Amazon launched the Echo (with the voice assistant Alexa) in late 2014. At that point, smart devices and home automation were fairly niche. When I snagged the first generation Echo, my wife thought it was just another geeky product. She soon found the convenience extremely helpful and over the past several years we’ve added more and more Echo’s to our home. Since that first Echo, Amazon has continued to innovate the design and functionality of their smart assistant hardware. I wanted to take some time to shed light on these new innovations in the Amazon Echo product line in this 2020 Holiday Gift Guide. I hope you find it helpful!
Amazon Echo Products – A Gift Guide
2020 Echo Dot
While the first Echo was a tall tower that stuck out like a sore thumb on any table, in recent years Amazon found new ways to pack technology into better form factors. The Echo Dot is a stylish and small device that we like to use all over our house. Each morning you’ll hear music playing from a Dot located near our bathroom sink. Each guest room has one that allows our friends and family to control lights, check the weather, or enjoy soothing sounds for a good night’s sleep.
The hockey puck design of the Dots has made them extremely convenient. In 2020 though, there’s a brand new design that I like to think of as a snowball. Although a bit larger than the previous puck, the new speakers make a major difference. In fact, all of the products I’ll talk about here have phenomenal audio quality compared to their predecessors in the Echo family.
The Dot is perfect for two situations. Due to their inexpensive price point, they are a great product for someone looking to try out a smart home assistant without a lot of financial commitment. The other situation is as an add-on product. Once you get used to having an Echo in a key room of your home, you’ll definitely want to keep putting them in other locations. The Dot is great for placing in your guest rooms, bedroom, dining room, or any place you want to get quick access to info or enjoy some music. For Black Friday/Cyber Monday they are $28.99, making them a great price point and smart home gift idea.
Echo Show (2nd Gen)
I love the convenience of the Amazon Echo’s around my home and think they just keep getting better and better. The video version, called the Echo Show, have been around for a couple of years now and I never thought having a video screen would be much of an improvement. After all, Alexa talks to you, there’s nothing really to look at. This year during Amazon Prime Day though, I decided to give the new Echo Show (2nd Gen) a try and it’s been a true game changer. In fact, I think it’s my favorite Amazon Echo product to date.
The first reason this is such a surprisingly great product is that the audio is absolutely fantastic. I was not expecting a product that is focused on video to have amazing speakers, but it does. While cooking dinner on any given night, the room is filled with a rockin’ audio experience. For that alone I would probably recommend this product.
The second reason this is a great product is that the video component is much more useful than I anticipated. There are a lot of videos and recipes that you can access via Alexa which is something I didn’t expect. One of the first things you should try is, “Alexa, show me a recipe for ______” and see what happens. You can watch recipes being prepared or even simply read the recipe text right on the screen as you cook. It’s an experience that any person who enjoys cooking will really enjoy.
Any modern kitchen would see an improvement from adding a Show. I’m not sure they would be as useful in other parts of the home, but let me know if you where you end up finding them helpful.
If you have any video smart home devices such a Wyze camera or a Ring Doorbell, you can view them right from the Show. Just say, “Alexa, show me the front door camera” and it will load right up and show you who is there. That’s a pretty cool feature that can help you take your smart home setup to the next level.
The first thing you should know is that this is a serious speaker. I expected this product to be somewhere between the size of a Dot and an older Echo. No, this device is about the size of a basketball. But boy does it pack some serious audio into its form factor. Using new waveform technology, the Studio pumps 3D audio to fill any room. In fact, it constantly adapts to the room it is in to provide the best audio experience possible.
Whether you’re an audiophile or just someone who enjoys a great audio experience, you’ll enjoy this product. There’s a 3D music playlist from Amazon that you can play to showcase the quality sound the Studio produces but you’ll also notice an improvement on pretty much any streaming service you use.
I also used the Optical input on the back to connect my television. This wasn’t the greatest experience. One reason for that is that I missed the subwoofer that my current television setup has. You don’t get a ton of bass from the Studio though they do make an add-on Subwoofer. Another reason that I was disappointed is that the Studio lack a physical (or digital) input selector. So while watching a movie, if something triggered Alexa, it would cut out and not go back to the Optical line-in. Seems like a giant oversight for an otherwise incredible product.
I absolutely do not think you can go wrong grabbing any one of these products for a friend or family member this holiday season. If you’re looking to get an Echo for someone interested in trying out the smart home concept, the Dot is definitely the way to go. If you know someone who just loves music, snag them a Studio.
If you want a really impressive experience, I would recommend the Show as my favorite product in this lineup. The audio is almost as good as the Studio while providing a really neat visual interactivity. If I could think of a really good place to have one of these other than my kitchen, I’d be grabbing another one this year. I might just have to get one and then find a place to put it.