A selection of the expanding range of Amazon Echo smart devices.
The Amazon Echo range of devices has been growing and gaining in popularity in equal measure. At this stage, it’s hard to keep track of what’s new, but I’ve been testing four new devices from Amazon to give you the low down.
First up, the new Amazon Echo 3rd generation smart-speaker. In essence, Echo 3 is almost identical to the Echo Plus 2 with its cylinder shape and physical controls on the top for volume up/down, mic on/off and Alexa button. Near the base, is the power input and a 3.5mm line in/out socket.
In terms of the speaker system, the Echo 3 features the same audio architecture as Echo Plus, including a 3-inch woofer and increased back volume so that the bass feels stronger, and the mids and highs are clearer.
The new Echo 3 is available in Twilight Blue, Charcoal, Heather Grey, and Sandstone. Unlike the Echo Plus, the Echo 3 doesn’t come with the integrated Zigbee hub for direct connection of certain smart home devices. For most people, this isn’t a big deal. When I first used the Echo Plus, I set it up with Philips Hue bulbs and it worked fine. However, in time I bought a Hue Hub because I wanted to ad Philips Hue remotes and other features that the integrated Zigbee hub lacked.
If you buy two Echo 3s or an Echo Plus 2, then you can pair them together for a more powerful stereo sound. I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t expecting this to be as good or convenient as it is. It really makes music sound even better thanks to a broader stereo soundstage and of course, you double the volume. Add the Echo Sub for additional bass and you got a decent sound system for both music and video.
The Echo 3 is like any other Echo device and works just like it says on the tin. If you like using an older Echo for listening to music, the improvements in sound quality make it an excellent choice, especially if you’re coming from an Echo Dot.
Sound quality is a subjective thing but keeping in mind that fact that this is a smart speaker with Alexa built-in, for €109 you’re getting bang for your euro. That makes it €60 cheaper than the Echo Plus albeit without the Zigbee hub.
The Echo Flex is an interesting option for those who need more Echo’s in their lives. That might sound strange to some who feel a single Echo is more than enough for any home, but if you’ve got smart home devices like bulbs in every room, having more Alexas makes sense.
So, what do you get for £20? Well, the Echo Flex is a small plug-in speaker that has built-in Alexa voice control, the same as any Echo. The speaker is weak and doesn’t get very loud and not really suited for anything other than voice control.
The Echo Flex does come with a USB port that can be used to charge or power a smartphone or other low powered devices as well as an optional night light from Amazon. It doesn’t have any wires or leads - simply plug it into a power outlet and you’re good to go after the usual Alexa setup. On the front of the Echo Flex is the Alexa and mic mute buttons, a small indicator light, two pinhole microphones, and two small grilles for the internal speaker. There’s also a 3.5mm audio output to allow you to connect it to a bigger speaker if so required.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Echo Flex was able to pick up my voice, even from across the room. The Echo Flex is a great way to extend Alexa throughout the house if you don’t need it for playing music on.
The Echo Dot with Clock (€60) is one of my favourite new additions to the Echo lineup. Essentially, you’re getting the latest Dot with a digital clock display. The clock is a bright LED display that makes it the perfect addition to a bedside table or countertop. The LED display automatically adjusts based on the brightness of the room, so you can easily see the time, just ask to see the outdoor temperature, or to set a morning alarm or pasta timer. Plus, you can tap the top of the device to conveniently snooze an alarm.
Finally, the Echo Show 8 features all of the same good things the Echo Show 5 albeit with a larger screen. During my time of testing the Echo Show 5, I couldn’t get Amazon Prime Video to work and assumed it was down to me using an Irish account. But I discovered the problem was with my Amazon account being linked to amazon.com rather than amazon.co.uk. Eventually, after a lot of googling, I fixed the problem and got Prime Video working on the Echo Show 8. You can also use it to play YouTube videos, a nice option, but don’t expect to watch other streaming services like Netflix anytime soon.
In general, I find the best location for the Echo Show is in a kitchen where you’ll find the best use for its display.
I often use it for video calls between other Echo devices too which comes in handy. For those with privacy concerns, you can slide-over the camera to physically block it.
The 8-inch HD LCD display is plenty bright and it has powerful speakers. With the Echo Show 8’s integration with BBC Good Food, it’s easier than ever to find and cook along with your favourite meal recipes and, with WikiHow, you can access hundreds of how-to videos by voice—all you have to do is ask to see videos on how to meditate, cut up a mango or open a tight jar.
The addition of a screen makes the Echo Show 8 a little more useful and right in the middle of the Show range between the 10-inch and 5-inch options.
Echo Show 8 is on sale in Amazon for £60 (€71 approx).