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Best Alexa device 2021: Kit out your home office

If there's something we can automate, if there's some form of laziness we can encourage, we're here for you. And by "we're here" we really mean "Alexa is there."

Well, in case that level of effort involved in flipping a switch or touching a button is too much for you, we've put together a list of essential Alexa gear for your home office. OK, OK. Perhaps "essential" is a bit much when it really means not having to move your fingers two inches. But, you know, cavemen turned on their own light bulbs. We just command Alexa to do it.

Rather than running down all the Amazon Alexa devices (although I include a few), and the traditional smart bulbs and smart plugs, I set out to find Alexa-compatible gear that might be a bit unexpected, possibly even delightful, and most definitely a bit ridiculous and unnecessary.

Let's dig in.

Really bright Alexa-controlled torchiere lamps

Here comes the sun

torchiere.jpg
Adecorty

Key features

  • Torchier-style lamp
  • Angles to adjust light bounce
  • Multi-color Alexa control

Pros

  • Nice, bright light
  • Good color
  • Also allows manual control

Cons

  • Only 2.4Ghz
  • Kind of annoying to set up
  • Can't replace bulb if fails

Our living room has been sporting the brightest Hue bulbs we could find, which were great for mood, but terrible if we wanted to read or do any work. My wife and I needed more light, and we reached the point where we actually considered putting a bunch of Hue bulbs together in a cluster.

Then I found these lamps. They're great. They only work at 2.4Ghz, which necessitated some fiddling with my router, but that's often the case with lighting. We compared the light level from these to our Hues, and a Hue bulb at 100% matched once of these lights at 20%. We bought four.

DEWENWILS WiFi Smart Floor Lamp

Bring the bling

bling.jpg
DEWENWILS

Key features

  • Alexa control
  • Lots of colors

Pros

  • Lots of bling
  • Definitely stands out from the crowd

Cons

  • Lots of bling
  • Shorter than you'd expect

No, I definitely don't have one of these. There's way too much bling there for me. But if you want a bright, colorful floor lamp, this might be for you.

It stands about waist height, so it's not super tall. And while it makes a nice general-use Alexa-controlled lamp, I was thinking that you can probably use these in a studio or workshop, or any place where a long bar of light would be more helpful than a point light source.

Fire TV Stick 4K

All the 4K streaming goodness in a smart stick

fire-tv-stick.png
Amazon

Key features

  • Streams most of the big-name services
  • Small and convenient
  • Alexa control

Pros

  • Cheap for both a 4K stick and Alexa
  • Ties into the Amazon ecosystem
  • Gorgeous video quality if your TV and broadband can handle it

Cons

  • Ties aggressively into the Amazon ecosystem
  • Big, might be difficult to fit behind TV, or will block another HDMI port
  • No Ethernet

Let's start off with the key thought: this thing is less than $40. So, what do you get? You get a streaming stick that will stream most of your favorite video and audio streaming services. So far so good. 

Now, add in 4K and HDR video. If you have a 4K TV, if your streaming service supports it and if your ISP can handle it, you can watch TV in glorious 4K. Trust us. 4K is pretty awesome. It's not a deal breaker if you can't get 4K, but for under $40, the 4K option is a bit of a no-brainer.

Oh, and you get Alexa smarts in the device as well. You access Alexa by pushing a button on the remote. Depending on whether the streaming service has built integration into Alexa, you can even call up the shows you want. The only thing is, if you lose the remote, Alexa can't help you.

Nanoleaf Canvas Starter Kit

Create your own custom light wall

nanoleaf.jpg

Key features

  • Lets you create a decorative statement on your wall
  • Alexa control

Pros

  • Flexible
  • Easily configurable

Cons

  • Can get very expensive, very quickly
  • You have to like the shape
  • Cord running up wall unless you punch into drywall

These are ideal for both a corporate lobby and a home office. In the lobby, you can arrange them as if they were very large pixels and brighten up the space or even display your corporate logo. At home, you can use them to brighten a dark corner, reflect your mood, or even hook them up with IFTTT to have them change color based on triggers ranging from a new order to a new email, or even whether it's going to rain.

Yale Assure Lever smart lock for inside doors

A smart way to secure your office at home

yale.jpg
Yale

Key features

  • Inside smart lock
  • Control via Alexa, app, and watch

Pros

  • Battery-backup available from both sides of locked door
  • No harder to set up than normal door lock
  • Smart lock for inside the house (which is not common among smart locks)

Cons

  • Handle instead of knob might not match décor
  • Battery means you have to replace or could run out and leave you locked out

A few months ago, I did a review and video of the Yale Assure Lever smart lock. This lock is different from many you may have seen, because it doesn't come with a dead bolt and is intended for interior security. It's a way of making sure the kids don't get access to potentially fragile or dangerous items, or allows you to comply with "locked room" clauses that are often part of a non-disclosure agreement.

This lock works with the August smart lock system, which means that it can be locked by your phone, your Apple Watch, and even Alexa. The Alexa feature is great because if you're on the other side of the house and suddenly have guests (does anyone ever have guests anymore?) or contractors in the house, you can secure the room without running to the door to do so. You can also check status by simply asking Alexa.

AmazonBasics Microwave

In case you need popcorn right away

microwave.jpg
Amazon

Key features

  • It's a microwave with Alexa
  • Cooking smarts for certain foods

Pros

  • Had database of microwave instructions
  • Smaller footprint
  • Relatively inexpensive

Cons

  • The entire idea of Alexa for your microwave
  • Not as powerful as some better kitchen microwaves
  • Requires pairing with another Alexa device

A microwave is almost a small office cliche. Commuters who bring lunch to work can go into the break room and heat it up in the office microwave. But at home? Do you really need a microwave in your home office? After all, the kitchen is just across the house (unless your home office is in the kitchen as mine was for a year). 

I guess it depends. My current home office is upstairs and I do have a microwave in it. The microwave came with the house and honestly, I've yet to use it. But I have definitely thought about zapping up a bag of popcorn, putting my mic on mute, and sitting back to watch some of the particularly entertaining disagreements play themselves out in Zoom meetings.

In all seriousness, if you're doing a "going to work in your office" thing where you try to carve out space away from the family for a few hours a day, having an in-office microwave isn't a bad idea. Amazon's basic Microwave responds to Alexa and you can give it commands on how to cook your food. The only thing missing is the ability to remove a package from the freezer, pop it in the microwave, and deliver it to your desk. But the AmazonBasics Alexa Robot is probably a 2022 release.

Google Nest Learning Thermostat

Control your environment anywhere in your environment

nest.jpg
Google

Key features

  • Control heat/AC from Alexa and app
  • Works with many HVAC systems
  • Attractive and unobtrusive

Pros

  • Temperature control without having to walk to it
  • Nothing beats turning up or down the heat while still in bed
  • Have three for a few years now and love them
  • If Internet goes out, you can control by hand

Cons

  • Google's ecosystem sometimes likes Alexa and sometimes doesn't
  • Difficult to get multiple Alexa family account members to control one thermostat
  • Kind of expensive

When we moved into this fixer-upper house, there was no heating or air conditioning in half the house. Instead, the previous owner just put a space heater in every room. One of our biggest projects on moving in was installing HVAC throughout the building. When we did so, I made sure to include support for a smart thermostat and I chose the Nest.

My office is upstairs and the Nest thermostat that controls this portion of the house is downstairs. While I certainly could run downstairs to set the heat, that interrupts my workflow. Instead, I use Alexa. In the summer, I ask Alexa what the temperature is upstairs to decide if I need to pre-cool the office before I go up. When in my office, I tell my desktop Echo to raise or lower the temperature depending on my comfort level. 

D-Link Wi-Fi Router AC1900 Mesh Smart

A solid router with some basic voice control

router.jpg
D-Link

Key features

  • High-speed AC1900 Dual-Band Wi-Fi
  • WI-Fi mesh for extending throughout your network

Pros

  • It's a D-Link router with all the features
  • Some level of Alexa support

Cons

  • Alexa support is odd and limited
  • No Alexa-based stream prioritization

This is a pretty sweet router for home office work, but I'm not entirely convinced D-Link's marketing folks thought through the implications of "reboot the router" as a selling point. So what are we really looking at here? This is a powerful router that can participate in a mesh network, giving your home more overall coverage and reducing Wi-Fi dead zones. D-Link is D-Link. They've been making good stuff for years.

It's the Alexa control that amuses me. Yes, you can reboot the router. You can also tell Alexa to enable or disable guest access. But oddly enough, you can't command Alexa to block the kids once they've passed their bedtime. You also can't tell Alexa to prioritize your work computer's video stream instead of the kids or family watching Netflix. 

It's a solid device, but Alexa control has a way to go.

Amazon Echo Show 5

Inexpensive, with good video

echo-show5.jpg
Amazon

Key features

  • Video screen for Alexa interaction and videos
  • Interfaces with other smart devices including cameras
  • Full Alexa capabilities

Pros

  • Small video screen with tiny footprint fits almost anywhere
  • Inexpensive and does not require a subscription
  • Alexa on screen is better and more engaging than you might expect

Cons

  • Technically, it's an older model, but it's still the newest 5-inch version
  • Smaller screen is too small for use at a distance

It's probably time to recommend an Echo device for your home office. I have the hockey puck-sized Echo Dot, but the Echo Show probably would be a better fit. My office is in the back of the house and upstairs, so being able to see who is at the door (see Ring, next) would be something of a win (more on that next, too).

The new Echo Show 10 is more than twice the price of this device, and that one eerily follows you around, so I'm not a fan. Having an Alexa in your office can be helpful in other ways, too. For example, I just tried spelling "eerie" and was way off. So I asked Alexa and got the right spelling. I use her for math help when my hands are on the keyboard, for facts and information, and to add things to my lists. Office Alexa is a big help.

I'm recommending the smaller Echo Show 5 because it has a nice screen and doesn't take too much space on your desk.

Ring doorbell

Connected video and audio for your front door

ringa.jpg
Amazon

Key features

  • Video of whomever's at your door
  • Two-way audio
  • Chat with visitors from anywhere in the world

Pros

  • App-driven and integrates with video Alexas
  • Does not require bell-current electric circuit
  • Good video quality and exclusion zones

Cons

  • Changing the batteries regularly gets old fast
  • Doesn't always work with all Wi-Fi environments
  • Achieving a video connection with visitor may take longer than visitor willing to wait

I had the Ring installed in my previous house and it worked pretty well. It still took 20-30 seconds to get a picture on the screen, but it worked. Most of the time, I was able to respond to a ring before the delivery person lost patience and left.

In my new house, where I really need to have something like the Ring, it doesn't work as well. I'm at the far end of the house, upstairs in my office and I've found that the Ring can take upwards of 60 seconds to show whoever's at the door. It's still helpful, because I can talk to that person socially distanced from across the house. But.. the slow speed does mean that some delivery folks are long gone before the Ring successfully establishes a connection.

Moen Smart Pulldown Kitchen Faucet

This is where progress gets us

faucet.jpg
Moen

Key features

  • Dispenses precise volume of water
  • Dispenses precise temperature of water
  • Alexa controlled

Pros

  • Great for precision cookers who want to reduce use of measuring containers
  • Nice to have precision control of water temperature
  • Wow all your friends

Cons

  • It's $440
  • It's $440
  • It's $440 for... a faucet

OK, so strictly speaking, this isn't exactly an office-related product. But you're working at home and everyone's gotta eat, right? Having a smart kitchen faucet -- a $440 smart kitchen faucet -- seems like a necessity, or it will once you learn about it.

Imagine walking up to your sink and asking Alexa to turn on the water. Or imagine asking for precisely one teaspoon of water, or a cup of water at precisely 100 degrees. This faucet can do all that. Do you need it? Well, that's a matter of perspective. Do I have one? No. Is it something you needed to know about merely to reinforce either your faith in human progress or your observation that we're all going to hell together? 

Of course it is. I'm here for you. I really am. 

Atomi Smart Wi-Fi Portable Tower Space Heater

Alexa, let there be heat

heater.jpg
Atomi

Key features

  • Voice and app control
  • Set schedules
  • Get notified if it falls over

Pros

  • Manual control in addition to app control
  • Housing stays cool so you can move it even after it's hot
  • Variety of smart safety features

Cons

  • Rather large
  • No child lock
  • Can get very hot and users report inconsistent temperature sensor

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the smart heater is so delightful
And since we've no place to go
It's the pandemic, don't ya know
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

With apologies to Dean Martin, this is an Alexa-powered space heater. This allows you to place the heater under your desk, behind you in a strategically perfect location, or anywhere else in your office where you want to stay warm. Control it via an app or by Alexa. And stay warm and safe next winter.

Do the folks you live with insist on keeping your home super-cold in the summer? Do you know it's less than six months to Thanksgiving? You might not want this as we enter the heat of summer, but by the time it starts getting cold everyone else will want one of these. 

Are these Alexa devices with added features or do I need to buy/have an Echo device?

All of these items will function without having an Alexa device, but you'll need an Alexa for voice control. The Echo Show 5 is an Alexa and the Fire TV stick does not require an Alexa because Alexa functionality is built into the remote.

Will my router work with these devices?

Generally, although smarthome devices sometime will only work on the 2.4Ghz band.

Will my Wi-Fi reach these devices?

That definitely depends on how your Wi-Fi works in your home. I had tons of problems getting Ring to work in my new house, but it worked great in my older house. Try taking your phone or laptop around the house and looking at the signal strength.

Who supports these? Amazon or the vendor?

With the exception of the Amazon products (Echo Show, Fire TV, Ring), the devices are supported by the individual vendors. The vendors license or include the Alexa API in their devices, but other than Amazon's normal product support, they're their vendors' products.

How did we choose these Alexa devices?

As always, I started with items I'm familiar with and really like. Then I simply dug through Amazon's listings, looking for highly rated items I could picture in a home office. After finding thousands of lighting choices, I decided to settle on just a few. Then it was time to go farther afield, looking for cooling, heating, fans, and even a wildly expensive but somehow not-overpriced-for-what-it-does faucet.

The bottom line is that Alexa is becoming ubiquitous. Where you choose to put her to work is up to you. Before I leave you today, there's this: "Alexa, sing digital intelligence." You're welcome.

Tell us about your Alexa devices and how you're using them in the comments below.