Echo, Dot, Tap, or Fire TV? Which Amazon Alexa device is right for you?
Earlier today, I wrote about Amazon’s announcement of two new devices which will have it’s AVS (Alexa Voice Service):
I’ve gotten questions about it already, so I thought it was a good idea to do another post comparing the Amazon AVS devices, to help people choose between them.
There are now five devices from Amazon that have Alexa (from least to most expensive):
- Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote (at AmazonSmile*) $39.99
- Echo Dot (at AmazonSmile*) $89.99
- Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile*) $99.99
- The Amazon Tap (direct link coming soon): Hot New Releases in Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile*) $129.99
- Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) $179.99
There are significant differences between them, both in hardware and in what Alexa can do.
What is Alexa?
You talk to it and it talks back. 🙂
On all of these, you can ask questions and get answers. They might be trivia questions, or the weather, or the news…an increasing number of possibilities.
They can all do that.
The most limited devices, in terms of Alexa, are the Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick (they are, I believe, the same in terms of Alexa). They do** home automation, which is one of the main thing I do with our Echo. They can all turn my lights on and off with verbal commands, and through our Harmony remote, control our Fire TV (for some things…see How to use the Amazon Echo and a Logitech Harmony to put on your TV shows). All five also interact with commands through IFTTT (If This Then That) (see Get the most of your Amazon Echo (and Alexa on your Fire TV/Stick))
The Fire TVs obviously show you video, which the other devices don’t do.
Another big piece of the Echo’s attraction is the always on microphone. I can just “talk to the air” whenever I want something to happen. That hardware is available on the Echo and the Dot…but not on the Tap or the Fire TV devices. For the Fire TVs, you use a voice remote (or your SmartPhone with the Fire TV app). On the Tap, you hit a button.
The Echo is also a nice speaker…I like the sound of the music on it. The Echo is, actually, mostly speaker, when you look at the hardware.
What would you get if you took away the speaker?
You’d get the Dot. 🙂
Oh, the Dot will have a speaker…but only of “voice quality”, so it can speak to you. It’s not going to have the same quality of sound for music. However, you can plug it into other speakers, or pair with a Bluetooth speaker for better sound (all sold separately).
The one that is bringing a new ability is the Tap. That ability? Portability. It has a battery (good for 9 hours of playback…and you get a charging cradle for free). It not only connects via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, it will connect to a mobile hotspot (your phone can probably do that, but you might have to pay for a plan). Many Bluetooth speakers don’t have that capability. It’s also quite a bit smaller than the Echo: about six inches (about 150 mm) tall. The Echo is about half again as tall (about nine inches, 225 mm…those are just approximate numbers). A soda can, by comparison is about 5 inches tall).
So, what’s the appeal of each model?
The Fire TV Stick is tiny and the least expensive. To use it with Alexa, you either need the Voice remote…or your phone with the Fire TV app. It’s more for TV, but you can use Alexa for information, and for home automation.
The Fire TV is a much more powerful version of the Fire TV Stick. I have one of each.
The Dot is going to give you home automation and information at a lower cost than the Echo or the Tap. It does need to be plugged in. If you want to hear nice sounding music, you’ll need to connect it to other speakers. For me, this will go into the bedroom to control our home automation (the Echo is in our family room). It does have the same far field microphones as the Echo.
The Tap is like the Echo…and is mobile, but doesn’t have the far field microphones. You can carry it with you for music, information, and home automation (as long as you have Wi-Fi or a mobile hotspot). You’ll have to push a button to interact with it. This one will be great for some people with disabilities, although they do need the ability to push the button.
- You want TV, get the Fire TV or the Fire TV stick…and you get Alexa functionality with it
- You want portability, get the Tap
- You want information and home automation, get the Dot
- You want information, home automation, and a nice speaker, get the Echo
I’ve seen some people pointing out that the Dot doesn’t come with a remote…neither does the Echo at this point (you buy it separately).
More information will come out, although the product pages do have quite a bit.
Note that you can only get the Dot right now by ordering it through an Echo…you can’t order it through the Amazon website at this point.
My guess is that the Dot is going to be a huge hit. You’ll be able to get that Star Trek computer experience in a small, relatively inexpensive device. If you are an audiophile, you already own a great Bluetooth or wired speaker, and the Dot will work with both of those. As home automation becomes more common, the voice control of the Dot will be more attractive. By the way, Wink enabled Nest thermostats now work directly with Alexa. The Dot may seem like almost a necessity, and people will want them in hotels and to have more than one in the house.
The Tap is more of a gadget, a fun thing to have with you. A SmartPhone can already do some of the things the Tap can do. I expect the Dot to be the bestseller (over the Echo as well) out of the three. The Fire TV Stick sells really well, but that’s apple and oranges.
I hope that helps. If you have more questions or insights, feel to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.
Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard
All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!
* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help!
** It used to be that the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick didn’t do the home automation, and I wrote the post at first reflecting that. However, there had been an update, and when I tested it this morning, it did work…I have updated the post to reflect that
For more information on the Echo and Alexa, see The Measured Circle’s Echo Central.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.