Amazon is finally rolling out the Echo to the masses. Let’s see what Alexa has to offer out of the box.
Solid Tip: Still waiting for an invite? Don’t worry. I signed up just after Halloween and waited a couple months for my invite, then another month to receive the unit after Amazon reset the delivery date. By the time you read this, it should be a much faster window.
Amazon sent me the Echo a few weeks ago, so I decided to spend some time getting to know Alexa in order to give some solid thoughts on this large Bluetooth speaker.
As far as Bluetooth speakers go, this $200 piece of equipment is pretty good at what it does. It’s large, loud, comes with a remote, and it listens to you even when its playing music. Sure it’s $100 if you have prime, but lets face it – No one is buying this speaker for $200 (they’re buying a $100 Prime Membership and a $100 Echo).
The Orange Box (No Relation)
My favorite things about the Echo include Alexa being able to hear you and respond even when playing music at most volumes (up to volume 7 of 10) and being able to call her name and the command in one fluid sentence. You don’t have to say “Alexa” and wait for a response. The little ring on top lights up directionally towards the voice it hears to show its listening.
Also, in addition to playing all your own music, you have access to Prime Music (at least what little it offers) and also your iHeartRadio account.
With the companion app, the remote, or voice commands, you have multiple ways to interact with your Echo.
The Amazon Echo is not without its flaws. Most of the music my friends and I asked to hear from Prime Music was simply a sample clip and not available. Even worse, Alexa often chose to play some weird remix of the song I wanted.
If I say, “Alexa, play Don’t Stop Believin’,” I expect Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, not some Karaoke cover!
The Echo is not necessarily portable. Obviously, an always-listening unit is going to take more power than a regular speaker. Additionally, playing it loudly would drain batteries quickly, so I am not really worried about that absent feature.
Finally, Alexa can only do a handful of little useful things for you beyond playing music. The time and weather is probably all you will ask about. She is certainly no Siri and doesn’t really understand many questions outside of her short script. In fact, one time she misheard me and created some random thing on a to-do list and then told me I had to go to the phone app to edit or delete it. Ugh…
The Amazon Echo is not worth $200 (in my humble opinion). However, a Prime Membership and the Echo is worth $200.
If you want a portable Bluetooth speaker to carry around with you or play in the backyard, this may not be your fit. Alexa is more of a centerpiece and conversation topic on an end table or counter. She is sleek, responsive, and will certainly entertain.