Amazon Reveals New Alexa Gadgets

September 21, 2018

10:45 am

Last night, Amazon unveiled the latest in its line of Alexa-powered devices. From a wall clock to a power point to a microwave, all of these voice activated products are designed to respond to your spoken whims and desires – plus integrate the Amazon infrastructure furthermore into your daily routine, naturally.

The lineup was eclectic, to say the least. While some old favorites have been updated – the Echo range has been revised with better speakers – there were also some rather left-field choices. A voice activated microwave doesn’t seem like an obvious must-have, while Amazon also revealed a wall clock that can be linked to your existing Alexa devices.

It seems that Amazon won’t rest until everything in your home can be activated with a few key commands. We take a look at the lineup. Sorry, I mean ‘Alexa. Show me the lineup’.

Latest Alexa Products


AmazonBasics-MicrowaveAmazonBasics Microwave

What does it do? The AmazonBasics range is essentially Amazon’s value line of products. The name is usually assigned to products such as USB cables or pens

So, an Alexa-enabled microwave is something of a surprise, to say the least. The Microwave doesn’t have Alexa functionality built-in. Instead, it communicates with your existing Echo device. Instead of having to push multiple pesky buttons (what a drag), you can now just push the Alexa button and tell the microwave to heat up your meal for one (quite how the meal got into the microwave without you being close enough to just hit the on-button is another matter).

In its advertising, Amazon makes a big deal about the fact ‘you don’t have to say Alexa’ to activate the microwave. Arguably, pushing a button to order a voice command seems somewhat backwards, especially when the other buttons to do the job the old fashioned way are right there.

It also has a dedicated popcorn button. No, it really does. The folk at Amazon clearly like popcorn, because the microwave will automatically detect when you’re running out and reorder more popcorn for you.

Is it worth it? While there’s a novelty value in ordering a machine to cook your dinner, like some sort of tyrannical king or 1950’s husband, it does seem exceptionally lazy. However, with its low price point and sheer entertainment value, there are bound to be plenty of interested amateur chefs and hardcore popcorn enthusiasts.

Price: $59.99

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Compact design
  • Dedicated popcorn button

Cons

  • Small capacity
  • Feels gimmicky
  • Requires existing Echo device

amazon-echo-autoEcho Auto

What does it do? If you thought leaving the house would give you some respite from Alexa, think again.

Echo Auto, is, unsurprisingly, an Alexa device for your car. It’s a cheap microphone that connects to your phone for full Alexa functionality, and has been specially designed for the noisy environment of in-car acoustics.

Amazon claims that an eight-way microphone means that the Echo Auto can hear everything you’re saying over the noise of the road, allowing you to change radio station or order more cat food from the road with ease.

Is it worth it? Anyone who has tried to use a voice assistant in their car before will know that it’s not always easy – other motorists will peer in curiously as you, red-faced, scream Alexa’s name ever louder in the hope you’ll be picked up over the sound of rubber on asphalt.

Echo Auto should eliminate this issue (assuming you’re not commuting in an extra-loud dragster). There are also safety implications. Voice commands mean that your eyes stay on the road, instead of glancing down at a screen.

Price: $24.99

Pros

  • Cheap entry price
  • 8 microphones
  • Keeps your eyes on road

Cons

  • Limited availability
  • Requires Smartphone with Alexa

echo-wall-clockEcho Wall Clock

What does it do? Like the AmazonBasics Microwave, the Echo Wall Clock doesn’t have its own integrated Alexa functionality. Instead, it connects to your existing Echo device.

Once hooked up, you can set multiple alarms and change the time with voice commands.

Is it worth it? Amazon is pitching the Echo Wall Clock at families who need to organize, and it seems that’s a smart move.

We all have voice activated clocks in our pockets already, with most smartphones capable of these features. The bonus of the clock is that it be seen by everyone and it’s not hard to imagine using it to usher kids along with their breakfast or as a reminder to take the dog for a walk.

The one aspect that could make or break it is the battery life of the clock. The smart functionality could be power drain, and nobody is going to want to replace their wall clock battery every other week.

Price: $29.99

amazon-echo-dotUpdated Echo Dot and Echo Plus

What do they do? Amazon’s Echo speakers have been given a little upgrade. although it’s nothing groundbreaking.

Amazon claims that the Echo Plus and Echo Dot speakers have now been improved and are capable of louder volumes. This is good news for those that favour the Echo Dot especially, which could be a bit tinny if you pushed it too far.

With a reported 70% volume increase over the previous model, it’s a substantial improvement for Amazons plucky little puck. However, it still won’t have the power to keep a party banging. But don’t worry, Amazon has another product to sell you for that.

The other improvement, and I hope you’re sitting down for this one, is an improved fabric design. Phew.

The Plus introduces what Amazon is calling local voice commands. These will still work even if you lose internet. Commands are limited at the moment (an example is controlling the lights), but Amazon intends to add more in the future.

Are they worth it? If you own an older Dot or Plus. there’s little reason to upgrade, unless you’re desperate for a little more volume. For those that have been toying with the idea of picking up a Dot or Plus for a while, now is the time to jump in.

Price: The pricing remains the same for the two new Echo devices, with the Dot costing $49.99, and the Plus $149.99

amazon-echo-show

Echo Show 2nd Generation

What does it do? In simplest terms, Echo Show is an Echo with a screen attached.

The typical usage cases Amazon shows in its marketing include looking up a recipe in the kitchen, or checking the weather before heading out. You can also use the screen to watch shows (like Amazon Prime Video – you can just forget about watching YouTube on it, though).

Like the Echo speakers, it’s received a slight upgrade. I’s also had a volume boost, and is now capable of delivering stronger bass and stereo sound. It’s also larger – the first incarnation had a 7-inch screen, while the new model has a 10-inch display.

Is it worth it? While the Echo Show has its fans (a quick look at the reviews of the first model will reveal its super-pumped fanbase), it’s not great value for money. This is especially true considering that the Amazon Fire tablet range now has Alexa functionality and starts at just $50. Granted it may not sound as good, but it will offer a vast majority of the functions that the Echo Show boasts.

For a cheaper ‘Alexa with a screen’ experience, take a look at the Amazon Fire tablets.

Price: $229

Pros

  • Large, 10-inch screen
  • Improved speaker
  • Compatible with home hub devices

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Can’t watch YouTube

amazon-echo-inputEcho Input

What does it do? The Echo Input is a thin, disc-like device that connects to existing speakers, via a 3.5mm cable or Bluetooth. It then provides a full Alexa experience without the expense of an Echo.

Is it worth it? Being able to turn any old speaker into an Echo-like device with the Echo Input is a welcome addition to the Echo lineup for those that want to upgrade their existing equipment.

If you’re rocking a solid home stereo system, and wish that you could add Alexa to it for playing your Amazon music collection, here’s your solution.

Price: $34.99

echo-sub

Echo Sub

What does it do? No, it’s not a delicious sandwich, but a wireless sub woofer for use with your existing Amazon Echo device.

Hook this up, and boost the bass and volume from your Dot, Plus or other Echo enabled gadget.

Is it worth it? The Echo range isn’t known for its deep bass and volume. The Echo Sub should help you turn it up to 11 and get the music pumping with a bit more oomph than before. If you’ve already got a decent stereo system, then the Echo Input is the better (and cheaper) device for you, but otherwise this is a decent choice.

Price: $129.99

echo-link-ampEcho Link and Link Amp

What does it do? The Echo Link and Link Amp are designed to stream music through your home on existing audio equipment. Connect the Link to your stereo or other Echo devices and stream high fidelity music, controllable by voice or with the Alexa app. The Link Amp is the same device, but built into a 60w amplifier to boost your speakers.

Is it worth it? For music buffs, there’s bound to be a degree of excitement about the Echo Link and Link Amp, especially as they’re priced competitively.

The Sonos solution to this problem, the Sonos Amp, is priced at $600. While we’ll have to see how they fair when pitched against each other, Amazon has certainly nailed the price.

Price: $199.99 for the Echo Link, $299.99 for the Amp

amazon-plug

Amazon Smart Plug

What does it do? It’s a plug. And it’s smart. Plug any device into this plug and you’ll be able to control it with Alexa voice commands and program accordingly.

Plug a lamp in for example, and you’ll be able to turn it off and on and will using your voice, or program it to come on at certain times of the day.

Is it worth it? While plug timers are nothing new, being able to control the Smart Plug via Alexa is a neat addition and a lot more versatile than traditional timers.

Being able to add voice command functionality to ‘dumb’ products is a nice touch, and it’s easy to imagine plenty of scenarios where this could be useful. For example, if you’re on holiday you could set up lights to come on in the evening as a burglar deterrent, and control them remotely.

Price: $24.99

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Jack is a senior writer at Tech.co with over a decade's experience researching and writing about consumer technology, from security and privacy to product reviews and tech news.

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