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Ultimate Guide to Alexa and the Amazon Echo Family

Everything you need to know about Amazon’s smart assistant, Alexa, and the Amazon Echo.

Written by: Rebecca Edwards  |   Updated: March 8, 2018
Alexa with caption: Alexa, play morning playlist

Read on to find out everything you ever wanted to know about Alexa and Amazon’s line of Echo smart speakers—plus, check out our room-by-room guide to a more comfortable, convenient life courtesy of the awesome products that work with Alexa.

Compare the Amazon Echo Family

 

Echo

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Echo Dot

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Echo Plus

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Echo Spot

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Echo Show

Echo Show Check Price on Amazon

Echo Look

Echo Look Check Price on Amazon
Price

$99.99

$49.99

$149.99

$129.99

$229.99

$199.99

Standout Features

Powerful speaker

Add Alexa to any room

Built-in smart home hub

Compact Echo with a screen

Optimized for visuals

Camera and style assistant

Speaker

2.5″ woofer and 0.6″ tweeter

0.6″ speaker

2.5″ woofer and 0.8″ tweeter

1.4″ speaker

Dual 2.0″ stereo speakers

1.6 W speaker

Video

N/A

N/A

N/A

2.5” screen

7” screen

N/A

Finishes

Six fabrics or finishes

Black or white

Black, silver, or white

Black or white

Black or white

White only

View Amazon Echo Product Reviews

Getting to Know Amazon Alexa

Alexa in a livingroom

What Is Alexa?

Alexa has been called everything from a personal assistant and butler to a playmate and parents’ helper—but what exactly is Alexa? The short answer is a hands-free voice service by Amazon. That means Alexa responds to the sound of your voice to help you do things.

If you’ve ever yelled at an appliance in an attempt to make it do your bidding, you’re going to love Alexa. The Amazon-created voice service lets you give voice commands to dim the lights, turn up the thermostat, set a timer, turn on the TV, or make a grocery list (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!).

Alexa operates in the cloud and has a “brain” that is constantly adding new skills and abilities to its database. The more you use Alexa, the better it gets—Alexa is designed to learn your speech patterns and adapt to your personal preferences.

Alexa in a bedroom

How Does Alexa Work?

Alexa uses an online cloud service run by Amazon to interpret vocal commands you give to an Alexa-compatible device. If that sounds complicated, don’t worry. You don’t really need to understand the tech behind Alexa to make it work for you.

The easiest way to put Alexa to work is to use an Alexa hub, or speaker, like the Echo. Think of the Echo as the genie in the bottle that takes your wishes and makes them come true. Instead of rubbing the bottle, all you do to get Alexa’s attention is utter one word. Amazon calls this the “wake word,” and it can be anything you want, although most people simply use “Alexa” or “wake up.”

After you wake the Echo, the device starts recording everything you say. It sends your words over the internet to the Alexa Voice Services cloud, where it figures out what you want and responds accordingly. If this sounds like a lot of work, it is, but Alexa does it so fast that you won’t even notice.

In addition to this basic functionality, Alexa also works with a whole bevy of other technologies in your home, car, and beyond. This is why you can use Alexa for everything from starting a pot of coffee to ordering an Uber.

Alexa in a kitchen

What Are Alexa Skills?

Everything Alexa can do is considered a skill. As of July 2017, Alexa had more than 15,000 skills. These are features and apps that help Alexa connect to and work with other online services (like music and news) and home automation technology. Both companies and individual programmers can create Alexa skills, which leaves the field wide open for ever-expanding Alexa integration.

Room-By-Room Guide to Amazon Alexa

There are so many ways Alexa can make your life easier that we’ve decided to break it down room by room. This way you can zero in on the types of Alexa skills and smart home compatibility that matter most to you. If you want to stream Amazon music to fit individual taste in different rooms or get a little help entertaining the little ones while you make dinner, Alexa can make it happen.

Best of all, Alexa makes it possible for you to have a smart home even if you rent. You could have a smart dorm if you wanted—the possibilities are endless.

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Bedroom

Imagine waking up gently to the perfect temperature and lighting that doesn’t blind you the second you open your eyes. If that sounds like a dream, it’s one that Alexa can make come true. When you combine Alexa with other smart products, you can slumber (and wake) to the perfect environment every day. Check out what Alexa can do to transform your bedroom into a relaxing utopia.

ASet the alarm.

Tell Alexa to set the alarm every night as part of your bedtime routine, or make life even easier with a repeating alarm for each weekday. And if you like the idea of Alec Baldwin or Missy Elliott greeting you each morning, be sure to use one of Alexa’s celebrity alarm tones.

BAdjust the temperature.

Nothing’s worse than having to crawl out of a warm, cozy bed. Ease the pain by using Alexa to turn up the heat before your feet touch the floor.

CFigure out what to wear.

Alexa can give you a weather update every morning, so you always know if the day calls for rain boots or flip flops. With Amazon’s latest Echo product, Echo Look, you can get a snapshot of your ensemble sent straight to your phone so you can critique your fashion sense before you hit the streets.

DDim the lights.

Set the perfect scene for relaxation when you combine Alexa’s voice control with smart light bulbs. You can also manage exposure to blue light before bed and set your lights to greet you with ideal illumination in the morning.

EReplace the remote.

Never fumble around in the dark for the remote again—Alexa can completely replace your universal remote. When you put Alexa in charge of your TV, all you have to say is “Alexa, turn off the TV,” and you’ll be on your way to sweet slumber.

FClose the shades.

Don’t worry about getting in and out of bed to make sure the shades are closed. With smart controls and Alexa on your side, you can tell those shades to close themselves.

ASet the alarm.

Tell Alexa to set the alarm every night as part of your bedtime routine, or make life even easier with a repeating alarm for each weekday. And if you like the idea of Alec Baldwin or Missy Elliott greeting you each morning, be sure to use one of Alexa’s celebrity alarm tones.

BAdjust the temperature.

Nothing’s worse than having to crawl out of a warm, cozy bed. Ease the pain by using Alexa to turn up the heat before your feet touch the floor.

CFigure out what to wear.

Alexa can give you a weather update every morning, so you always know if the day calls for rain boots or flip flops. With Amazon’s latest Echo product, Echo Look, you can get a snapshot of your ensemble sent straight to your phone so you can critique your fashion sense before you hit the streets.

DDim the lights.

Set the perfect scene for relaxation when you combine Alexa’s voice control with smart light bulbs. You can also manage exposure to blue light before bed and set your lights to greet you with ideal illumination in the morning.

EReplace the remote.

Never fumble around in the dark for the remote again—Alexa can completely replace your universal remote. When you put Alexa in charge of your TV, all you have to say is “Alexa, turn off the TV,” and you’ll be on your way to sweet slumber.

FClose the shades.

Don’t worry about getting in and out of bed to make sure the shades are closed. With smart controls and Alexa on your side, you can tell those shades to close themselves.

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Kids’ Rooms

If you’ve fantasized about hiring a nanny to help out with the little ones, Alexa can bring you a little bit closer to that goal. Although Alexa doesn’t provide direct supervision, you can use your Echo or Echo Dot to give the kids a convenient new playmate.

ATell jokes.

What kid doesn’t love a joke? Alexa has an ever-growing library of jokes, including everything from knock-knock jokes to hilarious puns.

BPlay a game.

Kids get a kick out of playing games with Alexa through the Amazon Echo. You can pick from hundreds of games like Twenty Questions, Jeopardy!, and Simon Says. There are also games related to popular shows like Sesame Street or SpongeBob SquarePants.

CTell a bedtime story.

When you could use an extra five minutes to get the dishwasher started, Alexa can get the bedtime routine going. The Bedtime Story skill turns your Amazon Echo into an expert storyteller—each bedtime story is personalized to make it even more special.

DGet the wiggles out.

If you’re too pooped to get down with the youngsters, ask Alexa to play “The Hokey Pokey,” call out the colors for Twister, or play a groovy dance tune from Amazon Music or Spotify.

EGet silly.

Sometimes all your kids need is a little laugh. Alexa delivers with Laugh Box (you can ask for anything from a baby to a villain laugh) and 4AFart, which is sure to have kids large and small rolling on the ground with a fit of the giggles.

FHelp with homework.

Because we rely on the internet to help with all kinds of things these days, it’s super convenient to have Alexa look up references or help with specific questions without having to leave the document or webpage you’re already working on.

GSet timers.

Whether you want to make sure they brush their teeth for a full sixty seconds or get off the computer in five minutes, Alexa timers make sure things in your home run on schedule.

HProvide an extra set of eyes.

Alexa can help you keep watch over sleeping babies or adventurous teens. Simply set up Alexa to work with a compatible nanny cam or baby monitor. Then all you have to do to check in on the kids is ask Alexa to show them to you.

ATell jokes.

What kid doesn’t love a joke? Alexa has an ever-growing library of jokes, including everything from knock-knock jokes to hilarious puns.

BPlay a game.

Kids get a kick out of playing games with Alexa through the Amazon Echo. You can pick from hundreds of games like Twenty Questions, Jeopardy!, and Simon Says. There are also games related to popular shows like Sesame Street or SpongeBob SquarePants.

CTell a bedtime story.

When you could use an extra five minutes to get the dishwasher started, Alexa can get the bedtime routine going. The Bedtime Story skill turns your Amazon Echo into an expert storyteller—each bedtime story is personalized to make it even more special.

DGet the wiggles out.

If you’re too pooped to get down with the youngsters, ask Alexa to play “The Hokey Pokey,” call out the colors for Twister, or play a groovy dance tune from Amazon Music or Spotify.

EGet silly.

Sometimes all your kids need is a little laugh. Alexa delivers with Laugh Box (you can ask for anything from a baby to a villain laugh) and 4AFart, which is sure to have kids large and small rolling on the ground with a fit of the giggles.

FHelp with homework.

Because we rely on the internet to help with all kinds of things these days, it’s super convenient to have Alexa look up references or help with specific questions without having to leave the document or webpage you’re already working on.

GSet timers.

Whether you want to make sure they brush their teeth for a full sixty seconds or get off the computer in five minutes, Alexa timers make sure things in your home run on schedule.

HProvide an extra set of eyes.

Alexa can help you keep watch over sleeping babies or adventurous teens. Simply set up Alexa to work with a compatible nanny cam or baby monitor. Then all you have to do to check in on the kids is ask Alexa to show them to you.

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Living Room

The living room brings your household together, so it makes sense to enhance that special time with the power of Alexa. Check out everything Alexa can do to support your home’s central hub.

ACatch up on the news.

It’s hard to find time to sit down and read the paper or watch the news. Save time and stay up to date on current events by asking Alexa to read you the day’s headlines. You can select your favorite news sources to create a customized “Flash Briefing” that includes all the news that matters to you.

BHost family game night.

Alexa’s game prowess isn’t just for entertaining kids while you catch up on chores. Let Alexa run your next family game night. During a surprise event last September, Amazon unveiled Echo Buttons for use with multiplayer games like Trivial Pursuit. Echo Buttons let you add a new level of competition (you can “buzz in” to answer first) to game night when you play through a compatible Echo device—or you can play games specially designed for Echo Buttons.

CSet the mood.

Whether it’s movie night or a romantic evening in front of the fire, use Alexa to set the right mood. Control lighting, temperature, and ambiance with your voice. Alexa can access and play your favorite album or playlist from Amazon Music, Spotify, or Pandora.

DEntertain your crew.

Hands-free TV is more accessible than ever with Amazon Alexa. Alexa loves to manage home entertainment systems—from your TV and DVR to the stereo and streaming music services. With Alexa, you can tell your TV to fast-forward, rewind, record, or switch input, all with the sound of your voice. You can also control volume and launch apps like Spotify or Netflix, just by telling Alexa to do it.

EKeep things tidy.

If Alexa hasn’t impressed you yet, this might be the pièce de résistance. Use Alexa to control your robot vacuum, and you’ll never have to worry about even one dust bunny escaping. Best of all, your floors will get cleaned while you sit back and relax.

FFind lost keys.

Save yourself from turning the sofa inside out by using Alexa to locate lost items. Team Alexa with a remote tracker like Tile, and a simple voice command is all you’ll need to pull your keys back from the cavernous confines of your couch.

ACatch up on the news.

It’s hard to find time to sit down and read the paper or watch the news. Save time and stay up to date on current events by asking Alexa to read you the day’s headlines. You can select your favorite news sources to create a customized “Flash Briefing” that includes all the news that matters to you.

BHost family game night.

Alexa’s game prowess isn’t just for entertaining kids while you catch up on chores. Let Alexa run your next family game night. During a surprise event last September, Amazon unveiled Echo Buttons for use with multiplayer games like Trivial Pursuit. Echo Buttons let you add a new level of competition (you can “buzz in” to answer first) to game night when you play through a compatible Echo device—or you can play games specially designed for Echo Buttons.

CSet the mood.

Whether it’s movie night or a romantic evening in front of the fire, use Alexa to set the right mood. Control lighting, temperature, and ambiance with your voice. Alexa can access and play your favorite album or playlist from Amazon Music, Spotify, or Pandora.

DEntertain your crew.

Hands-free TV is more accessible than ever with Amazon Alexa. Alexa loves to manage home entertainment systems—from your TV and DVR to the stereo and streaming music services. With Alexa, you can tell your TV to fast-forward, rewind, record, or switch input, all with the sound of your voice. You can also control volume and launch apps like Spotify or Netflix, just by telling Alexa to do it.

EKeep things tidy.

If Alexa hasn’t impressed you yet, this might be the pièce de résistance. Use Alexa to control your robot vacuum, and you’ll never have to worry about even one dust bunny escaping. Best of all, your floors will get cleaned while you sit back and relax.

FFind lost keys.

Save yourself from turning the sofa inside out by using Alexa to locate lost items. Team Alexa with a remote tracker like Tile, and a simple voice command is all you’ll need to pull your keys back from the cavernous confines of your couch.

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Kitchen

Most of us don’t have a sous chef, but Alexa is the next best thing. Make sure your Amazon Echo is locked and loaded with kitchen skills. When you need a little extra help in the kitchen, here’s how Alexa can offer an extra “pair of hands.”

AGet the coffee started.

When you combine Alexa with a Wi-Fi coffee maker, you can have the perfect cup of joe waiting for you every morning. A simple “Alexa, is my coffee ready?” ensures that you start each day with the perfect jolt of energy.

BStock the fridge.

You can use Alexa to keep track of your grocery list. Not only can Alexa update the list when you notice something new to add, Alexa can also order groceries and have them delivered.

COrder a pizza.

We’ve all had those days. When you can’t face the prospect of making dinner, Alexa can call Domino’s directly. Or use one of the many other delivery and takeout skills to get a hot, fresh dinner at your doorstep in minutes.

DUse up all those leftovers.

You don’t have to stretch your creativity to the limit when you have Alexa on your side. When you’re faced with a fridge full of random ingredients or leftovers, just tell Alexa what you’ve got and ask for a recipe that uses those elements.

EMix a mean cocktail.

Impress party guests (and yourself!) with professional bartending guidance from Alexa. With this secret weapon, you can dare guests to try to stump your mixology skills.

FWatch your waistline.

If you’re counting calories, Alexa can give you the breakdown of every morsel that passes your lips. Alexa can even calculate the caloric value of homemade recipes.

GHelp with recipes.

If you’ve ever been elbow deep in a turkey and needed to check the recipe or set a timer, then you’ll adore having Alexa in the kitchen. All you need is your voice to ask for the next step in your recipe, set a timer, or convert measurements. Alexa can also help you find substitute ingredients if you discover you forgot something halfway through the recipe.

AGet the coffee started.

When you combine Alexa with a Wi-Fi coffee maker, you can have the perfect cup of joe waiting for you every morning. A simple “Alexa, is my coffee ready?” ensures that you start each day with the perfect jolt of energy.

BStock the fridge.

You can use Alexa to keep track of your grocery list. Not only can Alexa update the list when you notice something new to add, Alexa can also order groceries and have them delivered.

COrder a pizza.

We’ve all had those days. When you can’t face the prospect of making dinner, Alexa can call Domino’s directly. Or use one of the many other delivery and takeout skills to get a hot, fresh dinner at your doorstep in minutes.

DUse up all those leftovers.

You don’t have to stretch your creativity to the limit when you have Alexa on your side. When you’re faced with a fridge full of random ingredients or leftovers, just tell Alexa what you’ve got and ask for a recipe that uses those elements.

EMix a mean cocktail.

Impress party guests (and yourself!) with professional bartending guidance from Alexa. With this secret weapon, you can dare guests to try to stump your mixology skills.

FWatch your waistline.

If you’re counting calories, Alexa can give you the breakdown of every morsel that passes your lips. Alexa can even calculate the caloric value of homemade recipes.

GHelp with recipes.

If you’ve ever been elbow deep in a turkey and needed to check the recipe or set a timer, then you’ll adore having Alexa in the kitchen. All you need is your voice to ask for the next step in your recipe, set a timer, or convert measurements. Alexa can also help you find substitute ingredients if you discover you forgot something halfway through the recipe.

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Bathroom

We know what you’re thinking—the bathroom? How could a virtual assistant possibly help out in this most private of rooms? Well, read on! Here are the best things Alexa can do to make even the most personal parts of your life a little more indulgent and amazing.

AKeep track of medications.

Use Alexa to keep track of medications—when it’s time for a dose, and when you need a refill. Alexa’s CareTaker skill can set reminders for medication, list common side effects, and send alerts to Facebook so you receive reminders no matter where you are.

BTurn off the flat iron.

How many times have you been stuck in traffic and wondered whether you left the flat iron—or any other hot styling tool—on? When you set up Alexa to work with smart outlets and switches, you can make sure those potential fire hazards are turned off, even if you’re already on the road.

COrder more TP (and other necessities).

Use Alexa to keep track of pantry items (like toilet paper, tissues, body wash, cotton swabs, etc.) and tell her to reorder when you’re running low. This way you’ll always be fully stocked and won’t have to worry if someone is willing to spare a square for you.

DTransform bath time into spa time.

A day at the spa is such a luxury that most of us don’t get to enjoy them very often. Use Alexa to help you simulate the spa experience right in your very own bathroom. Dim the lights, play a relaxing tune, and even monitor the humidity in the room to avoid things like frizz. Set up the kids with a fun game on the Echo in the living room to gain a few extra minutes of peace.

EAnswer the door.

Yes, you can do this from the bathroom when you combine Alexa with a smart doorbell. Ask Alexa to let you see who’s at the door and to enable two-way talk. This way you can screen visitors without having to rush whatever “business” you’re attending to.

AKeep track of medications.

Use Alexa to keep track of medications—when it’s time for a dose, and when you need a refill. Alexa’s CareTaker skill can set reminders for medication, list common side effects, and send alerts to Facebook so you receive reminders no matter where you are.

BTurn off the flat iron.

How many times have you been stuck in traffic and wondered whether you left the flat iron—or any other hot styling tool—on? When you set up Alexa to work with smart outlets and switches, you can make sure those potential fire hazards are turned off, even if you’re already on the road.

COrder more TP (and other necessities).

Use Alexa to keep track of pantry items (like toilet paper, tissues, body wash, cotton swabs, etc.) and tell her to reorder when you’re running low. This way you’ll always be fully stocked and won’t have to worry if someone is willing to spare a square for you.

DTransform bath time into spa time.

A day at the spa is such a luxury that most of us don’t get to enjoy them very often. Use Alexa to help you simulate the spa experience right in your very own bathroom. Dim the lights, play a relaxing tune, and even monitor the humidity in the room to avoid things like frizz. Set up the kids with a fun game on the Echo in the living room to gain a few extra minutes of peace.

EAnswer the door.

Yes, you can do this from the bathroom when you combine Alexa with a smart doorbell. Ask Alexa to let you see who’s at the door and to enable two-way talk. This way you can screen visitors without having to rush whatever “business” you’re attending to.

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Exterior

You don’t have to limit Alexa to the interior of your house. There are plenty of things Alexa can do outside those walls. If you’re ready to unleash the power of Alexa beyond the front door, take a look at how she can help take care of the rest of your home.

ANever leave the garage door open again.

No one wants to turn the car around to make sure the garage door is closed. Save yourself stress and time by letting Alexa check for you. When you set up your smart garage door opener to work with Alexa, you can say, “Alexa, close the garage door,” and join the morning commute without worry.

BLock or unlock the front door.

Garage doors aren’t the only ones we forget to lock. Combine Alexa with a smart lock and securing the front door will be as easy as saying “Alexa, lock the front door.”

CKeep an eye on packages.

Stop wondering if that special package has been delivered. Alexa can be your eyes even when you’re far from home. Ask Alexa to show you footage from your outdoor security cameras to verify delivery—and catch a thief in the act, if the worst happens.

DLight up the walkway.

There’s no need to stumble in the dark when you can have Alexa turn on the porch light before you step outside. Whether you’re taking out the garbage, or you left something in the car, Alexa can turn on the lights to ensure safe passage.

ANever leave the garage door open again.

No one wants to turn the car around to make sure the garage door is closed. Save yourself stress and time by letting Alexa check for you. When you set up your smart garage door opener to work with Alexa, you can say, “Alexa, close the garage door,” and join the morning commute without worry.

BLock or unlock the front door.

Garage doors aren’t the only ones we forget to lock. Combine Alexa with a smart lock and securing the front door will be as easy as saying “Alexa, lock the front door.”

CKeep an eye on packages.

Stop wondering if that special package has been delivered. Alexa can be your eyes even when you’re far from home. Ask Alexa to show you footage from your outdoor security cameras to verify delivery—and catch a thief in the act, if the worst happens.

DLight up the walkway.

There’s no need to stumble in the dark when you can have Alexa turn on the porch light before you step outside. Whether you’re taking out the garbage, or you left something in the car, Alexa can turn on the lights to ensure safe passage.

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Backyard

Now that you’ve invited Alexa to work her magic outside the hallowed halls of your home, why not use Alexa skills to dig into lawn care? If you’re more into relaxing on the patio than trimming the hedges, you’ll love what Alexa can do to boost your curb appeal and your free time.

AWater the lawn.

Don’t worry about a thirsty lawn when you set up your Wi-Fi sprinkler system to work with Alexa. You can not only set your system’s main control but also make quick adjustments for changes in the weather. If a storm moves in, all it takes is a voice command to add a rain delay that will keep your system from watering during a rainstorm.

BMow the lawn.

Say farewell to sweating under a hot sun to keep your lawn looking neat and trim. With Alexa and a robot lawn mower, all you have to exercise is your tongue—and you’ll still end up with a lawn the neighbors envy.

CKeep Fido safe.

Make sure your four-legged family members stay where they belong. Combine Alexa and a smart dog collar, like the LINK AKC Smart Dog Collar, to keep tabs on your best friend at all times. You can ask Alexa to alert you if your dog leaves a designated safe zone and tap into GPS to find them quickly if they get lost.

DGrill the perfect steak.

Never again serve a medium-well ribeye to someone who prefers their steak medium-rare. All it takes is a holler to Alexa to keep an eye on the time and you’ll quickly become the neighborhood grill master.

AWater the lawn.

Don’t worry about a thirsty lawn when you set up your Wi-Fi sprinkler system to work with Alexa. You can not only set your system’s main control but also make quick adjustments for changes in the weather. If a storm moves in, all it takes is a voice command to add a rain delay that will keep your system from watering during a rainstorm.

BMow the lawn.

Say farewell to sweating under a hot sun to keep your lawn looking neat and trim. With Alexa and a robot lawn mower, all you have to exercise is your tongue—and you’ll still end up with a lawn the neighbors envy.

CKeep Fido safe.

Make sure your four-legged family members stay where they belong. Combine Alexa and a smart dog collar, like the LINK AKC Smart Dog Collar, to keep tabs on your best friend at all times. You can ask Alexa to alert you if your dog leaves a designated safe zone and tap into GPS to find them quickly if they get lost.

DGrill the perfect steak.

Never again serve a medium-well ribeye to someone who prefers their steak medium-rare. All it takes is a holler to Alexa to keep an eye on the time and you’ll quickly become the neighborhood grill master.

Amazon Echo Product Reviews

All Amazon Echo devices are designed to showcase Amazon Alexa and the skills and apps that make your life easier and more entertaining. Here’s a breakdown of what each device offers to help you select the best Echo device for you.

Echo

The Echo is Amazon’s original hands-free smart speaker—specially designed for use with Amazon Alexa. It includes a powerful speaker that fills an entire room with sound and seven microphones that can recognize your voice from any direction. The Echo received a facelift this fall and now comes in six fabrics or finishes to match any home décor.

Pros
  • Playing music.
    You can stream music from anywhere—Amazon Music, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Pandora, and more. The sound quality is impressive for a stand-alone speaker and delivers sharp vocals and resonating bass.
Cons
  • No video capability.
    The Amazon Echo is limited to audio only, so you can’t use it to play a video unless you set it up to interact with your Amazon Fire TV or other compatible television.

Bottom Line

The Echo is a top-of-the-line hands-free speaker that works as a gateway to voice control thanks to Alexa. Coming in right around $100, the Echo is an affordable way to dip your toe into the world of home automation.

Echo Dot

A smaller version of the Echo, the Echo Dot helps you bring the power of Alexa to any room in your home. Although it comes with a built-in speaker, it’s not as powerful as the original Echo.

Pros
  • Adding Alexa to multiple rooms.
    The Echo Dot’s design is perfectly suited to add voice control to rooms large and small throughout your home. If you have smart switches in multiple rooms, the addition of the Echo Dot lets you use voice control to turn the lights on and off or remotely control small appliances.
Cons
  • Small speaker.
    The Echo Dot comes with a smaller speaker that produces sound similar to that produced by a smartphone speaker. If you want room-filling sound from this gadget, you’re not going to get it. The only way to boost the sound is by connecting the Echo Dot to a sound bar or your home stereo system.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to expand your smart home capabilities into multiple rooms, the Echo Dot is an ideal solution. Because it sells for under $50, it’s easy to spread Alexa’s voice-controlled skills throughout your home without breaking the bank.

Echo Plus

Echo Plus takes home automation and voice control to new levels. The Echo Plus includes all the features of the original Echo, plus a built-in hub that makes it easier than ever to set up voice control for all your smart home devices.

Pros
  • Smart home control.
    If you want to use Alexa as a voice-controlled home automation hub, the Echo Plus is the way to go. The built-in hub provides easy setup for smart thermostats, lights, locks, sprinklers, garage doors, and more. Best of all, you don’t need to invest in an additional hub.
Cons
  • It’s still new.
    Because the Echo Plus was released on October 31, 2017, there’s limited information about operational glitches. As with any new tech, if you’re an early adopter, you may want to buckle up for a slightly bumpier ride than those who wait for the company to work out those initial bugs.

Bottom Line

Echo Plus is a great solution to bring voice control to your smart home; however, if you want control in multiple rooms you’ll still need to add some Echo Dots to complete your home automation system. It’s also important to remember that this is a first-gen product, so there may be some glitches to work out.

Echo Spot

Enjoy all the things you love about Alexa in a compact, stylish body with a built-in video screen. Echo Spot ups the ante with visual alerts and the ability to livestream footage from compatible home security cameras.

Pros
  • Showing off digital photos.
    Thanks to the Echo Spot, you don’t need to find room on your nightstand for a voice-control speaker plus a digital picture frame. This nifty device combines them into one—you can get the coffee started before you crawl out of bed and show off your latest batch of vacation pics.
Cons
  • No built-in smart home hub.
    As with the Echo and Echo Dot, the Echo Spot is missing a smart home hub, which can make integrating other home automation devices a little trickier.

Bottom Line

Echo Spot delivers everything you get from Echo Dot, but with the added bonus of a (small) video screen. Get flash videos of the day’s headlines, watch the weather forecast, or scroll your favorite song lyrics. Starting at $129.99, it’s a big jump in price from the Dot, so be sure the video capability is worth the extra cost.

Echo Show

Echo Show was the first Echo product to offer video capability. The seven-inch screen provides crisp HD video that lets you catch up on your favorite show, watch the news, or enjoy a video chat with far-flung loved ones.

Pros
  • Video calls.
    For those who’ve been living without the convenience of apps like FaceTime, the Echo Show makes video chat easy for everyone—including those without Apple devices. Users love having voice control to call people, especially because of how easy it is for everyone to use regardless of age or tech-savviness. If you buy two Echo Shows, you can use the “Drop-in” feature to regularly say hi to faraway friends and family.
Cons
  • Expensive.
    This is the most expensive Echo device, at $229.99. But the video quality is good, and for people who want to watch step-by-step instructions while trying a new recipe or get their daily news on the go, the Echo Show is likely worth the price point.

Bottom Line

Take your Alexa game to the next level by adding video with the Echo Show. When combined with other Echo devices, you can use the Show as a baby monitor or nanny cam. It’s pricey for an Echo product, but when you look at its multi-use functions, the price tag is a little easier to swallow.

Echo Look

This innovative hands-free camera and style assistant is the latest member of Amazon’s Echo family. Although it’s not yet available to the public, the Echo Look promises to be a favorite of fashion bloggers and trendsetters around the globe.

Pros
  • OOTD snapshots.
    If you had to look up OOTD (outfit of the day), then the Echo Look is probably not for you. For everyone else, it could be your new best friend. To post your latest style creation (or make sure your daily look hits the mark), all you have to do is tell the Echo Look to take your photo. The camera snaps you from every angle and instantly sends the results to your phone or other device.
Cons
  • Available by invitation only.
    Right now, the only way to get the Echo Look is by invitation. You can, however, request an invitation to purchase the Echo Look. If your request is accepted, you’ll receive an email invitation that will hook you up with a link to buy.

Bottom Line

The Echo Look is a fun, new addition to the Echo family; however, its function is so specific that it may not appeal to a wide consumer audience. If your main concern is how to take advantage of Alexa’s voice control features, this is not the place to start.

Whether you’re already sold on the idea of voice control and home automation or you’re just exploring this new frontier for your household, SafeWise is here to demystify the smart home. Find the answers to your questions by visiting our Home Automation Resources.

Best Doorbell and Smart Lock That Work with Alexa

Top products that work with Alexa to keep your family and belongings safe.

Product
What We Love
Downsides
Where to find it
Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell
  • Pros
  • On-demand live video feed
  • Fire TV display
  • Shared users feature
  • Cons
  • Video feed delay, especially on battery power
  • No two-way talk through Echo or Fire TV
August Smart Lock 2nd Generation August Smart Lock 2nd Generation
  • Pros
  • Remote voice control to lock and unlock doors
  • Unlocked door alerts
  • Voice control PIN code
  • Cons
  • Voice control requires subscription

Find more smart security products to use with Alexa:

Best TV and Home Theater That Work with Alexa

Top products that work with Alexa to deliver a state-of-the-art entertainment experience.

Product
What We Love
Downsides
Where to find it
Sony 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV Sony 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV
  • Pros
  • Voice control for all TV functions
  • 4K and Ultra HD for lifelike picture
  • Stunning night view
  • Cons
  • Not compatible with Dolby Vision
Sonos 5.1 Home Theater System Sonos 5.1 Home Theater System
  • Pros
  • Amazon Echo connectivity to play all the music you love
  • 9 amplified speaker drivers to complement HD TVs
  • Wireless subwoofer
  • Cons
  • Expensive
  • Unable to connect to multiple devices

Find more smart entertainment products to use with Alexa:

Best Thermostat and Lights That Work with Alexa

Top products that work with Alexa to make your life—and home—as comfortable as possible.

Product
What We Love
Downsides
Where to find it
Emerson Sensi Smart Thermostat Emerson Sensi Smart Thermostat
  • Pros
  • Affordable pricing
  • Geo-fencing for location-based temperature control
  • Easy DIY installation
  • Cons
  • No ability to learn your habits and predict climate needs
  • Glitchy cloud-based operation
Philips Hue White LED Smart Bulb Philips Hue White LED Smart Bulb
  • Pros
  • Affordable enough to give your whole house voice-controlled lighting
  • Customizable with other Hue accessories (dimmer, motion sensor)
  • Cons
  • Requires Hue Bridge for full experience

Find more smart products that deliver comfort and work with Alexa:

Best Vacuum and Smart Plug That Work with Alexa

Top products that work with Alexa to make your life easier.

Product
What We Love
Downsides
Where to find it
Samsung POWERbot R7040 Robot Vacuum Samsung POWERbot R7040 Robot Vacuum
  • Pros
  • Affordable
  • Wi-Fi and Alexa compatible
  • Excellent in corners and along walls
  • Cons
  • Short battery life
  • Some navigation glitches
iDevices Switch Wi-Fi Smart Plug iDevices Switch Wi-Fi Smart Plug
  • Pros
  • No hub requirement
  • Easy setup and installation
  • Ability to personalize appliances to your routine
  • Cons
  • Bulky design
  • Incompatible with garage door openers

Find more smart products that work with Alexa to make your life easier:

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