Very few people would have guessed how popular Amazon’s smart assistant Alexa would become, which is now available in three physical speaker systems that are taking the world by storm. But which one is best and why?
One of the reasons for Amazon Echo and its siblings’ popularity is the Alexa voice controls that make playing music, checking the traffic, asking trivia and more a hands-free process.
You can carry on cooking, or working or generally living your life while checking what you need – all without having to dig your phone out and unlock it, or even touch a button. As ever, convenience is king.
So with three hardware options to buy, which is the best way to get Amazon’s smart assistant in your life? To help you decide, here is the Recombu guide to what each speaker has to offer.
The big chief of the gadget gang is the Amazon Echo. It stands quite literally above the others, at 235mm tall, and punches loudest with 360-degree sound from a 2.5-inch woofer and 2.0-inch tweeter combination.
Like all three offerings, the Echo speaker has Amazon’s seven-microphone array for picking up audio commands wherever they come from in the room – and can do so even when playing music.
The Echo plugs into the mains for power and is always on, constantly listening for a command. It might sound creepy but it won’t hear you unless you call it by saying “Alexa”.
Then you can have it do your bidding, which includes playing musi, making to-do lists, set an alarm, call an Uber or read audio books and PDFs. It can even check the weather or find out the traffic level on your commute.
Amazon’s Echo uses your home’s Wi-Fi connection via its dual-antenna Wi-Fi. But it also features Bluetooth and can playback music from a connected device such as your smartphone or tablet.
Amazon Echo is out now for £149.
Amazon Echo Dot
At just 84mm high (about the height of three 50p coins), the Amazon Echo Dot is the smaller accompaniment to the full-sized Echo. The idea here is to offer multiple versions for cheaper so you can have your entire home voice-controlled without breaking the bank.
The downside is that this is not a speaker system. That means you will need to plug it into an existing speaker if you want to use it to play music. With that said, it does have a small speaker reserved just for voice feedback from Alexa.
Since the Dot is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connected, it can pretty much do everything the Echo can minus that built-in speaker playback. Therefore if you want to be able to tell your Nest to heat up the house from wherever you are in your home, the Dot will be ideal.
It is even smart enough to know which Alexa-enabled speaker is closest so only that one will listen.
The Amazon Echo Dot is available now and can be bought in sets. A single unit costs £50.
The Amazon Tap is a bit different to the other two options as it isn’t always listening. That means you will need to press the button on top of the speaker to issue a voice command. Admittedly, that sorta defeats the point, but this speaker is more about being mobile.
The Amazon Tap, which is US-only at the time of publishing, is a battery powered speaker that stands between the Echo and the Dot at 66mm tall. It offers 9 hours of charge before needing to go back to its cradle for a re-up.
It uses dual 1.5-inch drivers and dual passive radiators for 360-degree speaker power and also has a seven-microphone array for listening to your commands.
Since it can connect to Wi-Fi it could be used as a home device for Alexa commands, but it is probably more useful as a Bluetooth connected speaker for when out and about.
Update: The ability to wake up the Amazon Tap speaker by saying “Alexa” has since been added as part of a software update, but you must do it through the Alexa mobile app and when connected to WiFi.
The Amazon Tap is available in the US now for $130.