Struggling to find the perfect holiday gift for those hard-to-shop-for people on your holiday list? We may just have the answer for you. Amazon recently released their new and improved 2nd generation Echo smart speaker, and they just lowered the price across the entire model line. You can now buy the basic Echo Dot for $29.99 (reduced from $49.99), the standard Echo for $79.99 (our recommendation, reduced from $99.99), or the Echo Plus for $119.99 (reduced from $149.99). A few of us at AutoSlash have been testing out the Echo recently and we're more than impressed with this nifty device. It's quickly become a part of our homes--dare we say, a member of the family. So what exactly is an Amazon Echo and why would someone want one? Read on...
The Echo in a Nutshell
Amazon's Alexa-controlled Echo is first a wireless speaker, but it's much more than that. Using nothing but the sound of your voice, you can play music, search the Web, create to-do and shopping lists, shop online, get instant news and weather reports, listen to podcasts, play games, make dinner reservations, use it as a smart alarm clock ("Alexa, wake me up to jazz music at 6am"), make free phone calls, order food, and even control lights and other devices in your home. And believe it or not, that is just a small sampling of the things you can do with your Echo.
Once you unbox the sleek looking device, it prompts you to install an app on your phone to help get it set up, which basically means connecting it to your home wireless network, setting your location, and getting it connected to your Amazon account (if you like). Prime members can leverage their benefits to listen to ad-free music, order items through your account, get order status, and get access to weekly Alexa deals. If you're not a Prime member, you can connect it ot 3rd party music streaming apps like Spotify (our favorite) or Pandora.
After your Echo is setup, it's as simple as just saying something like, "Alexa, what's the weather?" or "Alexa, give me a daily briefing" to hear the latest news, or even "Alexa, what are the hours for Target?". The list of possibilities are endless, and Alexa is getting smarter by the day. You can even ask Alexa how she's feeling or what is the meaning of life. Some of Alexa's answers can be pretty entertaining. And if you don't like addressing your Echo as Alexa (it would be inconvenient if your Echo answered every time you called your daughter Alexa's name after all), you can easily change it from the setup.
The Echo Device Line
Echo Dot - This is the smallest and least expensive of the Echo line, and at a current sale price of $29.99 ($20 off), it makes a pretty cool stocking stuffer. The Echo Dot has all the functionality of the standard Echo, with the major difference being that it's got a smaller speaker as compared to its bigger brother's high-fidelity speaker setup. What does this mean? Well, the sound quality of the Echo Dot isn't nearly as good as the standard Echo, so if you want it mainly for listening to music, it's probably not the best choice. Then again, at $30, it's a relatively inexpensive yet impressive gift that will actually get some use by the recipient as it does everything its larger sibling does (which is a ton).
Echo - The standard Echo at a current sale price of $79.99 ($20 off) is our choice for most folks as it's in the sweet spot of functionality and sound quality. It's got a 2.5" woofer and a 0.6" tweeter, which, aside from the ability to woof and tweet, it means it's got great sound. Not likely on par with your home stereo setup mind you, but quite good by most standards. Like the Echo Dot, you can also connect it to your home stereo if you want that extra oomph. Aside from all the other great stuff Echo can do, it's a delight to just say, "Alexa, play me songs by Alicia Keys" or "Alexa, play Spotify playlist Holiday Cheer and have the room filled with your preferred music.
Echo Plus - The Echo Plus at a current sale price of $119.99 ($30 off) is a few inches taller than the standard Echo and has slightly better sound quality. The big difference is that the Echo Plus has a Zigbee smart-home hub built-in, which means that you can connect smart-home devices, such as Philips Hue lights or a smart lock directly to the Echo Plus, without having to buy a smart-home starter kit as you would with the standard Echo.
Echo Spot - The Echo Spot is a new device set to be released on December 19th. It's got a 2.5" screen, and in addition to all the other things the Echo can do, this one can also play video.
Echo Show - The Echo Show has a much larger 7" screen along with dual speakers for room-filling sound.
Alexa has Skills!
One of the coolest things about the Echo line is that it supports Alexa skills. Think of these as apps for your Echo. They help extend the functionality of your Echo and can do almost anything you can imagine like play games like Jeopardy and Song Quiz against other players over the internet, call an Uber or Lyft, get news briefings from the BBC, get wine recommendations (MySomm), check stock prices, send SMS messages, have it tell your kids bedtime stories, connect to your FitBit, find out what's new on Netflix...you get the idea--the list is endless, and growing every day.
At an entry price of $29.99, you get access to this whole new world. You may find that like us, it's something you wonder how you lived without before. Check out the Echo line today!