A few months back, Amazon released three exciting new wireless Bluetooth speakers in its Echo line and it took all of us by surprise. The Echo Show, with an LCD screen and video-calling capabilities, was thought to be the pioneer of Amazon Echo devices this year but boy were we wrong! The company brought out new features with its three new smart speakers – Echo Plus, Echo 2nd generation and the Echo Spot – this September and they have all raised the bar quite high up for other smart speakers in the market.
The Echo Plus, one of the more popular releases by Amazon, is an up-scaled, upgraded version of the original Echo device released back in 2015. In fact, on first look, it even looks almost identical. However, contrary to the older model, the Echo Plus has a lot more versatile functionality that we need to talk about.
Echo Plus Review
Alexa is Back with Brand New Features
Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa is, as expected, integrated into the new Echo Plus device. The voice assistant is now able to do a lot more than it could previously do. With constant new updates, the voice assistant is getting bigger and smarter every day.
Along with the basic functions of playing music through several streaming platforms like Amazon Music, Spotify, TuneIn and more, sending texting messages, receiving and making calls, home automation, setting up reminders and alarms, ordering fast food and hailing a cab, Alexa has some brand new features in the new Echo Plus model that seriously impress.
The first of the two new features introduced in the Echo Plus smart speaker is a feature called Routines. ‘Routines’ is a function that allows users to set automated commands for a particular function. These commands can be customized. For example, you could set a command as “Alexa, I’m home” and the voice assistant will turn out the smart lights by itself without additional commands – pretty cool, right?
The other new feature has to do more with the call feature than the actual voice assistant. Now, with Echo Plus, you can make calls to a buddy in both US and UK who owns an Echo device as well. It’s that simple!
Same Old Design with Better Sound
To our surprise, the Echo Plus is remarkably similar in shape, size and design to the first 2015 Echo smart speaker. You’d think the company would invent a new layout instead of that same old cylindrical shape but they’re keeping the design as their icon. The Echo Plus is massive; 235 mm tall and 84 mm wide with three color options of black, silver and white. The grille around the speaker encircles the body in the same way as its predecessor.
While from the outside the Echo Plus looks the same as the first generation Echo, it’s the inside that has received a major upgrade. Now, the smart speaker is backed up with Dolby Digital speakers for amplified sounds and crisper vocals. The speaker itself includes a 2.5 inches woofer and a 0.8 inches tweeter with a 3.5 mm audio jack. The audio output is a 360 degrees omni-directional process with better sound quality ever seen before in another device, comparable to the Apple HomePod which is three times its price. However, you still can’t compare the sound quality to wired, bass speakers of course!
Unlike the other new Echo device, the Echo Spot, this one isn’t portable and needs a power supply and internet to work properly.
Along with the upgrade on the speaker, the company has raised the standard of the microphone as well. The Echo Plus now has seven far-field microphones that can pick up voice commands from a longer distance than ever before. The voice assistant can also hear you over ambient noise and even over music. But since the technology isn’t perfect, Alexa could misinterpret and misunderstand your command which can be incredibly frustrating.
Home Automation Improved but Still Rusty
Smart home control is a complex science. We’re still new to the concept so there’s no device that has conquered home automation to the fullest. Amazon’s Echo Plus has made a commendable effort but it still does lack some smart home control and needs improvement in this department.
Nonetheless, you can still sing commands to your Alexa-powered device to control smart home supported by a number of smart home companies including ZigBee and Philips Hue. Unlike the other Echo devices in the line, the Echo Plus, has a built in ZigBee wireless protocol that allows third-party devices to interact directly with the Echo Plus. Earlier, you needed a smart hub unit to control smart home features with your Echo device but with the Echo Plus, you can completely bypass this step.
Echo Plus Review: Yay or Nay?
After reviewing all of the individual characteristics and features of the new Echo Plus device, it’s safe to say that the smart speaker is an all-rounder and a great product to start with in making your home smarter. It has some downsides and underlying issues that we hope the company will fix in the future but if you’re looking to start somewhere, choose the Echo Plus!