Amazon Echo 10 Day Review

dgstorm

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After being one of the first websites in the world to post a hands-on preview and first impressions of the Amazon Echo hands-free device, we wanted to do a follow-up to share our final thoughts after spending 10 days with it. Here's a quick breakdown review:

Music/Audio -

As an audio device, the Amazon Echo, aka Alexa (which is the command word to activate the device), is actually very good. It fills a good sized room with rich sound. It has decent clarity in the treble range without being too "tinny" and its mid-range volume is superb. The Echo actually has some decent bottom as well, although it obviously can't dish out very deep bass because of its compact size.

The best part of the audio capabilities is that you can operate it completely hands-free. This includes the volume controls, starting and stopping, shuffle, changing the music and more. You can either let it stream music that Amazon has in their collection, or you can have it stream the music you have uploaded into your Amazon cloud. You can even use the included Amazon Echo app to create custom playlists.

One of the handiest features is that you can pause the music, and it will pick right back up where you left off by simply saying, "Alexa, resume music." This works indefinitely (at least from day to day) as far as I could tell.

Finally, if Alexa plays a song you haven't heard before, and you want to know what it is, and/or purchase it, you can simply command it to tell your the artist and/or buy it instantly. Very slick!

Information Retrieval -

You would be surprised just how handy it is to have an instantly available weather-person at your beck-and-call when you are about to head out the door. Knowing the temperature at that moment and the weather forecast for the rest of the day is very useful for deciding how to dress in Texas (the weather can change rapidly around here). Of course, you can do those things with your smartphone too, but asking Alexa is even easier than grabbing your phone, pushing buttons, and swiping to get the answer.

Obviously you can ask the Echo much more than just weather questions. For the most part, the device does a very solid job of answering any question you might throw its way, although it's nowhere near as capable as Google Now for searching up information. If Alexa doesn't know the answer, she will automatically send you a Bing search on the topic to the app which comes with the device.

Overall, the database of information that the Echo pulls from isn't nearly as vast as Google Now, nor does its search algorithm handle questions nearly as adeptly. For example, you can actually ask Google Now obscure questions about Magic the Gathering collectible cards using their strange fantasy names and it has about an 80% accuracy or better. Alexa can't even understand a Magic the Gathering card reference at all yet. Amazon has a long way to go before it can "out Google" Google with the Echo.

For now, its information retrieval feels like it would be more useful in a Trivial Pursuit game than in real life, but this might change over time.

Clock & Timer -

This feature of the Amazon Echo was far more useful than I expected to be and is one of the top reasons why I am very happy with the purchase of our device. Again, having an alarm clock/timer is something we can do with multiple other devices around the house, but to be able to instantly set an alarm hands-free is more than a novelty. It's downright awesome!

Are you in the middle of baking a Pumpkin Pie? No need to stop what you are doing to set the timer on the oven... just ask Alexa to handle it. Do you keep forgetting to put the clothes from the washer into the dryer because you are doing homework or watching a movie? Don't worry, just ask Alexa to give you a reminder and she has your back. Again... this is stuff that your phone can do, but the ease of just being able to set it hands-free instantaneously while continuing what you are already doing is remarkably handy.

Shopping/To Do List -

Finally, this feature was another one I completely underestimated the usefulness of before actually trying it. The Amazon Echo app for your phone/tablet basically logs everything you do on the Echo and is setup to handle direct and instant communication with that device. Because of that, a family (or couple) can connect their shopping and to do lists in very useful ways.

The best example is that the app helps you create a custom grocery list that lets you reuse what is on the list at your leisure in future lists. Also, it's very handy to add something to your parter's shopping/to do list by simply telling Alexa to add it. You could even add it to the list while they are on their way to the store in case you remembered something you forgot earlier.


Ultimately, the Amazon Echo is a good value for the investment for those in the market for an audio device that can handle some useful smart features as well. Yes, several of its excellent utilitarian features are mirrored elsewhere in other devices, but the hands-free aspect is what makes Alexa truly shine. Overall, the Amazon Echo is a great first step toward a voice-activated, smart connected home.

Here's a link to Amazon for more info on the Amazon Echo: Amazon Echo - Official site - Request an invitation
 

DrumsOfGrohl

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Thats pretty cool. Thanks for the review, Stormy.

Maybe you can connect an auxiliary subwoofer, or connect it to a receiver? That would be nice, because if, as you're describing, its more of an audio system with some cool extra features, it needs to be able to compete with better sound systems in a similar price-range.
 
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dgstorm

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It has no physical connections and can only attach to anything through Bluetooth or WiFi.
 

wicked

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Nice review David!
 

DrumsOfGrohl

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hmm thats interesting
It has no physical connections and can only attach to anything through Bluetooth or WiFi.
But you can listen to music on bluetooth headphones, yes?
 
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dgstorm

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hmm thats interesting

But you can listen to music on bluetooth headphones, yes?
Honestly don't know. We don't own any Bluetooth headphones, so we couldn't test it, and nothing about that shows up in the manual.
 

leeshor

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It seems from one of those statements that it would help if Alexa could also ask Google. ;);)

Ask Google still continues to amaze me.
 

johnomaz

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Samsung Wireless Audio Soundbar HW-H550 Sound Bar Just got those over the weekend for our new TV. Not the biggest bass you can get but it is bluetooth and the sub is wireless so it can be out of sight. Cranking up a movie with a lot of booms sounds good. My wife isn't a fan of the bass so its a happy medium.

Does the Echo replace something like a Moto 360 or any smart watch that can do pretty much all of what you said with the exception of playing specific music with voice. I can tell my watch to play music and it'll play a random radio station of what I've been listening to but I cant' tell it to play a specific artist or genre.

Past that, for me, having it only in one room is the bad part. My watch is always with me and I have to admit, the bluetooth range for my watch/phone is amazing. I can leave my phone in the living room hooked up to the soundbar i just linked and still control it from the back of the house.

The Echo however is limited to only the Amazon universe of services, correct? I can't play my Google Music service through it? If that is the case, its even less useful for me and probably many people.

It does however sound like a nice device if it fits your needs and you don't have other devices that do the same thing.
 

Ollie

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I have that soundbar as well. I would be interested to know if the Echo could link to it. I assume the Bluetooth is for the app on the phone?
 
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dgstorm

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I have that soundbar as well. I would be interested to know if the Echo could link to it. I assume the Bluetooth is for the app on the phone?
Yes. From what we could tell the Bluetooth simply allows you to setup the software on your phone. It doesn't really do much else beyond that. It would be cool if you could make calls through the Echo with your phone's Bluetooth connection, but maybe that is a feature we will see in a future update or second generation version.
 

johnomaz

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Yes. From what we could tell the Bluetooth simply allows you to setup the software on your phone. It doesn't really do much else beyond that. It would be cool if you could make calls through the Echo with your phone's Bluetooth connection, but maybe that is a feature we will see in a future update or second generation version.

Oh that sucks. Waste of a bluetooth connection and chance for better functionality.
 

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Welcome to the forum kamack1430. Congrats on your new Echo! We really enjoy ours and use it everyday.
I had a Dr's appt today where I took an audio recording of my visit. Instead of listening to the Dr talk for 25 min through the less than stellar external speaker of my S5, I simply connected my Echo via BT and was able to share the audio with my wife through our Echo.
Have fun exploring! It's a great tech lovers toy.
Give us a holler if we can help with anything.


S5 tap'n
 
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