The Amazon Dash Wand is a $20 dongle-like device that’s marketed as the definitive kitchen assistant. It can shop for groceries for you and has Alexa built in, making it the cheapest Alexa device that Amazon sells (especially if you consider the fact that it’s basically free after the $20 credit you get when buying it). However, there are a lot of things it can’t do. Here’s a little rundown of that the Wand is and isn’t capable of.
Outside of kitchen stuff, controlling your smarthome devices is probably the best use for the Dash Wand. It’s like having a little voice remote that you can take with you around the house, especially if you don’t have Echos spread out everywhere.
You can use it to control lights, thermostats, outlets, switches, and more, and you use it just like you would your Echo by giving Alexa a command to turn on and off a device in your house.
What’s the weather? What’s on my calendar? How old is Tom Hanks? These are all simple questions that you can ask Alexa through the Dash Wand, and it’ll give you the answers you’re looking for.
You can even use it to do conversions of different measurements, like cups to gallons, ounces to cups, and more, solidifying its strength as a great kitchen assistant.
The Dash Wand is designed to be a grocery list companion, letting you order items either by saying a product name into the microphone or by scanning the product’s bar code. From there, you can use Amazon Fresh to have those groceries delivered right to your door if you have the service in your area.
To no one’s surprise, though, you can also use the Dash Wand to order pretty much anything that Amazon sells, just like you can with a regular Echo device. All you have to do is say “Buy toilet paper” and it will first scan your order history for previous purchases of toilet paper and ask if you want to re-order the same kind. If not, it’ll list off other options.
Unfortunately, the Dash Wand’s Alexa capabilities have some pretty big limitations. Most importantly: you can’t use it hands-free, like other Alexa products.
In order to get Alexa to listen, you have to hold in the button as you say your command, similar to how the Amazon Tap worked before it was updated with hands-free capabilities. This isn’t a huge deal since it’s a device that can fit in your pocket and it’s really easy to carry around, but it might take some getting used.
Luckily, this isn’t really a huge issue, since the speaker is pretty horrible—even worse than the Echo Dot’s speaker. However, it’s still something you should know, since if you were to ask Alexa on the Dash Wand “What can you do?”, she’ll weirdly say that she can play music.
It’s a pretty basic task that such a simple little device could easily do, but the Dash Wand isn’t able to set timers, alarms, and reminders like an Amazon Echo.
It doesn’t really make much sense at first, but after knowing that Alexa needs to wake itself up in order to sound off on an alarm or timer, it starts to become logical. Alexa can only be woken up by pressing down the button on the Dash Wand, so alarms, timers, and reminders just wouldn’t work on the device—leave that to the Echo.
Oddly enough, you can’t change the volume of the Dash Wand, even by saying something like “Turn the volume down”.
It’s a small little caveat that many users wouldn’t really be bothered by, but there’s no doubt that Amazon set the volume for the Dash Wand to be as loud as the built-in speaker would allow, which is pretty dang loud.
However, the Dash Wand is exempt from any of these new features, which again, makes sense if you keep having to press down the button in order to talk—it’s not that convenient.
In the end, while Amazon touts the Alexa capabilities of the Dash Wand, it’s still pretty limited as far as what it can do. It’s not really the full-fledged Alexa device that you might have hoped for. However, for $20 (and you get that $20 back after registering the device), you can’t go wrong.
Photo Credit: Mike Seyfang/Flickr.