Amazon Echo 2017 Lineup Review…
“I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the Echo Look is cited in a suicide note.”
Amazon Echo 2017 Lineup Review…
Is Amazon stuttering or is there an echo echo echo in here? The Amazon Echo 2017 lineup has just recently been expanded by two, making a current total (as of press time) 5. At the rate we are going, there may be 10 before 2020.
Voice controlled homes are no longer the stuff of Star Trek. However, simply trying to figure out which Echo is right for you can be burdensome to the point of scaring off newbies. Allow me to break down the choices in the Echo 2017 lineup for you.
The first thing to explain is the distinction between “Echo” and “Alexa.” Alexa is the name of the cloud-based system that does tasks such as order items from Amazon for you or compute answers to questions you ask. Alexa is basically like Apple’s Siri, although Alexa is more cross-compatible with third party products. You can access Alexa through a few devices including, but not limited to, Kindle Fire, Fire TV and an Echo. Echo is the hardware–a device one uses to speak to Alexa when they want something done. You can use the services of Alexa through a few devices, but every Echo device is controlled only by Alexa. You cannot chose another digital assistant to run an Echo.
Here is the current Amazon Echo 2017 lineup:
Amazon Echo (Classic)
Because of the litany of Echo devices, it seems a qualifier is needed for the one known only as Amazon Echo, hence I add “Classic” to the name. This original Echo is still very relevant despite being the oldest of the bunch. All Echos feature the same basic microphone array that will hear you from across the room or even down the hall, so there is no advantage or disadvantage here. The sound quality on the classic Echo is as good or better than one would expect and fills the room in 360 degrees. Because of the speaker quality, you can pair a phone or tablet to the Echo via Bluetooth. I would recommend getting one of these for a great room if you want room-filling music playing or a kitchen so you can hear the timer go off with a noisy hood vent running.
The asking price of $179 is a bit high, but considering that some similar sized/sounding Bluetooth speakers that can’t talk to the cloud cost as much, it evens out. Be on the lookout for the occasional sale where the cost is closer to $150 and a much better deal.
Amazon Echo Look
I was honestly considering whether or not the announcement of the Amazon Echo Look was an April Fools joke when the device was announced in the first week of April 2017. The Echo Look features all the same basic features of the original Echo and the Echo Dot but with one decidedly vain addition; a camera. With no screen, you have to guess what it is seeing unless you pull up the app on your phone.
The only advertised purpose of the camera is even more hokey than I would have guessed. Ask Alexa how you look and your image will be sent to the cloud where people will judge your attire and appearance. Knowing how favorable random people online tend to be, I’m sure it is only a matter of time before the Echo Look is cited in a suicide note.
For a list price of $199.99 you get a camera that does you little good and less speaker quality than the cheaper Echo classic. Thanks, but no thanks.
Amazon Echo Show
The most recently added device to the Echo 2017 lineup is the Amazon Echo Show, which is slated to be released on June 28, 2017. This adds the all important feature missing from the Echo Look; a screen. One of the features that Google Home has over Amazon Echo is the Home’s ability to push video content to a linked TV. With the Echo Show, a 7″ screen is built right in. You can ask for videos from Amazon’s own Prime Video, YouTube, Movie Trailers (they don’t say the source) and others to come. Netflix, Hulu, Crackle and the like may be supported at some time, but there is no word from Amazon either way yet. It should all sound good on the dual front-facing speakers which are advertised as “Dolby.”
With a camera and screen, naturally one will want to video chat. Amazon is touting their own “drop in” service but makes no mention of Skype or other existing chat platforms. Much of what we’ve come to expect from Echo will be turned on its head with addition of a camera and touchscreen. Whether or not it will support apps like some sort of stationary Kindle Fire is still unknown.
With a hefty pre-order price tag of $229, it remains to be seen (no pun intended) if the added features will justify the cost to consumers. Because this is so new, it is hard to really review this properly. I have already pre-ordered mine, so keep tuned to JaredBodine.com for a full review once the Echo Show is released.
Amazon Echo Tap
The Amazon Echo Tap is basically an Echo that is portable and battery powered (the only one in the bunch). It has sound that is not quite as good as the Echo classic, but at least it is not anchored to your counter top. In order to call on the services of Alexa, you need to have the Tap in your hands and push a button on the top front. I suppose this allows for longer battery life. (It advertises 9 hours of continuous playback.)
I would point out that having to push a button to wake up Alexa is not a very big deal, seeing as how she is only available when connected to the Internet and this is a portable Bluetooth speaker. If you are using this poolside, camping or at the beach it is worthless as an Echo and becomes only a Bluetooth speaker. Oh, and it is not water resistant, so be careful poolside!
It will cost a bit less than the classic Echo at $129.99, but would be easily replaced by a better sounding and more durable Bluetooth speaker.
Amazon Echo Dot (2nd Gen)
The most economical and reasonable Echo is the second generation Echo Dot. The main difference between the first and second gens is the price and that gen 2 uses volume buttons instead of a rotating volume ring. For a mere $49.99 one can use all of the features that Alexa has to offer for about 1/3rd the cost other Echo devices. Given that the Dot is much smaller (same footprint as the classic Echo but only 1.3″ high), so is the sound. Instead of being able to pair your phone to it, the Dot can use Bluetooth or a 3.5mm headphone-size audio output to send the sound to external speakers. The internal speaker is enough for basic usage, however.
For those who want to dip their toe into the voice controlled world of Alexa, this is a great start. Some love it so much there are kits to enable them to bring the Dot with them everywhere they go. As one becomes comfortable in this space, they can add more Dots or upgrade to a Show or classic Echo where they can now see the potential. Occasionally Amazon offers specials on multiple quantities of the Echo Dot, which will let you cover your house for less than the cost of one high-end Echo. (By-the-by, if you have multiple Echos and more than one hears you call out for Alexa, only the one you are closest to will respond to your command.)
I hope this explanation has helped you make sense of the ever-expanding world that is Amazon Echo. In summary: Forget the Echo Look and you could do better than the Echo Tap. The Echo Show is a bit too pricey but a cool take on the future of Echo. The classic Echo is still the best for basic functions with room-filling sound, but the Echo Dot takes the cake as the best overall choice from the Amazon Echo 2017 lineup.
Do you have an Echo? Which one? What do you think of it? Feel free to comment!