PAT PILCHER is on close personal terms with Alexa. And his home is really smart, thanks to a range of Amazon Echo smart speakers. Here’s his setup. Modern life is amazing.
If like me, you grew up watching The Jetsons and wondered when we’d all get flying cars, robots and gadget-equipped homes, you’ve probably checked out the whole ‘smart home’ thing. The good news is that adding IQ to your home isn’t all that difficult to do.
When you first turn your living room lights on and off using nothing but your voice it feels like magic, and once you’ve got the bug, there’s no going back!
At the heart of many smart homes sits a raft of Amazon Echo smart speakers.
Powered by Amazon’s AI assistant, Alexa, the Echo is the gold standard when it comes to voice-driven smart homes.
There are good reasons for this – most smart home gear is Amazon Echo compatible.
Amazon sells a range of Echo units, each of which has its own pros and cons, and suitability for different parts of your home.
Meet The Echo Family
Echo Dot: This compact hockey puck-sized widget is the most affordable Amazon Echo smart speakers device and is a great way to dip your toes in the smart speaker waters. While the Dot has an integrated speaker, there’s also a line out option.
Echo Plus: This is Amazon’s smart speaker and it’s taller and more noticeable than the Dot, so it delivers better audio. It also has a Z-wave hub and digital thermometer built in. This means it can tell the room temperature and control Z-wave controlled smart home widgets. Two Echo Pluses can also be paired to deliver stereo sound for streaming music services such as Spotify.
Echo Sub: While the audio cranked out by both the Echo Dot and Echo Plus won’t loosen any ceiling plaster, an Echo Sub adds some much-needed lower midrange and bass to their output. Because the Sub is intended as a paired bass speaker, it won’t work with voice commands and has to be paired with other Echo speakers.
Echo Show: Where Alexa’s sassy replies are spoken with the Dot and Plus, the Show offers up a 10-inch touchscreen. This adds even more usefulness to the Show’s capabilities.
Echo Spot: Like the Echo Show, the Spot has a screen. Where the Show is tablet-like, the Spot resembles a small sphere with a small 2.5-inch touchscreen.
So, if that’s the Amazon Echo smart speakers bunch, which is best for what room? Here’s what I chose for my home:
Kitchen/Dining Room: Echo Show
The logical choice for most kitchen/dining rooms is the Echo Show. Its screen allows it to act as a hub for the entire household. Over breakfast, I can get weather forecasts, see appointments on my calendar and anyone can create shopping lists. Best of all, I can get my morning news fix by saying “Alexa, what’s my news”.
Because the kitchen/dining room is at the back of the house and tends to be where we hang out, the Show’s compatibility with the RING smart doorbell and Arlo cameras allows me to effortlessly keep tabs on the front of our house. By saying, “Alexa show me the front door ring,” we can see who is at the front door. Sonos compatibility means that by saying, “Alexa play [radio station name] on dining room,” also fires up the Sonos in my dining room for some tunage while we cook or eat.
Spare Bedroom: Twin Echo Plus/Echo Sub
In the spare bedroom, we have two paired Echo Pluses that are also linked to an Echo Sub. For music playback, including soothing ambient sounds, they’re hard to beat. Even handier still, Philips Hue compatibility means I can turn the lights on/off, and tweak the colour of the bedroom lights by saying, “Alexa, turn on downstairs bedroom lights,” or “Alexa, set bedroom lights to [colour/preset scene]”.
The Lounge: Echo Dot
In the lounge I use an Echo Dot. It’s small enough to sit close to the TV and not draw attention to itself and has a line out which I’ve connected to my home theatre amp. Like the spare Bedroom, it can control Philips Hue smart bulbs to dim the lounge lights for movie watching.
Crucially, compatibility with Logitech’s Harmony smart remote that lets me change the TV channel, adjust volume, turn the TV on/off and record, pause or play the Skybox by saying, “Alexa, turn on TV” or “Alexa, change channels to Discovery Turbo,” and so on. Alexa Routines also allow me to dim the lights when I turn on the TV.
Master Bedroom: Echo Spot
In the master bedroom, the Echo Spot’s small size and handy screen sees it located beside the bed where it acts as a very smart digital clock radio.
Not only can I control the lights, see who is at the door, set wake up alarms and play music on the bedrooms Sonos speaker, I can also fire up the Dyson Hot+Cool Pure fan to warm up the bedroom, or cool it down.
It also has a convenient night mode capability that sees its display dimming and allows for an uninterrupted night’s sleep.