Amazon Fire 7 and HD 8 tablets can become hands-free Alexa speakers

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Already have an Amazon Fire tablet from 2017? Don’t feel like buying an Amazon Echo? You’re in luck because now Amazon’s Fire 7 and HD 8 tablets can now double as Alexa speakers. Technically the feature was already there in the Fire HD 10 but now Amazon is rolling it out to its smaller brethren.

The feature will be rolled out as a software update. Once installed, you will have access to the vast array of Alexa skills whenever your tablet’s display is on. That’s the caveat. If your tablet is plugged in, you’ll be able to talk to Alexa while the tablet is asleep but as soon as you remove the USB power, the tablet will have to be awake in order to use Alexa. Note that this restriction is only for the Fire 7 and HD 8. The HD 10 is fully capable of using Alexa while it is asleep.

The usual Alexa skills like playing music, answering queries, controlling smart home devices, and ordering an Uber all apply. However, like the Echo Show and Echo Spot, you’ll also be able to view visual content with Alexa’s responses. For example, you can bring up a feed from an Alexa-enabled security camera installed at your home.

The downsides (outside of the power constraint) are that since the tablets do not have the far field microphone arrays that proper Echo devices have. Also, if you’re interested in playing music, the speakers won’t sound as well as a full-sized Echo.

If you can get past the downsides, it’s a worthwhile update if you’re interested in trying out Alexa as a poor man’s Echo. Amazon is rolling out the feature in a software update this week.

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