Amazon Echo Plus review

At $149.99, the Amazon Echo Plus is available on Amazon.

The Amazon Echo Plus allows you control of gadgets such as compatible ZigBee lights, smart electronic locks, etc. without needing a third-party hub.

Design

Retaining the tubes of its predecessor, the Echo Plus is a tall plastic cylinder with perforations from the lower third down. At 235mm tall and 84mm wide and weighing 2.1 pounds, it is available in black, white and the warm silver colors. Even though all controls can be achieved by voice command, it still comes with two buttons: one to activate “Alexa” -a cloud-based voice service- with the ability to play music, make calls, send messages and do many more all hands free, and another button to mute the volume. Built with a 3.5mm jack, the Echo Plus is able to connect to external speakers either through hardwire or Bluetooth

 Features

With a Zigbee smart-home hub built in, you can connect smart-home devices, such as Philips Hue lights or a smart lock directly to the Echo Plus, without having to set up a bridge or third-party smart-home hub first. The Alexa app allows you to schedule when lights automatically turn on and off. This can also be done by giving Alexa a voice command.

 Setup and connectivity

Setting up the Echo Plus using the Alexa app (available on Android and iOS platforms or directly from the web) is straightforward and in a matter of minutes, you are connected to your home WiFi.

 Performance

With over 15,000 voice activated functions Amazon calls “Skills” all preinstalled through the Alexa app, the idea is that you can have a conversation with the device. Alexa can play music from Amazon’s owned music player app or through other third-party music stores like Spotify or be asked any question and the device will attempt to provide an answer usually from Wikipedia to whatever question asked to a good level of accuracy. The Echo Plus comes with two new added functions – The Alexa app is now able to scan your contacts book to find email addresses associated with Amazon Echo devices that have enabled calling. Contacting a friend or relative is now easier. All you have to do is give Alexa a voice command to make a call.

You can now create custom words or phrases for Alexa to trigger “routines” or schedule a number of assigned tasks to be carried out at once. For example, a “Good morning Alexa” command could be created which when said triggers Alexa to turn on the lights, give traffic updates, play a preselected song from your preferred music app, read newspaper headlines and controlling smart home devices.

 Sound

With a 2.5-inch downward-firing woofer and 0.8-inch tweeter powered by Dolby, the sound it gives off is impressive. The Echo Plus sounds a little sharper and with more bass. At low to medium volume range, it produces sounds clear enough but when the volume is increased, the sound quality begins to sound distorted.

The LED light ring at the top of the device gives a blue glow whenever Alexa is listening to your voice or processing a command and with its seven arrays of microphone, Alexa can hear you from anywhere in the room even when a music or any other audio is in play.

Verdict

 With over 100 devices compatible with Alexa, the Echo Plus provides its smart home users a solid foundation towards having their ideal connected homes and is cheaper than the original Echo. The Zigbee functionality and free Phillip Hue light bulb added to it even makes this deal even sweeter. The Echo Plus is a no brainer and more than just hardware.