The Amazon Echo and Echo Dot hands free ‘intelligent’ home controllers have been on the market for some time now, but with the new release of the Echo Dot Version 2.0 we thought it was a great excuse to check out some state of the art tech. Especially since Amazon is constantly extending the features of the Echo and the rather clever voice assistant called Alexa. Of course there’s no shortage of rivals – step up Siri, Cortana and Google Now – but we wanted to see how well Amazon did as a digital assistant. The answer is, not bad at all!
So what’s special about the new, much smaller, Echo Dot? Well, for one thing it has the same Alexa voice assistant as it’s bigger cousin, and it also has an internal speaker, and even the ability to connect to your own speaker, via either a 3.5mm jack or Bluetooth wireless. Check out our video below for a quick overview of the features of the Echo and Dot.
To understand what Alexa, and both versions of the Amazon Echo, can do, we have spent the last week living with Alexa to see how she can help us in our day- to-day-lives. The first thing to say is the voice recognition of both devices is really very good. They can also pick up voice commands from well over 5m away, and sometimes both devices answered even though they were 3 rooms apart in the house.
The Echo Dot’s internal speaker is great for everything day-to-day – listening to the news, weather forecast or football results is all very clear with no distortion even at maximum volume. It’s only when you want to start to listen to music for a while that you find the speaker lacking in oooomph – that’s low and top end frequencies to your audio anoraks. However, pairing up to my Bose Soundlink 3 made the Echo Dot come alive.
You can look up recipes to aid with cooking spag or Ramen, or find out the best restaurants around you, once you realise minced meat isn’t the same stuff as mince pies are stuffed with. Ask Alexa for a plumber and she comes through to help with a leaking toilet, but ask her for a policeman and she wants to order some cosplay from Amazon, so there’s a rather uneven quality in the “intelligence” of this AI voice assistant.
The full-sized Echo produces a fantastic audio range, and to my ears is very close to the Bose Soundlink 3, and Alexa is just as helpful on this model as she is on the smaller version. I ended up with the Echo in the kitchen and the Echo Dot in the living room, and this seemed to make the best use of her facilities to let you order items, play music, ask for information and have some childish fun too.
Overall I would reccomend the Amazon Echo to anyone who wants to place the Alexa Assistant in an area which doesn’t have external speakers, or if you just want to locate it where you do listen to music a lot but don’t like speakers and wires everywhere. I would say the Echo Dot V 2.0 would suite anyone on a tighter budget and who already has a great audio setup they can easily link Alexa up with. Horses for courses, as they say!