Amazon Echo is a product of smart speakers developed by Amazon.com. It is very reasonable and the sound quality is really good. Even though the first version of the smart speaker was released back in 2015, Amazon has made subtle yet significant improvements to the Echo’s look. The new fabric and wood finishes are likely to suit most of your home decor way better than the brushed aluminium Amazon used to favour.
It’s Alexa digital assistant often doesn’t seem quite as intelligent as Google Assistant either, but that might be more of a subjective preference. But at the affordable price, we’re very happy with this smart speaker.
The only drawback of the Echo’s design is that it doesn’t have the volume dial of the Echo Plus.
What all can Echo do for you:
- Echo can tell Alexa to play music, make calls, set music alarms and timers, ask questions, control smart home devices, and more—instantly.
- Just ask for a song, artist, or genre from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, and more. With multi-room music, you can play music on compatible Echo devices in different rooms. Echo can also play Audible audiobooks, radio stations, news briefs, and more.
- Call or message almost anyone hands-free with your Echo device. Also, instantly connect to other Echo devices in your home using just your voice.
- The new speaker, now with Dolby processing for crisp vocals and dynamic bass response. Echo can fill the room with 360° omnidirectional audio.
- With seven microphones, beamforming technology, and noise cancellation, Echo hears you from any direction—even while music is playing
- Just ask Alexa to check your calendar, weather, traffic, and sports scores manage to-do and shopping lists, control your compatible smart lights, thermostats, garage doors, sprinklers, and more
- Alexa is always getting smarter and adding new features and skills. Just ask Alexa to control your TV, request an Uber, order a pizza, and more.
What more you need? It will take care of all your necessities for which you don’t even need to get bothered. It is easy to use and very fast. Just give the command and you will get the response very quick.
The Amazon Echo is a good deal and a solid choice if you’ve been debating which smart speaker to try.
Design and features
Credit to the recent design update, the latest version of the Amazon Echo is the least techy-looking of the Amazon range of digital assistant speakers. A fabric grille wraps around its sides, rather than the brushed aluminium of the Echo Plus.
Amazon may have done the cut costs, but it gives the speaker more of an “interior design” look. This is a big change as smart speakers become mainstream and an integral part of everyone’s living room, rather than just early adopter gadgets that stand out for all the wrong reasons.
The design isn’t the only thing that’s changed in the latest iteration of the Amazon Echo. Alexa has been through a number of updates, gaining new Skills and routines, as well as improved voice recognition and understanding.
The Amazon Echo (2nd Generation) is a breeze to set up but you have to use the Amazon Alexa app on your phone to get it started.
It spells out how to get the Echo on to your network, though, and takes just a couple of minutes. Head to Settings and Set up a New Device and then just choose the right Echo for installation (they are handily shown as icons) and follow the setup instructions.
The real learning curve of an Amazon Echo is elsewhere: knowing what to ask Alexa, what works and what doesn’t. And then diving into Echo Skills to add abilities. These are a little like apps for your smart speaker, and there are now over 30,000 of them.
You can ask Alexa what the time is, what the weather is like (you will have to input where you actually live for this), for a flash news bulletin, ask it a joke, to set a timer… there’s a whole host of things you can do without setting up a Skill.
On tracks with heavy sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Echo absences any resonant low end, and starts to distort as you approach maximum volume. Dialling back the volume helps cut the distortion, but the Echo still lacks any substantial low-end presence. On the positive side, the high end is crisp, and there’s just enough bass that music never sounds cold. Most of the tracks we listened to, from Ani DiFranco’s acoustic “Garden of Simple” to D’Angelo’s jazzy “Isn’t That Easy,” felt warm, with enough volume to fill a modest-sized room with sound.
If you’re just looking for a speaker, chances are you wouldn’t have read this far. Sure, there’s really nothing you can do with the Amazon Echo that you can’t do with the smartphone in your pocket. Yet there’s something here that feels infinitely more approachable.
Ultimately, this is a battle of voice assistants far more than it is of hardware. The Google Home has a different look and a slightly warmer sound signature that might appeal to you, but Google Assistant just can’t compete with Alexa’s superior library of skills. If you don’t love the look or sound of the Echo, there are plenty of Alexa-powered alternatives coming down the pike (and they’re not all speakers). But we like the way it looks and sounds and coupled with the steady flow of updates that Amazon keeps pushing out, the Echo has become a far better device today than we ever would have imagined two years ago. That makes it worthy of our Editors’ Choice.
But to really make your Echo sing (and it does sing, just ask it) you will want to dive into the Skills and modify the Echo to work for you.
Again, this is a simple process (head to the All Skills part of the app) but it’s a quality minefield. There are thousands available but only a small percentage of these are actually worth bothering with depending on what other ‘smart’ things you have around the house.
In our tests, we hooked the Echo up to the following Skills: Amazon Music, Spotify, TuneIn Hive thermostat (and smart lights), a Sonos system, our Just Eat account and Google Calendar.
On the whole, the Echo managed to work well, although it did occasionally trip itself up and get confused. Asking for 6Music (the UK radio station) would sometimes take us to a devilish playlist of 666 music, while we would eventually get to the radio station we wanted by sometimes saying BBC 6Music to avoid confusion. Other times we would have to add “on TuneIn” to the end of what we asked Alexa.