From Popular Mechanics
Amazon announced a batch of new products on Thursday, ranging from updated Echo devices to a peculiar new Ring security camera that flies around your home.
Amazon also announced some welcome changes to its Alexa voice assistant, and even a few new services.
We’ve rated every new product, based on whether or not we think you should buy them, taking into consideration price, previous models, and privacy.
On Thursday, Amazon debuted all of its newest devices, ranging from an updated line of Echo devices, to in-car security systems, to a drone-slash-security-camera that literally flies around your house to track wherever the activity is going down. That one is … complicated.
Amazon announced about 15 new products in total, plus a whole slew of services and some welcome updates to its Alexa voice assistant.
📲 You like badass gadgets. So do we. Let’s nerd out over them together.
There’s a lot to parse through here, so we’ll help you decide which new Amazon gadgets are worth bringing home.
What’s new? For the original Echo, Amazon has traded in the cylindrical tower look for a more spherical style, which lends to better sound quality. The new 3-inch woofer and Dolby processing will deliver “stereo sound with clear highs, dynamic-mids, and deep bass,” according to an Amazon press release.
There are a few new features that make the device seem worthwhile. For one thing, it can automatically adapt to your home’s specific acoustics (like Echo Studio). It also supports Amazon Sidewalk, which you can think of like a startup wizard for new devices that helps you get them online more quickly, while also extending the working range for other devices in your home.
How much does it cost? $99.
Buy or pass? Buy if you’re an audiophile, or if this is your first Echo device. After all, it’s the same price as the second and third generations.
Echo Dot/Echo Dot with Clock
What’s new? The Echo Dot and the Echo Dot with Clock feature the same fabric look as the prior generations, but have shifted shape from the flat circular design to a spherical model. Beyond that, the speaker is now 1/6 inches across the front, leading to better vocals and bass. With the clock version of Echo Dot, there’s a new tap-to-snooze feature that you can use just like a regular alarm clock.
How much does it cost? $39.99 for the Echo Dot; $49.99 for the Echo Dot with Clock.
Buy or pass? Buy it if this is your first Echo Dot, but don’t bother upgrading your current device if you already have one. It’s mostly the same thing, but with a higher price tag.
Echo Dot Kids Edition
What’s new? Again, this device features a spherical design, which makes the sound more powerful. Beyond that, the device comes in two new fun looks: Panda and Tiger prints. In the coming months, Amazon is introducing kid profiles that shift to your child’s settings when Alexa hears their voice. However, this will be available on all Echo devices.
How much does it cost? $59.99.
Buy or pass? Pass. It’s probably not worth upgrading your device if you already have an Echo Dot Kids Edition at home, even if this one is adorable. We’re also a little bit skeptical of giving a child a voice assistant, no matter how secure it is. Let them experiment with the Echo devices in your home, with supervision, since kids’ voice profiles are soon rolling out.
Echo Show 10
What’s new? The 10-inch HD display rotates to follow you around the room, so you can always see the person on the other end of your video call, or see relevant information on the screen. As it rotates, the brushless motor ensures virtual silence, and the front-facing tweeters and woofer create full sound that’s sent to your direction.
With Alexa Guard—Amazon’s safety feature that monitors for sounds like glass breaking, or carbon monoxide alarms—Echo Show 10 uses computer vision algorithms to pan the room to see if anyone is present. Amazon also announced an upgraded version of this service during the event called Guard Plus, which costs $4.99 per month or $49 per year.
How much does it cost? $249.99.
Buy or pass? Definitely buy. Living in the time of COVID-19 has showed us that we crave connection, and video calling is a huge component of that. But have you ever tried to cook or do household chores while talking to your mom? It’s annoying to lug your phone around everywhere you go, or try to stay in the frame on an Echo Show if you already have one. Echo Show 10 solves that problem.
Remember: Amazon does have a trade-in program for upgrades. If you have a first-generation Echo Show, for example, you can receive a $30 credit and a 25-percent-off coupon toward your next Echo device, if it’s in working condition with no cracks.
Eero 6/Eero Pro 6
What’s new? For fans of Amazon’s mesh WiFi system, the Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6 are upgraded versions of the technology that support the latest WiFi protocol. The Eero 6 is meant for homes with internet connections of up to 500 megabits per second. A single unit serves as a router with two Ethernet ports and a Zigbee smart home hub (which is helpful if you have a smart home setup, with smart light bulbs, coffee makers, robotic vacuums, etc.), and it covers up to 1,500 square feet.
The Eero Pro 6, by contrast, is for homes with faster, Gigabit internet connections. A single unit will cover 2,000 square feet. In both cases, as you add more units, you’ll get more coverage.
How much does it cost? The Eero Pro 6 costs $229 for a one-pack, $399 for a two-pack, and $599 for a three-pack. The Eero 6 costs $129 for a one-pack; $199 for a two-pack; and $279 for a three-pack.
Buy or pass? Pass. There’s nothing wrong with the Eero system, but there are cheaper mesh systems out there that will get the job done (check out our roundup here).
Ring Car Alarm
What’s new? The first of three new Ring offerings to protect your car, the Ring Car Alarm is the cheapest option and does exactly what the name suggests: monitors your vehicle for suspicious activity, setting off a loud siren when shady characters are lurking around.
In most cars, this device will plug right into your car’s pre-existing onboard diagnostics system. It will alert you to bumps, break-ins, tows, and then some. Each time an event is registered, the Ring Car Alarm will send you an alert through the app. If it looks suspicious to you, you can select the option to trigger the alarm.
How much does it cost? $59.99, available in 2021.
Buy or pass? Buy. This is a relatively cheap option that should give you some peace of mind, and there really couldn’t have been a better time for Ring to roll out this kind of in-car security system. Considering many people aren’t using their cars as often as they used to, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been an uptick in auto theft.
Ring Car Cam
What’s new? This security camera uses “intelligent sensors” to monitor for bumps and break-in attempts, much like Ring Car Alarm. Of course, the difference is there’s a camera. Plus, Ring Car Cam includes Emergency Crash Assist, which calls first responders to the scene, even if you can’t reach your phone, and Traffic Stop, which automatically records your interaction with the police if you say “Alexa, I’m being pulled over.”
How much does it cost? $199.99, available in 2021.
Buy or pass? Pass. This doesn’t have the price advantage of the cheaper Ring Car Alarm, and you can find another dash cam option for half the price—maybe without all the bells and whistles, but nonetheless suitable.
Ring Car Connect
What’s new? This system is actually an API for car manufacturers. With it, you can get mobile alerts when the car is locked or unlocked, if someone tries to break in, and so on. You can watch the security footage, too. It’s going to first be available for Tesla models 3, X, S, and Y.
How much does it cost? $199.99, available in 2021.
Buy or pass? If you have a Tesla, buy. Money probably isn’t much of an issue, and this is the most integrated option.
Ring Always Home Cam
What’s new? Let’s not split hairs: This is a security drone. For your house. Like, inside your house. Ring bills it as “one camera, for every viewpoint,” and in practice, that involves the camera autonomously flying around your house when it detects action. The point is to avoid purchasing multiple, static cameras and rather invest in one dynamic surveillance camera to get views of your entire home.
It only records while in flight, Ring says, and when it’s not in use, it will dock itself in such a manner that it’s physically blocked from recording, which is a welcome feature. This thing is also audible while in flight, for what Ring calls “privacy you can hear.”
How much does it cost? $249.99, available in 2021.
Buy or pass? Pass. Major pass. We’d consider this bleeding edge technology, and you might not want to be the guinea pig. Imagine if this thing flew into your bathroom while you were showering. While we’re a little creeped out at the moment, that could change over time.
Ring Mailbox Sensor
What’s new? This one is as straightforward as it gets. When your mail arrives or your mail carrier opens your mailbox, you’ll receive an alert through your Alexa device or Ring app.
How much does it cost? $29.99, available for pre-order beginning October 8.
Buy or pass? Pass. You already get enough email notifications. Plus, this feeds into a whole lot of mail paranoia that’s been bubbling during election season. Stealing mail is a federal crime, and we sincerely hope that’s deterrent enough. Skip this and get a Ring Video Doorbell system if you’re concerned about your mail and packages.
Fire TV Stick
What’s new? With a new 1.7 GHz quad-core processor, this upgraded Fire TV Stick is 50 percent more powerful than its predecessors. It also supports Dolby Atmos to give you an immersive sound experience (if you have compatible speakers). The remote is also nice, because it features a power button, volume, and mute controls so you only need one piece of equipment to control your TV, Fire TV Stick, soundbar, and then some.
How much does it cost? $39.99.
Buy or pass? Buy if you don’t have a streaming stick yet, but skip if you already have one. At the end of the day, it has one primary job: to show you the content that you’d like to watch. The earlier iterations do this just fine.
Fire TV Stick Lite
What’s new? Just like the Fire TV Stick, the Lite version is 50 percent more powerful than the previous generation. Amazon claims in a press release that the Fire TV Stick Lite “includes the most processing power of any streaming media player under $30.” It also comes with an Alexa-enabled remote that allows you to find content, ask questions, and launch apps.
How much does it cost? $29.99.
Buy or pass? Same deal. Buy if you’re new to the streaming game, especially if you want a good deal, but pass if you already have a Fire TV Stick, Roku, or Apple TV.
What’s new? Luna is Amazon’s forthcoming mobile gaming platform, and a direct answer to Google Stadia. One of the coolest features? You can supposedly start playing games on one device of your choosing, and seamlessly pick up where you left off on another. At launch, the software will be available for Fire TV, PC, and Mac as well as on web apps for iPhone and iPad. Android support will come later, per a press release.
Luna+, the accompanying library of games, will include titles like Resident Evil 7, A Plague Tale: Innocence, The Surge 2, The Impossible Lair, and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Luna+ is a paid service and will allow user to get 4K resolution for certain games, plus the ability to play on two devices at once.
One of the best selling points Amazon has going for Luna is that it directly connects players to Twitch streams, allowing you to start or watch a stream within Luna, or to launch a game from within the Twitch app.
Of course, Amazon had to introduce a new controller along with the debut of its gaming service. A keyboard and mouse or a third-party gaming controller are perfectly suitable, but if you’d like to test out the Luna Controller, you’ll benefit from features like Alexa compatibility, low-latency gaming, and the ability to switch connectivity between devices, thanks to its connection to AWS cloud servers.
How much does it cost? Luna+ will be $5.99 per month during the early access period, but it sounds like Amazon is hinting that it could cost more as more titles are added. The Luna Controller will be $49.99. You can request early access to both right now.
Buy or pass? Buy. Why not try it out? Stadia certainly isn’t perfect, and Amazon’s concept is pretty fascinating.
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