Editors' note, Sept. 21, 2018: Amazon revamped its echo lineup at a Seattle surprise event on Thursday, Sept. 20. A review of the event has been added to the top of the story. We want to continue to update it as Amazon's new products become available for review throughout the rest of this year.
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Amazon's big day was certainly impressive, and we're looking forward to testing these new devices and trying out all of these upgrades once they're live. Check out. The entire Amazon Echo landscape as of May 5, 2018.
Theis the biggest tech breakout in recent memory – a voice-activated, internet- Alexa that answers your questions, follow your instructions and . As Amazon likes to put it, the Echo is .
Echo Dot and the touchscreen-equippedhomes around the world. If you're just curious about who you are, then you, my friend, have come to the right post
What is the Amazon Echo, and how does it work?
Let's start at the beginning. Amazon introduced the Echo smart speaker at the end of 2014. It's a standalone Bluetooth speaker with an array of "far-field" microphones that can be heard at a moderate distance plus a Wi-Fi connection to the Amazon cloud.
You wake up the echo by saying "Alexa," the name of Amazon's virtual assistant (to "Amazon," http://www.cnet.com/ "Echo "or" computer, "if you like). Alexa is actively listening for her . Say something like, "what's the weather today," and Alexa wants to answer your question – in this case, with a quick summary of the day's forecast.
Here's how that works: Whenever you ask Alexa's question or give her a command, the Echo records the audio and uploads the snippet to Amazon's cloud servers. Those servers translate the audio into text, then figure out the best way for Alexa to answer. That info gets back to your echo speaker, where Alexa translates the text back into a spoken response.
So, Alexa is always listening to me?
Sort of. The Echo is always listening for the wake word, but it only starts listening to it. Alexa is recording and uploading what he hears in order to figure out how to respond.
Amazon uses encryption to protect those audio snippets whenever Alexa uploads Alexa heard and she thinks you asked. You can erase that backlog of audio snippets any time you like), and you can press the button to "mute" the microphone and keep listening to it Alexa is covering her ears.
OK. So what can Alexa do?
General : Fromto celebrity birthdays to sports statistics, Alexa is awfully handy at pulling up a quick fact. Just ask. Alexa, what's my flash briefing?
for a complete rundown on everything you can ask Alexa
- Music playback : Alexa can play songs, artists, albums, play lists, genres or podcasts on request. You can choose either Amazon Music or Spotify as your default music library, and you can choose between Amazon Music, iHeartRadio and Pandora as your default station service. Alexa also supports audiobooks via Kindle Unlimited and Audible, and you can also ask for live radio broadcasts through TuneIn, including .
for our top Alexa tips for music lovers.
- Smart home control : Alexa works with thousands of connected devices – smart lights, thermostats, Wi-Fi enabled appliances, connected cameras, home security systems, robot vacuums and much more. Alexa to turn things on and off, or control them in other device-specific ways.
Click here for CNET's top-rated smart home gadgets that work with Alexa.
- Alarms and timers : Alexa is always happy to be a timer, which comes in handy when your hands are messy. So you'll set a recurring alarm if you want to use your Echo as an alarm clock. .
Alexa can make calls and send messages to friends and family members "Echo devices, or you can just ask to dial a number."
Ry Crist / CNET
to learn more about calling landlines and mobile numbers using Alexa.
- Skills : It did not take long for Alexa to use software. Now, after just a few years on the market, Alexa has tens of thousands of "skills," which are basically just voice apps. Each skill teaches Alexa a new trick (ordering pizza, hosting trivia night, making fart noises – you name it), and none of them cost anything to try. Alexa to enable it herself.
for our regular-updated list of the 50's most useful Alexa skills.
Oh, and you can buy something on Amazon,. Imagine that!
How many different types of echo devices are there?
Alexa's voice interface became a clear hit with the mainstream, Amazon didubled down and started releasing a number of offshoot devices. All of them offer the same Alexa features and different features. Here's a quick list:
- – The original Echo smart speaker, now in its second generation, comes in a variety of interchangeable cases called "shells," and sells for $ 100 in the US, £ 90 in the UK and AU $ 120 in Australia.
- – In its second generation, the Echo Dot is just a smaller, cheaper version of the Echo that comes in white or black. It costs $ 50 in the US, £ 50 in the UK and AU $ 80 in Australia.
- – At $ 80, this kid-friendly version of The Dot adds a colorful bumper case, protections against adult content and voice purchases, parent controls and trial subscriptions to premium kid content. It is not available in the UK or Australia just yet, but it's about 60 pounds and AU $ 105.
- – At the price of $ 230 (£ 200 in the UK, not available in Australia but its price converts to AU $ 305), the Echo Show adds a touchscreen and a camera to the Alexa interface, which Alexa shows you information or stream video on demand.
- – The softball-sized echo spot is basically a smaller echo show with a circular screen that works well as a high-end bedside alarm clock. It costs $ 130 in the US, £ 120 in the UK and AU $ 200 in Australia.
- – Available in black, white or silver, the Echo Plus takes the original Echo and adds in a Zigbee radio Zigbee smart lights and other connected home gadgets without needing a hub to act as translator. It's also the only echo device that still includes a fancy volume ring instead of volume buttons. The cost: $ 150 in the US, £ 140 in the UK and AU $ 230 in Australia.
- – At $ 35 (not available in the UK or Australia but would cost around £ 25 and AU $ 45) , the Echo Connect is the echo device everyone always seems to forget – even Amazon leaves it at the top of every echo listing. Instead, it's a little black box that plugs into your existing home phone other Echo devices, including international calls and emergency 911 calls.
- – At $ 200 (not available in the UK or Australia but would cost around £ 150 and AU $ 265), the Echo Look houses a tiny Alexa speaker inside a smart camera that can snap pictures of your different outfits, then advise you on what to wear.
- – Currently available for $ 100 in the US, the Tap is a portable, battery-powered version of the Echo that lets you take with you around the house or even outside. While it's not currently available in the UK or Australia, its US price converts to £ 75 and AU $ 130.
Beyond those, you'll find Alexa inand – as well as a growing number of devices not made by Amazon. Alexa into their devices  Bottom line: Amazon does not care
What are the alternatives?
The close competitors would be($ 130 in the US, £ 130 in the UK and AU $ 200 in Australia). Powered by the voice-activated Google Assistant – it comes . Like Amazon, Google offers a smaller-sized version for $ 50 (£ 40 in the UK, AU $ 60 in Australia) called the . It also offers a king-sized version called the for $ 400 (£ 400 in the UK, AU $ 580 in Australia) that offers superior sound quality. Amazon does not do that.
Apple does, though. Its Siri-activatedwhich costs $ 350 (£ 320 in the UK, AU $ 500 in Australia), so offers better sound than any Echo device, but the features and integrations feel narrower and less developed than what you
The Cortana-powered Invoke smart speaker from Harman Kardon, and the abundance of third-party speakers that make use of Alexa or the Google Assistant to offer a fully developed voice interface. Most noteworthy among these: the $ 200(£ 200 in the UK, AU $ 300 in Australia), which offers excellent voice quality for your Alexa or Google Assistant for voice controls.  http://www.cnet.com/ "height =" 109 "width =" 194 “/>
Tricking voice recognition on Amazon Echo and Google …