Over the last year Amazon has released new versions of their flagship Echo products, a new Look, Show and the Spot. More choices at different price points is usually a good thing for consumers, but can lead to confusion for the first time buyer as to what item is right for them. You've made the decision that you would like to get one but you are not sure which one is right for you. We will go through some of these and help you decide.
The Echo Dot is the low price point entry. Typically at the 49.99 price, but can often be found on sale for under $40. The Dot is a fully functional Echo, but it has a small speaker that would not make an avid audiophile happy. It works well enough to understand what Alexa is saying and the sound isn't horrible. I would say it's about the quality of a portable radio. However, it does sport a standard head phone jack making it simple to plug in robust speakers. It can also connect to Bluetooth. These are ideal when you are being budget conscious or the space you want to put on is small. Typically, these are a nice addition to a bedroom or office.
The New Echo (2nd Generation)
The new Echo boasts several enhancements over the original one. A more aesthetic look, better sound powered by Dolby, and the ability to change the look with a simple cover change. The sound projects in all directions. Like the Dot the new Echo also sports a standard head phone jack so external speakers can be attached for those that prefer their own speakers. This is the ideal Echo to get for a room where you would want to hear music playing. This is the unit most often seen in the typical living room.
The Echo Plus
The Echo Plus looks like the original Amazon Echo tower though it now comes in different colors, has the enhanced speakers of the new Echo 2nd generation, and includes a built in Zigbee hub for controlling Zigbee devices. On the surface, those all seem like a really good deal. I bought one based on that and to be honest--I wish I hadn't. I did so thinking it would be able to control my Philips Hue lights with the built in hub and get rid of the Philips hub. Technically, it can do that, but it doesn't provide as much control as the Hue hub does. Also, it won't replace your Wink or SmartThings hub if you also have smart switches or other Z-Wave based devices. If you do not have any kind of hub and only want to control a few smart light bulbs then this could be a good device, but otherwise one of the other Echo's and the appropriate hub would be a better choice.
The Show is Amazon's first foray into an Echo with a 7 inch color display. It also has a built in camera that can be used for video chatting with any of your contacts or with someone who has the Amazon Alexa app on their smartphone. It's Amazon's highest price point item ($180 range typically) so factor that into your decision. It's capable of playing any of the Amazon Prime videos as well as music. One nice thing I like with the show is the ability to see your calendar entries or shopping lists. It will also list lyrics to songs as they play. I find it handy in the kitchen as well because you can see things like the shopping list and recipes. The Show would be excellent is scenarios where you have a friend or relative you would frequently have a video chat. I've seen people use these with older relatives who like just being able to say "Alexa, drop in on Mom".
The Spot is Amazon's clock equipped with Alexa. Like the Show it has a video screen and camera and will display the same things the Show does. In it's normal mode it looks just like an alarm clock. It's capable of making video calls as well. It's touted as being a great addition to a bedroom and more decorative than a Dot. However, the screen is really too small to be truly viewable more than a couple of feet away. In my opinion, this falls more into an area of "gadget looking for a problem" than a really useful tool, especially at it's price point. If you really want video chat capability the Show is a better deal.
The Look is touted as Amazon's "Hands-Free Camera and Style Assistant". Yep, that's right--a camera for taking selfies and 6 second videos of yourself. To be honest--I don't get it. I'm not part of the "selfie" generation so maybe that's just me being me. I suppose if you are really into fashion and styling it could serve a good function, but most people are not going to need a nearly $200 selfie camera. They likely already own a smartphone capable of doing the exact same thing. Amazon even limits who can sell these so they are either going after a real niche market or they realize the target market is fairly small.
Hopefully, this has been helpful. If you have any questions feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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