Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
The Amazon Echo fuses artificial intelligence (AI) assistant capabilities with speaker functionality. This allows for a variety of uses, from streaming music to integrating with smart home technology.
Amazon continues to expand its Echo product line. The all-new Amazon Echo is more affordable than the original Echo (our Echo review) and boasts of more possible uses. Learn more about the second-generation Amazon Echo and what you need to know!
What Is the Amazon Echo Plus?
The Amazon Echo builds on the Echo lineup. Fittingly, the second-gen Echo doesn’t deviate much from the original Echo. It’s a hands-free speaker with voice control using Amazon’s Alexa. Simply issue commands such as “Alexa, what’s the weather today?” or “Alexa, turn off the lights.” Amazon’s AI assistant is even intelligent enough to recognize each of your family member’s voices. Where the Echo gets complicated is in the varying models. There’s the Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Spot, Echo Connect, Echo Buttons, Echo Show (our review), and the Amazon Tap. The second-generation Echo is basically a beefed up Echo with a revamped exterior. It affords better sound quality, voice control, and a prettier exterior.
10 Things to Know About the All-New Amazon Echo
Considering an all-new Echo? Here’s what you need to know before you make the plunge.
1. I’m the All-New Echo, Short, and Stout
The refreshed Amazon Echo is smaller than the original Echo. The design is shorter than the first-generation Echo. However, it’s slightly wider. This helps the Echo blend into surroundings more than its predecessor.
2. There Are 6 Unique Styles
The all-new Echo looks amazing. Aside from a diverse feature set, it’s clear Amazon created the second-gen Echo as a device for all consumers, not just power users. By opting for six different styles including cloth-wrapped options, and eschewing the utilitarian metal grate facade, the sophomore Echo finds itself an eye-catching device. That’s not to say I dislike the look of the original. On the contrary, I quite appreciate its 2001: A Space Odyssey monolith vibe. Yet the second-gen Echo undoubtedly carries greater appeal for those that seek a smart speaker that doesn’t look like a smart speaker.
However, this appears as a superficial change that doesn’t add anything insofar as function. Nevertheless, the overhaul blends into surroundings more so than the mesh grille of the gen-one Echo. It’s similar to the Nest E in that regard. Like the Nest E, the shorter, a cloth-covered Echo presents a smart home device which doesn’t scream connected gadget. Instead, it could pass for a decoration.
3. The All-New Echo’s Audio Gets an Upgrade
But don’t think that the only changes are aesthetic. Rather, the new Echo is graced with vastly improved audio. There’s a dedicated bass tweeter which fixes the moderate bass performance of the original Echo. Its immersive audio yields 360-degree performance for room-filling awesomeness. The Echo debuted as a smart speaker, and audio is a clear highlight.
4. Multi-Room Audio
Alongside its enhanced audio performance, the all-new Echo gains multi-room audio. With this feature, you can stream music to multiple Echo units in different rooms. That’s a huge win in creating a connected network of Echo devices around the home. It’s been a request since the onset, so kudos to Amazon for debuting that nifty functionality. Additionally, this positions the Echo as a Sonos and Apple HomePod competitor.
5. There’s a Multi-Pack
In a bold move, Amazon now offers the Amazon Echo in a three-pack. Considering its multi-room streaming, the triple pack is a solid deal. But the three Echo bundle is slightly cheaper than purchasing three separate Echo speakers. Thus, for those that need a multi-room set up or simply wish to gift a few Echo devices to friends, the triple threat is a phenomenal deal.
6. Free Calling, I’m-a Free Calling
One of the most drastic changes to the all-new Echo is its calling abilities. Now, the Amazon Echo is capable of making free calls to the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Because of its free calling, the all-new Amazon Echo challenges a similar calling mechanism that Google offers in its Hangouts application. Moreover, Amazon introduced a device dubbed Connect. This brings a slew of features, including 911 calling. With the combination of a Connect and the new Amazon Echo, you’ve essentially snagged a solid phone replacement.
7. Mic Check 1, 2… 7
The second-gen Echo includes a whopping seven microphones. Outfitted as such, the Echo is capable of hearing commands from a variety of angles. This fits with its smart home integration, and the ability to sync with Alexa-enabled gadgets for basic smart home control. Unlike the first-gen Echo, this model should interpret voice commands better thanks to its expanded microphone array.
8. It’s Not a Smart Home Hub
Here’s where the entire network of Amazon Echo products gets a bit tricky. The Echo Plus looks almost identical to the original Echo. But the Plus doubles as a smart home hub. Onboard, the Amazon Echo Plus sports over 100 wireless protocols.
For instance, merely ask Alexa to locate wireless protocols around the home, and it syncs with compatible devices. Among these, you’ll find the likes of Zigbee. But the second generation Echo is not a dedicated smart home hub. Like its predecessor, you do have access to smart home functionality a la Alexa. However those seeking something more comprehensive for smart home control should consider the Amazon Echo Plus.
9. It’s Not Portable
If you were hoping for a portable Echo, look elsewhere. The Echo Tap remains the sole battery-powered Echo. But there are options to take some Echo devies on the go, such as the Smatree add-on for the Echo. Unfortunately, the new Echo with its short stature and wider base isn’t compatible. Since portability of speakers is a common request, look out for third-party battery packs.
10. It’s Basically a More Powerful Echo
Well, this is a second-generation Echo. But the new lineup of Echo devices gets confusing. At its core, the Echo stays the same. It’s a solid smart speaker that offers better sound quality, more accurate command recognition, and a smaller footprint. Plus, its appearance caters to a variety of environments. Some smart home features like Alexa onboard and a new free caling feature do maintain connectivity around the smart home. But it’s not quite a smart hub.
Should You Buy an All-New Amazon Echo?
After exploring the all-new Echo, now on to the big question: Should you buy an Amazon Echo second-gen? It depends on your needs. If you’re in the market for a smart speaker, the Echo is among the best options available. For those who already own an Echo, it’s not necessarily worth the upgrade to a second-gen device. But with its enhanced sound, particularly on the bass spectrum, as well as improved accuracy when recognizing commands, the new Echo may convince some users. Certainly, it’s a marked improvement over the first-gen Echo. Smart home buffs may prefer the Echo Plus considering they don’t already own a smart home hub.
Will you be adopting the all-new Amazon Echo?
Image Credit: Amazon Echo/YouTube