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Hands on with Amazon Alexa on Windows 10 with HP's Pavilion Wave

HP's refreshed Pavilion Wave looks like a smart speaker, but it's not. This is a full desktop PC, but it's one of the first Windows 10 devices to include Amazon's Alexa voice assistant. It's a big deal, as Amazon's partnerships with four major PC OEMs - Acer, ASUS, HP, and Lenovo - doesn't reflect well on Microsoft's own Cortana.

But if you're like me (and you're reading this article), you're probably wondering what Alexa is like on a Windows 10 machine, so let's dive right into that.

On the Pavilion Wave, the device lights up in blue when the wake word is spoken, similar to how an Amazon Echo would. The interesting thing is that it should work exactly the same way if you say, "Hey, Cortana".

Indeed, both voice assistants should be able to work in parallel, and that should be the same across the board with the new PCs that we're seeing with far-field microphones.

But what about the software? After all, a third-party voice assistant isn't just going to magically appear. It comes with an Amazon Alexa app, which is made by Amazon instead of the OEM. That means that no matter which Alexa-enabled PC that you buy, it will have the same Alexa app.

Please note that I couldn't obtain actual screenshots, as this PC was being demoed at CES.

Obviously, you can ask Alexa questions and it will answer you. Since you're using it with a screen though, you now have a visual aid. Naturally, you can also use it to play music, which is one of the most common use cases for a digital assistant.

The app can tell you what's playing now, although it's lacking some features that you might expect. For example, it would be a nice touch if it included X-Ray Lyrics, or the ability to choose a song or artist for when Alexa doesn't recognize your voice properly. Still, this is a first version. We can hope that these things show up in an update. These are features that you can get from the Amazon Music app, so it might make sense to integrate them into a single platform.

I've also been told that Alexa can be used to play videos from your Amazon account, such as movies you've purchased or those available via Prime. I've not been able to test this, being that the demo machine wasn't logged into an account that was subscribed to Prime.

Obviously, there is a menu of things that you can try when using the app. It's not nearly as robust as the Alexa app on your phone, but again, this is likely to get better over time. For example, if you click on "Things to Try", it will open your default browser and open a webpage, rather than a list within the app.

Settings is pretty limited as well. As you can see, you can turn the wake word on or off, but you don't have a choice in what that word is. With an Echo device, you can choose between Alexa, Amazon, Echo, and Computer. This also seems like functionality that will be added in the future, and it's unclear whether this will be able to be changed from within the Alexa app on your phone. After all, the Pavilion Wave would be registered as an Alexa device, so presumably, you could also control these settings from other Alexa apps.

And then there's the device itself. The fabric design actually reminds me of Amazon's Echo, and HP says that it's meant to match your interior decorating. There's only one problem: you can't change the color of the fabric. It would be nice if you could remove the shell and replace it with a different one.

The device is not expandable by any means; you won't be able to open it up and add more RAM or storage. This isn't something you'd expect from a desktop PC that's not an all-in-one. It does offer a range of ports on the back though.

Finally, on the front, there's an additional USB Type-A port, and a 3.5mm audio jack.

The refreshed Pavilion Wave will arrive this spring, starting at $549.

Neowin is at CES to bring you all the coverage from the show floor, click here for other articles.

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