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HolidayBuyer's Guide

All about Alexa

Amazon Echo Dot

A smart speaker sans speaker

Smarten up your audio setup

Amazon Tap

Charging cradle

Battery life

Sound check

Cases

New thermostat controls

A busy month

Amazon had a slew of Alexa announcements to share this morning at the mega-retailer's UX Lab in San Francisco. That includes multiple brand-new devices and a host of important new product integrations.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

First up: the $90 Amazon Echo Dot. It's basically the top slice of the Amazon Echo smart speaker, where the far-field microphones are located. Like the Echo, the Echo Dot uses those microphones to listen for your commands.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

Unlike the Echo, the Echo Dot doesn't include a full-size speaker capable of filling a room with audio.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

Instead, you'll be able to hook it up to your own audio setup via the line-out jack or via Bluetooth, and in the process give your audio an Alexa-powered voice control upgrade.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

New gadget No. 2 is the Amazon Tap. It's a smaller, more portable version of the Amazon Echo. And at a price of $130, it's 50 bucks more affordable, too.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

The Amazon Tap is battery-powered. When it needs a recharge, just pop it into the included charging cradle.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

Amazon tells us that the Tap offers up to 9 hours of audio playback on a single charge, or a standby time of up to three weeks. The tradeoff is that it isn't always listening for your command, like the Echo. Instead, you'll need to press that microphone button in order to activate it.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

Amazon Devices Senior Vice President Dave Limp gave us a quick demo of the Tap's sound quality. To my ear, it sounded just as good as the Echo.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

Amazon will also be selling cases for the Tap, letting you add a touch of color to the device.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

Along with the new devices, Amazon announced a new set of developer tools for the makers of third-party thermostats. They'll help developers bring more connected thermostats under Alexa's control -- including the popular Nest Learning Thermostat.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Monroe/CNET

All of it -- the new devices, the Nest integration -- will be arriving in the Alexa ecosystem by the end of March.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
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