Gadgets are always at the top of LalyDad's wish list so it has been interesting learning all about the new Alexa Devices, like the Amazon Echo, the Amazon Dot and the Amazon Tap. Today I'll give a quick run down of them and talk about best prices too. Affiliate links are used in this post for easy shopping.
Earlier this year LalyDad decided to try out the new-at-the-time gadget from Amazon, called the Amazon Echo. Amazon Echo is Amazon's nifty voice-activated, counter-top speaker that does tons of different things for you without lifting a finger using a cool program called Alexa.
At first it seemed like just another gadget to me but Alexa has really enriched our lives! Whereas a tablet provides people with individual media time, our Alexa enabled devices have brought us together more.
We have our Echo placed in the main room of our house, so when it is on we are all hanging out together. We listen to books, music and jokes together instead of apart. It has become handy in so many ways. We really do love it!
What is Alexa?
SO! If you've heard people giving Siri-like commands to someone named Alexa recently and wondered, “What is Alexa?” well here you go! Alexa Voice Service is the program from Amazon that hears your commands and executes them via one of their devices.
Alexa enabled devices, so far, are the Amazon Echo, the Amazon Dot and the Amazon Tap.
The Amazon Echo and Amazon Dot both plug into an electrical outlet and connect to the internet over wi-fi. The Amazon Tap is portable and needs to plug in to charge and otherwise connect over wi-fi or mobile hotspot. They are also bluetooth compatible.
All of them are managed via the Alexa App which you can set up on most smartphones, tablet or a wi-fi enabled desktop computer. In other words you do not NEED a smartphone or tablet, but it is handier to set it up using a mobile device. You DO need wi-fi.
The thing about the Echo and the Dot is that they are sitting there waiting for their Wake Word. Alexa. When you say Alexa, the device listens to your next sentence and carries out that command. You can be across the room, sitting on the couch, or on your way out the door or in the middle of a recipe. The Amazon Tap has Alexa Voice Services as well but you need to touch the button on it to wake it first.
Note: If you have an Alexa in your family you can change the Wake word to Echo. I have an Aunt named Alexa so this was good to know!
What Can Alexa Do?
Alexa can do THOUSANDS of things. Really. They seriously seem to add more things every day. Everyone thinks about music first. Alexa can play music from Amazon Music, Pandora, I heart radio, Spotify and more. The most common music commands in our house are Alexa play Kidz Bop Kids, Play the Hamilton Soundtrack and Play Yo-Yo Ma.
You can make phone calls, control your Alexa enabled TV, get recipes, check your fitbit.
It can tell your kids knock knock jokes, research whatever topic they're asking you about, play instant dance party music, set a timer for you, add items to your to-do list, tell you the weather, tell you about traffic and hours of the store you need to go to.
(Funny story: the Alexa app keeps a running list of the commands you ask, so LalyDad can see how many jokes Alexa has told our kids each day. It's a lot.)
It can read audible audio books, read the news, order supplies when you notice you're running low, make a shopping list for you or order a pizza when you forgot to go shopping. If you want to catch a movie you can ask Alexa for movie times.
It can order you an Uber ride, it can adjust the temp or lights if you have a smart system set up with products like Phillips Hue, Ecobee or Nest. (See Alexa Smart Home Compatible Systems here). You can play Jeopardy, talk you through a workout, find recipes, check the score of the big game or help you meditate.
Phew! And that is just to name a FEW! You can browse and search Alexa Skills and Abilities here.
“But which Alexa Device is Best,” You ask? It really depends on your needs.
Comparing Amazon Echo, Amazon Dot and Amazon Tap
So the Amazon Echo is the flagship Alexa Device. The second generation model is a 5.9 inch tall cylinder with a 3.5 inch diameter. It houses a large, capable speaker system (a woofer and tweeter) that can fill a large space with music or whatever you are playing. We use ours in our open floor plan main floor, and we can hear it upstairs a bit if we want to. But if we just want to hear it in the kitchen we tell Alexa to turn it down.
It also has an audio output and bluetooth capabilities.
The speaker provides great sound quality and we listen to music a lot more because we have it available so easily. It is also handy when we are about to head out to door, we can ask for the forecast to see if we need sunglasses, an umbrella or snow boots!
BOTTOM LINE: The Amazon Echo is for use in a larger space, for someone who wants Alexa's best sound quality. 2nd Gen Echos are usually $99 for almost every day of the year, except around the holidays when it has been down to $79.
The Amazon Dot is a much smaller version of the Echo. At 1.3 inches tall and a diameter of 3.3 inches, it is smaller than the average alarm clock. Come to think of it- that's another thing it can do for you! It does all the same handy things as the Echo but if you have a smaller space like a bedroom or office, and you don't need the big full sound of a speaker system, this saves you a chunk of change. It can also be hooked up to your existing stereo since it has an audio output or paired with that awesome bluetooth speaker you got last Christmas.
It is more discreet than the Echo, if you don't want a giant black cylinder speaker in your gorgeous room. You can add a colored cover or some really creative third party covers as well so it blends in with your decor, if you wish. Check out Amazon Dot Covers.
BOTTOM LINE: The Amazon Dot is best used in a smaller space or when top notch sound quality is less important than the budget. Also perfect if you already have awesome headphones or a solid Bluetooth Speaker and you want to pair it with Alexa's awesome powers. Dots are usually $49.99 for almost every day of the year, but have been down to $29.99 for the holidays.
The Amazon Tap is an Alexa-enabled bluetooth speaker- in other words: it's the portable version of the Echo. It's smaller at 6.5 inches tall with a 2.6 inch diameter, and has carrying cases available to take it with you. It is NOT always listening, however and you need to push the Tap button before giving it commands, even when it is plugged in. It averages a 9 hour battery life and comes with a charging cradle. It does have duel Dolby speakers inside for robust, crisp sound.
BOTTOM LINE: The Amazon Tap is best use when you need to take Alexa on the go. It also pairs with bluetooth or corded speakers and headphones. Tap has been $129 for most of the time it has been on sale but occasionally dips down to $99.99 but has been down to $89.99 for the holidays.
Amazon Echo Plus
The New Amazon Echo Plus, is basically a regular Echo plus a smart hub for your house. What does that mean? Basically Echo Plus seamlessly connects and controls compatible smart devices such as light bulbs, door locks, switches, and plugs. Setting up new smart home devices with Alexa is easy. Just say “Alexa, discover my devices” and Echo Plus will discover and set up compatible smart home devices.
Echo Plus has a built-in ZigBee smart home hub, which allows for simple and direct setup of compatible ZigBee lights, locks, plugs, and in-wall switches from brands like Philips Hue, GE, and Yale. No additional hub required. This means you can say things like, Alexa, turn on the hall lights and they will turn on without hitting the switch.
BOTTOM LINE: Echo Plus is perfect for anyone already using ZigBee items or anyone looking to upgrade to a smart home setup. It usually run for $165 but dips down to $149.99.
Alexa Devices with Video Screens
The Amazon Echo Spot
Wow, they just keep adding Alexa devices don't they!? The Amazon Echo Spot is like a fancy Amazon Dot with a small video screen. This means it can be set up to show baby monitors, play video clips and display front door cameras. You can also call almost anyone hands-free, or make video calls to family and friends with an Echo Spot, Echo Show, or the Alexa App.
BOTTOM LINE: Adding the video features makes for a more robust Alexa experience on the Amazon Echo Spot and is perfect for anyone already using related baby monitors or security cameras. Price is usually around $129.
The Amazon Echo Show
Bumping up to the next video level is the Amazon Echo Show. This is like an echo with a tablet size screen attached. Watch video flash briefings, Amazon Video content, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, browse and listen to Audible audiobooks, and more. All hands-free—just ask. Call almost anyone hands-free, or make video calls to family and friends with an Echo Spot, Echo Show, or the Alexa App. Instantly connect to other Echo devices around your home.
BOTTOM LINE: The top of the line Amazon Echo Show has all the bells and whistles. Usually costs $229.