November 24, 2020
The best Alexa devices to buy for 2020

The best Alexa devices to buy for 2020

Amazon’s Alexa is good for more than asking for music to play or for the current temperature outside. You can use this voice assistant in a range of ways with compatible Amazon Echo smart speakers and displays, from voice control of smart devices and two-way audio to flipping on the Philips Hue lights when you walk into a room or checking who’s at your door with Ring.

Amazon introduced its first Amazon Echo speaker in 2014. Ever since, voice commands have become an increasingly important part of how we interact with our smart home devices. Google Assistant and Siri have jumped on board with their own smart speakers and voice control, but the Alexa voice assistant was the first to champion voice integrations in the smart home.

Let’s take a look at the best Alexa-enabled smart home devices today.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Amazon added an LED clock to its third-gen smart speaker to create the Echo Dot with Clock, and it’s our favorite speaker for the price. Not only does this 2019 third-gen Dot boast impressive sound for its modest profile, but it also makes helpful information — such as the time, timers and the outdoor temperature — easily visible. 

While there are a lot of Alexa devices to choose from, the Echo Dot with Clock leads with its impressive performance, small footprint and sheer practicality. At just $60, this pint-sized smart speaker is an excellent entry point into the world of Amazon Alexa devices.

Read the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Although it has a $500 price tag, the two-pack Arlo Pro 3 is a great security camera featuring local storage and high-quality 2K streaming. Between its fast alerts and broad suite of features, such as a built-in siren, motion sensor, color night vision and 12x zoom, the Arlo Pro 3 is our favorite high-end smart cam.

You can also view your camera stream on Echo smart displays, although Arlo’s previous 7-day free event-based cloud storage option is no longer available, so you’ll need to sign up for its monthly plans (starting at $3 per month) to store footage on the cloud.

Read the Arlo Pro 3 review.

Lauren Routt/CNET

Ring’s $199 Peephole Cam is a unique product for the Amazon-owned company. Rather than mounting to a doorframe or somewhere else to the side of your door, the Peephole Cam replaces a traditional peephole.

That means this product is perfect for folks living in apartments who want a smart doorbell, but don’t want to deal with a hardwired device — or otherwise messing up a doorframe for the installation. None of Ring’s main competitors offer this sort of seamless solution for apartment-dwellers, making this doorbell particularly innovative alongside the other devices available today. 

Not only that, but the Peephole Cam has the easiest installation of any doorbell I’ve tested to date. It also has advanced Alexa integrations. Yes, you can pull up the live feed on an Amazon smart display, but you can also chat with whoever’s at your door via the built-in speaker on the smart display with the command, Alexa, answer the front door.

That two-way talk feature via an Alexa smart display is unique to Ring devices.

Other notable Ring doorbells: The battery-powered or hardwired $199 Ring Video Doorbell 2 and the hardwired $249 Ring Video Doorbell Pro

Read the Ring Peephole Cam review.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The Ecobee SmartThermostat is a $249 connected thermostat. This model replaces the Ecobee4 smart thermostat, but has a lot of the same great features.

Control your SmartThermostat via the Ecobee app and use Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri voice commands to adjust the temp of your smart thermostat. It’s Alexa’s voice control that really stand out here, though, since the thermostat itself has a built-in Alexa smart speaker.

That means you don’t need a separate Echo device — just connect your thermostat, enable the speaker and start asking Alexa questions.

Read the Ecobee SmartThermostat review.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The Amazon Echo Show 8 is Amazon’s latest smart display. For $130, you get an eight-inch screen with the best resolution of any Echo Show yet, a camera shutter and all the smarts of previous Amazon smart displays.

The Echo Show 8 has a built-in Alexa speaker. That means you can use this smart display to ask Alexa to do your bidding, whether that be asking it to play music, relay the weather or just tell you a joke. And, since it’s a smart display, it also offers advanced compatibility with Alexa-enabled security cameras.

Ask Alexa to “answer the front door” when someone rings your Ring Peephole Cam and you can see the live feed on your Show 8 — and actually talk to the person, straight from the smart display.

Read the Amazon Echo Show 8 review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

August’s Smart Lock Pro, bundled with the Connect Wi-Fi module, is a great smart lock. The Smart Lock Pro retrofits to most standard deadbolts, so you don’t have to deal with a complicated installation. The Connect module makes it possible to access and control your smart lock remotely via your Wi-Fi network, outside of Bluetooth range.

This product comes with an open/close sensor, too — called DoorSense — that attaches to the door where your Smart Lock Pro is installed. That way, the app can not only tell you whether the door is locked or unlocked, but also if the door is open or closed. 

The Smart Lock Pro works with Alexa, so you can lock and unlock your door from an Alexa-enabled smart speaker using your voice.

Read the August Smart Lock Pro review.

Chris Monroe/CNET

SimpliSafe is a solid DIY home security system with a ton of accessories, so you can scale the system up as needed. The starter kit costs $230 for the hub, keypad, keychain fob, one motion sensor and one door/window sensor. 

SimpliSafe also works with Alexa, so you can arm the system and check its status with simple voice commands.

SimpliSafe doesn’t require a contract, but monthly fees start at $15 to access the app and go up to $25 if you want professional monitoring. 

Read the SimpliSafe review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The latest version of the Philips Hue White LED works with ZigBee and Bluetooth. The addition of Bluetooth is significant for Philips Hue, because it means you don’t need a Philips hub to get these smart bulbs to work.

Instead, the smart bulbs connect directly to your phone — and they work with Alexa voice commands. Ask Alexa to turn on the living room lights, or dim the dining room lights to 70%. 

Philips Hue White LEDs cost just $15 each, meaning you don’t have to dish out a ton of cash for these straightforward Alexa-enabled bulbs. 

Read the Philips Hue White LED article.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini is a big name for a tiny smart plug that costs just $30. A smart plug like this one connects via your Wi-Fi connection directly to a wall outlet and convert your nonsmart lamps, fans and other gadgets into smart devices.

Use the TP-Link app to connect and control devices — or enlist Alexa and use your voice. Say, “Alexa, turn on the reading lamp” to get the Plug Mini smart plug to control the devices connected to it with ease.

Read the TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini review.

Read more: Best smart plugs for 2020

Chris Monroe/CNET

The Amazon Echo Flex is a tiny smart speaker that plugs directly into an outlet. For $25, it offers all the smarts of Alexa, plus a USB port for additional modules — like a motion detector and night light.

As the name suggests, the Flex can fit many functions, helping to strengthen your home security and widen Alexa’s range of hearing for when you need help in less central corners of your home.

The addition of a motion sensor also means Alexa can create automations based on your movement, switching on lights when you enter a room or delivering your morning news when you sit down for breakfast. 

Read CNET’s review of the Echo Flex.

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The Alexa landscape

Amazon’s voice assistant makes it easier to control the devices in your home, set timers and find out how long your commute to the office will take. But privacy has become an increasing concern as smart speakers and displays grow in popularity.

Reports that Amazon keeps transcripts of your voice conversations, even after you’ve deleted the Alexa audio recordings, led to concerns over user privacy. Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos seeking answers about Amazon’s Alexa user data and how it’s stored. Amazon has since introduced the “Alexa, delete everything I said today” feature. The tech giant says it’s also working on new ways for customers to delete their transcripts.

Amazon’s latest smart display, the Echo Show 8 comes with a built-in camera shutter, unlike earlier Echo Show devices.

Amazon isn’t alone. Facebook, Google and other major tech companies have faced their own privacy issues, prompting questions about data usage. 

Fortunately Amazon and others appear to be working to win back our trust. Have these privacy concerns kept you from buying a voice assistant (Alexa or otherwise)? Weigh in in the comments section below.

Still have questions? Read more about Alexa


Originally published in 2019 and updated periodically.

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