When Amazon first launched Alexa she only came in a tube, but these days the AI-powered voice assistant is available in all shapes and sizes.
Not only can you now find Alexa in third-party speakers, she also lives in smartphones, soundbars, ceiling fans and even toilets, while the core Echo family has grown to include some rather unexpected creations, including a camera that judges your fashion sense.
Still haven't invited Amazon’s voice assistant into your home? Here's a look at the current Amazon Echo range and why each might be the best fit for your needs.
Best for: Alexa n00bs
Amazon Echo Dot (£50)
At just £50, the Echo Dot is the most obvious starting point for anyone just dipping a toe into the virtual assistant pool.
With its fabric coat, the latest version looks a bit like somebody chopped the top off a standard Echo. That means there’s not much space inside for the speaker, so it’s not much use if you want to listen to music, although you can pair it with a seperate Bluetooth speaker or wire one in using a 3.5mm cable.
The Dot is just as capable at answering queries and assisting you as the fuller-bodied models are though. Alexa can answer your random queries, tell you the weather, set timers, or tell a joke, but she can also help manage your various smart home devices via spoken commands.
If you want to use Alexa as your personal DJ then you might consider a larger Echo instead, but for kitchen timers and basic smart home control the Dot is an excellent and extremely affordable place to start.
Best for: All-around performance
Amazon Echo (£90)
The original Echo is now smaller, fuzzier and, most importantly, quite a lot cheaper. It still does all the same stuff but for £90 rather than £150.
The seven microphones have been improved, so it can hear you over almost any cacophony the kids are making or the music that it’s playing.
That’s the main difference between this and the Dot: it’s got a speaker that can fill a room pretty well. It lacks punch and can sound a bit cluttered, so it’s not really suited for anything more than soundtracking the washing up, but it does the job. You can hook up a separate pair of speakers if you wish but if you’re planning to do that you might as well save yourself £40 and get a Dot.
If you're looking for an all-in-one device that doesn't break the bank this is the one. And with both wood and fabric shells, there’s more chance of finding over that matches your decor.
Best for: Smart home skills
Amazon Echo Plus (£140)
At a glance the Plus just looks like a slightly tubbier Echo but its wider waistband accommodates some extra talents that the standard speaker doesn’t have.
It has a smart home hub built in, which means it can talk directly to things like Philips’ Hue bulbs and Hive devices, so you no longer need an extra box plugged into your router in order for them to communicate. All you need to do is say: “Alexa, discover my devices” and it’ll scan your home for compatible Zigbee kit. It’d be nice if it supported other standards such as Z-Wave, but it’s a step in the right direction.
That slightly bulkier build also means there’s more space for bass and the Echo Plus has noticeably improved low-end performance when playing music. That said, if sound quality is top of your wanted list, the Alexa-equipped Sonos One is significantly better if you're willing to add another £60 to the price tag.
Best for: Seeing what you're hearing
Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) (£219)
Ever wished Alexa could show you stuff as well as tell you about it? Then you might be tempted by an Echo Show.
While you’ll still primarily interact with it using your voice, the new Show has a 10in touchscreen that displays information to go with your requests, so you get more detailed weather reports, for example, or step-by-step recipe instructions when you’re cooking.
It’s got a pair of speakers round the back that give it the best audio performance of any Echo, plus there’s support for Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, so you don’t have to stop watching Parks and Rec while you do the washing up. A built-in camera also means you can make video calls but only to other Echo Show and Spot owners at the moment.
Overall it doesn’t feel like the Show makes enough use of its screen, plus it just doesn’t seem suited to watching anything longer than about 15 or 20 minutes. It also has the smart home hub built in, but unless you’re really keen on being able to see what Alexa says, the Echo Plus still feels like a better bet.
Best for: When you can't dress yourself
Amazon Echo Look (US$200)
Of all the forms the Echo has taken, this is the least expected. The Echo Look is essentially a style consultant, built to dress you down when you get dressed up for the day. Really? Yes, really.
It's a hands-free, tripod-mounted camera flanked by four LED lights, and you can ask Alexa to snap your photo at any time to see your outfit. You can spin around and see the result in real time on your smartphone, save images to a lookbook, and even get blurred backdrops in the photos so that your look really stands out.
And if you need a second opinion, you can ask Alexa. A combination of machine learning and input from a team style experts have concocted an algorithm that'll decide which of two outfits looks best. You trust the cloud, right? Otherwise, it's an Echo, albeit probably not the best-sounding one for music.
The Echo Look is only available in the States right now, although you don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to have one imported. Unless you’re style-obsessed, you're probably better off with a mirror and one of the cheaper Echo models. Seriously, you look great.