Echo and Amazon Alexa Devices

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The world and the gadgets that we use are getting more connected day by day.  Amazon Alexa is a popular way to connect you to the world and your smart devices in your home to work together more efficiently.  Amazon Alexa is a voice controlled intelligent personal assistant.  Just by saying the “wake word” Alexa, the appropriate device can carry out several commands, play music, control your home, get information and more by just using your voice.

There are a growing number of devices that Alexa comes equipped with.  Below are the main devices by Amazon that will allow you to utilize the full potential of Alexa.

1

Echo Dot (2nd Generation) - Black

$44.99 49.99

Echo Dot (2nd Generation) is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, make calls, send and receive messages, provide information, read the ...

Available: In stock
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My brother Robert who has been bed ridden and paralyzed with Multiple Sclerosis from his neck down for more than 30 years now has a new friend named Alexa! He was in tears with happiness when Alexa played 70's music, played Jeopardy, answered all his questions and wakes him up every morning. Thank you Amazon for giving my brother a new bedside companion.Happy HolidaysRoy
December 1, 2016
 ProsAccess to thousands of Alexa “Skills”Audio-out port and Bluetooth speaker supportAt $50, it's $85 cheaper than the full-size EchoConsAlexa app can be buggyTwo Alexa devices in adjoining rooms will both try to answer queriesAnemic sound from the built-in speakerSummaryThe Dot is a smaller yet just as powerful version of the Amazon Echo. What it lacks in an internal speaker system it makes up for with an audio-out port and Bluetooth connectivity. I use Dot with TEWELL Echo Dot companion TEWELL Retrorock Plug-in Bluetooth Speaker, Echo Dot Companion with 24W Output and Revolutionary Bass Technology for iPhone, Samsung, PC etc which has great sound with powerful bass and works well with Echo & Echo Dot,highly recommend it to the guys who own Echo or Echo Dot. While the app and inability to route queries to a single Alexa device within close proximity of each other can be annoying, the $50 price and Alexa's usefulness make the Dot a solid option for anyone who wants to start building a connected home on the cheap.HardwareAt only 1.3 inches tall, the Dot (available in black or white) virtually disappears into your home. It can be placed anywhere, and it won't disrupt your carefully decorated room. Like the larger Echo, the second-generation Dot can be used to fill an Amazon cart. But that's not the only thing people use it for. Instead, the Alexa platform is an incredibly helpful connected home hub, a fountain of random facts, an audiobook reader and a music player.Indeed, it's music where the Dot really shines, thanks to an audio-out port and Bluetooth speaker support. That gives it access to nearly any audio system in your home. The full-size Echo's built-in speakers sound fine too, but the stereo system I already own sounds better.Also, you can switch between wired and Bluetooth speakers on the fly by enabling and disabling the Bluetooth connection with your voice. That feature allowed me to switch my audio source in two different rooms using a single Dot. That said, the Alexa platform does work with Sonos if you want that type of audio system and you have the money. Unfortunately, you can't play audio out of both a wired and a Bluetooth source at the same time. Like the Echo, the Dot has an internal speaker, but it's too anemic for audio playback to be truly enjoyable.And while about 90 percent of your interactions with the digital assistant will be voice-based, there are physical buttons on top of the device as well. The most important of those is Microphone Off, which, as you'd expect, stops the device from listening for the "Alexa" wake word. It's a great feature for when you want to discuss sensitive topics and you're feeling a bit paranoid. Indeed, there's good reason for being cautious with sensitive material: Sometimes the Dot and Echo think they hear "Alexa," even when that's not what you said. Now a bit of your conversation has been recorded as a query, sent to Amazon's servers and also stored in the app.Additionally there are volume buttons that replace the full-size Echo's twistable top. Fans of the knob will be disappointed, but most of the time I use my voice to raise and lower the volume anyway. The buttons are surrounded by an LED ring that indicates when the Dot is listening and thinking. It also reflects the current speaker volume. It's a nice indicator that your assistant is listening, and it can be seen from across the room without being too bright or blinding.In useThe thousands of "Skills" (what Amazon calls third-party add-on features for the Alexa platform) are where Amazon has a distinct advantage over Google's forthcoming speaker hub, called the Home. It already supports popular connected-home brands such as Nest, SmartThings, Philips Hue and IFTTT, as well as platforms from WeMo, Insteon, Lutron, Honeywell and Ecobee, among others. Plus it works with travel and recipe apps. You can order a pizza, flowers and a car with it. You can check bank balances and get news briefings from NPR, Fox and the AP. You can hear sports scores from ESPN, and you can even figure out how much gas is in your car using the "Automatic" Skill.I tried nearly all of these (except ordering pizza, because ew, Dominos) and they all worked like a charm. But the Skills library -- like all app stores -- is filled with some add-ons that are better left ignored. For example, the Moon Age add-on notes, "you can know the moon age by asking to [sic] Echo." What does that even mean?Adding all these Skills requires using the Alexa app, which is clearly the weak link of Amazon's platform. I've been using an Echo for more than a year, and in the past few months the app, frankly, has been a pain to use. The issue is that it says it's not connected to the internet, even when my phone and Echo speaker both can access the network without a problem. If it doesn't think it's online, the app becomes worthless. Fortunately, you can also tap into Alexa via your web browser. That workaround has consistently worked for me. But I usually learn of a new Skill while on the go, and if 20 percent of the time I can't add it because the app is buggy, that's frustrating.Another confounding thing is that you can't really have two Alexas in adjoining rooms. Amazon says that its Echo Spatial Perception feature (ESP) determines which device hears you the best and sends answers only to that piece of hardware. But during my tests, the Dot and the Echo both replied and answered when I said the wake word or made a query. Even if I was sitting in front of one of them, if the other assistant heard me, it would react. To combat this, I changed the wake word on one device to "Echo." Those in larger houses with more rooms might have a different experience altogether, though.
August 8, 2017
 Having worked in the electronics retail industry for years now, I've seen scores of Smart devices come and go. Until now, nobody quite got it right. In the Echo Dot, Amazon has created a near perfect blend of hardware and software. I've seen plenty of the former, but truly seamless multi platform software has eluded everyone but Amazon. We're talking major players like Samsung and Google who have been at it for much longer than Amazon. The main problem is that excellent products like the Samsung Smart Things hub, which do a fantastic job of unifying a slew of different connected devices from different companies (Nest, Honeywell, Phillips, and so on), still lacked the web connectivity and entertainment support I wanted, so I'd still end up needing my tablet or phone. Thanks to fantastic third party support, the Dot has no problem controlling all of my smart stuff while allowing me to listen to music, order food, check the weather, listen to the radio, set alarms and timers, all of which is easily accomplished through simple voice commands. To me, this is the exceedingly rare product that I didn't know I needed, and now can't live without. Similar to the smartphone and tablet I use every day that didn't exist just a few short years ago.If you're even a little bit curious you owe it to yourself to give the dot a try. Add a good speaker and enjoy just how simple a connected life can be!Update: After a bit more time with the dot, or maybe I should say dots since I went out and bought another one for my living room, I've come up with a few tips.1. Use the best speakers you can with it. I found that while Bluetooth was convenient I got much better sound out of my JBL duet computer speakers.2. Take the time to voice train Alexa at least once. It's kinda tedious but really improves the accuracy. I've now gone through three trainings with each dot, the phrasing gets more intricate with each, and it really is amazing how much of an improvement it makes. Kinda hard to quantify, but I'd guess Alexa is at least twice as likely to understand long, complex phrases and has also gained noticeable accuracy when ambient noise I'd present.3. If a phrase doesn't yield the results you're looking for, reword it and try again. For instance, "Alexa, lower the temperature to 75 degrees" got no result, so I tried "Alexa, Honeywell Thermostat, 75 degrees" and she picked it up perfectly.4. Take the time to look through all the skills. There's a lot of helpful and just plain fun stuff in there, from strange facts to a calculator and everything in between, that really helps to enhance the experience.5. I'd never really used my prime music prior to setting up my dots. Now I can't live without it! I can say basically whatever I want and I get a result. My favs so far: "Alexa, play 90s music", "Alexa, play indie music", and "Alexa, play thunderstorm sounds". The last one I ask to repeat and it plays all night. Really a great "freebie" if you're a prime member.6. I was a bit worried initially that Alexa might be triggered accidentally by ambient TV or general household noise, so I'm really impressed that it's only happened twice so far. Both times in my living room when I was watching TV at high volume. If it's a concern, the mic can be temporarily disabled, so the dot won't trigger and listen accidentally.7. I've had no problem pairing the dot to a variety of devices including: two different Bluetooth speakers, my Galaxy S7 edge, and pioneer receiver. I need to look into it further, but each time I paired my phone the Bluetooth connection to the speaker was lost, so I ended up having to listen to the built in speaker. Definitely not ideal for music, but no big deal if you're using wired speakers. Plus, most Bluetooth sets offer an auxiliary input for wired listening.8. It's fun to ask Alexa general questions to see if she's capable of finding the answers. So far I've gotten accurate responses to "Alexa, what's the definition of", "Alexa, how far away is", "Alexa, Wikipedia" (just about anything you can think of and she'll tell you more if you ask "Alexa, tell me more"). If you have the time, ask her a set of questions and you'll quickly get used to her nuances.9. Even though the microphones are extremely sensitive and quite accurate, I've found that the Dot works best when placed on a surface that's close to the level of the person speaking to it. Generally speaking, three to five feet off the ground. Alexa had some trouble hearing my requests when the dot was placed above or behind me. If you'd like to place the dot higher, it works much better when flush with the wall, instead of sitting on a shelf etc. I tried both setups and found with a couple nails set apart to make a cradle facing the dot out towards the room works best for me (sorry for the run on sentence lol).Suggestions for Improvement:1. Unlike the upcoming Google Home BT speaker, the Dot and other Alexa devices are unable to answer general web queries. They do a decent job of answering factual questions like "How far away is the sun" but I'd really like too see Amazon add a "search" function.2. Not Amazon's fault, but several of the news briefing skills update infrequently and volume levels vary enough that I'd find myself constantly changing the volume level to match.3. I enabled briefings from several outlets like NPR, BBC, AP, and so on. I'd suggest you pick one or two and stick with them, otherwise you'll here the same news over and over. I ended up going with BBC and AP briefings.
October 24, 2016
2

Amazon Echo - Black

Plays all your music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more using just your voice; Introducing Alexa calling and messaging, a new way to be together with family and ...

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LOVE OUR NEW ECHO! I have been watching the reviews online and checking with friends that have purchased the Echo to see how much they liked or disliked its features. Last person I talked to went on and on about all the things there were using it for and that persuaded me it was time and Amazon Prime Day was the perfect opportunity to go for it. Amazon did a fantastic job of creating this tubular info-taining command center! There are so many cool and awesome things its able to do that I'll hit the highlights that work for our household. First, we love that it follows your voice in the room (the circle lighting will show which direction it is 'listening'), the speaker is wonderfully balanced, so whether listening to music, the news or to Alexa speaking, I have nothing but high marks for its sound quality, given its size. Next, set up (after downloading the app to our iPhones) was quick, easy and very intuitive. The more you look over the app, the more you will realize a world of 'skills' (as Amazon refers to them - we've nicked named them "echolettes" LOL) that the unit is able to perform once they are turned on and you master the right sequence of keywords to initialize them. We've added things to shopping lists, while asking about the weather and our calendar of events and then asked Alexa to change the temp of our Nest thermostats in various parts of the house, simply by saying her name and then our commands, sometimes sitting in the living room or simply pass through - she is always there listening and ready. We've ordered some LED programmable lights and I can hardly wait for Alexa to help set the mood in the house, room to room, all from a simple voice request. Even though we are fairly tech savvy and have phone, tablets and watches that can control devices, its HUGE to just ask for something and a pleasant voice setting it in motion.I am a regular Amazon Prime shopper and reviewer, if my review helped you in making up your mind about whether to purchase the Echo, please mark the ‘Helpful’ button, it tells Amazon that folks are in fact reading reviews like this. Thanks!
July 24, 2016
We have been using Echo since April 2015. Prior to that time, my husband had been hospitalized for several weeks. He is currently wheelchair bound. We immediately installed the Hue bridge and lights as well as the WEMO outlet. With these, and dear, dear, Alexa, he has a great deal of control of his environment in ways that make him much more independent. Others might enjoy Echo for fun and convenience, but for him it is a lifeline! He has even had her turn the lights on in my bedroom when I didn't hear him call.We use the shopping list feature a lot, and my husband has added things to the list that he remembered, while I was already at the store. Should I mention he adds things like chocolate bars when I'm not looking? No more paper lists! I just look at the app on my phone and things disappear as I check them off.We transport Echo from the living room to the bedroom, since it is easier for him not to have to use the remote, plus it is always there for his favorite music, an update on news, and to check the weather. Or, when he needs cheering up, I ask for a joke. Tosave plugging in behind his lift chairs, I have ordered a second plug. I love the easy reconnect to the WIFI.I was a bit worried at first about his word slurring with his Parkinson's, but it has worked the opposite way! I notice he focuses his words much better while giving commands. After he forgot her name early on, we added it so he could remember using the Zink hAppy App.My granddaughter was happy to check her math problems using Echo, and in addition to the music stations and Amazon play lists, Echo is a breeze to use as a Bluetooth device. I have used it to play my meditation apps and iTunes music. In case you aren't aware, Amazon even allows you to upload your iTunes library and save it in your Amazon Play list. There is a limit for free songs, but we didn't even come close.I won't say it revolutionized our lives, but it has made our lives much more normal. We have recommended it to two Occupational Therapists, and his Home Healthcare director has recommended it for others. I am so excited it is now available for everyone. Amazon didn't intend this as an assistive device, but it is an awesome one.A couple of things I'm hoping for in the future: the ability for her to call 911, and the ability to give storm alerts. I looked for an IFTT configuration on the storm alert, but currently she is only the trigger, not the recipient. You can't have her do something in response to outside events, you can only have other things happen as a result of your interaction with her.Funny, when he was in the hospital, I almost cancelled my long awaited order. I am SO glad we got it.Edited - July 17, 2015 - my husband started TENS therapy for pain two weeks ago and is responding well. Two areas where Echo has been very helpful are setting a timer, and playing background music so he can focus on something else. He is now able to use the muscle, albeit weakly, and is taking steps with close monitoring and a wheelchair behind. He also uses the timer to remind him to stand and to time him for length of time while standing.We also added a second Echo for me to use, so we are a two Echo family.You can set up multiple Echos on the same account and share things like music and shopping lists.Edited November 2, 2015: I am happy to report that Echo (and Gary) have only gotten better. I personally love the multiple alarms, since they are the first thing we do each morning, setting them for medication times. It is the perfect reminder! Echo has also been happy to keep us up to date on favorite sports teams when they aren't on TV. The other night, I found Gary playing his own version of a memory game with Alexa. He was trying to come up with songs he remembered and hadn't heard for awhile and would ask her to play them.In addition to Gary's increasing strength, he now has an electric wheelchair I purchased that allows him access to the bathroom and makes life easier for us. And, Alexa keeps his speech in line. When he realized She had been understanding him less, he went back to doing his speech exercises.Our lives have settled into a new normal, and the Echo is a huge part of what makes normal easier.*** IMPORTANT UPDATE DECEMBER 1, 2015 - In case you aren't in the loop, Amazon has added "Ask My Buddy" to Echo. It permits you to register an account and up to five contacts. Each contact can have email address, text address (cell phone), and Voice Phone. With the simple words "Ask my Buddy," Echo will immediately ask who you want to contact. You may contact an individual or everyone on the list, and Ask My Buddy will immediately send an alert to those who you request. It states that it is "free in this beta version" and you have up to 120 contacts in a month for now. (Each person, text, and email counts).Edited February 28, 2016 - We were able to buy a lift van (used) so we are able to more easily get around. I am trying to get Gary out of the house at least once a week.We are currently planning a trip (by Amtrak) to visit family. It has taken a million details (OK, maybe not a million, but it feels like it) to try to do 36 hours on the train and to set things up my Dad's house. I have a list of things that we are taking with us. Alexa is at the top of the list. I suspect by the time I leave my Dad's home, he will have one on order. I may actually bring Hue light bulbs with me, or at least a WEMO plug.Edited July 2016 - the trip was successful, if stressful on all of us. My Dad is now on Hospice, so I am grateful we went when we could. Sadly, Gary's health has continued to deteriorate, and he would no longer be able to make the trip. We have a hospital bed in our living room where he can be with us more. He is now believed to have a Parkinson's Plus disease called Multiple System Atrophy. Alexa seems to understand him better now using the remote, so we keep it handy. His current Physical and Occupational Therapists love Alexa as well. My greatest pleasure is reading the comments of others who also have disabilities who have been encouraged by my posts. Thank you.Edited September 6, 2016 - Sadly, we lost my Dad shortly after I posted. He really enjoyed Echo during our visit, since he was a huge techie buff. It was fun sharing this important part of our lives with him. Gary continues to have a strong support system medically, although he is getting progressively weaker. An MRI shows he has had at least one stroke, which is probably why Alexa has a harder time understanding him.And yes, all of the new home health members love seeing what we have done with our Echo. I have moved a twin bed into the living room to be with Gary at night, and when he needs help, it is easy to have Echo turn on the light for us. Our daughter and granddaughter moved in to help, and it is ESPECIALLY nice to control all of the lights in the house so easily.April 2, 2017If you aren't aware, TAP, Echo's sister, will now respond to a wake word. As Gary's speech deteriorated, Tap has helped him to more easily turn off the alarm, and having the wake word made it easy for me to control as well using my voice.I have also added Nucleus to our Alexa family, which allows me to do video calls to check on Gary when I am away from home.Gary continues to get weaker, but Echo has been a huge part of our journey. Reading back over my review, it is interesting to note that none of the therapists who visit us now are unfamiliar with Echo, although they enjoy seeing how we use it.We are now at the point where Hospice is stepping in, and we are grateful for the support they offer.
June 19, 2015
3

Echo Show - Black

$199.99 229.99

Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things. Watch video flash briefings, Amazon Video content, and YouTube, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, ...

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This was really worth the wait. I bought the Echo Show for my parents, who are elderly, and have a variety of ailments. Since they have arthritis, and a few other issues, I didn't want them to go and answer the doorbell, just to find it's someone soliciting them to buy random junk. So, last year, I bought and installed the Ring Doorbell Pro in their house, which works very well. The Ring Doorbell Pro is hardwired and not battery operated. After the skill was enabled, I could tell Alexa to show me the front doorbell and a video feed automatically pops up. You really need a good Wi-Fi router with the Echo show as the video will be jerky since the video is very high quality. If you have a good Wi-Fi router, the video comes up very quickly and runs very smooth. I thought the doorbell would launch the app on the Echo Show automatically, but it does not. You have to initiate the connection yourself. Hopefully this will be an option in the next iteration of this skill. I can think of a whole bunch of ideas for this skill to do, but for a very first implementation, it works great with the hardwired version of the Ring Doorbell Pro.The battery powered Ring products do not work as great though. When trying to connect the Echo Show to a battery powered Ring device, I get a message saying something like, " The camera is asleep and needs to wake up and it could take 30 sec". This happens with my Ring Stickup Camera. So, if you want the best experience, you should buy the Ring Doorbell Pro instead of the battery powered versions.One of my parents just came out of the hospital and sometimes just doesn't have the energy to even pick up a cell phone when we call. So, we have another Echo Show, just for her, in drop in mode. This has really worked very well for us since she does not have to fumble and look for her cell phone if we need to call and check up on her. Also, we use to call her cell phone, but then we would find that the phone was not changed enough, so the call would end prematurely, or the call would not go through. All of those issues have gone away with the Echo Show. If she needs to call a family member, that's just a voice call away as well.Right now, she can use her voice to call up movie and TV shows on Amazon Prime. Hopefully, Netflix, and other services, will also be forth coming. But for now, the shows on Amazon Video will suffice. I've outfitted my parents house with Homekit products from Philips Hue, Lutron, and iDevices, and all of them work flawlessly with the Echo Show.One feature that I found by accident, that I have not found documented anywhere, is that if you hold down the mute button for about 3 or 4 seconds, than a user interface comes up that allows you to shut down the device entirely. A user interface that's says "Power Off" come up. Then you can either hot OK to power the device off or hit Cancel to go back to the main screen. We use the timer function a lot for preparing medicine and cooking food. When I set a timer, the Echo Show actually shows the timer on the screen. Therefore, I don’t have to ask it how much time is left every so often. I can actually see how much time is left. This may sound like a small thing, but it's really very helpful. You can even dismiss a timer with a swipe instead of saying cancel timer, or stop timer, when the timer goes off.The Echo Show definitely isn't perfect. Even though the camera works well, I wish it could swivel so that you can fine tune the position of it. But all in all, for the scenarios my parents use it for, it works great for a first release. The ability to check in on someone that's bed ridden, and can't move all that well, even to pick up a cell phone, makes this a great device to own.
July 1, 2017
Initially I gave the Echo Show a 3 star rating. In all fairness after about 20 days of use I've decided to change my score and here's why. First off Amazon reached out to me requesting feed back and advice. I appreciate the concern and their attempts to improve the device. I've also noticed quite a few updates in the short time I've had my Show and honestly things are changing for the better. I've been updating my review and will continue to do so as I've noticed updates and get more hands on experience. After separating my expectations from the actual capabilities of this device I've come to the conclusion that the Show still had me wanting more despite it's capabilities. I currently own the original echo which is in my living room, a dot in my bedroom, and one at work. I have lights, fans, a thermostat, security cameras, surround sound, and TV all connected to my Alexa devices. Of course I had to buy one with a screen. I'm a big fan of Alexa, the products have become a routine part of my day. As soon as the Show was available to preorder I ordered one without any hesitation.Initially I wanted to put my show on a 70 inch TV stand by my 60 inch TV where my original Echo was. I figured it wouldn't look bad because I could use it as a digital picture frame also. I don't have end tables and quickly came to the realization that viewing a 7 inch screen from 8 feet away wasn't going to work for me. My Show now sits on my kitchen counter. I figured I'd get more use out of it in my living room because most of my Alexa enabled devices are in there and generally I spend more time in my living room than the kitchen. A few people mentioned why don't you put it on your desk. I honestly don't spend much time in my study, if I am at my desk I'm already on my computer and wanted the Show where I would get the most use out of it.This device was marketed as a hands free companion in the kitchen for things like recipes. My frustration is when I ask it to pull up a recipe it's inconsistent. Sometimes it wants to send the recipe to my phone, sometimes it wants me to swipe down on the screen to access the cooking directions and ingredients. Why can't I just say Alexa scroll down? Why do I have to touch the screen? Why does it have to send the recipe to my phone for me to view it when the Show already has a screen? As of now I've seen videos with CNN, Reuters, and Fox news during my flash briefings. There was a software update on 7/15/17 and now I've also seen CNBC videos. 7/19/17 I noticed today Bloomberg is now showing videos.You can display a photo, but it doesn't fill the whole screen, it has gray boarders which really make the picture look even smaller on a 7 inch screen and tacky. The slide show feature can be set through the touch screen. Apparently this depends on how you take your pictures IE cropping and landscaping modes.Personally I think 7 inches is too small to watch a movie from any fixed location unless it was maybe a foot or two from my face so take that in to consideration when determining where you might put one. *Update* Some of Prime's videos are widescreen meaning you only get to use about half of your already small 7 inch screen to watch them. I noticed this while trying to watch 13 Hours Soldiers of Benghazi while I was cooking. This is cellphone size small.Navigating through prime videos can be a chore. You can't say the word movie, you have to say video. When selecting options by number from the screen you have to be careful with what you say. I said something like play movie one thinking it would understand that the movie with a 1 on it would play. Instead it started playing a song. I had to say Alexa stop. And then go back through the voice navigation to Amazon Prime videos, then find my movie, then ask Alexa to play it.The problem with Youtube it pulls the most popular video that is close to your description based off of key words. It doesn't go to exactly what you are asking it to pull up. Example Alexa show me Donald Trump's latest speech on you tube. It pulled a video from May 2nd which was 2 months ago. This is because the search uses keywords in this scenario Donald Trump and Speech. Then it pulls the most popular or viewed videos.*Update* If you let it sit on the screen selection for a movie for more than a minute it will close out and take you to your home screen. This is frustrating because you have to go all the way back through the voice navigation to get back to Prime, find your movie from a selection of 3 choices per page, ask Alexa to get it to play, and if you say something wrong like Alexa play movie one you'll end up listening to music or being navigated some where else and have to start the process all over again. *Update* There are now voice tips at the bottom of the screen to help you navigate.One thing I love about my dots and the original Alexa devices is that they are intuitive I don't have to use precise wording. My Show expects me to use precise wording to navigate and use quite a bit of features. I just left the kitchen trying to get it to go to the dim screen. I used multiple variations of turn off the screen which sometimes works.I kept getting the response sorry what device? After several attempts to get this command to work I gave up and walked out of the kitchen frustrated. Maybe it's still learning from me? *Update* I am still having issues with it not always recognizing the turn off the screen command.I also find myself constantly having to ask the Show to turn the screen off. I don't know why it keeps turning on without me using any wake words. I heard it wake when my dogs went in to the kitchen this morning 7/19/17, yet I can walk past it all day long and it doesn't wake.The show does everything you've come to love with your original echo devices, despite it's beautiful display, you'll still feel like you need a larger screen. If it was an option I'd buy one with a 10 inch screen.The sound is hands down better than any other Alexa device. The show can put out some bass. For some reason when playing Prime movies any speech sounds a bit muffled and the sound output is significantly lower..I placed an order with my Show and honestly it was fast and unlike my other Echos I could visually verify my order. I didn't have to pull my phone out, fumble with a keyboard, computer or tablet. I knew what I wanted said the name and probably in less than 30 seconds placed my order. I thought the drop in feature would be good to check in on my dogs but the camera sits high, with the Show now sitting on my kitchen counter that's not going to work. If you want to use the Show to drop in on your dogs it would have to be a foot off the ground. With just a handful of family members using the Alexa devices the video chat probably isn't going to be used much.Being able to look at my lists calendar and reminders without having to pull my phone out is nice. I wish the calendar could show more than just one day at a time. Like my whole week or month. The show won't display your whole shopping list only 3 to 4 items on the screen at one time then you have to ask it to scroll down. *Update* As of 7/16/17 the Show displays 2 days on the calendar now and will scroll through events two at a time.If you are a shopper like me that likes to browse recommendations your show will only give you a total of 12 recommendations which were no where near as accurate as my interests on my Amazon account usually are, actually they were way off. You can only view one product at a time. Basically the Show is only good for ordering when you know exactly what you want. It's not good with recommendations, and browsing items. You are limited to viewing items one at a time and then having to ask Alexa to scroll right or go right makes the process painfully slow. I guess the best way to explain the show. Most of what the Alexa devices were using your phone for can now be done on the show's touch screen. I still find myself listening to my Show more than looking at it, which kind of defeats the purpose of a screen. My biggest frustration with the Show is instead of operating Alexa from across the room with voice commands I find myself having to stand in front of it, or walk to it then hovering over it to navigate through the screens. I still find myself pulling my phone out of my pocket or reaching for a tablet to pull up information rather than getting up walking to the device and dealing with the frustratingly clunky voice navigation. Most of everything we use now a days is wireless, we aren't used to being restricted to a certain area to use a device. I haven't felt this way since the landline was the only way to make a call and there were no such things as laptops, tablets, bluetooth, smartphones and other smart devices.*Update* I attempted to use the video chat today to call my Dad. He answered with his dot so I could not see him. I thought he might answer from his phone so we could test it. The Show gives you a full screen view of yourself before the call is connected and a smaller window like Skype once the call is connected. With the angle of the camera and my Show sitting on the kitchen counter I had to take a few steps back, maybe 5 feet from the device so that my head would show up on the camera. As a note I am 6" 2. When my Dad answered we could not understand each other because of a bad connection. I ended the call quickly and called him from my cell. I have a 60 mbps connection and he uses FIOs.Why you might consider buying the Fire7 tablet before the buying the Echo ShowI bought the Fire 7 tablet with Alexa for $30.00 during Prime day, now $49.99 (Same price as a Dot!) Here are some noteworthy comparisons. The show is limited to being plugged in to a wall and although it can be easily moved it will require a little planning as to where you might put one. The Fire 7 is obviously portable and has none of these restrictions. Both have a 7-inch, 1024 x 600 touchscreen. The Show blows the Fire 7's speakers out of the water. However you can use bluetooth with the tablet and compensate for the lack of sound quality on your device. In order to use Alexa on the tablet you have to hold down the home key for a few seconds then without using the wake word Alexa or Echo speak your command. This is a nice feature because it won't wake my other Echo devices, it will also give those worried about the always listening peace of mind. Plus it's one less thing to have to say in your list of commands. I found my tablet very responsive to my commands and could do ALMOST everything my Dot and Original Echo can do EXCEPT you can not use the newly enabled voice call feature, which to me is no big deal. Apparently you can not set reminders on the Fire 7. All of my home smart devices can be controlled from my tablet by giving the same commands I use on my other Echo devices. You can not use the Show's video chat feature. Skype, Oovoo and a few other apps are options you can take advantage of. The Echo show when it displays cards and information the whole screen is filled, where as the Fire 7 you loose about 10% of the same image that is on the Show. However unlike the Show you can rotate your screen. For those that complained about the lack of HDMI output on the Show you can pick up a micro USB to HDMI adapter with the Fire 7 tablet and fix that complaint. For those that complained there was no way to cast to your TV with the Show and other Echo devices you can cast your Prime movies straight from your Fire 7 to your Firestick or Fire TV. *Update* As of 8/5/17 I've been able to use all of my Echo devices to control my Fire TV and Fire TV stick. You can access your tablet's apps via Alexa with the Fire 7, The Show has no apps. The fire 7 also syncs instantly with your other devices in Amazon's ecosystem. I find myself using my Fire7 significantly more than my Show. I don't have to be in the kitchen hovering over my counter and lets just face it even a limited Amazon tablet can do a lot more than an Echo device with a screen. Think of the Fire 7 as the budget friendly tap version of the show for $80.00 less than a tap and $180.00 less than a Show. If you are on the fence about shelling out $230.00 but want to experience the Echo screen hype this may be the way to go.
June 29, 2017
4

Echo Look | Hands-Free Camera and Style Assistant

$199.99

Introducing Echo Look—now Alexa can help you look your best; Using just your voice, easily take full-length photos and short videos with a hands-free camera that includes built-in LED lighting, ...

Available: In stock
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5

Amazon Tap - Alexa-Enabled Portable Bluetooth Speaker

$79.99 129.99

Just tap and ask for music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. Enable hands-free mode to control music and more from a distance.; Uses the Alexa Voice Service when connected ...

Available: In stock
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IMPORTANT UPDATE (3/8/17): As you read my original review, please be aware that Amazon announced in early February (2017) a new firmware update that allows Amazon Tap owners to enable a hands-free option! By going into "Settings" in the Alexa app, you can now choose the hands-free option and have your Tap respond to voice commands without touching it, just like the Echo and Echo Dot! This is a fabulous development and something Tap owners have been hoping for. Thank you, Amazon!Since the lack of hands-free operation was the one major shortcoming of the Tap, this wonderful little device has now gotten a whole lot better. One thing to keep in mind, though, especially if you use your Tap on battery power: The hands-free mode will drain the battery more quickly, because it requires the microphone to be on at all times. But since you can easily toggle between hands-free or regular tap mode using the Alexa app, you can pick and choose how you want to use your Tap for maximum battery life and convenience.-------------------------I admit that I was a little skeptical when Amazon first introduced its Echo device. But I decided to buy one anyway, thinking that if I didn't like it I could easily sell it. After all, back in the early days of the Echo it was in very high demand. So the financial risk associated with trying it was minimal. Today, as an avid music listener who loves to cook, I'm thrilled that I decided to give the Echo a try.I had wanted a device that I could stream music with in the kitchen, and the Echo’s hands-free voice control made it very appealing. But how would it sound?? That question was quickly answered as soon as I set up and started using my Echo. The fact is, I was absolutely blown away by how great it sounded; and how well it worked.I grew very used to the many features of the Echo, but I wanted to take them with me when I left the kitchen. And as wonderful as the Echo is, it’s not very portable. There’s this little thing called a plug that has to remain in the wall in order for it to work.Enter the new Amazon Tap.The biggest reason I was so excited when Amazon announced the new Tap was because of its portability. With a rechargeable battery that offers up to 9 hours of playback, along with its compact size, the Tap is made to be taken places. I can now carry all of the fabulous features that I have on my Echo into other rooms of my house, the backyard, the patio, the garage, or even places away from home.I mentioned before that I listen to a lot of music, and I happily pay a small annual fee to store all of my music in Amazon’s Cloud. As a result, I can take my entire music collection anywhere I go, and it’s available to play at the touch of a button. (Yes, you have to push a button on the Tap before you can tell it your instructions, but that’s a very small price to pay for total portability.)I was hopeful that the Tap’s sound would be as good or better than the Echo’s, and I was not disappointed. With its dual stereo speakers and 360-degree omni-directional audio—with Dolby—the Tap sounds AMAZING! Trust me: I’m pretty fussy when it comes to how my music sounds and I am blown away by what I hear coming from the Tap. I own a Bose wireless Bluetooth speaker that I’ve used for streaming music and I can honestly say that prefer the sound of the Tap. Some people may think the Tap doesn't have enough bass response, but I think the overall tone is just right.What makes the Tap even more impressive is its compact size. This thing is a cylinder that’s only 6” tall and 2-1/2” in diameter. And it’s loaded with dynamic sound and a boatload of voice-controlled features. With Tap, I can play music from my library, Amazon Prime Music, Pandora, IHeartRadio, Spotify, and other sources. I can ask it to tell me the news, the weather, or the score of my favorite sports team’s game. I can ask it what the status of its battery is. I can even use it to order a pizza or control my WiFi thermostat (I have the Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat 1F86U-42WF for Smart Home, Works with Alexa). It really is an amazing device. It even functions as a Bluetooth speaker for streaming music from any Bluetooth-enabled device.As expected, the build of the Tap is top-notch. Amazon has certainly become a quality device maker, and the Tap shows off that fact beautifully. Its design is simple and intuitive. The Talk button is easily accessible on the front of the unit and the playback controls—Play/Pause, Previous/Next, and Volume Up/Down—are right on top. In addition to the microphone, there are also five LED indicator lights on top, and they pleasingly light up as necessary to show that the Tap is responding. The Power button, a 3.5mm audio input, Micro-USB port, and WiFi/Bluetooth button reside on the back of the unit. (Note: There is no headphone jack, which is a bit surprising for a portable device.) The bottom of the Tap is non-slip rubber, and the top is smoother rubber. The sides are covered with a fabric mesh.Setup of the Tap is virtually effortless. The device went from its impressive packaging to being up and running in about 3 or 4 minutes. The Alexa iOS app really is fantastic and makes setup a breeze. (I wish more makers of WiFi-enabled devices would learn a thing or two from Amazon in this regard.)My only concern about the Tap is a relatively small one: I’m just not sure how well it will hold up over time. If I’m going to be carrying this little baby around everywhere I go, I’m hoping that it will withstand minor bumps or drops. I did order an Amazon Tap Sling Cover - Black for it, and I think that will help keep it safe. But the one big drawback of the sling cover is that the Tap won’t fit into the charging cradle while it’s in the sling. You can still charge the Tap by using the Micro-USB connection in the back, but the convenience of the charging cradle is lost. And that’s a shame, because the charging cradle is a nice, simple way to charge the device. I wish Amazon could’ve thought of a way to protect the Tap while allowing you to use the charging cradle, too. (Also, maybe supplying an optional lanyard would've been nice.) One more thought: I wonder a bit about the lifespan of the battery. After all, I don't think it's replaceable.All in all, I couldn’t be much happier with the Amazon Tap. It really is the Echo’s little sister, and it gives me all the functionality of the Echo with one big bonus: total portability. Some people might be put off by having to push the Talk button in order to communicate with the Tap, but like I said before: That’s a very small price to pay in exchange for being 100 percent cord-free. At the introductory price of $129.99, the Amazon Tap is an incredible bargain. It’s one of the coolest technological devices I’ve ever owned. As great as the Echo is, in my mind the Tap is even better. Alexa, I’m in love all over again.UPDATE Re: Durability (4/13/16): A few minutes ago, one of my cats knocked my Tap off of a table in the living room. The Tap, which was streaming music from the cloud, fell about three feet, directly onto a hardwood floor. I have to say, I was more than a little bit worried. But the Tap kept right on playing and there is absolutely no damage to it at all. And my Tap is totally naked (I do not use the protective Sling with it). This makes me feel pretty good about the overall durability of the Tap. :)UPDATE (5/3/16): I still love the Tap, but there's one thing I've found very annoying. I've been using it on my bedside table of late to play music while I'm falling asleep. Unfortunately, the Tap's power button is lit up by a very bright LED, and it stays lit while music is playing. If my head is close to the table next to my bed--and it frequently is, because I sleep on my side--the light is a distraction. So I've had to move the Tap down to the floor to get the light away from my face. I wish they would've chosen a more muted light for the power button. Or maybe provided an option to dim or turn off the light completely.
April 2, 2016
It was just a few weeks ago that I was bemoaning the fact that I did not scoop up an Echo back when they were being released last year. Not only could it be had at nearly half off the current price, but it came with a voice remote and we could have had a year longer using this amazing device...Well, here I am, a year late to the game and I can now proudly say that I own both an Echo and this new little Tap! Can I just say that I am OBSESSED with all things Echo and Alexa. These are devices that you may not realize how much you'll use it until you've given them a try.I have been spending the last few years getting our home automated. I currently use a combination of Smartthings, IFTTT and Logitech Harmony to control the home. Alexa fits right into the middle of all that and gives us the ability to control our home via voice. For me, this is the killer feature. I can integrate all three parts of our home control right into Echo/Tap and make our house even smarter with very minimal setup.With Echo you have to trigger Alexa to listen by using a wake word (Alexa, Amazon, Echo) but with the Tap, you just push the button on the front of the device and give the command you want accomplished:"Turn on Watch TV" - my family room TV is turned on"Turn on Night" - all of my evening lights are turned on in the house as darkness settles in"Turn off Night" - all lights are turned off as we head to bed"Turn on Morning" - the kitchen light is turned on and so is the TV as I stumble down to start brewing my coffee"Ask Automatic what my fuel level is" - the gas level in my car is checked and reported"Add Milk to the grocery list" - adds milk to the shopping list and then IFTTT takes over and sends it to my Grocery list on my iPhone"Trigger I'm Hot" - my thermostat is changed to a cooler temperatureThese are just a few of the things we ask of Alexa on a daily basis. The only learning curve has been in learning exactly how to phrase questions in such a way that Alexa knows what we are asking her to answer or do.Outside of the home automation aspect, Tap brings a lot to the table. It's a battery powered bluetooth speaker with instant access* to your Amazon and Prime music libraries, Spotify, I Heart Radio and Pandora. You can even use Tunein to access podcasts and other audio. You can have Alexa read you books from your Kindle library or even play your Audible books for you. You can customize your interests and get an instant news briefing, a rundown on the weather or traffic, add some things to your grocery or To-Do lists, check on your calendar or even have Alexa tell you some jokes to get you laughing. I have found the sound quality to be quite good and up-to-par with most quality portable bluetooth speakers.Because Amazon has opened the API developers are creating fun little apps called Skills that you can integrate right into Alexa and expand upon what she is able to do. One of the skills I've installed include an app that is called Cat Facts. When I ask Alexa to open Cat Facts she tells me an interesting fact about cats. Another is called The Wayne Investigation, it's a "chose-your-own-adventure mystery" game where you are brought right into Superman's world and get to help solve a mystery. There's even a skill for Fitbit users to link their Fitbit to Echo and have Alexa give you a rundown on how your day is going. The integration possibilities are endless.One of my favorite uses is trying to find the "Easter Eggs" hidden inside Alexa, ask her things like "Alexa, define Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock" or "Alexa, what is the meaning of life" and you may enjoy the answers. I know my geeky family sure did. If you want an easy list of the Easter Eggs check out the AmazonEcho sub at Reddit. They're all listed there and constantly updated.We use our Tap as an addition to our Echo and as a device that will be taken on the road with us when we travel. While some complain that pushing a button to invoke Alexa makes this device not as useable as an Echo or a Dot, I feel that it fits the needs we have as a secondary device nicely. You can't beat the portability. The fact that this device is battery powered and can go for 9 hours of usage before needing to be charged is what makes it a great addition to the Echo family. As the warmer weather approaches, I'm already envisioning all of the ways we'll be incorporating the Tap into our activities. It's nice to know that we won't have to leave the convenience of Alexa and her all-knowing powers behind just because we've left the house.I think Amazon has hit it out of the ballpark again with this device..*Please note: you MUST have Tap connected to the internet (via Wifi or Hotspot) to invoke the Alexa commands. If you are offline the device will simply function as a bluetooth speaker.
April 5, 2016

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