Meet Triby, a kid-friendly fridge speaker with Alexa inside (but no Amazon badge)

Nearly a year ago, Amazon opened its SDK to developers, allowing them to put Alexa’s AI into their own devices. That means you’ll someday be able to ask Alexa the weather on your non-Amazon alarm clock, instead of through an Echo speaker. The family-oriented speaker Triby is the first device not made by the retail giant to incorporate Alexa.

The portable, magnetic speaker, made by Invoxia, is meant to live on your fridge and has big, child-friendly buttons. One of its main functions is its ability to let kids call their parents using voice-over-IP with the push of a button, as long as said adults have the iOS app (Android is available in beta starting today) installed. It can also stream internet radio from Prime Music, iHeartRadio, or TuneIn. Now with the addition of Alexa, it can also tell you how tall the Empire State Building is, what the weather will be like, and when Bran’s next violin lesson is.

“The Triby is a shallow device with relatively little space for speakers, and that makes achieving robust sound a significant challenge.”

After spending a couple days with Alexa on Triby, I’m not sure it’s a total Echo replacement. It has four microphones to the Echo’s seven. And while its 15-foot range (Echo’s is 25) should work in most mortal-sized kitchens, I still found myself occasionally having to say “Alexa” over and over, like I was disturbing a sleeping child.

Alexa was able to turn off my SmartThings-connected lights, tell me the number of ounces of in a cup, and set a 10-minute timer. These were all useful things to have in the kitchen. The Triby also used the voice assistant to play me NPR and the latest episode of RadioLab. But when I asked Alexa to play my Kevin Devine Spotify playlist, she told me, “Spotify is not supported for this device.” Now, I was able to pull up Spotify on my phone and because my phone was paired with the Triby, I could play the music through the device’s speakers. I could also say, “Play Kevin Devine” and get some songs through Amazon Prime. However, Spotify is supported through the Echo, so this could be one very convincing argument as to why the Triby isn’t for you.

And if you’re listening to more than “The Wheels on the Bus,” you might find the sound-quality lacking. “The Triby is a shallow device with relatively little space for speakers, and that makes achieving robust sound a significant challenge,” Digital Trends senior editor and A/V expert Caleb Denison told me after giving the Triby a listen. It doesn’t hold up to many $100 Bluetooth speakers he’s tested.

“At first, the speaker’s overall volume of sound is surprising; robust, even. But it doesn’t take an audiophile to quickly learn the Triby lacks clarity and definition. I think a little too much emphasis was put on the midbass region for the sake of getting that ‘big’ sound from a small device. And the tradeoff is vocals that sound a little recessed, and treble that fails to shine. There also seems to be a ‘click’ around bass drum hits that sounds artificial,” he adds. While it’s not a terrible experience, it’s just not going to do your Mariah Carey playlist any justice.

The Triby has some adorable features. You can make little doodles or notes in the app and send them to the speaker’s e-Ink screen. When you do, a plastic yellow rectangle pops out from the side of the device. Your kid can pop it back in, so you’ll know your message was received. They can also hold down a button below the rectangle scroll through some emojis to let you know how they feel about your work of art.

The Triby feels like what it is: a speaker made for communicating with smartphone-less kids and providing some entertainment — and now it has some Alexa functionality tacked on. If you already had a $199 Triby, then the new voice assistance will be a welcome upgrade, but if you care about using your speaker to actually play music, you may want to look elsewhere.

Updated 4/28/2016: Updated to include the news that the Android app is available in beta today.

Smart Home

Ring adds color night vision to wired security devices and HDR to wireless ones

Ring rolled out color night vision to its wired security products with cameras such as the Spotlight Cam Wired. At the same time, Ring added HDR control to its battery-powered security devices including the Video Doorbell 2.
Smart Home

What exactly is Alexa? Where does she come from? And how does she work?

While "Alexa" has become synonymous with products like the Amazon Echo, you can't actually go out and buy an "Alexa." So what is Alexa? How does she work? Here's everything you need to know about Amazon's virtual assistant.

The best Presidents’ Day sales 2019: Amazon, Walmart, Dell, and more

Presidents' Day sales are a great chance to score electronics, clothing, home and office stuff, and other goodies at a discount. We’ve smoked out a large handful of the best of these Presidents' Day deals, from tech to bedding, to help…
Smart Home

Google Home Mini vs. Amazon Echo Dot: Which smart home speaker is better?

We put the two most popular smart home speakers -- the Google Home Mini and the 3rd generation Amazon Echo Dot -- together and tested them on appearance, audio, and abilities. So which should you buy? Find out how they did in our showdown.
Smart Home

Alexa, dim the lights: How voice assistants can help with Valentines Day

If you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home device, you can sweep your sweetheart off his or her feet this Valentine's Day with these romantic, mood-setting tips. Your sweetie will be impressed.

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Product Review

From tables to porches, Ring's Stick Up Cam watches wherever you want

Ring’s latest home security camera offers more versatility than ever before, with the ability to mount it, set it on a table, or put it inside or outside. We got a chance to test it out. Here’s how it went.
Smart Home

Check out the largest pools in the world - and how you can get there

From Egypt to Singapore to California, here's a pictorial breakdown of some of the biggest and largest pools in the world. Many of these pools are so big that you can even kayak and windsurf on them.
Smart Home

Consumer groups call out retailers in a bid for better IoT security

Consumer groups posted a "Dear retailer" letter on February 12 that called out Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon, and Target, shaming the companies for selling insecure smart home devices.

Walmart drops a killer Instant Pot deal for Presidents’ Day weekend

With the Walmart Presidents' Day sale going on right now, you can actually pick up the Instant Pot Lux60 6-quart programmable pressure cooker for just $69 -- $30 off its normal price.
Smart Home

Walmart slashes prices on Google Home during its Presidents’ Day sale

Walmart slashes prices on Google Home during its Presidents' Day sale. Whether you're taking your first step in configuring a smart home or expanding to every room, Walmart has excellent sale prices for all the key components.

Walmart Presidents’ Day sale: Instant Pot, Google Home, and 4K TV deals

Presidents' Day weekend is one of the best times of the year to find deep discounts on 4K TVs, laptops, Instant Pots, clothes, mattresses, and furniture. And Walmart is offering deals on all of those things and more.
Product Review

Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the simplest entry into a smarter doorway

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 may lack the style and sophistication of premium door-dingers, but few can match its simplicity and versatility. The device, available in both wired and wireless configurations, is easy to set up and adds instant…
Smart Home

4 small appliances that have changed the way we cook food (for the better)

These are exciting times for home cooks seeking to advance or simplify their technique in the kitchen, thanks in part to four small appliances that have made a splash in the past few years. Here’s why you should consider buying them.