The 7 most useful gadgets you need now

Amazon hosted its fall hardware event yesterday and introduced several new smart devices across various product categories, from the stylus-equipped Kindle Scribe to the Halo Rise sleep tracker/alarm clock. Better yet: All of them will arrive before the end of the year.

The company is colloquially known as “the everything store.” But for the last few years, Amazon’s also made good on its nickname by releasing a deluge of its own products each fall, all generally focused on furthering the company’s exploration of “ambient intelligence” — and putting its Alexa voice assistant into as many places as possible. This year was no different, except the new toys are more practical and less sci-fi than devices like the Astro home robot and flying Ring Always Home Cam.

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Halo Rise

Release date: Coming soon

The Halo Rise is a bedside sleep tracker and alarm clock that can track your sleep without using a camera or microphone.Amazon

By far the most intriguing announcement at Amazon’s event, the Halo Rise is a bedside sleep tracker and an alarm clock that can collect accurate sleep data without relying on a camera or microphone. The device looks a bit like Phillips’ SmartSleep connected wake-up lights, with a semicircle of light around the actual time display, but it’s otherwise very minimalistic with white and metallic accents.

Amazon is pairing the Halo Rise with its health-focused Halo subscription service (it comes with six months for free) and can track more than just your respiration and movement while you sleep. The Halo Rise has sensors that can also measure the temperature and humidity in your room and make suggestions on how to change your sleep habits for a better night’s rest. Amazon hasn’t opened pre-orders for the Halo Rise yet, but it plans to sell the device for $139.99.

Kindle Scribe

Release date: November 30

The Kindle Scribe is a 10.2-inch e-reader that comes with a stylus for note-taking.Amazon

E Ink note-taking devices and tablets have been kicking around the various enthusiast parts of the internet for a while, but now Amazon is attempting to make them mainstream with the $339.99 Kindle Scribe, a 10.2-inch e-reader that also lets you take notes and annotate documents with a bundled stylus. How well it actually writes will be the real test — the Remarkable 2 remains the gold standard — but having access to Amazon’s giant marketplace of books, a 300 ppi backlit display, and up to 12 weeks of battery life certainly means the Kindle Scribe is ready to rumble.

Echo Dot smart speakers

Release date: October 20

The new Echo Dot look’s the same but has new temperature and touch sensors, better speakers, and the ability to as an extender for an Eero mesh Wi-Fi network.Amazon

A new year means new Echo smart speakers. This time Amazon mostly focused on its entry-level smart speaker, the Echo Dot. The fifth-generation Echo Dot ($49.99) and Echo Dot with Clock ($59.99) have touch and temperature sensors, and a re-engineered speaker system with a custom driver, 50 percent less distortion, and deeper bass. The clock version of the Dot can now also display calendar information and relevant visuals when you ask Alexa a question using its high-density dot display.

Besides companion Echo Dot Kids ($59.99) speakers in new dragon and owl designs, Amazon’s biggest addition to its most approachable Alexa device is built-in Eero mesh router capabilities. If you use Amazon’s Eero mesh Wi-Fi routers, new Echo Dots can function as Wi-Fi extenders, even more efficiently blanketing your home in internet connectivity, and making it that much easier to add more smart devices. Amazon says fourth-generation Echo Dots will receive the same capabilities through a software update.

Echo Auto

Release date: Coming soon

The new Echo Auto is a lot smaller and has the ability to call for roadside assistance with just an Alexa command.Amazon

Echo Auto is Amazon’s affordable way of getting Alexa in your car, and Amazon’s biggest changes to this new version are aesthetic. The new Echo Auto is slimmer, more pill-shaped, and can stick to your car dashboard with an adhesive mount. Amazon designed the device to hear your Alexa requests over car noise and saying “Alexa, roadside assistance” should get you help for car trouble or other roadside issues, akin to OnStar or just calling AAA.

Otherwise, the use cases for the Echo Auto are really going to depend on the person. Amazon says Alexa can detect whether you’ve left home in your Echo Auto-connected car to trigger certain smart home routines. But if you aren’t that invested in the ecosystem, it might just be a better tool for changing music hands-free on the road. The Echo Auto isn’t available for pre-order yet, but Amazon plans to sell the device for $54.99.

Fire TV Omni QLED TV

Release date: October 27

The Fire TV Omni QLED Series can display ambient art when not in use, and turn off by themselves when you’re not in the room.Amazon

Amazon’s Omni series of smart TVs are getting a new sibling. The Fire TV Omni QLED Series comes in either 65-inch ($799.99) or 75-inch ($1,099.99) varieties, with 4K Quantum Dot Displays, support for Dolby Vision IQ, and HDR10+ for the best possible visual experience. Amazon pitches its TVs as hands-free Alexa devices, so you don’t necessarily have to even use a remote to change channels or start a movie.

The Omni QLED Series are also Amazon’s first Fire TVs with presence sensors. The added sensors allow the TV to display art and useful Alexa widgets when you’re in the room and not watching TV, and entirely shut off otherwise. It’s not clear how well they’ll handle excited pets, but hopefully, Amazon planned for that. These new smart TVs are clearly Amazon making a pass at Samsung’s popular Frame TVs, which display art when not in use, and actually look like framed pictures, unlike Amazon’s TV.

Fire TV Cube

Release date: October 25

The Fire TV Cube received modest updates, but now it also has HDMI In, so it could theoretically control your cable box.Amazon

Amazon’s $139.99 Fire TV Cube is also getting an update. The third-generation version has a 2.0GHz octa-core processor for faster navigation, support for Wi-Fi 6E, a 360-degree IR blaster for controlling other devices, and the ability to upscale video content to 4K via “Super Resolution Upscaling.” In a first for the device, the new Fire TV Cube also has an HDMI In port to go with its HDMI Out, so you could theoretically connect a cable box and control it with Alexa if you wanted to.

Alexa Voice Remote Pro

Release date: November 16

The Alexa Voice Remote Pro comes with quality-of-life updates like a Remote Finder feature, backlit keys, and programmable buttons.Amazon

The Alexa Voice Remote is typically bundled in with Fire TV devices, but now Amazon’s offering a $34.99 “Pro” version with several new features that should be really helpful. The new Alexa Voice Remote Pro is backlit, has a new “Remote Finder” feature so you can ping it if it gets lost in the couch cushions (not even the Apple TV Siri Remote has that), and it comes with two programmable buttons that you can set to trigger Alexa routines, change TV settings, and more.

Blink and Ring cameras

Release date: October 20

The Ring Spotlight Cam Pro features radar sensors to more accurately monitor your home’s perimeter.Amazon, Ring

Both Blink and Ring products cover home security at a variety of different price points for Amazon customers, and the new Blink Mini Pan-Tilt Camera and Ring Spotlight Cam Pro seem like intriguing evolutions of what was already offered. The $59.99 Blink Mini Pan-Tilt Camera does what it says on the tin, and is able to rotate and pan to better track whatever you’re observing, be it a pet at home, or an intruder.

The $229.99 Ring Spotlight Cam Pro is intended for outdoor use, and now comes with radar sensors to more reliably turn on its spotlights when there’s an actual person walking up to your house, rather than say, an animal just walking by.

Release date: October 20

Amazon hosted its fall hardware event yesterday and introduced several new smart devices across various product categories, from the stylus-equipped Kindle Scribe to the Halo Rise sleep tracker/alarm clock. Better yet: All of them will arrive before the end of the year. The company is colloquially known as “the everything store.” But for the last…

Amazon hosted its fall hardware event yesterday and introduced several new smart devices across various product categories, from the stylus-equipped Kindle Scribe to the Halo Rise sleep tracker/alarm clock. Better yet: All of them will arrive before the end of the year. The company is colloquially known as “the everything store.” But for the last…