Amazon Echo Review — Your Family’s Personal Assistant Page 2

As a Bluetooth speaker, Echo has dual downward-firing drivers—a 2-inch tweeter and 2.5-inch woofer. A reflex port above the woofer boosts the bass. I’ve been able to crank up the sound to ridiculously high volumes (much louder than other Bluetooth speakers) that can fill my small house with sound without any distortion. After an easy Bluetooth connection, playback from a phone to the Echo can be voice controlled. Volume, play, pause, stop, and skip work with Apple iTunes, Deezer, Spotify, and other streaming music apps.

The Echo is clearly intended for Amazon Prime members. Along with free Amazon Prime Music, the Echo’s native apps include iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Pandora, and Audible. Playlists from Prime or Pandora play instantly with the command “Play (your station) on Pandora.” The Echo will play a variety of songs from any artist whose music is available on Amazon Prime. If the artist isn’t available on Prime, the Echo will play a station from iHeart Radio. During breakfast, I have often asked Alexa to play NPR. It starts playing instantly using TuneIn. The takeaway here is that I can ask the Echo to play the music I want without specifying which app to use.

Songs and albums that are not available on Amazon Prime will be played as samples. At any time, songs can be purchased by telling Alexa to “buy this song (or album).” The purchased songs are added to your Amazon Music library. Songs from iTunes or other media libraries can also be added to the Amazon Music library using the Amazon music uploader for the computer. The music in your library is then available to be played by simply asking for the song.

Perhaps the reason so many users anthropomorphize Alexa is that she understands plain English commands and is not limited to specific language. Seven microphones under the rim of the Echo can pick up my voice from across a 30-foot room. After more than six months using the Echo, I can count the number of times that she didn’t get my command correct. This is an impressive record when compared to other voice-command systems such as Google, Siri, and Samsung. All commands are listed in the Echo mobile app. If she misunderstands a command, feedback can easily be sent to Amazon.

One recent hiccup, however, involves the Amazon marketplace. When I tried to add items to my shopping list, Alexa responded by asking if I wanted to order from the marketplace. It wouldn’t let me put black beans on my shopping list, insisting on ordering a case from Amazon (I fixed it by asking for a “can of black beans.”). Still, I sent feedback to Amazon, and hope this problem will be corrected.

The Amazon Echo is positioned to become the family’s personal assistant. Walking around the house and simply asking Alexa a question is the ultimate in convenience. If the past six months is any indication of how Amazon will continue to add capabilities, Alexa will only expand in features. Recently, Amazon has set aside $100 million for developers to create new apps for the Echo. Alexa can join your household for $180, available directly from Amazon.

Specs Length/Width: 3.27 inches
Height : 9.2 inches
Connections: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi


Jonasandezekiel's picture

One of the things I HATE about my echo is that it is utterly clueless when it comes to understanding my requests for radio stations on iheart or tunein. It always picks the wrong one, and I need several attempts to get what I want. The alarm could be a little louder as well. Overall it's a success but bugs still exist.