By Tracey Dowdy
If you’re like me, you’re probably intrigued by all the flashy new technology advertised around the holidays. Sometimes it’s easier to get overwhelmed by all the hype but more difficult to determine which gadgets are actually worth the money.
One device I’d been eyeing for ages is an Amazon Echo. I know, I know, I’m very late to the party but I kept debating whether or not I needed one or if I just wanted one. But, after a near miss with a glass of water and my laptop, I finally see the value of a truly hands-free device, especially in the kitchen. Like I said, I may be late to the party, but I’m finally here. Plus, as I just said, I was in the kitchen so chances are I brought snacks!
Originally launched in 2014, the Echo was unique. Now, Amazon offers several devices with its Alexa assistant: the Amazon Echo, Amazon Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, the second-gen Echo and the Echo Show. Additionally, there’s an ever-expanding portfolio of Alexa compatible devices to make your home a smart home.
Each device offers a different level of options – from the simple (Echo Dot) to the more elaborate (Echo Show). Here’s a breakdown of each so you can determine which is the best fit for your family.
Amazon Echo (Second Generation) The granddaddy of Echo speakers gets an upgrade in the second generation smart speaker. The first Echo was $180, and counterintuitively, the updated version is almost half the price at just $100. The device itself is smaller, is available in six different colors and connects to your existing sound system wirelessly via Bluetooth or by a 3.5mm cable.
Amazon Echo Dot (Second Generation) Think of the Echo Dot as the original Echo’s younger, yet just as successful little brother. It offers all the features of the full size Echo, but in a compact form, plus, it’s the only Echo device that connects to your home speakers. Available in three colors and at a $50 price point – (currently $29 during Cyber Week), the Echo is a great option.
Amazon Echo Plus The $150 Plus doubles as a smart home hub with an aux-out jack and a boost in sound quality. It’s got everything the Plus features and includes Zigbee radio to control your smart home devices.
Amazon Tap Priced at $130, the Tap is the battery powered version of the Echo Bluetooth speaker. The biggest issue consumers had with Tap is that you had to, well, tap the device to use it, and being hands-free is the primary reason most people are buying these devices. Amazon heard your cry – probably through that speaker – and created a work around. The Tap now allows you to toggle to a hands-free mode. Critics say the Tap doesn’t match the quality of other Bluetooth speakers in its price range. Also to note is that Alexa won’t work at all without Wi-Fi.
Amazon Echo Look If getting fashion tips from an intuitive device is your thing, well, then the Echo Look is for you. Pairing Alexa with a camera, the Look takes full body selfies and then gives you feedback on your ensemble. Get dressed, pose and take a selfie, and the Look’s AI algorithms will collate fashion critiques and advice from real-world stylists and help you choose between outfits. It’s definitely more of a niche device than an all-round Echo.
The Amazon Show is more or less an Amazon Echo with a built in screen. It has all the Alexa features of the Echo, with the primary difference being that it allows video calls. If you have a tablet, laptop, or smartphone, you already have a device that does that, so consider if the $230 price is worth the limited usefulness of that display/touch screen.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.