As expected, Amazon debuted a new version of its Echo speaker on Tuesday. The new Echo Show ($230) builds on another recent addition to the Amazon's smart speaker family, the Echo Look ($200), which has a camera (but not a screen).
The new additions will bring the total number of Amazon speakers equipped with Alexa, the company's voice-activated virtual assistant, to five. Which one would work best for you? We break down the particulars below, and include some strategies for getting the best prices possible.
Rest assured that Alexa is “inside” all of Amazon’s smart speakers. You can ask her to check your credit card balance, find a summertime playlist, search for an open diner, order you more laundry detergent, give you the weather and a slew of other requests (including, if you're my friend's first grader, blast Nickelback songs to annoy the grown-ups). All of the devices stream Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn, or music from connected devices. You can also call or message anyone via the Alexa app with the Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show.
As for finding the best deals, well, Amazon just cut the price of the original Echo from $180 to $150. The move clearly seems timed to boost sales before the newer Echos hit the market, and it's unclear if the price drop is temporary or permanent.
Smart shoppers should also be aware that Amazon periodically discounts the prices of its devices on special days throughout the year. For instance, on the 2016 version of Amazon Prime Day—a made-up day for deals held in July the past two years—the regular Amazon Echo was priced at $130, or $50 off the list price. Amazon routinely slashes its device prices on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and some random sales days as well. So if you don't want to pay full price for an Echo or any other Amazon-branded gadget, just be patient.
In order to be ready to pounce when Amazon's gadgets see price cuts of $10, $30, or more, you must know which device you want. Here’s a primer on Amazon’s family of smart speakers for anyone thinking about bringing Alexa home.
The flagship Echo won kudos from audiophiles for its speaker quality and introduced America to the idea of talking to a piece of plastic that will automatically start listening without your having to lift a finger. It's also nice that, as mentioned above, the original Echo just got cheaper thanks to a $30 price cut from Amazon.
Currently available by invitation only, the Echo Look stands out because of its hands-free camera. You can take photos and short videos via voice command, and even ask Alexa if what you’re wearing looks good on you. Amazon uses algorithms as well as human stylists for its Style Check feature.
The brand new Show's seven-inch screen lets you make video calls to other people who have the device or the Alexa app, basically turning the speaker into a full-time home communication hub. (Watch out, phone companies.) Adding the screen also expands the number of things you can ask Alexa to do or show you. You can watch content on YouTube, see music lyrics and photos, and even view what’s happening somewhere else in the house with a compatible baby monitor or security camera. It will be available to Amazon Prime members on June 28, and can be preordered now.
The Dot has a built-in speaker, but its appeal is more for the audiophiles who can use its 3.5mm jack or Bluetooth to connect the device to a speaker or home theater system they love. Its smaller size also makes it easy to tuck Alexa into a spot where a full-sized speaker would get in the way — say, a bathroom or kitchen counter.
Road trip! The Tap is the Amazon speaker to bring on the go. It comes with a charging dock and a rechargeable battery, and is mobile-hotspot enabled. After an update, it’s also hands-free, which is a plus if you’re in the pool or trying to light the grill. Some reviewers have groused that the sound quality isn’t as good as the Echo, but that’s the trade-off you make for portability.
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