We'll be damned. True to the rumors, Amazon really did come out guns blazing in Seattle for its Alexa event, launching more than a dozen new products in its quest for home - nay, world - domination.
There were new Echos. An updated Echo Show. Alexa for the car. A smart plug. And yes, dear reader, a microwave.
But it wasnât all hardware. Amazon has added a range of brand new Amazon Alexa features with proactive routines, home security features, multi-step routines and more.
In sum, it's a lot, so weâre going to walk through all the new devices in this quick guide to the main announcements.
Letâs start with the update to Amazonâs Echo Plus. For 2018 the smart home hub is getting Dolby speakers, a temperature sensor (useful for triggering thermostats etc), security sensors and a nice new fabric cover. Itâs still a Zigbee hub, allowing you to connect it directly to compatible devices without a bridge. There are also offline voice controls, ie you you still control your smart home devices when the Wi-Fi goes kaput.
Feature check:Temperature sensor, Zigbee control, Alexa Guard (Listens out for alarms, broken glass etc), Alexa Hunches (Will suggest smart home commands).
Gone is the biblical, boxy design of the first Echo Show, now replaced with something thatâll look much better on your kitchen counter. The 2018 model doesnât just look better, it now works as a Zigbee hub like the Echo Plus. Thereâs also Dolby stereo sound, Skype for video calls, support for live TV through Prime Video and the ability to play back TV recordings when paired with the new Fire TV Cast.
Hands on: Echo Show 2018 review
Feature check: 10-inch HD display, Dolby stereo sound, Zigbee control, Silk browser, (YouTube!), Skype for video calls, Live TV with Prime Video, Works with Fire TV Cast.
The much-loved Echo Dot is getting its first major update since it was first released in 2016, and the best news is that it looks much better. A fabric makeover hides away the ugly plastic of the original, while new drivers make the sound 70% louder. That hopefully means it wonât suffer from the same tinny sound as the original when pushing up the volume. Looks a bit like a Google Home too. Not a bad thing.
Hands on: Echo Dot 2018 review
Feature check: Stereo when you pair two together, 70% louder, New fabric design.
Oh yes, they went there. The Alexa Smart Plug is exactly what youâre thinking. Well, most likely: it doesnât have Alexa built into the smart plug itself, but - like the Alexa Microwave - the plug can be remotely controlled by Amazonâs assistant. Essentially, it turns any âdumbâ device smart; Alexa can turn your coffee maker on, but it can also include it in a routine.
Feature check: Alexa control, Frustration Free Setup (Amazonâs new quick-setup system).
Amazon is bolstering the sound of its Echo speakers with the new Echo Sub, which will pair with an Echo or Echo Plus to deliver 100W of bass through a six-inch woofer. It should nicely round out the sound when playing music through those Echo speakers, while pairing with two will create a 2.1 configuration.
Feature check: 100W bass through six-inch woofer; pair with two Echo speakers for 2.1 stereo system.
Amazon's answer to the Chromecast Audio is this little puck that can turn existing speakers smart. Just connect it via Bluetooth or 3.5mm audio cable and make Alexa the controller. This is the first Echo that isn't a speaker itself, but the diddy, 12.5mm-tall does have four microphones for taking commands. It also means you can add the connected speaker to a multi-room setup.
Feature check: Four-mic array, 3.5mm audio connection, Bluetooth.
Meet your new passenger: Alexa. While we've already seen Alexa arrive built into some cars, the Echo Auto turns your dumb car into a smart one. Just plug the little rectangle into your car through the auxiliary jack or using Bluetooth and it will take your smartphone's data to communicate with Alexa's neural network. It also needs to be powered using your car's 12V outlet or the USB, mind.
The Auto is available by invitation only, but you'll get it for half price if you make the cut.
Feature check: 8 mics, music and podcast streaming, location-based routines, includes dash mount.
Ring Stick Up Cam (2018)
Amazon's given the Ring Stick Up Cam an update with 1080p video - a bump up on the 720p of the previous model - and a new cylindrical design. There are two models here: a wired one and a battery-powered one, but both can be used indoor and out.
Feature check: 1080p HD video, 115-degree horizontal FoV, 65-degree vertical FoV, motion detection, night vision, live streaming to app.
Fire Cast TV Recast
The Fire TV Recast is Amazon's answer to the DVR, which sucks TV through your antenna and beams it to Fire TV devices, including, yes, the Echo Show. While it supports PlayStation Vue streaming, this is otherwise strictly an over-the-air box that can both record shows or fire them straight at another device. You'll really want a Fire TV device to get the most out of it, but note that you can't actually run Fire TV from this thing alone.
Feature check: Watch and record TV, storage for 75 hours of HD content, record up to 2 shows at one time, connects to Alexa device for voice control.
Echo Wall Clock
One of the more popular uses for Alexa is setting timers, and the Echo Wall Clock gives you a way to now visualize those times using a ring of LED lights around the face. Start a timer and the lights will show you how long you have left. You can even have two timers going around the clock at once. Just note that, again, Alexa isn't built in here, so you'll need to connect it to an existing Alexa device via Bluetooth.
And finally, it's the one you've been waiting for: the Alexa microwave. Well, sort of. Once again Alexa isn't actually... baked in. Instead you can hook an Alexa device up via Bluetooth and ask it to, well, cook food. But this is about much more than a microwave: this is Amazon showing how it can work with partners to make any appliance home smart. This is just the start.