The true smart home…a dream of tech heads the world over is slowly but surely becoming a reality, largely thanks to Amazon and their Alexa range. The ability to control things in your house like temperature, plugs, bulbs and TV was a pipe dream a mere 5 years ago but since Alexa and her range of skills hit the market we have never been closer to full home integration. That’s why Amazon have doubled down on Alexa and built her a whole new suit of hardware – pretty much all of which are available to buy right now!
In short…everything. Amazon have updated pretty much everything in the range, with older products like the Echo or Show getting a full face lift. They have also brought a few interesting new products to market to make it easier than ever before to add Alexa to any room in your home.
“We want you to have access to Alexa everywhere—in your kitchen, in your living room, in your office, and more,” said Jorrit Van der Meulen, Vice President, Amazon Devices International.
Price – €55.99
OK, this is the piece that really caught my attention. The nex-gen Echo Dot has swapped out it’s shiny plastic exterior for a new fabric design that looks so slick and comes in three different colours (Charcoal, Heather Grey, and Sandstone), so no matter the room it won’t stand out like a sore thumb. The Echo Dot doesn’t just give Alexa a stunning new body, the speakers inside are much louder and sound a helluva lot better.
With the Echo Dot you can do the usual weather, play your favourite music in a multi-room music grouping, set timers and alarms, and control compatible smart home devices from just this one small device. Genuinely if you are in the market for a smart assistant or something to control your smart home, then this is the one. Unless you would like more sound, that’s where the Echo Plus comes in.
Price – €159.99
The Echo Dots big brother – The Echo Plus got a very similar redesign with its long fabric shell and higher quality speakers to boot. With the built in Zigbee smart home hub you will be able to connect all smart with one simple voice command “Alexa, discover my devices,” and sit back as it automatically discovers and sets up compatible lights, locks, plugs, switches, and more without the need for additional hubs or apps.
Price – €39.99
The smallest of the Echo range – as someone said to me “it’s the size of a good finger”. At 12.5mm tall the Echo Input lets you add Alexa to your existing speaker. Amazon claim that an awful lot of people use their Echo to plug into something else, so now you can do this with a cheaper and smaller device. Unlike Echo Dot, which has a built-in speaker, all audio is played through the connected speaker rather than through Echo Input itself. So that old Hi-Fi system sitting in the corner gathering dust might just be about to get a new lease of life. This device is not available quite yet but we should see it before the end of the year. Hopefully before Christmas as I can really see this being a nifty little gift for someone.
Price – €134.99
If you follow us on Instagram you would have seen me messing around with this piece of monster music equipment. Playing Foggy due in a meeting room in London city center… probably not my smartest move in the world but what have you.
The wireless speaker will connect itself to any compatible Echo devices, well two of them at a time anyway. What’s cool about this is the fact it will work alongside any other speakers you have to improve thing like the base, while with their inbuilt equalizer feature you can adjust sound settings through the Alexa app. Really it’s ideal for music lovers but as it’s not Alexa enabled in itself I wouldn’t be rushing out to get it as your first device.
Amazon Smart Plug
Price – €27.99
The Amazon Smart Plug in the most basic sense will allow you to make any device in your home smart. Plug this into the socket and plug your toaster, coffee maker or whatever you want into the Smart plug and viola that’s it you can now power it on and off through Alexa. Literally as soon as the plug is on it will search and pair with your Alexa powered devices so you are ready to go without any real setup.
But why would I want a smart plug I hear you ask? Think about it like this right, you wake up in the morning half dead to make coffee, whereas now you can tell Alexa to turn on the coffee maker at 6:30 and a boiling hot pot of brew will be ready to pour by the time you crawl out of your bed.
Availability and more
All these products are available to order now, but some features, namely on the Echo Show will not be available in Ireland straight away. While most people won’t see the value in a lot of the range, techies will be enthused by the likes of the Sub and show. If you are starting out with your first voice assistant or smart home you could do a lot worse than going for the Echo Dot, Smart Plug and Philips Hue bulb combination. That combo will set you back less than €150 and will allow you control lights and a plug socket as well as having Alexa to play music or make your shopping list. Trust me if you start with this it won’t be long until you want the rest. Just wait for the day you want a smart microwave (currently only available in the States but it’s 100% real)