So you keep hearing about these cool toys and when you go to buy them there are a couple of different versions. So let's go over them
What is Alexa?
Alexa is a cloud based app that can be access via the Echo, Tap, and Dot. Alexa answers questions, reads audiobooks and the news, reports traffic and weather, gives info on local businesses, provides sports scores and schedules, and more. One of my favorite things is telling Alexa to put an item on my grocery (or to-do ) list.
Controls lights, switches, and thermostats with compatible WeMo, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, Nest, and ecobee smart home devices
Price: Typically $179
The Amazon Echo is a wireless speaker with great sound. The Amazon Echo fills the room with immersive, 360º omni-directional audio
It runs on electrical power (no battery). Comes in black or white.
It is 9.3″ x 3.3″
Pros: Superior sound and no worries of running out of battery life
Cons: Not portable. You kind of have to pick a room where you will be, or when you go to a new room you have to plug it. You can solve the portable option by purchasing a Remote so Alexa can always hear you, but the speaker would still be in another room.
Price: Typically $129
The Amazon Tap was the second version of the Echo was the Amazon Tap. The goal here was portability.
If you wanted to power of Alexa and the Power of Portability this seemed like a good choice. The difference is you have to tap it to “wake it up.” it wasn't listening like the Echo (as it “sleeps” to save the battery). If you are some place without wi-fi, the tap becomes a glorified blue-tooth speaker. Now you can always connect it to the internet with your phone.
Note: 2/2017 you can now via the Alexa app turn on the ability for the Tap to “listen” all the time (so you don't have to tap it anymore). So it's kind of a cheaper version of the Echo, but its rechargeable (where the echo runs on electricity).
Cons: You don't have the internet everywhere. Still over $100. Only one color (black)
Price: Typically $49
This little box has all the power of the Echo, it has a speaker (not as good as the echo, but not bad) and has the ability to connect via bluetooth, or plug it into another speaker (computer) with an auxiliary out jack.
The nice addition is the Dot can be plugged into an outlet or a USB port. With a price point of $50, now you can easily have an Echo in the living room, and an dot in the office and have them all connected in the cloud and syncing with your app.
The dot can do anything the Echo can do. In fact it can do one thing the Echo can't and that plugs into an external speaker.
Pros: Price, portable, ability to power via outlet or usb, external speaker jack.
Cons: Not battery powered (but there are accessories that allow you to make it battery powered).
If you have other speakers to plug into, or are not super worried about audio quality (and just want something to listen to) the (IMHO) winners is the Amazon Dot. At $50, it's a great price, and the ability to power it in multiple ways. If you need the fidelity, you can easily plug it into another speaker, or connect via Bluetooth.
If you don't have any other systems lying around, and plan on using the system from the same room, then the Amazon Echo is a great choice due to the 360º omni-directional audio