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Amazon Echo Plus review: Smart home owners should give it a try
After successfully selling Kindle tablets and eBook readers, Amazon is now seen focusing on its latest Echo (powered by Alexa) lineup of smart home products. The interesting one in the lineup is the Echo Plus, which is the high-end model and we have tried the smart speaker for a couple of weeks before coming up with this review.
- Understands Indian accents
- Good audio quality
- Reacts quickly
- Needs to be plugged in to work
- No battery
- Skills are still not quite rich
The team at Amazon has added a slew of new features and have refined the capabilities of the smart product with better audio processing, improved microphone technology, and enhanced smart home features. As you know, the Amazon Echo Plus can be controlled by your voice.
You can play music, give any command, such as "set a timer,", "set an alarm," "listen to news," and even get to know the weather conditions with Alexa being your weather-man. You can also control your smart home devices and cast a video to your Fire TV Stick using Echo devices. In simple words, it is nothing but your personal and intelligent digital assistant.
Amazon Echo Plus is similar too its predecessor in terms of looks and design. The device features a cylindrical body and is pretty tall at 9.3 inches and weighs less than a kg. There are two buttons for the setup on the circular panel at the top with an action button, a light ring and a microphone button.
The LED ring that circles at the top with blue and green colors has a multiple functions and also indicates the source from where the command is being prompted. The speaker grilles are positioned at the bottom of the device. There is a power port and an AUX port as well at the bottom. There is a 2.50-inch woofer and a 0.8-inch tweeter for improved audio processing.
The Amazon Echo Plus is controlled with the help of the Alexa app. This app is available for both the Android and iOS devices. It is pretty easy to get started with the same. You need to just download the application, key in the Amazon credentials and follow the instructions on the screen. Remember that the Echo Plus and your device should be connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
This Alexa app is a dashboard of your activities on Alexa. The app stores all your voice searches and suggests new voice commands in order to help you get familiar with Alexa Skills. The app is pretty simple to use and you can understand it without much effort.
After the setup process, the Echo Plus will start working and you can just voice out your commands. Amazon calls the different functions that the device can do as Skills. Amazon has implemented over 15,000 skills those can be installed via the Alexa app on your smartphone.
To add a skill, you just have to open the app or go to the Skills page on the website and add a skill that you want. Just voice out Amazon add (skill name) skill. One good thing that we liked about the smart speaker is that the device can hear us from anywhere in the room but it does struggle to listen to us when the volume is too loud.
Sometimes you might feel that the device is not able to find out what you are trying to say. Remember that accuracy is the key.
The improved audio quality of the Amazon Echo Plus is pretty impressive. The new model is a significant upgrade with warmer and richer sound audio that delivers an enjoyable music experience. Though it is not the best product in terms of audio quality, it does a pretty acceptable job in handling audio.
The Echo Plus comes bundled with the new music streaming service called Amazon Prime Music and this is exclusive only to the Prime members. Also, there is compatibility with Saavn for music streaming. We enjoyed playing AR Rehman's songs by voicing out the command as: "Alexa, play AR Rehman songs on Saavn".
Amazon is right now customizing the smart speaker to make it easy to use for the Indian users. The Amazon Prime Music service is in the process of increasing the music catalogue for the Indians. The device understands Hindi commands and the app also has many Hindi songs old a few decades.
However, when we tried for other language songs, Alexa failed to play. For instance, it played songs from the movie Kabali from Saavn, but the same device did not play some Malayalam songs when we asked it to do so. If we had to increase the volume while playing, we just had to voice out saying "Alexa louder."
As shown in the video below, my seven-year old enjoyed listening to a lot of educational information on the Echo Plus. He asked Alexa to play the nursery rhyme "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". Also, he had asked multiplication tables such as 6 tables and 2 tables. And, Alexa did a good job by reciting reciting up to "6 * 12 = 72."
Also, Amazon Echo Plus can give latest news updates, depending on the Skills you choose. Of all the Skills, GizBot is also one of them and when asked for "flash briefing" it did give the News right. Amazon Echo Plus also controls smart IoT devices. The device can sync all IoT devices automatically and become a master controlling hub. The device offers support to the small bulbs like the Philips Hue but it has to be bought separately.
The Amazon Echo Plus was launched in India at Rs. 14,999 and received a price cut that takes it down to Rs. 10,999. At this price point, the device is definitely a good piece of technology. Also, the Indian optimizations of Alexa are quite impressive. It understands our accents accurately. The company is right now investing a lot on amplifying the skills to suit the Indian users. We can expect Alexa to get refined in the future.