New Alexa devices and what they can do for you
When Amazon first announced the Amazon Echo and introduced us to Alexa, one of the first mainstream digital assistants, everything changed -- but the world had no idea that that was the tip of the iceberg. As users began to rely on Alexa's ever-growing list of digital services, Amazon responded by creating more platforms for Alexa. Soon after the original Echo came the smaller Echo Dot -- and now there's an entire product line of devices that include Alexa's digital assistant services.
Here are a few of our favorite new places to find Alexa.
The Echo Auto takes everything you love about Alexa and brings it to the comfort of your car. It connects to your smartphone for web access and listens for voice commands. You can ask for anything from the latest sports scores to directions to your favorite haunts, all while you're driving. Here's what you need to know before buying.
The good: The Echo Auto is a fantastic road trip companion, and it's best-in-class voice recognition means you can always keep your hands on the wheel. Having a digital assistant in the car giving you turn-by-turn directions feels like a new level of luxury.
The bad: The Echo Auto will rely on your phone's internet connection, so depending on what type of data plan you're on, it can increase the risk of monthly overages.
If you've ever wanted a voice-controlled, real-life version of WALL-E, you're in luck. The Vector is a robot companion that's only a few inches high, but it can be easily controlled with the included smartphone app or with voice commands to Amazon's digital assistant, Alexa. With more than a little artificial intelligence under the hood, the Vector can even respond with emotional faces.
The good: The Vector is a capable smart companion for all ages. Whether you want it to tell you the time, set an alarm, or even play games with you, it's as close as you can get to having a pet you don't have to clean up after. It's even smart enough to place itself on the charging station when the battery gets low.
The bad: It uses 2.4GHz WiFi connectivity, which is an older, slower standard. It can take pictures, but it requires a lot of light for the pictures to come out well.
The Echo Input may not look like much, but it may just be the best Alexa-based add-on available. Echo Inputs are small dongles with built-in microphones that add smart speaker functionality to any existing speaker. All you need to do is plug one into your stereo, and you'll be able to start using voice commands and enjoying streaming audio through your stereo speakers. If you already own a good set of speakers, this is the ideal way to enjoy streaming audio.
The good: The Echo Input lets you bring your own speaker, and it pairs exceptionally well with premium portable speakers and audiophile setups. It's tiny, so it can stay out of the way, and it supports most of Alexa's abilities.
The bad: It doesn't support Alexa's calling or messaging services, which is a glaring omission. It also doesn't work with Bluetooth speakers that require a pin code for connectivity.
When Amazon released the first-generation Echo Show, its first smart speaker with a screen, it was a bit underwhelming. It had a seven-inch screen, text that looked good but not great, and a built-in speaker that produced audio with the quality of an FM radio.
Thankfully, they've learned from their mistakes and surpassed expectations with the second-generation Echo Show. The new model has a 10-inch screen, vastly improved audio, and a plastic and fabric casing that's perfect for any setting. If you're into making video calls or you just want a kitchen companion to walk you through your favorite recipes, the new Echo Show is a slam dunk.
The good: The second-generation Echo Show looks and sounds significantly better than its predecessor. In comparison, the first version feels like a toy. It's got new functionality, too: with a built-in Zigbee controller, it can now work with a host of new smart home devices, so you don't have to buy any separate hubs to use them.
The bad: It can often struggle with streaming video, even from Amazon Prime Video. It's not currently possible to customize the home screen, which means you're stuck with the default options.
The Echo Sub isn't exactly an Alexa device. Rather, it's an accessory that's perfect for music fans: it's a subwoofer designed to complement second-generation Amazon Echoes. It delivers 100 watts of sound and turns Alexa's already-impressive audio into a high fidelity experience. If you've got a second-generation Echo and want to level up the audio quality, this is the perfect way to do it.
The good: Because the Echo Sub is designed specifically for the second-generation Echo, it complements it perfectly with rich, warm bass. The Echo Sub makes the Echo sound just as good as a Sonos Five and even Apple's HomePod.
The bad: It doesn't work with any Alexa devices besides the second-generation Echo or Echo Plus. Setup is unnecessarily complicated.
Jaime Vazquez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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