Amazon Dash Wand review: Let Alexa get the groceries with this dirt-cheap scanner

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The Good The Dash Wand is easy to set up and easy to use, and Alexa makes it extra convenient. Access to Alexa's third-party skills and smart home controls are both especially nice touches.

The Bad With the Dash Wand, Alexa can't stream music, schedule reminders or set kitchen timers. She also wasn't able to add more than one item to our shopping cart at a time.

The Bottom Line The Dash Wand is a dirt-cheap Alexa device that pays for itself if you already shop on Amazon.

8.0 Overall
  • Features 7.5
  • Usability 8
  • Design 9
  • Performance 7.5
Alexa does more than just set timers. Control your home temperature, lights and even your garage door. See all the products that work with Amazon Alexa.

Amazon's newest gadget is a battery-powered, voice-enabled grocery scanner called the Dash Wand. Point it at a barcode and press the button to add that item to your Amazon shopping cart when you're running low, or press and hold to ask Alexa to add it. She'll even talk back to you through the scanner's tiny speaker.

The Amazon Dash Wand arrives just as the megaretailer is completing its $13.7 billion-dollar acquisition of Whole Foods, so it's clear that Amazon sees huge potential in disrupting people's grocery habits and making it as easy as possible to buy everything online. 

To that end, the Dash Wand is a success -- it's easy to use, it works reliably, and it only costs $20. Add in the fact that Amazon throws in a $20 shopping credit and three months of free AmazonFresh Pickup (normally $15 per month), and the Dash Wand can pay for itself and then some. Seems fair for a gadget that's designed to get you to buy things.

And I mentioned, Alexa, right? The Dash Wand can't do everything -- no music, no reminders and, perhaps most disappointing, no kitchen timers -- but it still packs an awful lot of Alexa convenience into a device that ostensibly costs nothing. You can ask for weather forecasts and corny jokes, you can ask how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon, and you can even control your smart home gadgets or try out any of the thousands of third-party Alexa skills. That alone might be enough to get a lot of people to try this thing out.

Getting started with the Dash Wand was pretty simple -- just insert the two included AAA batteries and hold the button down until it enters pairing mode. From there, you'll go to a link on your mobile device that'll sync the Dash Wand up with your Amazon account and your home's Wi-Fi network.

Alexa couldn't handle multiple items at once.

Chris Monroe/CNET

As for storage, you can hang the Dash Wand from an included stick-up hook, or just stick it to the fridge thanks to a built-in magnet.

We spent a couple of days playing with the Dash Wand at the CNET Smart Home, and it performed pretty well. The scanner never failed to read a barcode, and if I'd ever scan something a couple of times in quick succession (say, if I wasn't certain it had worked), it'd still only add one unit to my cart. Alexa voice ordering worked well too, though you'll need to specify what brand you want in the Amazon app if you ask for something generic, like "toilet paper."

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