Review: Amazon Echo, Pleasantly Surprised.

Amazon EchoBy now, you’ve heard of the Echo, Amazons in-house Siri, Google Now and Cortana like device. Here are my initial thoughts….

We received our unit on Friday, as an Amazon Prime member, we were able to get the discounted price of $99 from $199, more on that later. The packaging was minimalist, from outside the box, you’re not able to discern its contents. Picking up the Echo the first time exudes heft and premium. Other contents include the wall adapter, instructions, remote, magnetic remote holder and batteries. Setup was fairly routine, predominately done via the app. The first time you hear Echo’s voice, Alexa, a feeling of, nice not bad with nods of acceptance as the voice is very human-like with a very subtle hint of computer generation.

Per the instructions, the Echo is to be placed in a central location at least 8 inches from walls. Thinking above the fireplace, I queried Mrs S and she uttered same, so our location of choice was on the fireplace mantle. It’s nice to see both IOS and Android supported as we have one each and unlike some apps carried across both platforms, it was nice to see same form, function and look on both.

Within the small set of instruction provided, was a trimmed cheat sheet of phrases to ask of Alexa as well as the app taking you through the same. We found Alexa to be very responsive to queries, we found we could speak in normal conversational tones. Keep in mind, the Echo is young and at this stage is fairly limited in its offerings. Like Siri, Google Now and Cortana, you can see the potential and growth in features is sure to come.

So what are those today offerings? Location based weather, news briefs which you can modify, queries typically done via a the search on web, sports updates, music via your Prime account, iHeart and TuneIn radio, conversions, clock and timers, to-do list, radio stations and fact checking. There were a couple of instances where we’d get a no-kidding “hmm” response when asking for directions or locations of businesses. Called Alexa and said “I’m hungry”, the response was, “you should eat something”, lol, OK Alexa.

Conducting a distance test, I walked about 20-feet away and Alexa was able to hear my command. I then turned on the water to see the background noise affect, no problem, Alexa responded. In the same room where we placed Alexa, is the TV, so repeated the background noise test, again, no problems.

The Amazon Echo’s sound when playing music with it’s 1 2.5 inch woofer and 2 inch tweeter produces a satisfying, rich and full sound throughout the room and house, volume dependent. The price. I mentioned earlier as a Prime member, I was able to get the discounted price of $99 vice $199. After having in the home over the weekend and seeing its future potential; is it worth the $199 price tag? I’d have to say yes. As some in the tech industry has said when touting their devices, “it just works”.  Who knows, so maybe one day, Alexa will awake and tell you that your Amazon order was shipped. It’ll be interesting to see where Amazon takes this.

Do you have one yet? Thinking of getting one? Leave comments, share your experiences and/or ask questions. More to come as Alexa settles into her new home.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Amazon Echo, Pleasantly Surprised.”

  1. It makes a good first impression. Use it for a couple of months, as I have, and you’ll notice it’s myriad shortcomings, none of which have been addressed despite many of the users providing feedback.

    Still a linear volume control instead of logarithmic/exponential which is how volume controls are supposed to be designed. The difference between volume level 2 and 3 is huge.

    Still no sleep timer. How hard would that be?

    Still wonky to select and play an album from prime music. It often plays samples of music you don’t have and didn’t ask for, rather than stuff you have in your library (kids music Bonnie Bear, which I never heard of, instead of Bon Iver, which is actually in my library.)

    Still no integration of Audible content.

    And in the meantime, they are adding features that aren’t all that important, such as asking Echo some silly question and having a canned response, or adding sport scores (I have a smartphone for that anyway).

    At this point, Echo is a glorified Bluetooth speaker with a few voice commands, not an intelligent rival to Siri or Cortana.

    1. Awesome points and appreciate the feedback. Doesn’t Echo remind you of Siri and Cortanas early days though. Based on where those services are now, have to believe the future is bright for Echo. Regarding the sleep timer, kind of wondered same as to why that simple of an omission, guess the timer is multi-use. Thanks again…

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