Product Review: Roav Viva by Anker

My wife and I just very recently traded in our old clunker of a car for a slightly used 2016 Mazda CX-5. Ever since then I’ve been investigating ways that I can improve our experience when riding in the car. I’ve read about products that can add Amazon’s Alexa to the car which sounds like a great idea: keeping drivers focused on the road instead of navigating complex user interfaces on their phones or in-dash screen. Adding Alexa to the car also piqued my interest because my house already has multiple Amazon Echos and is heavily integrated with Samsung SmartThings to control lights, door locks, the thermostat, and the TV.

It just so happened that Anker was looking for people on Reddit to review their product for free, so I threw my name in the ring hoping that I would get picked and sure enough, I did! I do want to state that even though I was given the product for free, I was not paid and I am not being pressured to write a biased review.

After being picked, the product arrived at my doorstep within 2 days. The packaging was nice and presented the product in a premium way — think how Apple presents their iPhones. I’m not very big into unboxing videos, so if you want to learn more about the unboxing I recommend searching YouTube. I quickly ran out to the car and plugged the device into the car’s 12 volt receptacle. After installing the Roav Viva app on my iPhone 6 it was as simple as following the on screen guide.

The first thing I had to do was update the device’s firmware. This is always recommended for any new product as having the latest firmware not only fixes problems but may introduce new features. The firmware update did take a long time — I’d guess about 15 to 20 minutes. This may be because my phone was trying to download the firmware update over WiFi and the driveway is pretty far away from the wireless router. At one point the firmware installation progress bar appeared to stop moving for a few minutes. This concerned me because I was unsure if the app had frozen or if it was just taking a long time. I waited for a few minutes with the progress bar not moving, getting increasingly worried, but then eventually it did move again. During the setup and firmware updating process there were some grammatical errors within the app. The instructions were likely written in another language and then translated to English. This didn’t cause any problems or confusion, but was something that I noticed.

After the firmware had finished updating and I logged into my Amazon account I started experimenting with the voice commands in the driveway and on my commute to work. I noticed that after saying “Alexa” there is a bit of a delay before the sound effect plays that lets you know she is listening. I assume this is because of the Bluetooth connection. The good news is, you don’t have to actually wait for the sound effect to finish before you can start talking. However it is a little awkward to start talking and then have the sound effect chime in while you are mid-sentence.

While driving around I did encounter a few dead-zones where the cellular connection must have been bad and Alexa couldn’t reach the servers to get an answer. I think this is more to blame on my phone and Verizon Wireless, but I didn’t expect to find dead-zones in a city like Philadelphia.

The Roav Viva can do almost everything the original Echo can do. I am able to stream music, play my news feed, set timers or reminders, and even control my house via Samsung SmartThings. It is exceptionally satisfying when pulling into the driveway late at night, saying “Alexa, I’m in the driveway” only to see the entire house slowly light up. In addition, it’s extra nice because this command automatically unlocks the front door, which is great when your arms are full of groceries.

Another feature within the app that I really appreciate is the ability to chose which map service you want to use. I can choose between Google Maps, Waze, and Apple Maps. Now keep in mind that the Roav Viva app needs to be open for Alexa to work, so when you ask for directions to a location and Waze (or any of the other map apps) takes over your phone’s screen, Alexa will not work until you switch back to the Roav Viva app.

The biggest issue I had with the Roav Viva is likely a unique one that most other people won’t have a problem with. Remember earlier how I said our driveway is kind of far away from the house? Well, even when the car is off the Roav Viva stays on and searches for that Bluetooth connection. The first few nights that we had the device my phone woke me up at 2am shouting that my phone had connected with the Roav Viva. I guess the distance from our bedroom to the car is just close enough to occasionally connect and it just so happened to do it in the middle of the night. Because of this I now remove the Roav Viva from the 12 volt receptacle when parking the car. After digging around in the settings of the app I found that you can disable your phone from shouting this message every time it connects, but I’ve still decided to remove the device from the car port to save my car & iPhone’s battery.

Another issue that I think is unique to me and will not be the case for most others is the location of the car port. In the Mazda CX-5 there are two 12 volt receptacles: 1 in the trunk and 1 inside the center console, neither of which are ideal for the Roav Viva. I currently have the device plugged into the port inside the center console which means I have to yell slightly louder than you should for Alexa to hear me. I have yet to try the trunk port to see if the mic picks up any better.

Overall, my experience with the Roav Viva has been very positive. The biggest complaints I have I believe are fairly unique to my situation and shouldn’t be a problem for most others. I’d say for the price this is a very easy and cheap way to integrate Alexa into your commute, especially when compared to the other options out there. If you have any additional questions please do not hesitate to ask in the comments section.

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