New kids on the block
This week, Amazon unveiled two new products to go along with their line of Alexa products: the Amazon Echo Dot, and the Amazon Tap. Both devices are smart speakers, like their predecessor, the Amazon Echo. However, at different price points and with different features, they definitely are aimed at different markets. The original Echo took the world by storm when it released publicly a year ago, as a great Bluetooth speaker that featured Alexa, a speech recognition program that was highly lauded by critics.
With these new releases, consumers have a couple of new options when shopping for an Amazon smart speaker product. There are a lot of similarities and differences between these devices, and research can be a bit of a hassle. Lucky for you, I’ve taken the liberty of doing that research for you. In this article, I’m going to talk about both the Tap and the Echo Dot, and the similarities and differences between them. Let’s dive right in.
Amazon Echo Dot
- Weighing in at 250 grams, which is about half of a pound.
- Standing at 1.5″, which is about as tall as the width of the average male palm.
- 7 microphone array around the light ring, allowing 360 degrees of voice input.
- Dual-band, dual-antenna MIMO Wi-Fi connectivity. Compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n standards. The Echo Dot does not support ad-hoc or peer-to-peer connections.
- A2DP support for audio streaming from a mobile device to the Dot, or from Dot to a Bluetooth speaker. AVRCP support for voice control of mobile devices. (Mac OS X devices aren’t compatible with AVRCP.)
- Built-in speaker for voice feedback
Right off the bat, here’s a brief note. The Echo Dot isn’t technically a smart speaker, since it isn’t a speaker at all. The device’s native speaker is only intended for voice feedback from Alexa. This means that you can use it to hear Alexa talk about the weather, but you can’t use it to listen to Pandora. The Echo Dot is meant to be plugged into an external speaker, which can then be used to play music. It’s worth mentioning that this doesn’t mean that you can control the speaker as you can control the speaker of the original Echo. Your speaker will just be used to output sound, and that’s it.
The Dot is a device that has the same limitations as the Echo, and them some. Like the Echo, the Dot requires a constant power connection, meaning it can’t be taken on-the-go. This might be a deal-breaker if you’re someone who tends to take your Bluetooth speaker everywhere. With all of its shortcomings though, the Dot is still a cool device. It’s the most inexpensive smart speaker in its family, and it’s perfect for someone who interested in using an Alexa product without breaking the bank. The Echo Dot isn’t really a stand-alone piece of technology, but it would still be a great addition to your home. Just keep in mind that it will require a little more set-up than the rest of its family.
Pros: Cheap, small form factor, Alexa support
Cons: Requires external support, needs to be plugged in constantly
- Weighing in at 470 grams, which is a little less than a pound. (Nearly double the weight of the Echo Dot.)
- Standing at 6.2″, which is about as tall as the iPhone 6 Plus.
- Battery life of 9 hours, which varies depending on your usage.
- Dual Dolby 1.5″ drivers, with dual passive radiators for bass extension.
- Supports all public/private Wi-Fi networks that use 801.1b, 801.11g, or 802.11n standard. Also supports networks with WEP, WPA, and WPA2 security.
- A2DP support for audio streaming from your mobile device, with AVRCP for voice control of your mobile device. OS X devices aren’t compatible with the latter.
The Amazon Tap is similar to the original Echo, but it places more emphasis on being a portable, social experience. That’s right — the Tap doesn’t need to be constantly plugged in, so it can be taken on the go. Amazon is really pushing this aspect of the Tap, as well, even going so far as selling the Tap with multi-colored skins that make them not only easier to carry around, but also a fashion accessory. However, this portability comes at a slight cost.
To begin with, the always-on microphone has been nixed. Many people complained about the intrusiveness of this feature in the original Echo, but I think that with the Tap, they’ll realize what they’re missing. By having to “tap” a physical button to talk to Alexa, there isn’t much setting apart this product from any device with Siri or Cortana or some other voice recognition software. It’s nowhere near as convenient as the Echo or Dot, where simply speaking is enough. Some people may not mind this change, though. Also, since no one has actually gotten their hands on the Tap, it’s difficult to vouch for audio quality in comparison to the Echo. In general, the Tap is a much less passive device than the Echo products. It feels like less of a robot butler, and more like a regular smart device.
Pros: Portable, cheaper than the regular Echo, Alexa support
Cons: No always-on microphone, sound quality is still unknown
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Which is better?
It’s difficult to compare the Echo Dot and the Tap. While the Dot is a more watered-down, affordable iteration of the Tap, the Tap is very different. Dot is held down by the same limitations of the original Echo, and then some. The Tap faces its own set of problems, since it seems as if Amazon decided to sacrifice convenience for portability. (Which is a shame, since those two things often go hand-in-hand in the tech world.)
If you want a product that is most like the original Echo, I recommend the Echo Dot. However, keep in mind that you’re going to need more than what just comes in the box. The Tap is a more stand-alone device, whereas the Dot is more a supplemental device. If you want something that will work to its full capacity right out of the box, then the Tap is for you. If you’re more budget-minded, and you want something more like the Echo, then the Dot is more for you. However, you can’t really go wrong with either of these. If they live up to the quality of the original Echo, they’re bound to impress.