So you’ve heard the hype about Amazon’s assistant Alexa. Maybe your friend or one of your family members got an Echo for Christmas, and they can’t stop talking about how much they love it. Maybe you’ve seen the commercials. Maybe you followed the news coming out of CES this January and saw that now, seemingly everything works with Alexa.
Now that you’ve decided to get in on the fun and get an Echo device for yourself, which one should you buy? Do you want the original Echo, the smaller Dot or the portable Amazon Tap? We like all three devices here at CNET, but each is tailored for different situations. Here’s how to pick the perfect Echo device to introduce you and your family to the growing world of Alexa.
The Amazon Echo:
Amazon’s original $180 smart speaker, the Echo introduced Alexa to the world in 2014. Since then, its capabilities have grown almost daily. Alexa now has over 10,000 third-party skills. The Echo works well as a streaming audio playback device, a smart home controller and a personal assistant. The best part — you don’t have to deal with screens or operating systems to access Alexa’s universe of capabilities — just say the word “Alexa” and give your command, no physical interaction required. Because it makes voice controls easy for the whole family (your significant other doesn’t need to access your phone to control connected devices), the Echo’s become a cornerstone of the CNET Smart Home.
The Amazon Echo Dot:
Given all of that praise for the Echo, you’d think the choice would be easy. But the Echo Dot brings all of the capabilities of Alexa into a smaller package that only costs $50 and can transmit sound to your existing sound system. The Dot does everything the Echo can do, but its built-in speakers are smaller and less robust.
The Amazon Tap:
Formerly the black sheep of the bunch, the Amazon Tap puts all of the capabilities of Alexa into a compact, battery powered form. The device used to sacrifice Alexa’s always-listening magic in exchange for the added portability. To help with battery life, you had to hit the button on the front of the Tap to talk to it. Thanks to a recent “hands-free” update, that’s not the case anymore. The $130 Tap is the portable member of the Alexa family we’d always hoped it could be.