Amazon Echo Dot and Tap: Cheaper Alternatives to Echo

Credit: Tyler Pina / The Verge

Plenty of people have fallen in love with the Amazon Echo. The smart home/speaker device can be a little hard to describe to the uninitiated, but for those who have experienced it, the technology is hard to live without.
NOTE: Click here for Amazon’s own guides to using Echo Tap and Dot.

Now Amazon is splitting Echo into two new, less expensive devices called the Echo Dot and Tap. They retail for $89 and $129 respectively, while providing part of what’s made the original device such a big hit.

Both the Dot and Tap have a battery that recharges whenever the device is placed on the dock. Alternatively, you can charge them though the Micro USB dock. They’re also Bluetooth enabled, allowing users to connect them to compatible devices. Since the tech was just revealed, everyone’s still feeling out everything that the two can do. No doubt more revelations are coming in the near future, but this is what we know so far.

Dot

When you look at the Echo Dot, it looks like a baby version of the Amazon Echo. You can pick it up and move it around the house, placing it in whatever room you wish with ease. The device responds to voice commands in that area, so you can ask about sports scores, movie show times, traffic and pretty much anything else Echo can supply.

There is one big difference between the Echo and Dot: speakers. The former has great sound quality, and it seems to cut down on the size of the device, the Dot’s speakers aren’t quite as good. If this is a deal-breaker for you, know that it’s possible to hook the device up to external speakers.

The big thrust or area of focus for the Dot is voice commands, making it easy to have Alexa come with you to any part of the house.

Tap

For those who just can’t sacrifice good sound quality, the Amazon Tap might be more ideal. It’s not as compact and has wonderful speakers, so you can enjoy crisp musical notes as you go about the house. Dolby sound is projected through the 1.5-inch drivers, making it a great device for music lovers on the go.

There’s a price to be paid for such an inexpensive device with high-quality speakers. Instead of being able to just talk and issue voice commands to Alex, you have to press a button first. In other words, you need to be within arm’s reach of the device, which takes away the convenience of the Echo.

When you think about it, this limitation is all about battery power. If Alexa were always on, the device’s battery would be depleted much faster. That would ruin the portability of the device, and you’d pretty much just have an Echo at that point.

Some people might actually prefer not having the always-on microphone from the Echo. After all, some users say they’ve run into problems where the device thought it was being told to do something, when in fact it picked up part of a conversation, the television (like an Echo commercial) or other audio. Having to push a button before issuing any commands protects against these sorts of mishaps.

Amazon Tap should be a great device for entertaining. You’ll be able to take it into the backyard for a barbecue, pulling up whatever kind of music suits your mood. It’s small enough at 2.6 inches wide and 6.5 inches tall to fit in a purse or bag, and it weighs a mere pound. That means you can easily take it along to the park for a picnic, or use it to play an inspiring song before your kid’s soccer game.

According to Amazon, the battery should last about nine hours for playback, or for about three weeks in standby. The company is selling rubberized protective cases for $19.99, which make it easy to connect the Tap to a bag.

Ordering

At the moment, Amazon is keeping the Dot in a restricted distribution channel. You have to order it with the help of Alexa, instead of just hopping on Amazon.com and adding it to your cart. In other words, you need to already own the Echo or Fire TV to get Echo Dot. Ordering the device requires you to simply say, “Alexa, order an Echo Dot” and that’s it.

Ordering the Tap is another story. You can actually get on Amazon.com right now and preorder the device, which launches on March 31.

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