Amazon Echo has been launched in the US over 2 years agoi and it has found its way into the homes of many Americans. This may not be the kind of gadget that you “need” per se, but, as you’ll see below, it comes with a set of practical features that are hard not to miss when they’re gone. Marketed primarily as a Bluetooth speaker, Amazon Echo is much more than that. It’s also features Alexa, an AI personal assistant that answers your questions, tells you the weather, orders pizza, calls a cab, makes appointments for you, dims down the lights and controls the thermostat. These are a lot of bold claims, but is Alexa the real-life Jarvis we’ve been waiting for? Let’s find out in this Amazon Echo review.
Echo Features at-a-glance(Read Full Specs )
- 360 surround sound Bluetooth speaker with voice control and hands-free feature
- Has seven microphones
- Plays music from Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Prime and other online streaming services
- Advanced far-field voice recognition, including when music is playing
- Alexa Voice Service can look up answers on the Web, report the weather, sports results, read the news. It also executes music commands.
- Echo skills are constantly being developed and are integrated with third party developers, for example online ordering services such as Domino’s and Uber.
- Natural AI experience
- Can be used to control smart home appliances such as light switches and thermostats
- Learns language patterns and speech recognition gets better in time
Design of the Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo has a slim, minimal design. It’s a 9.3 x 3.3-inch cyli nder that doesn’t stand out through anything in particular, but at the same time it’s very versatile and goes well with any style of room. It’s available in two colors, black and white and it weighs a little over 37 oz. It’s not lightweight, but this won’t bother you, because most people place the Echo in one spot and leave it there.
Bluetooth speaker quality
As mentioned in the beginning, Amazon echo is a Bluetooth speaker and one of its main functions is to play music. Interestingly, it doesn’t do this very well. While the sound quality is decent and the speaker does have deep bass response, it is in no way comparable to other Bluetooth speakers from the same price range. Of course, few people actually buy Echo for its speaker feature, but you should know that if you’re particularly picky about the way music sounds, then you’ll be disappointed. At low and medium volume, the sound is clear enough, but once you turn the music up, distortions become quite noticeable, even for untrained ears. If you want a Bluetooth speaker to use at parties, then this isn’t the one.
Amazon Echo is incredibly simple to set up, even if you haven’t used a Bluetooth speaker before. You can download the dedicated app for it and you can pair it to your device just by saying “Pair” and using the speaker itself is child’s play. The controls are very intuitive, making it easy for the entire family to use this device. For more details, check out the official step-by-step setup guide, or watch this video:
Alexa – an assistant that keeps getting better
Design and sound quality may not be out of the ordinary, but the Alexa Voice Service definitely is. It’s the main feature of this gadget and once you get used to it, you’ll never want to live without it. What is Alexa? Alexa is an AI/personal assistant that responds to voice commands and does all sorts of useful things. Think of it as an evolved version of Siri or a very, very basic version of Jarvis.
How to interact
Interaction with Alexa is very seamless and natural. To ask it something, you start the command by saying the name. For example: Alexa, what’s the weather? / Alexa, set a reminder for tomorrow at 4 pm! / Alexa, play Kings of Leon! There is no need to shout or get very close to the speaker, because the Echo has far field voice recognition and hears you even if you’re across the room while music is playing. The idea is to talk to it as if you talked to an actual human.
Amazon Echo is integrated with all your online music streaming services and will play your favorite music whenever you want. You can ask it to play a specific song or you can ask for a genre or band.
News, weather, headlines
If you want to know the headlines when you wake up, you simply ask Alexa. However, you’ll need to mention the name of the news service. You can also ask the weather, food recipes, TV show schedules and many others. This database is constantly growing and new sources are added all the time. In the US, you can even ask Alexa for food recommendations or other local businesses.
Control home appliances
If you have smart home appliances, Alexa will make it easier for you to control them. For example, you can turn off the lights from your bed, turn up or turn down the temperature, even open the garage door. The great thing is that all these smart appliances don’t have to belong to the same service provider.
Expectations vs. reality
On paper, Amazon Echo sounds like the perfect gadget, one that offers practical benefits for everyone, not just tech enthusiasts. While it is a novelty item and a spectacular innovation, it obviously has its shortcomings, because the technology is still in its early stages:
- Voice recognition can be a bit patchy. Alexa will need some time to learn your voice patterns and understand what you mean from the first try. In the beginning, no matter how clearly you pronounce the command, it will misunderstand.
- The searching feature is limited. Alexa can give you the answer to basic, general questions, such as who is president of the United States, but it can’t answer more specific questions, such as how tall is Tom Cruise or how many calories are in a burger.
- The number of third party apps compatible with Amazon Echo is still quite small. The addition of Domino’s and Uber is great, but more apps need to be added. Also, you can only make the most out of this gadget if you live in the US or the UK, at least when it comes to finding or contacting local businesses.
The great news is that the Alexa voice service is constantly updated and improved, so we can expect much more from it in the years to come.
Pros for the Amazon Echo smart speaker:
+ neat, simple design
+ easy to set up and use
+ natural interaction
+ fast response time
+ plays music from all popular online music streaming services
+ Alexa Voice Service gets better at recognizing your voice over time
+ natural interaction with Alexa
+ far field voice recognition
+ integration with smart home appliances
+ connects to an increasing number of third party apps
- Mediocre speaker quality, especially at a high volume
- Voice recognition is inaccurate at first
- Does not understand complex questions
- Is not NFC-compatible
- Not worth the money if you don’t have smart appliances
- Needs to include more local businesses