The Amazon Echo
is a hands-free speaker you control with your voice. It can connect to your bluetooth devices like your phone or tablets for the purpose of streaming audio. The echo is capable of playing music, giving you the latest news, sports scores, and weather, among other things. In a way its like Siri or Google now but not as refined in some aspects.
The echo has seven microphones that feature far field technology so it can hear you from across the roomâ€”even if you are playing music.
The build quality of the device is nice, there really isn't much too it, it looks like a Pringles chips can wrapped in black plastic. There are only two buttons on the unit and a rotating volume control on top with a light ring for visual feedback. It is aesthetically pleasing to the eye but can easily be missed if it is off to a corner. The Echo must be plugged in to an electric outlet to work and cant be dragged from room to room without taking the power supply with you. It does not have an auxiliary out so you can't connect it to your media center or external speaker big bummer for us.
You can easily manage your Echo with the free Alexa App on Android, or iOS platform as well as most desktop browsers. From there you can connect services you already use such as Pandora, or Spotify. The echo also comes with support for Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.
From the App you can also set your home and work locations for traffic updates, and also news or sports scores you would like to hear on your flash briefing.
You can also create shopping lists and to-do lists. These items will show up on your Alexa app so no matter where you are they will be available to you.
You can set timers and alarms On the Amazon Echo
, and all of these can be managed via the Alexa App as well. There you can change things such as alarm tones by picking from a predefined list.
The Alexa App is also where you discover and enable third-party Alexa skills. There aren't too many and we weren't really impressed by them but we imagine that they will get better just like the Google Play store did when it first began. The one skill that we can find a real use for was the metronome but that's only if you are a musician.
One of our favorite features is the connected home. By default the echo can control devices from WeMo, Philips Hue, SmartThings, Insteon, and Wink by just searching for them. We however don't have any of these as our main controller is a Vera Edge hub which is similar in nature to the Smrart Things hub. Luckily we found a developer on github that had created a home automation bridge that makes the echo think devices on the Vera are Philips hue devices and with that we are able to control our devices. You can get that info here https://github.com/bwssytems/ha-bridge
. Note that this is not for the faint at heart and will require some work. This is the feature that we feel makes the Echo most valuable.
You can also lower the volume, raise the volume by just asking. And this is a tool the entire family can use like helping kids with homework or getting conversions for recipes in the kitchen.
You can even use apps such as if this then that to give you even more control of your devices.
If you want to stop Alexa from listening you can hit the mute button at any time and she won't hear a peep.
We feel that the Echo is a device full of promise, the voice recognition is amazing and very accurate. The built in functions are somewhat limited but we can see these getting better in the future. We feel that the Amazon commercials make Alexa seem smarter than she really is. If you don't set her up via the alexa app lots of things just won't work.
Alexa only knows where you live and work so you cant really ask her things like how is the commute from American airlines arena to Miami international airport ...
At the moment there is no open API which is a bummer for developers, other than that we find it is a cool toy and somewhat helpful assistant.
The Amazon Echo
goes for 179.99 on Amazon. There is also a new Amazon Echo dot now that goes for 89.99 and the only thing missing from this one is the speaker but it features an auxiliary port that allows you to connect to external devices.
For the full review and some demo's of the actual Amazon Echo see our You Tube Video Review below.
Get your Very Own Amazon Echo onAmazon