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Amazon is best known as the “everything store,” where you can order a pair of speakers, a home safe, and a hundred twist ties in just a few clicks. But the company has built up a stable of really great in-house hardware too. Amazon’s Kindle and Echo helped kickstart mainstream interest in e-readers and smart speakers, and the Fire Tablet remains the only non-iPad tablet I’d recommend.
But there are multiple Kindles, a handful of Fire Tablets, and more than a dozen Amazon Echo smart speakers, which can be confusing if you’re simply looking for a good way to surf the web, read a digital book, listen to an audio book, or make your place a little smarter. I’ve broken down the best Amazon devices below to help make it easy to get a quick answer. To be clear, there isn’t really a bad choice, but the models below stand out because of their features, performance, design, and execution.
1. Amazon Echo
If you’re interested in a smart-home hub that’s also a pretty good speaker, Amazon’s Echo (3rd Gen) is a really good choice. It has eight microphones instead of four, so it’ll be able to pick up your voice from further away, or isolate it in a louder room. It stands 5.8 inches wide and 3.9 inches across. Aesthetically, the Echo looks identical to the smaller Dot, and it has the same Alexa functionality, but Amazon used its extra height to build in a much better audio system.
The Echo has two drivers (the piece of a speaker that creates sound) inside: a 3-inch woofer that handles midrange and bass frequencies, and a .8 inch tweeter that handles treble frequencies. Amazon and Dolby worked together on the audio system inside the Echo, and by pointing the drivers downward it can achieve 360-degree sound, which means audio is evenly dispersed rather than coming from one direction. That means there’s no “sweet spot,” for listening to music on the Echo, and you don’t need to put it in one part of your room to appreciate listening to music.
If you want a more audiophile experience, you can step up to the Echo Studio, which has more drivers that are pointed in different directions to create “3D” sound, or connect this Echo to a larger stereo system. That won’t be necessary if you enjoy casually streaming music or podcasts as the Echo’s speaker system is more than equipped to handle that.
2. Echo Frames
The Echo Frames are Amazon’s latest Alexa-enabled gadget, and they let you take the company’s smart assistant with you wherever you go.
Speakers and microphones in the frames let you get answers to your questions, receive and respond to notifications, add reminders to your to-do list, stream music, and use third-party Alexa skills. The Echo Frames are a fully functional Amazon Echo with no cut features.
You can control Echo Frames by using buttons on the inside of its stems, or a touch pad on the outside of them. While this is a smart gadget first, you can have the glasses outfitted with prescription frames, and use them as your go-to eye ware.
Amazon says the Echo Frames get over two hours of talk time or four hours of nonstop music listening per charge. They can be recharged using an included cable that uses a proprietary connector. The Echo Frames must be paired with a smartphone (iOS or Android) to work.
If you’ve started relying heavily on Amazon’s Alexa to help manage your digital life, the Echo Frames offer you the opportunity to have a consistent experience inside and outside of your home.
3. Kindle Paperwhite
The improvements Amazon made to create the latest generation Kindle Paperwhite make it the best e-reader based on price and performance. It has a six-inch 300dpi (dots per inch) e-ink display with a resolution high enough that text looks incredibly crisp. The screen technology Amazon uses also significantly reduces glare, so it’s a lot easier to read in broad daylight. Amazon designed the Kindle Paperwhite with five backlights, which illuminate the screen so you can read at night without a bedside lamp.
You can get the latest generation Kindle Paperwhite in two storage sizes: 8gb (gigabytes) or 32gb. If you’re only interested in reading e-books, you’ll be fine with the smaller storage option, which can hold hundreds of titles. If you plan on syncing audiobooks from Audible to your Kindle and listening to them via Bluetooth headphones, you’ll want the larger storage option.
In terms of battery life, Amazon says the Kindle Paperwhite should last for “weeks” on a single charge if you read for a half hour a day at medium brightness without WiFi turned on. Tweaking those settings may improve or reduce your battery life, but you should expect to get roughly 16 hours of reading done before you have to plug it in.
Finally, the Kindle Paperwhite has earned an IP67 durability rating, which means it’s dust-proof and waterproof enough to survive being in up to 1m (3.3ft) of water for up to 30 minutes. If you frequently read in the bathtub, or by the pool, you’ll appreciate this feature. If you’re looking to transition from paper to digital books, and want the most efficient way to carry your library with you, the Kindle Paperwhite is your best bet.
4. Echo Buds
The earbuds don’t have active noise cancellation, but support noise reduction technology developed by Bose to block a lot of outside sounds. Amazon’s earbuds come with eartips in three sizes to ensure a proper fit. The Echo Buds work with Amazon’s Alexa right out of the box, but you can program them to work with the Google Assistant and Siri depending on the phone you use.
Amazon says the Echo Buds get about five hours of music playback per charge, and an additional 20 from their charging case. A 15 minute charge will get you about two hours of music playback. Although they aren’t totally waterproof, Amazon says the Echo Buds are sweat-resistant, so you can wear them while exercising. You can even download third-party Alexa skills that lead you through guided workouts.
If you want a pair of smart, totally wireless earbuds under $150, the Echo Buds deserve serious consideration.
5. Fire Tablet HD 8
Apple’s iPad dominates the tablet landscape, but the Fire Tablet HD 8 is an excellent alternative, especially if you’re used to using Amazon services.
True to its name, the HD 8 has an eight-inch 16:9 display with a resolution of 1280 x 800, which is a little better than 720P. Video, pictures, and text will look pretty crisp on the screen, but not quite as nice as they would on a 4K TV or most smartphone screens. I’ve used a Fire HD 8, though, and didn’t really notice a difference in many situations. It had 32gb (gigabytes) of storage, which can be expanded via a MicroSD card.
This tablet’s biggest strength is its integration with Amazon’s large catalogue of digital services. During the setup process you’ll be prompted to enter your Amazon credentials so it can sync any content associated with your account. Your Kindle books, Audible audio books, Prime Music library, and Prime Video library will be instantly available from the moment you first get access to your device.
You can also download apps like Spotify, Pandora, or Netflix to stream more content, but this is definitely an Amazon-first device. One notable app omission is YouTube, which is not available on the Fire HD 8 tablet because of a dispute between Amazon and Google.
As a media and information consumption device, the Fire HD 8 is a very good choice tablet. You can use it to surf the web and check in on social media, or use Amazon’s Alexa to answer questions, open apps, and control smart-home accessories. The Fire HD 8 also allows you to watch a live video feed from any Alexa-enabled smart security camera just by using your voice.
If you’re plugged into the Amazon world, or want a tablet for casual use, you should strongly consider the Fire HD 8 before considering any other options.
6. Amazon Halo
The key to the Halo is that it can give you extremely accurate, up-to-date information about your health. Snap a picture of yourself and it’ll create a full 3D model, analyzing your body fat percentage and weight. This model will change over time as you begin exercising more.
Amazon says the Halo uses the intensity and duration of your movement to determine the effectiveness of your exercise, and can track your sedentary time to monitor inactivity. The fitness band can analyze your sleep patterns to help you get to sleep more quickly, and wake up less frequently. Although it’s not totally waterproof, Amazon says the Halo is “swimproof” and water resistant up to 50 meters.
A built-in service called Labs can walk you through at-home workouts, guided meditations, or play sleep sounds, which can all impact your physical and mental health. The Amazon Halo requires a membership for most of its health features, but it comes bundled with a six-month trial, so you can test it out extensively. The membership costs $3.99 per month after that.
The Amazon Halo can last up to seven days on a single charge, and it can be fully recharged in 90 minutes. It comes in three sizes: Small, Medium, or Large, and three colors: black/onyx, winter/silver, and blueish/rose gold.
Accountability is an important part of creating a sustainable health routine, and the information Amazon’s Halo provides can help you tweak your habits to live a healthier life.
7. Fire TV Stick 4K
Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K takes a lot of cues from the company’s Echo Dot: It has a lot of features in a really small package. Most importantly, it has a maximum resolution of 4K, so movies and TV shows will look really sharp if you have the right TV. It also supports Dolby Vision HDR (High Dynamic Range), which makes colors and shadows look more accurate, and Dolby Atmos, an audio technology that offers a more immersive experience than surround sound.
Again, you’ll need the right equipment to see HDR video or hear Dolby Atmos audio, but it’s great to have a media streamer that supports them once you do.
As I mentioned earlier, the Fire TV Stick is very small. At 3.9 inches, it resembles an oversized flash drive with an HDMI jack on one end that gets plugged directly into your TV. Once it’s connected to your TV, power, and WiFi network, you’ll be able to stream videos and music from popular services like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and Prime Video. If you want to know which services we think are best, check out our guide.
The Fire TV Stick 4K’s final feature is its remote, which has a microphone built in, so you can access Amazon’s Alexa. You can use the mic to bring up certain shows and movies with your voice, control your smart-home accessories, or get answers to questions. If you’re looking for a 4K media streamer that can also function as a smart-home hub, the Fire TV Stick 4K is the top choice.
8. Echo Auto
The Echo Auto is a tech accessory that can make older cars a lot more smart. The device is basically a miniature Amazon Echo, which connects to your car’s audio system with a 3.5mm cable or Bluetooth. You then need to pair the device with your smartphone, which provides the Echo Auto with a stable internet connection.
Once it’s plugged in and synced, you can use Amazon’s Alexa to stream music, get directions (a map will show up on your phone when you use this feature), or control smart-home devices before you get home. The latter is especially important, since it allows you to turn on smart lights, or adjust your smart thermostat on your way home.
Amazon includes a vent mount with the Echo Auto, so it can position it in a central location in your car. This helps its microphones pick up your voice when you make Alexa requests.
Upgrading your car’s entertainment console can cost hundreds of dollars, and while the Echo Auto won’t give you every feature, it gets you pretty close, and only costs $50.