Most people nowadays have some form of a smart speaker in their homes, a virtual assistant if you will that brings the latest voice recognition software and a plethora of skills and information into our increasingly digital homes. The second generation of Amazon’s Echo brings some welcome improvements to an already stellar smart device.
Standing 14.8cm tall and covered in your choice of chic fabric colors, the echo’s intelligence is powered by Amazon’s own Alexa voice service, a cloud-based system that can play music, make calls, set alarms and timers, respond to questions, check your calendar, provide the latest weather, traffic, and sports scores, manage to-do and shopping lists, control smart home devices, and more—instantly.
But this isn’t some cheap, tinny sounding mono speaker, the Echo features immersive, 360° omni-directional audio thanks in part to the 63.5 mm down-firing woofer and 16 mm tweeter plus Dolby’s own unique processing, resulting in crisp vocals and dynamic bass response which means that this is not just a smart assistant, it is capable of functioning as a powerful speaker to output your music streaming service, like Amazon Prime, on. There’s also the welcome addition of line-out for attaching the Echo to another set of speakers, and Bluetooth connectivity for both playing music to the Echo and from the Echo to another Bluetooth speaker, creating a truly surround sound experience.
Responsiveness was also impressive with the Echo’s seven embedded microphones with beamforming and noise cancellation technology that means the Echo hears you from any direction—even while music is playing. Par for the course with the previous model, the Echo allows users to make calls to other Echo devices or devices running the Alexa app but can also now allow users to call phone numbers or send text messages to anyone in the United States, Mexico, and Canada or any device that has the Alexa app. This was a gamechanger in our books and is very convenient when you are in the mad morning rush, we found it worked exceptionally well and is a real selling point of this device.
There is also a super creepy “drop-in” feature which allows users to instantly speak through any connected Echo device in their home, so if you want to remind your children to make sure the doors are locked when you are not home, you no longer have to wait for the telephone line to be free or for them to ignorantly respond to your text.
The Amazon Echo’s best feature in our eyes though is Alexa, who appears to be getting smarter by the day and with the ability to act as a smart home hub, she can also control other connected devices too, simply by the power of your voice. Best of all, more Alexa skills are being added daily to the entire Echo lineup through firmware updates making this a very versatile smart offering.
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