Amazon’s small, most affordable Echo smart speaker, the Echo Dot ($49 on AmazonRemove product link, but currently 50 percent off), is a fail-safe gift for anyone who values convenience. Driven by Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant, this unobtrusive puck puts a wealth of useful information, entertainment, and practical functionality just a voice-command away.
Now in its third generation, the Echo Dot looks more stylish than its predecessors—wrapped in either charcoal, gray, or sandstone fabric—and offers improved audio. Use the Dot to control a home’s lighting, play music, estimate commute times, operate a timer, answer trivia questions, read books and news bulletins aloud, provide local movie times and locations, hail an Uber, or order anything from Amazon (natch).
While the Echo Dot ranks as our favorite budget smart speaker, the Google Home Mini, is a close runner-up, for anyone on your gift list who is partial to the Google smart home ecosystem. It also costs $49Remove product link.