Taken on its own, the $130 Amazon Tap is an impressive device with a ton of functionality. Press the button on the front of it, and you can issue voice commands to Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant. Your options range from playing music from your phone or streaming it over Wi-Fi; asking Alexa to add something to your calendar or your to-do list; checking the weather or the news; issuing commands to control your smart home or playing a game. It's fun, it's useful and, thanks to a few Easter eggs and games, it's just silly enough to be charming.
But Alexa isn't unique to the Tap. In fact, the Tap is one of two new members in a trio of so called Echo devices. Both of the others -- the original $180 Amazon Echo speaker and the $90 Amazon Echo Dot -- plug into the wall and feature an always-listening microphone. Simply say the word "Alexa" to those latter two devices and you'll have access to that same breadth of options. The more expensive Echo is a speaker with room-filling sound. The Dot's basically the same as the Echo, just with a quieter speaker and a line-out plug on the back allowing you hook it into your home's sound setup.
The Tap is the mobile member of the family. It's the only one of the three that's battery powered, which is why it's not always listening. Again, you need to hit a button to interact with it, so it can save battery when you're not using it. But I did miss the convenience of an always-listening device. The Tap would have been nearly perfect if that feature activated whenever it was sitting on its charging stand, but it doesn't.
The Amazon Tap wears many hats, but as a Bluetooth speaker, its sound quality isn't as good as either the JBL Charge 2+ or the Bose SoundLink Color. The Tap multi-tasks better than either of those, but both the original Echo and the Echo Dot play the personal assistant role better. As a feature rich Bluetooth speaker, the Tap is easy to recommend. I'd also recommend it to anyone who wants access to Alexa and puts extra value on portability. But if you want either the best possible sound quality out of a compact Bluetooth speaker or the most helpful version of Alexa, you'll need to look elsewhere.
You can purchase the Tap now on Amazon for $130. Like all Alexa products, it's not yet available beyond the US, but Amazon tells us that expanding internationally is "super important," adding, "We expect over time to go everywhere Amazon is." That price converts to roughly £90 and AU$170 for our readers in the UK and Australia.