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Amazon Astro: 3 reasons to buy and 3 reasons to skip

Amazon Astro debuted at Amazon event
(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon Astro, the $999 rolling robot announced during the latest Amazon event, is a Jetson's-style assistant ready for the 21st century. Sure, we've seen plenty or cute-yet-creepy traveling bots before (See: Samsung's Ballie) but Astro is one that could land in some homes before the end of the year.

Through Amazon's Day 1 Editions program, anyone with an Amazon account can request a limited invitation to order Astro right now. The question is, should you? 

I did. but not because I feel one way or the other about welcoming a hybrid smart display/security camera/party trick into my home. I just want to test out an ambitious new device myself, and get a taste of what the first true wave of accessible indoor robots looks like. Plus, cupholders. 

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That said, I don't think Astro is for everyone. It's not going to take over your home with fiery eyes and a razor-shooting periscope camera, but it could inflict terror on your toddler — and your wallet. While the price doesn't seem absurd for what you get, you'll feel pretty silly if it winds up becoming a "too soon" device that sits around collecting dust.

Here are three reasons you should order Amazon Astro, and three reasons you shouldn't. Again, orders will only process if you're invited and accept your invitation. You can request an invitation on this page. Note you'll need an Amazon account to be eligible. 

Amazon Astro: Reasons to buy

1. It's innovative as heck

We've seen plenty of tech brands reveal robots over the years, but few reached public availability and even fewer arrived with attainable price tags. Astro is clearly a gamble for Amazon, but one any smart home enthusiast should be excited to see the company make. Not only does it look like a completed product, it's one with proven applications, too.

Astro combines the rolling, mapping and charging features of the best robot vacuums (though not the cleaning) with the visual elements of a smart display and the monitoring tools of the best home security systems. In other words, Amazon and its Alexa AI voice assistant have an established reputation for all these smart home elements separately. Astro is a vessel for combining familiar features. It could become a one-stop solution for improving your home's IQ.

2. Its home monitoring tools actually seem useful

While Amazon is simultaneously pushing home security boundaries with the Ring Always Home Cam indoor drone, Astro has a slew of monitoring features designed to help you keep an eye on your space, even when you're away. It integrates with Ring Protect Pro, establishing Astro as a mobile spy for seeing the source of unusual sounds or movement. 

With a periscope that raises from the top of Astro's head, the robot's field of view reaches 42 inches up, so that you can get a better view of things higher off the ground. For example, you can see if you've left the stove on, or search for your keys on counters if you misplaced them.

Amazon Astro debuted at Amazon event

(Image credit: Amazon)

3. Who doesn't love cupholders?

I'm always misplacing my water bottle. It never strays far, but far enough that it's a pain to search around every time I'm dehydrated. If you can relate, you might appreciate Astro's built in cupholders. You can leave your beverage with your robot, and when you need a sip, simply call Astro over. 

It would also be cute to send someone in your home a drink from the fridge as a surprise. You'll certainly amaze guests when their request for a beer is fulfilled by a rolling robot with eyes. 

Amazon Astro: Reasons not to buy

1. It's pricey for a first-cut device

Often the prices for innovative, first-generation devices are high. Then, as adoption grows and production evens out, the price goes down. At $999, we're not really sure whether this norm applies to Astro. For the cost of, say, the iPhone 13 Pro, you can have a functional robot. Doesn't seem like a bad deal, if you're the gadget-loving type who loves tinkering with your smart home system.

But $999 is also steep for a something that could be nothing more to you than a party trick. It could also be replaced by a second-generation version in a year or two from now with across-the-board improvements stemming from reviewer and early adopter feedback. It's a risk you might not want to take. I promise, we'll have mainstream home robots like Astro soon enough.

2. It could upset pets or kids 

The first thing I thought when I saw Amazon Astro was, "wow, Steve would hate this." Steve, my black lab, despises our robot vacuum so there's no reason to think he'd welcome Astro into our his home. While it seems Astro has a decent pet detection and the dogs in the promotional videos apparently pay no mind to the rolling display, I can't see this faring well for many animal owners.

Similarly, a young child might be disturbed by Astro's presence. I can't say how your child will react to a robot with eyes that could sneak up on them at any moment, but it's worth airing on the side of caution. And that's before considering clumsiness or naively destructive habits that could damage Astro. 

Amazon Astro debuted at Amazon event

(Image credit: Amazon)

3. It can't open your fridge

Sure, Astro's cupholders are great, but they're also a reminder of what the robot can't do. Which is open your fridge, load up a beer or soda on its back and bring it to you. By no means should this be a dealbreaker, but it's undoubtedly disappointing. 

Again, you can't actually order Amazon Astro now and have it show up with Prime two-day delivery. It's available through the retailer's Day 1 Edition program, which means not everyone who wants Astro will be able to get one. You'll need to request an invitation, and then be invited to order. 

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.