By now you’ve probably seen the television commercials for the Amazon Echo. Inside is a personal voice-activated assistant, similar to Siri, that can do a variety of tasks. The Echo is a tall white or black cylindrical shaped box with speaker grill, but it does more than act as a speaker.
While some of the intention may be for simplifying shopping from Amazon.com, Alexa can control your smart home equipment, including thermostat, lights, and more. She can also answer your questions, check the weather, and play music. You can play audio books or podcasts. The Echo gets favourable reviews for a new tech under $200.
The Echo works hands-free so you don’t need to type directly on a keyboard. It’s completely voice-activated with Alexa.
If you need Alexa to work as a home-based personal assistant you’ll need to buy smart home equipment first. This will enable you to control smart home equipment such as a Nest thermostat or the Philips Hue lights.
The voice recognition on the Echo is excellent, and Alexa can even pick out minute distortions of noise occurring in the background, or even if you’re listening to music.
The larger Echo measures 9 inches or 235 mm tall. There are two circular buttons on the top of the Echo. The one on the right is an action button for on or off, and can be used to stop timers or alarms, or put the Echo into WiFi setup mode. The Echo has a wide ring at the top which is used to turn the volume up or down. The button on the left is for the microphone and can be turned on or off. It basically gives you some privacy, and keeps Alexa from hearing you.
There is also a cool LED light ring around the top of the device that lights up when Alexa is working. It also shows the volume level, and can even let you know if there is an issue with your internet or WiFi connectivity. Instead of using the buttons you can ask Alexa to increase or decrease the volume, or say, “Alexa volume 5”.
Built within the large Echo are two speakers, a 2.5 inch woofer, and a tweeter. You’ll find that the sound quality is decent, and Alexa’s voice will be crystal clear. But obviously, you’re not going to be buying it for the best audiophile experience at this price.
If you find that the Echo is a bit too pricy for you, there is also the Echo Dot, which is a cheaper version under $60. It doesn’t have as high a quality of speaker inside, so may not be the best choice for audiophiles.
The Dot also has two colour options in black or white, and it only measures 84 mm tall. The Dot does not have the volume ring, but there are volume control buttons instead. The plus and minus buttons are self-explanatory, being for increasing or decreasing volume controls. It still has the same lit-up LED light ring.
You can connect your own hi-fi speaker to the 3.5 mm minijack, or a Bluetooth speaker, but there isn’t a Bluetooth PIN port.
The Amazon Echo or Dot are both great for use in the kitchen or bedroom. If you hope to experience better bass quality, get the Dot and hook it up to your own set of speakers. If you enjoy playing music from your smart phone or tablet, this may be a fun and clever way to have a fun but affordable speaker, and personal assistant, all in one device.