This is the most complete and updated guide for the Amazon Echo on the planet.
In this guide (updated weekly), we let you in on how to accomplish every single task with your Echo. Did you know that Alexa can feed your dog? How about controlling your ceiling fan? Well, you've come to the right guide where we'll show you how to get Alexa to do these amazing things plus a lot more.
The mystery of “what can this thing do” is finally solved. Let’s take a look...
How To Choose The Right Echo For YOU
Let’s kick this guide off with an explanation of each of the different devices in the Amazon Echo family.
Alexa has come a long way since its original “Siri in a Pringles Can” roots. The original Echo was discontinued in favor of a shorter, more attractive 2nd generation edition. Let’s start there...
The All New - Echo Plus (2nd Generation)
The best quality speaker from Amazon has had an upgrade – but what makes it worth your time and money?
What IS the new Echo Plus?
The Echo Plus speaker’s greatest feature has to be its ability to act as its own hub for other smart devices, due to its built-in Zigabee hub, meaning you don’t have to purchase a separate device alongside it. Set-up is easy – all you have to do is say “Alexa, discover my devices” and you’re ready to connect the rest of your smart home. The new speakers offer improved sound, and Alexa will still allow you to control the equalizer settings with your voice.
Localized voice control features allow you to retain that control over your everything from your lighting to security even if your internet goes out, and temperature sensors within the Echo Plus will control your heating. With access to her ever-updating list of tens of thousands of skills and apps, you can use Alexa to find out the weather, to search the web, play music and read the news, and she will hear you wherever you are, even with background noise.
What’s so good about it?
The upgraded speakers are special, with Amazon listening to customer requests for improved sound quality. The Dolby-made premium speakers consist of a 3 inch subwoofer and 0.8 inch tweeter and the sound they offer is 360 degrees, so its location doesn’t affect sound quality. The Echo Plus has seven microphones and using beam forming and noise cancellation technology, there won’t be any more echoing devices across your house – this speaker uses the clarity of your voice and much more to determine where you are, and which device to answer with. The list of skills and apps is ever-growing, and already caters for a vast array of processes and daily tasks, seamlessly bringing your home-life into the modern world. The new design is a great improvement on the previous look, with three colors available in charcoal, heather grey and sandstone, a better shape and softer edges.
How does it compare to the first Echo Plus?
Appearance-wise, the new Echo Plus far outstrips its predecessor, with a look that says sophistication with a hint of cute – it’s shorter and wider by a couple of inches, and along with the soft fabric exterior this makes it much less assuming. The subwoofer, however, has increased by half an inch, offering richer high quality sound, and combined with its 360 degree capabilities put it well above the previous model, and many other brands available. The new addition of a thermometer sensor brings heating into the realms of those aspects of your home that you can have Alexa take control of, and the seven microphones and improved technology will allow her to integrate into each room without problem. Access is easier than ever right from initial set-up, and there are accessibility features available through more and more skills and apps which cater for people with various disabilities.
You Need This When:
The Echo Plus offers an inbuilt Zigbee hub which allows you to use the device as a centre to connect your other smart devices – you don’t need to buy any extra gadgets to get going!
The improved speakers offer superior sound quality in all directions, and both the microphones and voice recognition software upgrades have increased usability.
The Echo Plus is the stylish beginning of your smart home, it is sexy and clever, and the new temperature sensors offer yet more interactivity with your home.
The Chief - Echo 2nd Generation
The promise of the 2nd generation Amazon Echo is that it comes with better sound in a better-looking form factor than its predecessor.
It’s worth mentioning that when it first came out, it received terrible reviews on the sound front. This had something to do with its software settings and was not hardware related. Amazon promptly updated the Echo, and the user complaints of reduced sound quality immediately went away.
It now also comes with an aux cable output that allows you to connect it to a beefier sound system if you so choose. (Personally, if you were going to do that I would recommend getting a Dot. It’s cheaper, and the extra price here is for the more prominent speaker).
As a stand-alone speaker, it sounds great. You’re not going to get audiophile quality out of it, but that’s not its intention.
You Need This When:
This is your first time purchasing an Echo. It’s ready to go right out of the box and hooking it up to an external speaker is unnecessary. You can instantly introduce yourself to the wonderful world of Amazon Alexa.
Also get it if you like the way it looks or want the ability to customize the look, and you prefer a volume buttons versus a volume ring.
Finally, get it if you want a simple, smart home controller -And- and an aux cable to hook up a better sounding speaker or sound system.
Little Chief - New Echo Dot (3rd Generation)
Everybody is talking about the release of the new Echo Dot from Amazon – but what is it, and why is it worth your money?
What is the new Echo Dot?
The Echo Dot is a voice controlled speaker which works with Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, and it is the most popular of its kind on offer by Amazon. Through the Echo Dot, Alexa will answer your questions, give you weather and news updates, call and send messages, and she is ever changing and developing. The new design is smooth and sophisticated, and has clearly focused on sound quality this time around, with a full speaker circling the entire device.
What’s so good about it?
With enough Echo Dots around the house, you can stream music across your entire premises – never having to miss your favourite part of a song to check on the oven again! You can instantly connect to any room with an Echo Dot in it, and either carry out tasks, or contact those in the room, with an option to send messages out in an announcement style – in the bath and want a drink? Just ask Alexa to send a message downstairs. With the right compatible devices, you can turn almost every aspect of your home-life into an interactive experience, from lighting to security, from cooking to enjoying music. The Dot is compatible with Android, IOS and Fire OS, and comes with accessibility options for those who are mobility/visually/hearing/speech impaired. Wi-fi accessibility is as simple as it gets – you definitely don’t need to be a tech wizard to have a tech home with an Echo Dot.
How does it compare to previous Echo Dots?
The Dot has been given a serious upgrade in many areas, with richer sound quality, buttons to control the volume, three choices of color and access to a constantly updating list of applications and ‘skills’. A new, softer design with rounded edges and a predominantly fabric surface gives this Dot some swagger, and the speaker takes up most of the unit now, rather than being relegated to some holes in the top. This can only improve the sound quality and distribution, and the ability of Alexa to determine your location, and therefore which speaker to respond through. Using the new and improved Echo Spatial Perception there are no more multiple Echoes as more than one speaker hears your instructions – the newest version offers the ability to recognize here you are according to the clarity of your voice. This Echo Dot is available to buy direct from the Amazon store, unlike previous versions which were only available to buy through an Alexa product that you already owned, yet despite impressive changes, the price remains exceptionally low.
You Need This When:
Control your entire home using Alexa-compatible devices and her constantly updating list of skills and apps.
Multiple speakers will connect to each other and make your entire house interactive, with improved sound quality making listening to music an option for this budget Echo speaker.
Better design adds a sleek and comfortably futuristic element to your home, and a technology upgrade makes Alexa’s responses smarter.
Mini-Me - Dot For Kids
The Echo Dot Kids Edition costs about $30 more than a standard Echo Dot (depending on promos etc.).
What do you get for the extra thirty bucks? A rubber bumper to help prevent damage and a two year no questions asked replacement warranty. It also comes with a one-year subscription to “Free Time” which usually costs from $35.88 a year for a single user or $83.00 for a year for a family of four children if you have a Prime subscription. It’s a bit more if you don’t.
You can install the Free Time skill on any Fire tablet, Android device, or Amazon Echo at any time. It just comes standard with the Echo Kids edition. The Free Time subscription service comes with many fun, entertaining, and educational features built in.
Here’s a quick rundown:
Children's audio books
- Extra radio stations and playlists
- Kids movies
- Dad jokes
Specialized skills for interactive Disney stories & Nickelodeon games
- Voice alarms from their favorite Disney or Nickelodeon characters
- Responds differently to children (for example if it hears please it says thanks for asking so nicely)
It also has tight parental controls that allow you to:
- Set the time that the device can be used
- Monitor activity like which books they read etc.
- Filter out inappropriate songs and other content
- Block news updates
- Disable voice purchasing
- Enabled tighter privacy
Some have voiced concerns about the collection of data that is gathered through these types of devices when it comes to children. Due to laws like COPPA (and just moral standards), the amount of data that the Echo can collect on children is limited.
You Need This When:
You want a more durable Echo Dot for your children.
You want a two-year unrestricted warranty in case it breaks.
You’d like a one-year subscription of “Free Time” that allows for tight parental controls and extra kid-friendly content.
Code Name Kitchen Computer - The Echo Show 2nd Generation
The Echo Show is what you would get if the Echo speakers and Amazon’s Fire tablets had a baby. It is designed to combine the best features of each to help you watch videos, listen to music and follow along with recipes without using your hands to touch your device. This is the second generation of this device, and Amazon has made some vast improvements to the original.
If you have multiple Alexa devices, you can sync them all up to your Echo Show and play the same things simultaneously in all of your rooms, which is awesome if you’re walking around your house and cleaning.
Can connect to smart home stuff
If you have joined the world of smart homes, you can connect to and control the light bulbs, locks, switches and sensors throughout your home. It’s very simple to connect to your other devices. All you have to do is ask Alexa to “discover my devices.”
More Video Options
Amazon worked with a lot of recipe sites like Food52, TheKitchn and Epicurious to make their sites much more usable on the Echo Show. All you have to do is say “Alexa, let’s start cooking,” and you’ll be able to see these fancy new features, all of which are usable with just your voice.
How does the 2nd Gen Compare to the 1st?
The second generation of the Echo Show looks more like a tablet than its predecessor, with a screen that takes up 90 percent of the front face instead of having a large black panel at the bottom. The new design looks less like an old TV and more like a fancy light, which will look a lot better in your kitchen.
The new screen is more than 3 inches larger than the originals was, making it easier to watch videos and enjoy them. It’s also an HD screen, which the first did not have.
More apps integrated with design
Since the original echo came out, Amazon has added apps from all kinds of companies that allow you to use for more things, such as Vevo music videos, Hulu and NBC streaming, as well as Prime Video.
In the original Echo, both of the speakers were directly next to each other, which wasn’t ideal for high-quality sound. In the new version, the speakers are separated to be on both sides, making everything sound better. It also added bass radiator, which makes it easy to fill your kitchen with sound.
If you spend a lot of time working with your hands in the kitchen, doing dishes or cooking, this device may be the perfect addition to your kitchen. It’s small enough to not take up a ton of space, but big enough that you can still see things even when you aren’t right in front of it. With the addition of Skype support, this will be the perfect all-in-one device for helping you learn to cook from your family members, and to keep you company in the kitchen.
You Need This When:
You want easy hands free video calling.
You have a Ring, Nest, or other compatible security cameras that you want to pull up easily.
You want to pull up recipes and order ingredients or other items easily from Amazon.
The Ultimate Alarm Clock - Echo Spot
The Echo Spot is a video-enabled Alexa smart speaker with a built-in 2.5-inch display. The internal speaker that comes with the Spot is also better than the speaker that comes with the Dot. Not as good as a full-size Echo but it does sound pretty good as a simple room speaker.
Of course, you can upgrade your speaker system with the Bluetooth connection or aux port, so that is always an option. The Spot works as sort of an alarm clock for your room (although calling it an alarm clock doesn’t NEARLY do it justice). Most people haven’t had an alarm clock for years. They just use their phone, so why would that be useful?
Well, first, it has a screen that does MUCH more than tell the time.
Let’s take a look at what the screen can allow you to do:
1. Video Calling - With the Spot, you can make video calls to other Spot/Show users or through the Alexa app to anyone who has the app installed on their phone.
You can also use the “drop-in” feature that allows you to pop up automatically on another Spot/Show users device after you've been accepted into their user network. While you may not want to give someone access to pop up automatically on a device that is designed to be used in your bedroom, there are some excellent uses for this feature.
For example, you have a Spot in your kid's rooms, and you want to drop-in to tell them something or wake them up. Also, if you have infants, you can use it to look in on them in their crib. It also works well if you have a Spot setup at home and you want to take a look at what's going on when you’re away. In that sense, it works as an indoor security camera.
2. Task List - While it might be nice to have Alexa read your to-do list out loud for the day, it’s much nicer to see it on the screen.
I’m a bit of a productivity nerd, and I never connected my calendar to the Echo because personally, I have to see it. Also, adding tasks to your to-do list wasn't always reliable. I could say “Alexa add buy tickets to the show next week” and it would say that it added it to my todo list, but sometimes it wouldn’t show up.
I quickly lost faith in adding things to my to-do list with Alexa. But with the screen on the Spot, you can rest assured that the item has in fact been added to the list because you can see it.
3. Watch Videos - The screen is a bit small to get any enjoyment out of watching full-length movies. But if you need to pull up something easy like a recipe or something you could find this helpful.
4. Shopping - In my unfounded opinion I believe that the original strategy for Amazon was to get the Echo into households so that you can shop with the device.
As it turns out for me, shopping is one of the least useful features of the Echo. That’s because I have to see it. (I guess I’m just a visual guy). With the Spot, you can look at what you’re buying before purchase. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
5. More - There are other useful features like the ability to change the clock face to one of the preset images, or you can use photos you have in the Amazon cloud or upload them through Alexa app.
You Need This When:
You want an Echo in your bedroom with a visual clock and some other useful features.
You want a screen for specific tasks without purchasing the more expensive “Show”.
You want a better internal speaker than what comes with the Dot.
You Look Marvelous - Amazon Look
The Amazon Echo Look is a super selfie camera that promises to help you up your style game. It comes with a depth-sensing camera that will blur the background to give you the best look at yourself through the dedicated Look app. This allows you to make the best decision on what to wear.
The app itself will allow you to compare two different pictures side by side and through an algorithm (and at times a live person), it will let you know which outfit looks best on you. What’s nice is that it doesn’t just leave you in the dark by just saying “that one looks better,” it will tell you why. For instance, it might say “the one on the right fits you better.”
Another REALLY cool feature is that it will take the current temperature outside into account in deciding what you should wear that day. So if you are wearing a heavy jacket and it’s 100 degrees outside it will flash a no go on that outfit.
One thing I’d like to mention here is that you can get much of the same functionality of the Echo Look in the Amazon shopping app that you can get for your smartphone. You will lose the ability to say “Alexa take a picture” or “Alexa take a video,” however.
With some recently added features, you can also organize your clothing into collections. “Summer” or “Weekend” etc.. It will also give you style advice from Vogue and GQ magazines respectively.
Like other Echo speakers, the Look can also recognize WHO is talking to it. That means that if you are taking pictures, it won’t send it to your significant others Look app.
The speaker that comes equipped with the Look is the smallest and least powerful speaker in the entire line. The “tinny” Echo Dot even sounds better. It also doesn’t have an aux port, so you don’t have much of a means to make the situation any better.
If music is what you want you will pretty much have to buy an additional Echo.
You Need This When:
UP YOUR STYLE
You want to up your style.
You want the simple hands-free picture and video taking ability.
You want to be able to categorize and organize your wardrobe.
Amazon Fire TV Cube
The Amazon Fire TV platform is making huge waves in the world of video streaming, allowing users to access Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, NBC, Showtime, Prime Video, and more, all from the same place! Amazon is currently offering a few products which will allow you to access this wealth of content, but let’s take a look at the Amazon Fire TV Cube.
What is it?
The Fire TV Cube looks great - it’s exactly the level of quality you’d expect: sleek, minimalist, and compact. It has a variety of ports for Micro USB, infrared, and HDMI connectivity, and comes with a power adaptor, ethernet adaptor, and a voice-capable remote control.
Amazon Fire TV enables you to control the power and volume on your TV, sound bar, and A/V receiver, as well as change live cable or satellite channels with just your voice.Since the Fire TV Cube is compatible with Alexa, you can simply talk to Alexa to turn on the TV, control the lighting in your home, and whatever media you want, as well as the hundreds of other potential functions you would normally use Alexa for!
The important thing to know about the Fire TV Cube is that it has all the features you would find in the Fire TV Stick and basic Fire TV, and way, way more than that!
Some of the main features that the Fire TV Cube boasts above the Fire TV Stick and basic Fire TV are:
4K Ultra HD Support
Far-field voice control of Fire TV
Far-field voice control of devices
Alexa Voice Remote
16 GB of Native Storage
And remember, this is an Amazon product, so you get some pretty amazing additional features as well, including access to free cloud storage for all digital content purchased from amazon.
You Need This When:
The Fire TV Cube is perhaps the most simple and most convenient way to interface with Amazon Alexa. Since the Fire TV Cube is linked to your TV, it will allow you to work with Alexa visually rather than just through audio - so you can see the products you are shopping for, see the lyrics for songs you are playing through Amazon Prime Music, or see your options for streaming when using Amazon Prime Video.
High Performance Streaming: It will be tough to find another product which will be capable of playing back 4K Ultra HD content at 60 FPS consistently and across many streaming platforms. You can easily switch between services without having to fiddle with settings or wait for high quality video to load.
Huge Pool of Content: Amazon Prime Video alone represents a huge pool of content. Combine that with other services such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, NBC, Showtime, and more, and you have virtually infinite content to enjoy all at your fingertips. In total over 500,000+ movies and TV episodes from popular channels and apps!