October 3, 2023
Last week I covered the new Echo products, their new software and AI integrations announced at the recent Amazon event. There were a lot of other product announcements that I’ll cover here — the details on new WiFi connectivity, streaming devices, and a soundbar that link to them.
With WiFi as the dominant way to connect devices in your smart home, Amazon’s Eero products cover this need. Amazon’s Eero now includes WiFi 7 products. The new Eero Max 7 is a tri-band mesh system that claims to cover up to 2,500 square feet with a single unit and up to 7,500 square feet with a three-pack system. Over 200 devices may be supported, double that of the current Eero Pro 6E.
With the increasing demands for broadband capacity to connect more devices in the home, along with the higher speeds provided by ISPs, WiFi systems need to keep up the pace. The latest way to accommodate data speed and more devices is WiFi 7, or 802.11be. Under optimal conditions it can be more than four times faster than WiFi 6E and is able to deliver double the bandwidth capability.
WiFi 7 has not yet been fully approved, but software updates will make certain that any changes needed after certification will be provided to products already in the field. WiFi 7 is far enough along that a number of brands now have products and even Charter has announced that they will offer WiFi 7 modems.
If you have the incoming data rate and bandwidth from your broadband provider, and the need for a multitude of devices on your system at once, this may be the solution you’re looking for. The new Eero 7 Max will support Matter-enabled devices and act as both a Thread Border Router and a Zigbee smart home hub. Each unit will have two 10Gb and two 2.5Gb Gigabit Ethernet ports for devices that require a wired connection. Another interesting detail is they will be backwards compatibility with existing Eero systems, so there should be the capability to mix and match or upgrade existing Eero ecosystems. The backwards compatibility aspect is a great benefit for those like me who have an older Eero mesh solution.
One big change with the Eero 7 Max is that it’s 8.7 inches tall, considerably taller than current Eero products. It looks more tower-like than the roughly flat, 2-inch tall current Eero 6-series models. A single Eero Max 7 also costs $599.99 compared to the current $179.99 price of an Eero Pro 6E. That’s a significant jump so make sure the investment is worth it regarding your system needs — number of supported devices, latency requirements, and speed demands. Also remember that to get full advantage you will need both matching input speed from your ISP and WiFi 7 in the devices connecting to it.
But you’ll have some time to consider this expense. According to Amazon this product has not yet been authorized for sale by the FCC. For that reason, availability is not yet posted other than “2023 release” or “soon.” However, the eventual availability of WiFi 7 products from a brand like Amazon is evidence that the technology is near FCC authorization and is something to consider for future projects or system upgrades.
Other than the Amazon Echo products I covered in my last post, the next use for any new, high bandwidth WiFi or wired broadband network would be streaming devices. Along those lines, Amazon announced new Fire TV models for this fall. The two new Fire TV models and the software and UI behind them are certainly something to take notice of, particularly if Amazon and Prime Video are your primary destinations for streaming content.
The upgrade to the Fire TV user interface for compatible models look to be significant. They will integrate generative AI to simplify and personalize content search when using voice commands. More detailed searches such as asking for recommendations for very specific content to view or using search commands based on your mood, particularly including specific actors or directors, is now available as expanded search criteria. Regarding visual content selection, a new “Continue Watching” row in the carousel of program tiles will push recently watched content back up to the top. Both of these features will roll out later this year.
The Fire TV Stick 4K has the features that one would expect at the mid-high range of streaming products. The processor is updated to 1.7Ghz quad-core, claiming to be 30% faster than previous models. Memory is 2Gb, compared with lower priced Fire TV models. WiFi 6 is another new feature. At $49.99 the price is in line.
For $10 more, the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max brings more value in a number of ways. The processor is further upgraded to a 2.0Ghz chip, and the storage is doubled to 16Gb. For those of you that record or buy content this is a big upgrade for the price difference. The 4K Max will also be the first streaming stick with WiFi 6E, which will enable those with similarly equipped WiFi gear to enjoy faster speeds, less interference, and lower latency.
The Fire TV 4K Max also introduces the Fire TV Ambient Experience, previously only available on the Fire TV Omni QLED series TVs to an external streaming product. Examples of what the Ambient Experience will provide are calendar reminders, Sticky Notes for family members, audio streaming play, and control of smart devices. Also, part of the feature package is the ability to use your video display as an in-home art gallery with access to a collection that now numbers more than 2,000 free, high-quality images. Those of you familiar with the Samsung Frame QLED 4K will recognize this feature.
Starting later this year, customers will be able to create their own artwork using just their voice with AI Art. Basically, you tell it what you would like to see, and it generates a unique, personalized display. Also coming later this year will be the ability to display personal images from Amazon Photos along with the option to transform the image into a popular art style such as watercolor painting or sepia tone. I’m particularly excited about this Amazon Photos integration as I have collected a library of images of watercolor paintings and sketches that were created by my Grandmother that I intend to display.
Finally and also new to the line-up will be the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar. This is a 2.0 channel product with support for Dolby Audio and DTS Virtual:X. Connectivity for the 24” wide soundbar for connection to phones or tablets is through Bluetooth and HDMI eARC for content received via a TV and the devices connected to it.
For me, this is the a confusing addition to the Fire TV line as the bar itself is not a streaming device or equipped for Alexa commands. So why give it the ‘Fire TV’ name. I can only speculate that the eventual plan is to actually integrate Alexa into the soundbar much in the same way they did with the Fire TV Cube. The Fire TV Soundbar is $119.99. For those who want to go all in with the Amazon ecosystem, the Fire TV Soundbar may be an interesting choice, but the lack of internal audio streaming capability is a deal breaker for me right now.
Just like the Echo Pop Kids that I reported on in my last post, Amazon hasn’t forgotten the kids with their Fire TV. Amazon announced a pair of Fire TV HD Kids tablets, both priced at $189.99. The Fire HD 10 is for pre-teens — specifically 3- to 7-year-olds. And the Fire HD 10 Kids Pro is aimed at 6- to 12-year-olds and offers a bit more freedom with regards to apps and website browsing.
As consumers begin to think about holiday season gifts Amazon has certainly given streaming, smart speaker, and WiFi lovers more new products to consider. And with Prime Big Deal Days around the corner (October 10–11) they won’t have long to decide to make their first purchases. And then there’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So plenty of opportunities to for gift giving or upping your smart home game.
What do you think of these new products at Amazon? Which would fit best in your smart home or enhance your current deployment? Which would you consider giving as gifts? What advantages do you see these new/updated products bringing to your smart home? Or maybe you’ve built your smart home around Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit — does this make you consider Amazon devices?
Let Debbie and I know what you think in the comments, DMs and emails as we really enjoy hearing from you. Thanks again to all those following Debbie and I through our home building journey. It’s great to hear your success stories and suggestions as we move through the process. And if you like the content I’m posting each week, don’t forget to ‘Like’ and ‘Follow.’
In full disclosure, I’m not an affiliate marketer with links to any online retailer on my website. When people read what I’ve written about a particular product and then click on those links and buy something from the retailer, I earn nothing from the retailer. The links are strictly a convenience for my readers.