Where to Start with Alexa

When I first got into the whole smart home idea, I jumped in blindly. I saw the commercials for Alexa products and thought they’d be fun. Maybe I could get a few blogs out of them. However, I really had no idea of what Alexa could really do. I didn’t know which products to buy or where to start. I’m here to help you!

Alexa Enabled Products

Amazon has a wide variety of Alexa products. There’s the Show, Dot, Echo, Spot, Look… what devices do what?

The Dot

The Echo Dot is the best way to dip your toes in the Alexa pool. At only $49.99 (and often on sale for less), it’s the least expensive Alexa product. The Dot uses the same software and app that the other Alexa products use, so it has the same programming power as the other products. It will allow you to manage your smart home devices, use skills, and more.

So what’s the downside of this junior version? The speaker is kind of weak and tinny. It works, it’s functional, but it’s not going to provide you great sound. If listening to your Amazon Music playlists is a priority, this won’t be the right device for you. But if you’re just looking for a controller and access to Alexa, this is a great place to start. This is what I have, and it works well for me.

The Echo and Echo Plus

These devices are the Dot’s big sisters. Coming in at $99.99 for the Echo and $149.99 for the Echo Plus, they’re a bit more expensive than the Dot and have a few more features.

They have the same basic functions as the Dot: access to Alexa skills, ability to control smart home devices, etc. What sets these devices apart from the Dot is that the speaker is much better. The Echoes are much taller than the compact Dot, and that height is mostly speaker. If you love your Amazon music or want to use your Alexa device to make phone calls, this is probably your device.

Wait… what’s the difference between the Echo and Echo Plus? The Echo Plus contains a smart hub. Some smart home devices, like the Philips Hue bulbs require a hub in order for Alexa to be able to control them. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of devices that require a hub, but if that’s your jam, the Plus will cover you for those devices.

Echo Spot

The Echo Spot is a new entry in the Alexa market. It’s compact like the Dot, but it has a screen like the Show. It comes in around the price of the regular Echoes, at $129.99.

Like the other devices, it has full access to the Alexa skills and the ability to control smart home devices. What sets this devices apart is the small screen on the front. When it’s dormant, it displays a clock face. It comes with a few different faces to choose from, so you’ll easily find one that fits your style. But it’s not just a pretty clock. You can stream videos on it and get a video flash briefing. Even better, you can connect it with your video security system (like the Ring video doorbell system and see who’s at your door at any given time. You can also connect it with certain video baby monitors to give you more ways to check in on your little one.

The downside? The speakers are lacking, just like in the Dot. Also, the screen is not very big, so don’t count on a great viewing experience. It’s nice to peek at your security system or watch a short video (like a video flash briefing), but it’s not built for longer streaming.

Overall, it’s a great middle ground between the economical Dot and the high-end Show, and it’s video capabilities are something yet unmatched by the Google Home devices.

Echo Show

The Echo Show is the high-end model. With a 7″ screen, it has a much better display than the Spot. It does all the video tricks the Spot does, just on a bigger screen, which increases ease of use. The screen is large enough to read off of, so you display a new recipe on it while you cook… and Alexa can read you the next step if your hands get messy.

Like the Echo and Echo Plus, the speakers are pretty decent, providing room filling sound without the weak, tinny quality of the Dot and the Spot. Also, it has a great video screen that is, as of yet, unmatched by the Google Home products. If you think video ability is important to your smart home devices, go with Alexa products, even if you don’t shell out for the Show or Spot right away.

The Show has all the bells and whistles, so the downside is the price. It comes in at $229.99, but if you buy two, you save $100 total (or $50 each). It’s a steep price, especially if you don’t already have video enabled devices in your home, like Ring security or video baby monitors. But if those are in your home (or in your future), investing in the Show may be the right way to go.

Echo Look

The Look is an outlier. It takes full-length pictures and short videos of you as a virtual “style assistant.” Basically, it’s a fancy digital mirror. It doesn’t have the full Alexa abilities, and it’s by invitation only right now. Since I don’t have much experience with it’s capabilities, I’m just going to leave it at this: if you’re someone who would actually use this, Amazon probably knows already and will invite you to buy one soon enough.

My Recommendations

I recommend starting with either the Dot or the Spot, depending on whether you need video or not. When you fall in love (like I am!), try something different for your second. I currently have a Dot, but I would like to get a Spot or Show for my next one. (Here’s to hoping this Christmas is good to me!) These are the entry-level models and will get you comfortable with all the cool things Alexa can do. What cool things? Check out my other Alexa posts below!

So where are you going to start?

Other “Fun with Alexa” posts:
Movies with Alexa
Music With Alexa
Skills with Alexa
TV with Alexa
Books with Alexa
Having Fun with Alexa
Around the House with Alexa
Learning with Alexa

Below are an affiliate links to purchase the various Alexa enabled Amazon devices.  If you purchase them through my link, I get a small commission, and it doesn’t cost you anything extra.  Thank you for helping to support this blog!

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