Amazon Echo is the best voice-activated personal assistant and smart home speaker sold today.
● Listening To & Streaming Music
● Alerts for Weather, Sports & News
● Searching the Web
● Shopping on Amazon (and many others)
● Controlling smart home devices
● Works with iOS, Android and Fire OS devices
You are a single, Google-loving Android phone user who prefers simplicity and doesn’t care about third party integrations.
Amazon Echo (2nd Generation) and its smaller sibling, theÂ Echo Dot, are the best-sellingÂ smart speakers today – by a long shot.Â Compared with the first generation Echo, the Echo 2Â has a new speaker, a new design, and is available in a range of styles including fabrics and wood veneers.Â
Millions of Echo units have been sold since they were released in November, 2014.
This isn’t because they’re the best-sounding stereo speakers (they’re not).
It’s because they give you access to Alexa, Amazon’s voice recognitionÂ technology (AI) that has command overÂ thousandsÂ of services, devicesÂ and skills.
And, of course, AlexaÂ will playÂ music whenÂ asked. Echo works out of the box with most leading streaming services, including:Â Pandora, Spotify, Sirius XM, Amazon Music and more.
Best Feature: Alexa
The best Echo feature (by far) is Alexa, Amazon’s AI voice assistant technology.Â Compared with Google Home, Amazon Echo has the better AI, hands down.
I love theÂ effortless, pleasant and rapidÂ way AlexaÂ responds to myÂ commands. Very cool.
The best way to think of Alexa is as yourÂ go-to personal assistant who can handle dozens of basic tasks:Â she answers your questions, reads you theÂ news, gives you a rundown of the traffic and weather, providesÂ sports updates, orders movie tickets, reads a recipe and more.
Echo customersÂ rave about how much better Alexa is at understanding commandsÂ than Siri, the voice recognition technology baked into all Apple devices, is.
I agree. While certainly not perfect, Alexa is the best voice AI in the business, right now.
Part of the reason for this is that inside Echo, there are seven noise-canceling microphones that pick up your commands and differentiate between different users in the home.
The Amazon Echo is also better than Google Home in terms of multi-user support.
Even if you are in another room, Amazon Echo’sÂ voice recognition will usually be able to tellÂ who is asking the question and personalize the response for you. The voice differentiation isn’t perfect, yet, but it works surprisingly well.
The Echo does farÂ more than stream music, right out of the box.
As you can withÂ Google Home, you can ask Alexa to search the internet for almost anything. Alexa and Home are very similar in abilities here.
Ask Alexa a question, and she will promptly answer with no fuss. Â You can ask, “Alexa, what’s the weather like?” and she’ll tell you.
COMMANDS TO TRY
- “Alexa, play music.”
As people in your household speak to Alexa, Alexa learns to recognize their voices automatically, and can play personalized Amazon Music recommendations.Â
- “Alexa, who is Captain Marvel?”
- “Alexa, what is the upcoming book by Stephen King?”
- “Alexa, move my meeting atÂ noon to 3 p.m.”
Now you can ask Alexa to move your appointments by voice. Link a Google, iCloud or Microsoft calendar to Alexa to get started.Â Learn more.
- “Alexa, who inspires you?”
- “Alexa, what is George Clooney’s net worth?”
- “Alexa, who is your favorite supervillain?”
- “Alexa, play CBS News.”
Get live daily breaking news from the CBS News Skill.Â
- “Alexa, play Classic Rock Dinner Party from Amazon Music.”
- “Alexa, can you play music on all my devices?”
- “Alexa, help me create my own flashcards.”
- “Alexa, give me a fun fact.”
- “Alexa, make a donation to Red Nose Day.”
Just ask to support Comic Relief Inc. in their mission to end child poverty.
- “Alexa, how many Stanley Cups do the Capitals have?”
- “Alexa, drop in.”
Alexa works as a two-way intercom to connect with your household devices including Echo and Echo Dot.Â
- “Alexa, do you like cats or dogs?”
You can also access Amazon services including Amazon Music, Kindle books, and even order products withÂ your Amazon Prime account – all with your voice.
Third Party Integration: Alexa Skills
This is one area whereÂ Amazon Echo beats Google Home, hands-down.
Amazon builtÂ Alexa as an open platformÂ forÂ third party developers from the get-go, so that new commands and skills could be built.
As a result, today there are thousandsÂ of Alexa skills available for almost any type of informational need or smart home task.
This meansÂ you can doÂ far more with an Amazon EchoÂ than you can with Google Home.
You can ask Alexa to play audiobooks saved on your Kindle; searchÂ Yelp for a restaurant recommendation; order a pizza from Domino’s; and, tell a bedtime story to your child.
To add a new Skill to your Echo, you can simply ask Alexa to add it (if you know it byÂ name); or, you can use the Alexa smartphone app to search through theÂ Alexa Skills marketplace, where you can viewÂ the best-rated Skills by category. Then, you add a Skill to your Echo with a quick tap on your phone.
If you useÂ smart home devices already, then you’ll be happy to know that Echo is compatible with WeMo, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, Nest, and ecobee smart home devices.
Plus many others.
In addition, youÂ can use IFTTT to connect Alexa to other apps that Amazon hasn’t made available in its marketplace, yet.
When talking toÂ Alexa, each SkillÂ is activatedÂ by speakingÂ a special “keyword”. YouÂ have to memorize each skill’s keyword to execute it – but that’s all you need to do.
- Make sure you memorize the keyword for each Skill you add.
- Don’t add too many Skills of one type – you’ll never keep the keywords straight.
- Beware if youÂ have a talking bird. SomeÂ users have complained that Alexa will listen to and execute commands from them.
The second generation (tall) Echo uses a 2.5 inch subwoofer and 0.6 inch tweeter to deliverÂ a full 360 degrees of sound that will fill a large room.
But to be honest, the sound quality isn’t the best; it’s on-par with other bluetooth speakers in the same price range.
The cheaper Echo DotÂ provides even less of an audio punch.
That said,Â if you care about sound quality like I do,Â don’t fret: both units offer aÂ line-out plug that can be used to feed voice-controlled playlists into any stereo system or powered speaker systems.
Final note: don’t take your Echo or Echo Dot outside; these units are NOT waterproof.
Syncing your smart home devices to an Echo unit, or adding a new Echo to your home, is an easy process because it only needs to be done once.
Once aÂ new Echo or device is setup correctly using Amazon’s smartphone app, it will automaticallyÂ connect to the otherÂ Echo units in your household.
From there, youÂ can synch your EchoÂ speakers to play the same track, or use them independently. The other major plus is the line-out plug which allows you to send voice-controlled music to your existing hi-fidelity speakers and/or stereo setup.
- Huge number of third partyÂ Skills
- Best voice recognition system, yet
- Able to differentiate between users (with some limitations)
- Sound qualityÂ isn’t that great
- Alexa smartphone app could be improved
Choose The Amazon Echo If:
You want the best voice recognition AIÂ in the business, plus the ability to add new Skills to your personal assistant over time. Google Home doesn’t compare, on this point. Â Yet.
We recommend buying the EchoÂ Dot: it costs one-third of the Amazon Echo, with the only drawback being its lesser sound quality/power.
Avoid The Amazon Echo If:
You live by yourself… and you are a dedicated Google services user with an Android phone… and you don’tÂ want to do much more than search the web, check the weather and play music.
If you fit this description, thenÂ buy a Google Home and save a few bucks.
Size: 9.3″ x 3.3″ x 3.3″
Weight:Â 2 lbs
Wi-Fi Connectivity: Dual-band Wi-Fi. Does not support peer-to-peer Wi-Fi.
Bluetooth Connectivity: Alexa App works onÂ all Android, iOS, and Fire OS devices and can be accessed via a web browser.
Audio: 2.5 inch subwoofer + 0.6 inch tweeter
Warranty and Service:Â 1-year limited. Â Extended warranty / service plans are available on Amazon.com.