Which Amazon Alexa?


Which Amazon Alexa? a reader asks…

I’m a little confused about which Alexa device to get for my mom. She’s in an assisted-living facility and I’d like to get her one that works in her small, 1-bedroom apartment, so she can ask for the time, get the news and other stuff. Can you give me the low-down on the major differences between each of them?

The most-common Amazon devices that have Alexa embedded are the Echo, the Dot, the Show, the Tap, the Look, the FireTV/FireStick and the various Fire tablets. Here’s a quick rundown of each one’s major strengths and use cases:

Echo: This is the full-featured original device with some great speakers. It’s great for playing music and other audio because of the bigger speakers. It’s between the size of a quart and half-gallon juice container.


Dot: This is the short version of the Echo that has much smaller speakers. It’s best for home automation control and basic audio communication. Not so good for music or large spaces because of the small speakers. It’s a bit larger than a hockey puck.


Show: A new entrant in the line-up, the Show is a touch-screen Alexa that can do video-calls as well as display lots of information on its 7″ display. It can show Amazon video, Youtube and more. It has both a screen and a camera, so if you wanted to check out what’s going on in your Mom’s apartment you could ‘drop in’ and look (so don’t put it in the bedroom!).

Tap: This is the battery-powered, portable version of Alexa. Smaller than the Echo but larger than the Dot, it is good for using outside or other places where there isn’t a handy electrical outlet. Gets about 9-hours of play time on a charge and is rechargeable.

Look: Primarily for online clothes shoppers, this device has a camera to take pictures of you and an app (for the smartphone so you can see yourself modeling various clothes sold by Amazon.

FireTV/Firestick: This is for cable TV cord-cutters, and can replace your cable box, providing access to Amazon Video, Youtube and more. Requires a TV set to display the video, and uses the included remote control to invoke and use Alexa.

Fire tablets: Amazon has several types of tablet in its line-up, these are all something like an iPad. Good for watching video, reading books, surfing the web, and email.

More devices are released fairly often, especially now that Amazon is letting 3rd party developers bake Alexa into their devices. I think your Mom will be served best with either the Echo, Dot or Show, depending on her needs. The Echo has the best sound, so good for listening to music. The Dot may be good enough for her small apartment if she’s not that into music. You could even get the Dot for her bedroom and the Echo for the main living room of the apartment – even with the great microphones, the devices can’t always hear you. If you want to be able to see her and talk to her, get the Show for each of you. If you leave a comment with more detail about the ‘other stuff’ you want her to be able to do, I can give you a more specific recommendation. Also, let me know if she uses a computer or tablet or other electronic device.

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