Amazon Echo

A new Amazon Echo among the many products Amazon unveiled at its annual product announcement event Wednesday in Seattle.

Smart speakers may have well and truly taken off in recent years, but it all started back in 2014, when Amazon first launched its original Echo speaker.

Packing the company’s voice-enabled Alexa smart assistant, the Echo brought together AI smarts and convenient home audio – and absolutely stormed the smart home market, expanding into the variety of speakers, smart displays (like the Echo Show or the new Amazon Echo Show 5), and add-on gadgets (Echo Input) sold under the Echo name today.

Although Amazon’s Echo range is still going strong, it wasn’t long before other big tech names made a play for a slice of the smart home pie. These days there’s fierce competition from the Apple Homepod and Google Home, as well as a whole host of third party speakers.

The truth is that, despite mounting competition, the Amazon Echo is still one of our favorite options for your modern day home. It’ll play music, check the news and make your smart home tick. That’s because not only is it a solid speaker with a refreshed design, it’s also an admirable AI smart home helper thanks to Alexa.

The new Amazon Echo (2019) now boasts “the same audio architecture as Echo Plus, including neodymium drivers, 3-inch woofer and increased back volume so the bass feels stronger, and the mids and highs are clearer”, according to Amazon.

The second-generation Amazon Echo sits in a sweet spot – it’s affordable, yet a fully capable smart speaker.

It has dual-speakers powered by Dolby, which means it sounds much, much better than the smaller Amazon Echo Dot. However, on the smart speakers price scale it’s still a mid-range choice in comparison to the pricier Echo Plus.

We believe its sound quality is more than good enough for most everyday needs. However, audiophiles be warned: it’s not ready to replace your Hi-Fi sound system just yet. Instead, it’s a great starter option if you want to dip your toe into the smart home space without a big financial commitment or if playing lots of music isn’t really a priority for you.

Since the first version of the smart speaker was released way back in 2015, Amazon has made a number of subtle yet significant improvements to the Echo’s look. The latest 2017 version boasts new fabric and wood finishes, which are likely to suit most of your home decor way better than the brushed aluminum that Amazon used to favor. Which, let’s be honest, at times also looked a bit tacky.

Amazon Echo FAQ: quick questions answered
Is there a monthly fee for Echo No, there’s no monthly fee. You just need to buy the Echo and have an Amazon account. You’ll then need to get the Amazon Echo app, which is also free.

However, if you’re an Amazon Prime member you’ll get some added benefits, like access to Amazon Music through your Echo.

What does an Amazon Echo do? Think of the Amazon Echo as your own personal assistant. We’re not at the stage where our tech can physically help us run our homes, but it can do everything else. So you can ask the Echo’s voice assistant, Alexa, to answer questions about the time, general knowledge, traffic, what the weather is going to be like and everything else that might help your day run a bit smoother.

Thanks to smart home tech all connecting up, you can also use your Echo to control other devices that you might have in your home. So let’s say you have a Philips Hue lightbulb, for example, the Echo can control that too. You’d just need to say “Alexa, turn off the bulb.”

That’s just the beginning. The Echo has a whole host of ‘skills’ which you can think of as separate apps and things it can do for you, from playing games to controlling other tech to waking you up in the morning.

What’s the difference between Echo and Alexa? The Echo is the name of the smart speaker, Alexa is the smart assistant inside.

What’s the difference between Amazon Echo and Amazon Dot? The Amazon Echo is the original smart speaker from Amazon. It has Alexa built-in and can play good quality music. The Dot is the same thing, but smaller. The main difference is that the Dot’s speaker isn’t as good as Echo’s. So if you want to play music, get an Echo.

Does the Echo require Alexa? Yes. Alexa is what makes your Echo smart. Think of her as your own smart assistant and the brains behind the hardware. You ask her to do things and help you with things throughout the day, from “Alexa, what will the weather be like later?” to “Alexa, switch on the lights please.”

You don’t need to do anything extra to get Alexa, the voice assistant comes built-in to Amazon’s Echo range of smart speakers.

The upgraded Echo is also smaller and wider than its predecessor. Rather than meaning it gets more in the way, it’s actually a welcome change, making the smart speaker steadier on its feet. While we always felt that an accidental nudge would topple the original Echo over, the new Echo’s sturdier footprint means it isn’t going anywhere.

The all-new Amazon Echo’s exact measurements are 148 x 88 x 88mm. Compare this to the original’s 235 x 84 x 84mm and it’s plain to see the height loss and waist gain. Weight-wise it’s a solid 821g.

There are three fabric options: Charcoal, Heather and Sandstone. There are also three ‘finish’ offerings; Oak, Walnut and Silver. Their names (apart from the last) may conjure up wood, but it’s worth noting that the shells are made from plastic and are $10 more expensive than the fabric versions.

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.

Comparing it to the original Amazon Echo and the new model easily competes, which is fantastic considering the radically lower price point.

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