A few of the products from Amazon’s recent Echo announcement are starting to become available. You can buy the new Echo and Echo Plus from Amazon today. Are these the Echoes you’re looking for? Only you can answer that, but I’ll give you my opinion about each and whether I think they’re worth buying.
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The New Echo Is Smaller And Cheaper
FIrst, let’s look at the new Echo (which is just the “all-new Echo”, not the “Echo 2”, according to Amazon. Confusing.) It’s very similar to the original Echo in functionality, but is smaller and cheaper. The price is perhaps the most compelling feature of the new Echo–if you’re interested in a smart speaker, $100 for the new model is a lot easier to justify than the $180 you would have had to pay before.
The new Echo is also more stylish. Instead of having a black or white plastic casing, you can select from a number of different looks, including fabric and faux wood-grain options. These are just shells that slide onto the Echo, so you can change it later as desired. I think most people will end up choosing the fabric, and it looks pretty nice. For something that you’ll want to have in your living room or kitchen, it’s nice to be able to change the appearance to suit your style.
In terms of sound, the new Echo is about the same as the original Echo. What that means is that it will work well for playing music in a room, but won’t blow you away with incredible sound quality. Reviews on this were varied, but most seemed to feel that the sound quality was good enough although not a huge improvement over the previous model. If you’re an audiophile, you’re going to want to use the included 3.5mm aux-out jack to plug into your too-expensive speakers.
Should You Buy An Echo?
So that’s the new Echo. Is it something you’re interested in? In my opinion, the new $100 price is a huge improvement and makes the Echo an attractive option for both new and existing users.
If you’re new to voice assistants and looking to get your feet wet, I previously would have suggested an Echo Dot because it would let you try Alexa for only $50. I still think the Dot is a great deal, but if you think one of your main uses of a voice assistant would be listening to music, it’d be hard to go wrong with the new Echo. For $100, you’d be getting a speaker that will be great for casual listening and can also control smart home devices, tell you the weather, and do everything else Alexa can do now. It’s a great deal.
If you’re an existing user, the new Echo might be a good replacement for a frequently-used Echo Dot. In my own setup, I have an Amazon Tap in the living room and a few Echo Dots throughout the rest of the house. I’ve avoided the Echo until now due to its price, but I sometimes have to deal with the poor sound quality of the Dot if I’m listening to music in certain rooms. Now that the new Echo is only $100, I might buy one to put where I find myself wanting to listen to music more often.
You can buy the new Echo today for $100 on Amazon.
The Echo Plus Might Be More Echo Than You Need
The other new product you can buy today is the Echo Plus. It’s similar to the original (and even looks identical) but includes a Zigbee radio that you can use to directly control smart home devices. Zigbee is used for a fairly wide range of smart home products, including smart outlets, sensors, and Philips Hue bulbs. The promise of the Echo Plus is that you can control all of these devices without needing to buy a special hub for that purpose.
This is a cool addition to the Echo, and I like the idea of being able to buy Philips Hue bulbs without needing to also purchase the hub. But I really wish Amazon had included a Z-Wave radio in addition to Zigbee. While Zigbee is popular in the smart home world, Z-Wave is really popular. I have a number of Z-Wave-capable devices in my house, such as a door lock and a garage door sensor. I wouldn’t be able to use these devices with the Echo Plus.
The Echo Plus provides all of the features you get on the regular Echo, too–it has decent speakers and includes all of the Alexa capabilities found on other Echoes. Amazon is selling it for $150, so it’s a little cheaper than the previous Echo and gives you more features.
Should You Buy An Echo Plus?
I don’t think the Echo Plus is the right choice for most people. The Zigbee radio is tempting if you’re interested in smart home technology, but you’re probably better off either sticking with WiFi-controlled devices that don’t need a Zigbee radio, or purchasing a dedicated smart home hub such as the Samsung SmartThings hub.
If the Plus was $20 more than the Echo, I might have suggested getting it as a “why not” upgrade. But at $50 over the new Echo, it’s a lot of money to spend for a feature you may or may not use, and something that might not meet your needs as you buy more smart home devices.
If you are interested in the new Echo Plus, you can buy it today for $150 on Amazon.
An Echo For Everyone
These are just the first two of Amazon’s new products to be released–we still have a few things to look forward to later in the year. Keep an eye on the blog, because I’ll be sharing some thoughts about the other new devices once they hit the market and we start to see reviews.
In the meantime, if you do buy one of the new Echoes, let me know! I’d love to hear your experience.