If there was a theme of CES 2017 it was Alexa-enabled smart tech. If Alexa hasn’t invaded your home yet, expect her to do so this year.
And we don’t just mean in an Amazon Echo speaker. Alexa isn’t bound by the walls of an Echo chamber; the Alexa Voice Service API means she’s able to turn up in practically any connected product with a microphone and a speaker.
We’re not talking about Alexa integrations here – i.e. smart tech that can be controlled using Alexa from another device, such as when you tell your Echo Dot to turn up the temperature of your smart thermostat or dim the brightness on your smart lightbulbs. We’re talking about baked-in Alexa – devices that have the digital assistant built into their very fabric.
There’s already a bunch of them available – here’s our pick of the best Alexa devices you can buy now (or pretty soon, at least)…
The Amazon range
These are the official, Amazon-branded devices where Alexa is on board…
The original, and some might say the best, way of getting Alexa into your life – the beauty of the Echo is that it’s a fairly decent speaker too. Alexa grabs its music from Prime, but it’ll also plug into services like Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn or read your audio books from Audible.
$179.99 | Amazon
Amazon Echo Dot
The Dot is a scaled-down, functionally similar, version of the Echo. The second iteration of the Dot, it’s slightly smaller and comes with a few other design changes peppered in. The more smart devices you have around the house, the more useful the Dot becomes. And the more Dots you have the more connected your home is.
$49.99 | Amazon
The Tap is a cordless speaker, so you can take it wherever you want. Anywhere you want to take a Bluetooth speaker that is. Tap gives you access to Alexa on the go, with a nine-hour battery life. However, you’ll need a Wi-Fi connection to tap (see what we did there?) into Alexa’s skills.
$129.99 | Amazon
You don’t need an Echo speaker though, there is an ever-growing army of third-party Alexa speakers…
Lenovo Smart Assistant
Lenovo’s Alexa-powered speaker, announced at CES 2017, comes in Harman Kardon and regular editions. It’s a tall, Echo shaped smart home device but comes with Google Home-like styling with orange, green and grey colour schemes, as well as that lower, Home-like price.
There are eight far-field microphones that will pick up voice commands from up to 5m away, one-upping Amazon’s own speaker. Inside there’s an Intel Atom processor and on the top of the device, the mic section is slightly raised for cooling.
$130 (on sale in May), shop.lenovo.com
Invoxia also used CES to take the the covers off of its next-gen smart kitchen speaker. Triby IO picks up from where the original Triby left off – VoIP calls, an E Ink display and stereo sound – but adds a new smart home management interface into the mix.
Triby IO takes smart home controls beyond just those of Alexa as well; using IFTTT you’ll be able to automate actions, so you won’t be relying on your smartphone or tablet to control your connected tech. Of course, all of the regular Alexa-based fun is on board too and the original – costing $159 – has all of the Amazon-powered features too.
From $159, invoxia.com | Amazon
Don’t expect to see Android Wear smartwatches rocking Alexa anytime soon (that’s Google Assistant’s gig) but there are a few wearable Alexa options out there…
Martian / Guess
Martian announced it was adding Alexa to its mVoice and Guess Connectwatches back in December.
The mVoice and Guess timepieces already allowed for vocal commands, but by bringing Amazon’s personal assistant onboard you’ll have access to thousands of Alexa’s Skills, and something more akin to a personal assistant, albeit with a somewhat clunky control method: you have to press a button on the side of the watch twice – once to kick things off and then again once she’s answered you.
It’s compatible with legacy Passport, Victory and G2G models, and all new mVoice devices.
From $79.99, martianwatches.com | Amazon
After being successfully funded on Indiegogo, Omate announced a limited edition Rise in August 2016, complete with Alexa. Since the Rise watch is 3G enabled, you don’t necessarily need to be hooked up to Wi-Fi or paired with your phone either to use the skills.
To kick start Alexa into gear you need to do a walkie-talkie style “press, hold, talk and release.”
The interesting thing about the CoWatch – apart from its Alexa skillset – is that it runs Cronologics OS, a fully fledged Android-based smartwatch operating system. And Google just acquired the company behind it.
CoWatch raised almost $300,000 back in June and boasts an impressive spec-sheet including a 400 x 400 AMOLED display with a pixel density of 286ppi.
From $279, imcotechnology.com | Amazon
Here are a few other devices with Alexa built in…
Ford’s big CES announcement was centred around Alexa. Amazon’s AI bot will be built into the Ford SYNC 3 AppLink meaning you can control your car from your house and your house from your car.
For example, you can get the ignition running in your car – and get the heating on – while you’re finishing your breakfast in the kitchen and, when driving home, tell Alexa to get the lights on and to get your robot vacuum cleaner up and running.
Obviously, in the car she can do all the regular digital assistant stuff too – like directions, news headlines and traffic warnings.
C by GE LED table lamp
This smart lamp from GE is certainly a looker but the most futuristic part is what you can’t see: Amazon Alexa.
It has an always-on microphone for voice commands to access the internet and control itself and other smart home gadgets. There’s a speaker so Alexa can respond though the early word is that you wouldn’t want to use it as, you know, an actual speaker for music. It can also be controlled via the GE Lighting app, as can the companion GE smart bulbs.
$TBC (on sale Q2 2016), cbyge.com
LG smart Instaview
LG has Alexa squatting inside its new connected fridges. It’s actually less bonkers than it sounds – not only does it mean a fridge that doubles up as an internet radio, it’s also a perfect place for Alexa to be when you need to tell her that you’ve run out of yoghurt. Or Pepsi. Or butter. Or other stuff you keep in the fridge that Amazon sells.
The fridge itself, apart from harnessing Alexa’s skills, is pretty tech-tastic with a 29-inch LCD touchscreen and a a 2.0 megapixel super-wide-lens camera that captures images of the interior. Exactly.
If you’ve already let Alexa into your life, then you’ll want to get her working to the best of her abilities. Don’t let her be lazy, she’s your digital slave so make sure you’re making the most of her skills…