Personal Tech | September 29, 2021 11:57 am

The Best and Worst New Products Amazon Announced This Week

Inexpensive smart thermostats and fitness trackers are great. A personal security robot named Astro? Not so much.

Amazon's Astro, a new robot that's supposed to provide security and personality
Amazon's Astro, a new robot that's supposed to provide security and personality
Amazon

Amazon held its annual hardware event on Tuesday and introduced several new products ranging from security cameras to updated Alexa home devices to … uh, a personal robot.

Some of it looked good! And some had us worried. And one item seems destined to fail (or fall down a flight of stairs).

A few standouts, for better or worse:

Amazon Echo Show 15
Amazon Echo Show 15
Amazon

Best for Large Households: Echo Show 15

The Alexa-assisted bedside display gets boosted up to a 15.6″ screen that can be mounted on a wall. Ideally suited for your kitchen, the Show becomes a small secondary TV, a digital art display, video call center, permanent digital cookbook (or whatever widgets you want to use) and even a place you can send a note directly to a specific family member (which will only show up when Alexa recognizes them in front of the device).

Amazon Halo View fitness trackers
Amazon Halo View fitness trackers
Amazon

Making Fitness Affordable: Halo

Not the first-person shooter, Amazon’s Halo is a series of inexpensive (starting at $80) and colorful health trackers that definitely want to compete with Fitbit. The waterproof Halo View features AMOLED touchscreen color display and haptic feedback; you can grab important health metrics and also pair your device with new services like Halo Fitness (workout classes) and Halo Nutrition (a recipe/healthy eating service). A full year of membership is bundled with the health tracker.

Making Security Stupidly Expensive: Ring Virtual Security Guard

We’ve had privacy issues with Amazon and their Ring home security systems in the past. With their new subscription service, a customer can “choose to have a professional security company visually monitor their Ring cameras.” For a company built on affordability, the service has an oddly high price ($99 per month after a limited free trial period). Amazon also opened up the invite list for the Always Home Cam, a really odd T-shaped home security drone.

Amazon Smart Thermostat
Amazon Smart Thermostat
Amazon

Keeping Your Heat Bills Low: Amazon Smart Thermostat

Amazon’s rather straightforwardly named Smart Thermostat, built by the same brand that makes Honeywell Home thermostats, will be $60. But Amazon suggests that after applying utility-provider rebates, eligible customers could get the Alexa-compatible device for $10 “and sometimes, for nothing at all.”

Amazon Astro robot
Amazon’s Astro robot, now available for pre-order
Amazon

And, for No Reason at All, This “Smart” Robot: Astro

Sure, it’s cute, and reminds us a bit of WALL-E. But Amazon’s new home robot, Astro, which will mainly serve as a security device (that they want you to utilize with Ring) or to check on people or things in your home when you’re not around, is also supposed to show a “personality.” It better, for $1,000 now (and up to $1,500 later). But an investigation by Vice, which featured some disturbing revelations on how the robot will track user behavior, suggests this 1.0 model of Astro “will almost certainly throw itself down a flight of stairs if presented the opportunity.”