Most manufacturers today are not shy of uprating models across their range but these facelifts normally come with a hike in cost. Amazon has started bucking this trend and their tweaked products come in at a cheaper price-point than previous generations for a real double-win.
With the original Echo now discontinued and the all-new version slated for release on October 31 of this year, there’s not long to wait now until you can enjoy the zenith of home digital butlers in a colorway to blend in with any décor.
Time for a revamp was ripe…
Echo was launched a full 2 years ago which is an aeon in the world of technology. Any device of that age starts to look tired. To salt the wound, Google predictably joined the voice assistant party with Google Home storming in boasting richer features, nimbler dimensions and a lesser price tag into the bargain.
In today’s Echo review, we’ll explore how Amazon hit back hard with this nifty little hands-free speaker. We’ll show you where it excels and you can decide whether a device like this would work well in your home or whether you consider it an unnecessary luxury. We’re here to help you make an informed decision not niggle you into purchasing.
Amazon Echo: What’s It All About?
Put simply, the all-new Amazon Echo is a voice-activated speaker that’s equally well equipped to serve up entertainment or to help you control your smart home.
Echo is far more than just a wireless speaker so read on if you want to see what other tricks Amazon has slipped up this quirky little device’s sleeve…
From playing a selection of your favorite music to sending messages, dimming the lights to dishing up all manner of information, Echo and Alexa join forces to take digital voice assistants to the next level.
First up, then, a brief breakdown of Echo’s formidable strengths and minimal weaknesses:
What We Like
- Exceptional value for money costing less than original Echo while offering far more in return
- Tiny footprint measuring just 5.9 x 3.5 x 3.5 inches and weighing a mere 29oz so maximum performance in a scaled-down unit
- Hook up to Alexa for all your entertainment and smart home needs
- Digital assistant is constantly updated and also grows more attuned to your voice while learning new Skills for a truly intelligent experience
- Full hands-free functionality lets you control everything without breaking your stride or using more than voice commands
- Voice-activated connectivity with all Echo devices in your home
- First-class speakers now enhanced further so bathe in 360 degree wireless audio
- Beamforming technology, noise dampening and 7 mics come together to make your voice heard wherever you are in the room
- Place free audio calls within North America and Mexico as an added bonus
- Wide choice of removable shell designs so fits in with any color scheme
- 1-year limited warranty with paid extensions available so buy without a headache
What We Don’t Like
- Looks very similar to the competition but then a speaker is a speaker so why reinvent the wheel?
- Sound quality, however impressive, cannot compete with high-end wireless speakers
- Hands-free voice recognition isn’t supported with Mac OS X devices, a surprising omission
Looks always count and the design of Echo has been given a full-blooded titivation but with the integrity of the original left intact.
Where the first generation Echo was fashioned like a tall and lean pillar, this overhauled model is smaller and lighter than before. Treading the same path as HomePod and Google Home, this new speaker is designed to blend in and looks like a soft furnishing or ornament with the pioneering tech tucked away inside.
You can choose from 6 distinctive finishes:
- Charcoal Fabric
- Heather Gray Fabric
- Oak Finish
- Sandstone Fabric
- Silver Finish
- Walnut Finish
Whether you want a shiny silver shell to complement your minimalist kitchen, a classic wood for the bedroom or softer fabric style to set off your living room, there’s something for everyone rather than the soulless black column of old.
These shells are removable and Amazon has made noises about offering them for sale separately in due course. The company is not known for hollow promises so watch this space.
Stature notwithstanding, the trademark cylindrical shape remains aling with the buttons housed on top of the speaker.
Alexa: What can she do?
When you want to fire up Echo, simply bark your designated wake word and you’ll connect to the cloud-based voice service with a whole host of options at your immediate disposal.
Alexa is named for the library in ancient Alexandria. With Amazon’s proprietary voice control system, tell Alexa what you want and your wish is her command.
Playing music takes on a new dimension. If you have compatible Echo devices throughout the house, instruct Alexa to play the same music throughout or mix it up from room to room according to your mood.
From Amazon Music to Spotify, Pandora to TuneIn, enjoy vocals and bass at their finest ably assisted by Alexa. You can even get her to pick your music for you if you’re feeling lazy or lost for inspiration.
Expand your audio fare to spoken books from Audible or a range of radio stations if you’re feeling like something rather more involved.
If you want to place a call or message someone, you can get that done hands-free as well. You’ll even enjoy free calls within North America and Mexico.
More and more people are becoming sold on the idea of smart homes. Once the preserve of sci-fi movies, dimming your lights or firing up the coffee machine can now be carried out with a few judicious words. For a vast array of home security and labor-saving applications, Alexa makes your life easier than ever before.
Here are a few smart home devices that Alexa meshes well with:
- LED Light Bulbs
- Smart Hubs
- Switches and Plugs
- Security Systems
So with Alexa, it’s not as much a case of what you can do as what can’t you do. It’s the next best thing to having home help without the associated costs.