Amazon Echo (2020) review: Fourth-gen Alexa smart speaker is a ball to use — literally

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The new Amazon Echo boasts a striking spherical design.

Chris Monroe / Tips Clear

Amazon 2020 Echo Smart Speaker is its fourth-gen Alexa countertop device A spherical shape, A striking departure from the soft-cylindrical speakers of previous generations. 10,000 after six years of the first Echo (or At least a few dozen) Smart speakers, a reimagined design was overdue.

The big question for Amazon and its new Echo is, how is it remodeled? Voice assistants are growing and changing All the time, but for the most part, they do What have they been doing for years: Answer questions, set a timer, control your smart home gadgets, play music and more. So why buy a new Echo?

Amazon has recently faltered as more with its main smart speaker Budget friendly dot Has become a better entry point to the market and Echo Studio 2019 Provides high end sound for audiophiles. This left the $ 100 Echo one way Undefined middle child In a growing family of Alexa-powered speakers. But the 2020 Echo is really different, and it’s not just because of the new spherical profile. This Echo has changed the sound quality and added higher-end smarts than the competition, all for the same $ 100 price tag, making it one of the most forward-looking smart speakers released in years. .

like

  • Superior sound quality and powerful bass
  • Better Smart Home Connectivity
  • Easy and quality stereo pairing

do not like it

  • A heavy design
  • No revolutionary upgrades

Ball rolling

The Amazon 2020 Echo claims two significant upgrades that should inform your decision to buy or not: superior sound quality and smart home hardware.

When it comes to sound, the Echo represents a significant improvement over Third-gen speakers from 2019The fact is likely that the third-gen Echo was essentially copied from its design almost wholesale An old device. In addition, the Echo has adaptive sound, so it can accommodate the acoustics of the room in which you use it. I personally did not notice a dramatic difference in output from room to room, but the speaker sounded good to me for testing in different rooms and on different surfaces.

The Echo feels better than the previous generation, but how does it feel compared to direct competition? Google’s $ 100 Nest Audio, Which dropped a few weeks before the Echo, is a solid device. But the Echo simply boasts more power: at 85% the amount of Echo is equal to the Nest’s maximum.

The Echo’s 3-inch woofer and dual 0.8-inch tweeters are richer between bass and lower-range. Listening to bass-heavy music, such as Lil Wayne’s A Millie or Travis Barker’s recent run The Jewels Cooperation, forever, Echo maintains a low-end rumble even in high vocals, while nest audio ends when it starts. is. drop out.


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If you prefer more acoustic music, Nest Audio offers a better performance of complex, melodic-heavy songs. Both speakers, however, really capture the texture of vocal-heavy music. The Echo feels a little better to my ear, with Johnny Cash’s gravel baritone in Hutch playing his slightly better low range, while his treatment of Liane La Havas’ subtle vibrato for Nest Audio Now Room feels a bit crisp.

Like Google’s new speakers, a pair of echoes can be set up to work in stereo format. The effect is very good, especially with songs that take full advantage of stereo whitening or asymmetric sound, such as The White Stripes Seven Nation Army or Pink Floyd’s Money. Unlike Nest Audio, the Echo has a 3 mm line in / out port to connect to other speakers.

Both Amazon and Google’s smart speakers give great sound quality for a $ 100 price tag, but after doing dozens of songs as well as side tests, the Echo takes the prize by a small but significant margin. It’s more powerful, and if you like hip-hop or trap music, Echo will treat you well. Otherwise, they are quite comparable, when it comes to some acoustic and classical music, Nest has a slight edge.

around the house

The Echo’s sound quality is commendable, but Amazon has distinguished its midrange smart speaker even more than Google’s Nest Audio Apple’s HomePod Mini With its built-in hub, which has a ZigBee receiver and Amazon Sidewalk Bridge. If you mean nothing to those things, don’t worry. Essentially, Amazon has created two new ways for smart home devices to connect to their smart speakers.

Zigbee receiver allows Echo to connect to countless smart home devices flood sensor from lightbulbs, Without Additional hub required – middleman device that translates different types of radio signals so that your low-power sensors can communicate with your WiFi network. This small design decision seriously broadened the range of gadgets Echo users can install in their home without the extra hassle and expense of a smart home hub.

I tried to install a couple of ZigBee tools and found the process completely painless. It’s not revolutionary – in fact, Amazon included ZigBee receivers $ 150 Echo Plus and their $ 230 Second-Gene Eco Show – But it’s bringing better home connectivity to a wider audience, and it’s a clear win for Amazon customers.

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Rich in windows, flood and motion sensors rely on low-power communication protocols such as ZigBee to extend its battery life.

Chris Monroe / Tips Clear

Less clear is that the Amazon sidewalk, which Amazon says will launch later this year, will impress Echo users. According to a recent blog post from Amazon, explaining this, Siddhavek will allow users to “contribute a small portion of their Internet bandwidth, designed together to create a shared network that is all sidewalk-enabled Devices benefit in a community. “

In practice, this could mean a large functional network for devices on the edges of your property – eg, outdoor lights or Tile tracking device – or even further. This is a good idea, although how much you benefit from it will depend largely on where you live, and how big a change it will be for most customers.

Home Theater in Round

To try with the new Echo I was setting up a home theater group, another home feature I was excited about. Connecting a voice assistant to your entertainment system sounds like a real improvement, if you haven’t done it before. And the new Echo, using Alexa, works very well here.

I a 4K fire tv stick It’s great to be able to form a group, and to be able to just say Alexa, only to have Alexa turn on her TV and start streaming Prime shows. The speakers worked well enough, although I was left out of the group when I was testing it. If you have fast Wi-Fi, then it seems that this setup will work well. In a home with many people, using bandwidth in streaming or other ways, although relying on your Echos for stereo sound can cause more value frustration.

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The Amazon Fire TV Stick can incorporate two echoes into a home theater group in the app within a minute.

Sara Tew / Tips Clear

The other big problem was I was in the music race. I was hoping that when the TV was off, Echo would be able to stream music as usual to the speakers, then stream the video whenever I wanted. I wish, streaming music on Connected Echoes automatically turned on the TV, scrolling the lyrics to the song. And when I manually turned off the TV, the music also stopped.

Using Alexa to control your TV and dual echo for stereo sound as soon as you’re cool – it’s so much better than it was a few years ago. But the kinks are still not working to the extent I want them to, so I still wouldn’t recommend picking up new echoes for your entertainment center unless you have great Wi-Fi and speakers for it. Don’t plan to use music, too.

The ball is life

The best changes for the fourth-gen Echo may be the sound quality and home smart, but the most obvious change is its rounded design. Of course, this design is not some aesthetic revelation: most smart speakers basically look interchangeable at this point, with a layer of fabric lacing over soft geometric shapes. Google’s recent Nest Audio is an ambiguous rectangle, and Apple’s soon-to-be-launched HomePod Mini is similarly rounded.

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The new Eco has a larger footprint, which is not ideal for kitchen countertop use.

Chris Monroe / Tips Clear

The ball-like profile, according to Amazon, enables better sound output, but it also comes with some practical drawbacks – primarily a larger footprint. If you’re planning to replace a third-gen Echo or an Echo Dot with this speaker, you’ll probably have to reorganize your shelf a bit. This is a small complaint, but the kitchen countertop is some of the hottest real estate in many homes, and dedicating it more to a smart speaker may not feel ideal for those of us with limited space.

The Echo comes in three colors: standard charcoal (black) and glacier white, as well as a muted twilight blue. It’s a bit more conservative than Google’s array of pastels, but again, many of these aesthetic distinctions feel like minor mines.

Those criticisms aside, the 2020 Echo seems like a much more meaningful gadget than last year’s third-gen Echo. Powerful sound and smart differentiate it from the competition, and with an ever better Alexa, buying a smart speaker doesn’t make it sound good.

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