The original Amazon Echo was ﬁrst introduced to Prime members in November of 2014, and came to everyone else in the UK in September 2016. The Echo Alexa was designed to answer your every beck and call. Whether providing information such as the latest news and weather, adjusting your heating, or controlling your AV system, Amazon’s Echo speaker promised to do it all. And it did. For the most part, but initially relied heavily on third party apps and hardware for integration into your smart home. Now there is a new generation upon us…
As well as the Dot, there is now an Echo 2, Echo Plus, Echo Show and Echo Spot. What we’ll focus on here is the Echo Plus. I actually originally got the Echo 2, but swapped it for the Echo Plus. I’ll explain my reasons later. Essentially the Echo Plus looks more or less the same as the original Echo. It now has a 3.5mm output on the back however. This means you can plug it into more expansive audio systems and have Alexa controlling your existing speaker set-up.
The main difference between the Echo Plus and the original is the built in smart hub. This means you can connect your Philips Hue lights directly to the Echo Plus. Nice right? There are still some limitations, but I’m fairly sure these will be addressed soon. In fact, Amazon seem to update Alexa at an alarming rate… The dawn of Skynet perhaps? I’ve already found a bath that will run itself… See here. If you already have most of your smart devices set up (like I do) then you probably won’t beneﬁt too much from the built in Smart Hub. Apart from controlling your home, there are many other thing s Alexa will do for you. The new ‘Drop in’ feature is pretty cool, and slightly freaky. When away from home or in the home you can connect to any Alexa device and speak to the (slightly terriﬁed) person at the other end. There’s the music as well… Echo devices come with a limited, reduced price version of Amazon music. I’d recommend upgrading to Amazon Music Unlimited at least.
This for me, is a biggy. I originally bought the Echo 2, but having set it up and so on, wasn’t that impressed with the sound. Lacklustre bass and not very clear highs, made this not very impressive to listen to. It was all midrange. I know the Echo range are primarily about Alexa, and that, they do very well. But I wanted at least the best sound I could get whilst enjoying the abilities of Alexa. So I upgraded to the Echo Plus. It’s deﬁnitely an improvement. A little more bass (depending on where you’re standing in the room) and much better clarity up high. Plus, I think it looks much better.
So in summary… If you’re looking for a good speaker ﬁrst and smart abilities second, this perhaps isn’t for you. Sound quality is not nearly as good as a Sonos One for example. As much as you can plug it into a AV setup, you would be better off getting an Echo Dot for that, which is only £39 at the moment. I think this makes most sense in the kitchen. The sound is good enough for most, and the Alexa functionality and voice recognition work very well. Much better than the new Sonos One. Amazon are constantly updating their Alexa skills, so it’s more than likely that any smart devices you have, will work with Alexa. I have the TV/Apple TV – via Logitech’s Harmony Hub and controller, Heating – via Nest, all the lights – Philips Hue and various Wemo smart plugs for power hungry devices all working with Alexa. It takes a bit of fafﬁng around with at the start, but now all works brilliantly.
Would I recommend this? Yes, I would. Great for the kitchen, and if this is your ﬁrst foray into Alexa, you’ll have countless hours of enjoyment asking her ridiculous and useful things. At this point, Alexa is deﬁnitely the best smart assistant out there and in the Echo Plus, she is at her best.