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Review: Amazon Echo sounds like a home run

Review: Amazon Echo sounds like a home run

Connected Home
July 17, 2015

Amazon has had some amazing hit products, such as the Kindle and the Kindle Fire. The company has also had some spectacular flops, like the Kindle Fire Phone. Their latest product, announced quietly in November 2014 as an invitation-only pre-launch for select Amazon Prime members and available now for everyone, is the Amazon Echo. The Amazon Echo is best described as a “smart speaker.” It connects via Wi-Fi to the Internet and to your smartphone, tablet, or computer through Bluetooth. Let’s have a look at Amazon Echo and see how well the smart speaker performs.


The Facts

  • Company Name: Amazon
  • Product Name: Amazon Echo
  • Price: $179.99
  • Compatibility: iOS, Android, Windows, Mac
  • Website: Amazon’s Web page
  • Date Reviewed: July 17, 2015

The Basics

Amazon Echo is designed to bring all of the benefits of Amazon Prime to you in the form of a sleek, black smart speaker. The device connects to your WI-FI hotspot, and allows you to do things like stream music from Amazon Prime, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and Pandora. You can also stream audio books from Audible, but that’s not nearly all the cylindrical speaker can do.

Everything about Amazon Echo is voice-activated: you call up your preferred music by calling out to the Echo, whose name by default is Alexa. For example, you can tell Amazon Echo, “Alexa, play Fireflight,” and the speaker will begin shuffling through every Fireflight track in the Amazon Prime Music catalog.

The speaker can also connect to the Internet and bring you information, such as news briefings from NPR News, BBC News, ESPN Radio SportsCenter, and others. Again, you activate this by telling the smart speaker, for example, “Alexa, tell me the news.” You can also get a weather briefing by asking Alexa for the weather or forecast.

Amazon Echo is compatible with certain Wink, Belkin WeMo, and Philips Hue connected devices, so you can use Alexa to control your lights and switches. You can also use Amazon Echo to reorder things you purchased before, like Subscribe and Save items.

Even better, Amazon Echo is “connected to the cloud so it’s always getting smarter.”


Integration With iOS Devices

The Amazon Echo free app for your iPhone or iPad is how you can set up many of the device’s more advanced features. For example, you can configure which news sources are played for your Flash Briefing, configure your Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn accounts, and more. You can also stream audio from your iPhone or iPad to the Amazon Echo by pairing the two devices together using Bluetooth.


Use and Feel

Amazon Echo is a sleek black cylinder, looking very modern and compact. Inside the casing, there is a 2.5-inch woofer and a 2-inch tweeter, with a reflex port that enhances the sound and prevents distortion.

Far-field voice recognition allows Amazon Echo to hear you from across the room, although you do have to raise your voice to control the device from more than a few feet. Using on-device keyword recognition, Amazon Echo is always listening for your commands. While this might be a privacy concern, it’s worth noting that the device listens only for its wake word, Alexa by default, and won’t send anything else it hears to the cloud until you speak the appropriate trigger.

What’s Hot

  • The Amazon Echo is able to answer a wide variety of questions.
  • It streams music from Amazon Prime, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.
  • You can control the device from across the room.

What’s Not

  • Bluetooth paired devices take precedence over Prime Music, so my songs often pause when my iPhone makes noises.
  • There is still some sound distortion at high volumes, even with the reflex port.
  • It doesn’t have full Apple Music integration — I wish Apple would have thought of such a device. You can stream Apple Music tracks via Bluetooth, but it would be nice if I could just queue up Beats 1 by asking Alexa to play the station.

How Does It Stack Up?

I believe the Amazon Echo is a home run. Alexa has quickly become a part of my daily life, and I enjoy the ability to control my music and ask questions without needing to stop what I’m doing and pick up a remote control or another device.

Where Can You Get It, and How Much Does It Cost?

Amazon Echo is available starting for $179 through the official Web page for the device..

Our Advice

If you want an attractive, good-sounding speaker with smart capabilities, Amazon Echo is a great buy. It looks great, sounds great, and gains new features almost weekly.

The Amazon Echo’s Overall Scores:

  • Aesthetic Appeal: ★★★★★
  • Wow Factor: ★★★★★
  • Sound: ★★★★☆
  • Value: ★★★★★

Mentioned apps

Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo

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