Amazon has redesigned the Echo Smart Speaker from the ground up for 2020
Amazon has made some pretty drastic changes with its fourth generation Amazon Echo smart speaker. The best-selling voice-activated device has been redesigned to resemble a lawn bowl and offer dramatically improved sound. Amazon also added a ZigBee hub in the Echo so Alexa can control a truckload of popular smart home devices without plugging in additional hubs or dongles into your router.
The latter was previously an exclusive feature for the more expensive Amazon Echo Plus. With the introduction of the fourth generation of the Echo, Amazon scrapped the Echo Plus for 139.99 euros, as all of its Smarts are now bundled in the Echo for 89.99 euros.
With enhanced sound, spherical redesign and intelligent hub functions for the same price … is this the Amazon Echo that has been rounded off so far? More importantly, is it time to upgrade the existing Alexa speaker on your kitchen counter or bookcase?
Express.co.uk has spent the past few weeks with the fourth generation Amazon Echo. Here are our in-depth thoughts on the latest generation of smart speakers …
Amazon Echo review: price and availability
The latest Amazon Echo is available now. Prime members can pick up the new smart speaker the next day at no additional cost. Amazon sells the fourth generation Echo in Charcoal, Glacier White and Twilight Blue.
It’s worth noting that “Charcoal” is quite similar to the color of the same name from the previous generation of Amazon Echo. So if you want to combine your new Amazon Echo with existing Alexa devices in your collection, this is the one to go for. Unfortunately, most of the other colors that were used in the Echo range with the last update, including red, heather gray, oak, sandstone, silver, and more, don’t reappear this time.
The new Amazon Echo costs £ 89.99 and is the same price as its predecessor. It’s worth noting that Amazon Echo devices sold out in the weeks leading up to Christmas last year, and delivery dates were pushed back into the new year. You may want to add one of these to your cart sooner rather than later if you want it to be guaranteed under the tree.
The new spherical design has allowed Amazon to improve the sound quality of the Echo
Amazon Echo review: design
There’s no getting around it, Amazon’s research and development department really messed things up this time around. Gone is the tube-like Pringles design that was used for the previous three generations of Echo and has been replaced with a spherical shape. There’s something very charming about the rounded shape, although the smaller Echo Dot looks a bit better for our money than the bulkier Echo.
According to Amazon, the new shape has made it possible to improve the sound of the Amazon Echo. Now, thanks to the Echo Studio, Amazon’s first smart speaker built from the ground up for sound quality, the fourth-generation Echo can automatically sense the acoustics of the room you built it in and fine-tune audio playback.
This feature was extremely impressive in the Echo Studio. At 189.99 euros, however, the Echo Studio is more of a niche offer than the standard Echo. So it’s great that more people can now experience these sound smarts. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve squeezed the new Echo together between books on a shelf, next to a kettle on the kitchen counter or firmly against a wall in the living room … Amazon ensures that the sound always shoots in the right direction, the best audio quality.
But it’s not just about intelligence, the new Echo also includes improved components. Amazon managed to incorporate a 3.0-inch woofer with dual-firing tweeters compared to the single 0.8-inch tweeter on the previous version.
The new Echo also offers Dolby processing support to deliver “stereo sound with crisp highs, dynamic mids and deep bass,” says Amazon. This is another feature that was introduced with the more expensive Echo Studio, which is now making its way to the standard Echo.
What does it all mean? In short, the Amazon Echo sounds really good. Sure, Sonos One owners don’t need to be jealous of anything … but the fourth generation Echo is more than capable of blowing up your favorite songs, streaming songs on the radio, or having a room with the latest episode of your latest podcast obsession to fill . The fourth generation sounds noticeably bassier than previous entries in the series, so those with a first or second generation Echo at home will really notice the upgrade with this new model.
Those who still want the best sound from Amazon would be better off opting for the Echo Studio for $ 189.99 or buying a Sonos One that has built-in Alexa support – both offer richer sound, especially if you are me try to annoy the neighbors by turning up the volume.
But at £ 89.99, the Amazon Echo is impressively powerful. And if you only plan on listening to a playlist or two while washing up or turning on the radio over breakfast in the morning, you have no complaints about the sound quality of the Amazon Echo.
Despite the improved sound, we have one complaint about the new design that the new Amazon Echo doesn’t always fit as well at home as its predecessors. While the previous cylinder shape had a touch of function over form, it could squeeze into bookshelves between cereal boxes, next to tellies and more.
The new spherical shape takes up more volume – and you may have difficulty pushing this new model into the same nooks and crannies as your existing model. Given the improved sound, this might be a compromise you want to make. However, we recommend wiping the tape measure before adding the fourth generation Echo to your cart.
The fourth generation Echo takes up a little more space on your shelf
Amazon Echo Review: Features
Despite the radically redesigned exterior, the fourth generation Echo is still an Echo. That means it can answer all the usual questions and commands, from handing out the latest news and weather reports, to prompts, to answers to general knowledge questions that pop up in your head, order take-away and control playback whenever there is a fire on TV streaming -Dongles in your home and customize smart bulbs and thermostats.
If you’ve never owned a smart speaker – trust us, it’s great. Playing your favorite albums, finding out when a new movie is playing in your local movie theater, setting timers while cooking, turning on the lights and checking the closing time of your local supermarket work phenomenally well with Alexa. In addition, you save yourself having to reach into your pocket to pull out your smartphone.
There are thousands of additional apps that Amazon refers to as “chatty voice assistant skills”, but they are often less useful. Some are weird niches, like one that allows Alexa to play cat sounds, while others require you to fit your needs into a pre-set formula. For example, the Roomba robotic vacuum skill requires you to say “Alexa, ask Roomba to start vacuuming” or “Alexa, ask Roomba to stop vacuuming” instead of “Alexa, start my Roomba,” which would be more natural.
As mentioned above, the fourth generation Echo includes a built-in ZigBee hub so you can set up Hive smart plugs, Philips Hue connected light bulbs and Osram light strips, to name a few, as well as plugging in hubs or dongles into your Router. If the Echo is your first foray into a smart home setup, this is an extremely useful feature that makes adding new accessories a breeze in the future.
With the new redesign, there are only three color options – blue, white and black
Amazon Echo Review: Final Verdict
- benefits: Sound quality is brilliant for the size and price, works with a truckload of Smart Home Kit, Alexa is Smart As A Tack
- disadvantage: Round design is a bit bulkier, color options aren’t as fun as the last redesign
With the latest update, Amazon has added a number of features to the Echo from its more expensive gadgets that most people will buy. From intelligent audio tuning from the Echo Studio for £ 189.99 to the built-in ZigBee Smart Hub that was previously only found in the Echo Plus for £ 139.99.
Coupled with improved sound quality, the Amazon Echo is a great buy for anyone looking to start building a smart home setup, and a worthwhile upgrade for those with a first or second generation Echo in their home. When you upgrade, just make sure the bulkier spherical design fits in the small spot, like the old Echo which was noticeably slimmer.
With luck, Amazon will bring back some of the more eye-catching colors found in previous listings, but that’s a little sucker. Alexa remains one of the most personal AI assistants on the market. While it may not always match the Google Assistant’s infallible knowledge, it does come close. And it has all of the charm and personality of Apple’s Siri. Amazon is constantly adding new features, from cutting edge jokes to really new tricks like the burglar alarm system recently launched in the US. So the Amazon Echo will surely only get better over time.
This is for sure the rounded Amazon Echo we used.