When Amazon officially released the Amazon Echo to the public in 2015, it took the smart home world by storm. Today, it’s still one of the biggest names in home automation technology, and Amazon has introduced an entire line of Echo products.
The great thing about the Echo line is the accessibility. Want smart technology at an affordable price? The Echo Dot is perfect. Want an all-out, fully loaded smart home? Stock up on multiple Echo devices, and they’ll all work together.
You’ve probably considered grabbing an Echo at some point or another. But which Echo device is right for you? How does Amazon’s Alexa assistant compare to other smart home software? We’ll look at all of this and more in this article.
There are several Echo products, but the Echo itself is what started it all.
This $179 device is the flagship Echo model, a tall black cylinder that doesn’t take up much space no matter where you put it. While it’s not as compact as the Google Home, it’s not bulky.
One of the big selling points of the Echo is its ability to stream music. It can connect to Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, and other services to play your favorite tunes.
The best part? You can do it all with just your voice.
That’s because the Echo operates using a virtual assistant called Alexa. Alexa is just like a real assistant, but virtual. You can say commands like “Alexa, what time is it?” You’ll get an answer immediately.
You can ask for the forecast, create timers, schedule appointments and events on your calendar, and much more. Alexa can do almost anything a real human assistant can do.
Alexa is a part of every Echo device, so you can use the same commands for every Echo product. This integration is ideal for smart homes because you won’t have to deal with several types of devices.
So what else can it do? Like any good smart home device, it can control multiple smart home accessories, including lights, fans, and locks. The Echo is arguably the biggest smart home product on the market right now, so it’s compatible with a wide range of products.
Since the Echo is a bestselling product created by a gigantic company, it’s one of the most flexible smart home devices out there.
Brands like Philips, TP-Link, Nest, and Schlage all have products that work with the Echo. You can get locks, lights, thermostats, and more that integrate with Echo products without skipping a beat.
Another thing to consider is the Echo’s full range of capabilities. It supports Spotify, Dish, Audible, Uber, and many other apps. If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for a smart home device, you owe it to yourself to take a close look at an Echo device.
There’s one other area you need to consider: the virtual assistant itself. How good is Alexa compared to other virtual assistants?
Well, its biggest rival is undoubtedly Google Assistant, the voice of the Home. A study by digital marketing agency 360i found that Google Assistant was six times as likely as Alexa to answer questions. Jay McGregor also found that Assistant beat Alexa by a wide margin.
Does that mean Alexa is an awful assistant? Not at all. Alexa has a long list of easy-to-remember commands, and overall it’s easy to tell Alexa what to do. In addition, many of the third-party integrations are unique to the Echo.
Like we did in our rundown of the Google Home, we’ll look at thermostats, smart lights, and miscellaneous devices that you can use with the Echo.
Our favorite smart thermostats, the Nest Learning Thermostat and the ecobee3, both work with the Echo. These are excellent thermostats for taking full control over your home’s temperature, and they both look great to boot.
There’s also a more affordable option in the Honeywell Lyric T5. At around $105, the Lyric is an appealing choice. While it doesn’t have as full of a feature set as the Nest or ecobee, it has all the basic functions of a smart thermostat.
Few smart lighting options are as affordable as Philips Hue starter kit, and it will work with any Echo device.
Retailing for $64.99, the Hue kit comes with two bulbs that connect to a bridge. You can then use an Echo device to control the lights using voice commands.
The Philips Hue kit can be expanded into an entire system to light your smart home. You can buy more smart bulbs, and a 3-pack is only $35.97.
There are other lighting systems out there, but the Hue is easily the best for the value.
Now let’s talk about a few miscellaneous accessories that every smart home needs.
The TP-Link Smart Plug is one of the best smart outlets on the market, and it will work seamlessly with all Echo products. A smart plug can take your smart home from 0 to 60, so don’t pass up getting one.
Echo devices can control just about anything you can think of, even an iRobot Roomba 690. Think about that: You can tell Alexa to vacuum your carpet, and the Roomba will do its thing.
You can build an entire smart home with the Echo, so take a look at all the products that work with it.
For anyone who’s into smart homes, the Echo is an obvious contender and could very well be the center of your smart home.
If you’re not sure if the Echo is for you, check out Google Home, a more affordable option from another tech giant. Is it better or worse than the Echo? Both have their pros and cons. Check out our overview of the Google Home speaker to decide for yourself which device comes out on top.