio performance is a major selling point for you, this is the speaker you want. While you won’t get the smart display with it, the dramatically better sound makes up for it.
Amazon Echo Dot
The Amazon Echo Dot is the company’s entry-level speaker, and also the cheapest. While the sound quality isn’t all that great, it is pretty impressive for a device of its size. The Amazon Echo Dot with Clock features an LCD clock on the front of the device, making it a perfect modern replacement for the good old alarm clock.
Amazon Echo Dot Kids
The Amazon Echo Dot Kids is basically the same device as the Echo Dot, however with stronger parental controls, and fun kid-inspired designs. If your little one wants an Alexa, and you’re afraid of what they might ask (or buy), choose this speaker. There’s also an Echo Show 5 Kids as well.
Other Alexa Devices
Most Alexa-enabled smart speakers are manufactured by Amazon. However, there are a few third-party devices that are worth mentioning. The Facebook Portal series devices are perhaps the most well-known, and the one we would recommend if you’re considering a third-party device.
Best Alexa Speakers – Our Picks
While Amazon recently released the redesigned Echo Show 10, which now includes built-in motion detection and a built-in Zigbee smart hub to control non-WiFi-enabled smart devices, we feel the best Alexa speaker in terms of value is the Echo Show 8. While the screen is two inches smaller, you still get the upgraded 1280×800 resolution of the larger screen.
Even without the woofer the Echo Show 10 has, the Echo Show 8’s two-speaker system has great sound quality and audio output that’s enough to fill a room. The better resolution makes watching videos more enjoyable since the picture quality is considerably better. However, we’d recommend the cheaper Echo Show 5 outside of your bedrooms.
However, if you’re on a tight budget, the best Alexa speaker here might be the Echo Dot or the Echo Dot kids for your little ones. This budget Alexa speaker does not have a screen but does have a digital clock on its front-facing side. Like the
Smart speakers and privacy concerns
One thing we do hear frequently from readers is concerns over your privacy when there are smart speakers in the home. Are these devices listening in and watching you? It’s a valid concern, so we wanted to address it here. Smart speakers are continuously listening for a “wake word,” and will listen and watch once this word is heard. The camera also often doubles as a motion detector, waking the screen when it detects someone nearby.
According to Amazon, these audio and video clips are not stored permanently, however, the company does say it retains information on Alexa’s responses to queries, so that future responses to queries are more personalized to the user, and to improve Alexa’s responses overall.
We recommend that you use the camera privacy screen regularly, and also if you prefer not to contribute to Amazon’s improvement efforts, delete your audio recordings. This can be done by simply saying, “Alexa, delete everything I said.” Amazon does warn that this may degrade the functionality of your Echo device, especially if you have personalization settings enabled.