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Product Review and Buyer’s Guide: Amazon Tap

Alexa, Amazon’s voice-controlled assistant, is getting a big push from the online retailer. After first debuting with the Amazon Echo, Alexa is ready to be taken on the go with the brand new Amazon Tap.

Smaller, lighter and portable are the first three words that come to mind when describing the Amazon Tap. Standing just over six inches and weighing in at one pound, the cylindrical Tap isn’t quite pocket size, but it’s easy to carry in a bag or backpack. The speaker delivers crisp sound in all directions with a little more bass for your music.

There are two major drawbacks with this gadget: it’s not hands-free and it requires a constant Internet connection.

The Echo is always on, meaning you just need to say “Alexa” to get it to activate. The Tap has a physical button on the front that you need to, well tap, in order for it to hear your commands. The Tap doesn’t come with a remote control either. Controlling volume and skipping songs is done with buttons on the top of the device. The Tap also needs to be connected to the Internet 24/7. That means when you’re not on Wi-Fi, you’re squeezing battery life from your phone to keep it online. Alexa doesn’t even activate without Wi-Fi.

Now let’s take a minute and get to know Alexa a little better. Amazon is taking a different approach to improving their voice-controlled assistant and opened Alexa to developers for better functionality. This resulted in skills like voice access to texting and ordering an Lyft. As Alexa’s skill-set continues to expand, the value of the Tap is only going to increase.

The Tap isn’t perfect, but for $129, you’re getting a solid voice-assisted device. Portability gives it a huge advantage over the Echo, which is tethered to an outlet. Of course, the Echo is hands-free, and if that is a must-have feature, the Tap will be a big disappointment to you. If you plan on using the Tap around the home, connectivity shouldn’t be an issue; however, taking it on the go will leave you with a mid-level Bluetooth speaker. The 360-degree sound that comes out of the Tap is good, but there are better Bluetooth speakers out there in this price range. Having Alexa on the Tap is what sets this gadget apart from those speakers.

Taking the Tap with you around the home or the office might become second nature, as long as Amazon continues to devote resources to Alexa’s improvement.

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