Amazon Echo review: The original smart speaker makes an overdue debut
- Slick design
- "Discovery" feature
- Not great at answering questions
- Limits on compatible software and services
If you’re more smart-home savvy, invested in Amazon’s video and music streaming ecosystem or turned-off by the look of the Google Home, this might well be the smart speaker for you.
Price$ 149.00 (AUD)
As a tech journalist, the long-overdue arrival of Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant and Echo smart speakers to Australian households is proving absolutely fascinating to watch unfold for a whole bunch of compelling reasons. Chief among them is the role reversal between Amazon and Google.
In overseas markets, Amazon’s Echo is basically the gold standard and market leader when it comes to the smart speaker category. In a lot of places, they are “the smart speaker company” in the same way that Sonos is “the wireless speaker company” or DJI is “the drone company.” They capitalized on the latent potential of the technology here and so successfully captured the market for it that the idea of someone actually mounting a significant challenge to that dominance sounds kinda crazy.
[Related: Which 2018 Smart Speaker Should I Buy]
It’s a bit like when you compare the Google Pixel’s yearly sales of 3.9 million units to the iPhone’s quarterly sales of 77.3 million units. 3.9 million units, or approximately 25% percent US market share in the case of the Google Home, isn’t by any means poor or unprofitable, but it’s a far cry from 70% slice of the pie earmarked by Alexa-powered devices.
Of course, in Australia, Google got here first - and that detail might change everything.
This time, Amazon are the outsider. Six months might not sound like that much of a headstart for Google but the search-engine have gone all-out during that time to try and cement the perception that the Google Home is the default smart speaker.
So, as anticipated as the arrival of the Amazon Echo, Echo Plus and Echo Dot might be - you have to ask what they have to offer a market that seems to have embraced Google’s product in droves over the Christmas break.
Drivers: 2.5-inch woofer and 0.6-inch tweeter
Type: 360-degree omni-directional, mono
Dimensions: 148 x 88 x 88 mm
Connectivity: Bluetooth, WiFi
Voice Assistant: Amazon Alexa
Colors: Charcoal, Heather Grey, Sandstone
In terms of design, the standard Amazon Echo is a pretty unassuming creature. Like the Google Home or something like the Bang & Olufsen M3, it’s a fabric-coated 360-degree speaker. with little to say for itself. Outside of the LED-lit ring at the top of the unit, that is.
Overall, it’s nice enough to look at - if a little bland. Most of the time, it just looks like a nice speaker with a glowy blue crown that lights up when Alexa hears her name. Upon that crown, there are a few familiar buttons: mute, listen and toggles for volume. Otherwise, there’s not a huge amount to say about the external design of the Echo.
In fact, if anything, the most interesting thing about the regular Echo is the way that it utilizes plain aesthetics to appeal to a different kind of customer than the rest of the Echo range. The variations in material design and build-quality here are basically being leveraged by Amazon to speak to different markets and use-cases in a way that’s subtly different from the simple two-speaker roster that Google are rocking at the moment.
Your mileage may vary - but I feel that the overarching aesthetic here comes together comes together just that little bit cleaner than the regular Google Home manages. Unfortunately, less can be said about the software side of the Amazon Echo experience. During our time with it, the Alexa app was slow to load, convoluted and often outright unresponsive.
Likewise, setting up the Amazon Echo was a bit of a pain. At least, initially. Physically plugging the unit in was easy enough. However, getting it to connect to the Alexa app itself proved frustratingly finicky. The setup process failed on three or four separate occasions before we were finally able to connect to a Wi-Fi network and get my smart house in order.
In addition, I also encountered a few hassles with my Amazon account. As I originally created my account to access the US Kindle store, I had to go into my account settings panel and move all my content over to Amazon’s new Australian storefront in order to get the full Australian Alexa experience and actually give my Echo any locally-developed Alexa Skills.
It’s worth noting that, if you only created an Amazon account recently, you might not have any problems here. However, if you’ve ordered from the Amazon’s US site before, you might have to go through the same process. Simply put, your mileage may vary here.
Next Page: Performance and The Bottom Line
Join the newsletter!
Bringing VR out of office and study spaces will serve to help it attract the new audiences it needs to continue growing
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Oppo A73 review: The budget smartphone that sets the bar for 2018
- 2 Oppo R11s review: The iClone you know and love, but not quite the one you deserve
- 3 Blackberry KEYone Black Edition review: What the original KEYone should have been
- 4 Zolo Liberty+ review: The true wireless earbuds you've been waiting for
- 5 Samsung Gear IconX 2018 review: The path of least resistance makes for an easy upgrade
Latest News Articles
- Sonos say Aussie Alexa support for One smart speaker won't arrive until Autumn 2018
- Transport for NSW boosts digital experience with Amazon Alexa
- Irdeto Acquires Denuvo
- Businesses jump on Amazon’s Alexa after Australian launch date revealed
- Officeworks hops on voice interface bandwagon with Google Assistant integration
PCW Evaluation Team
The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use
I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.
It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.
Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.
The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.
The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.
- Hands On: Pitting the Apple HomePod against the Sonos One
- Everything You Can Do, I Can Do Better: Comparing The Google Home’s Assistant To Amazon Echo’s Alexa
- Samsung Galaxy S9+ review: A predictably-exellent flagship uplifted by a standout camera
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
Product Launch Showcase
- FTIntegration Analyst - Axway/APIVIC
- TPBusiness Intelligence Application Developer/ReporterQLD
- FTNetwork Planners - Multiple OpportunitiesNSW
- CC.NET DeveloperQLD
- FTIT Systems AdministratorVIC
- TPProject Support OfficerQLD
- CCProject ManagerNSW
- FTSenior Digital Frontend Developer, UX & Web TechnologyOther
- CCJunior Project ManagerVIC
- FTSalesforce DeveloperVIC
- FTERP Technical Analyst - PeoplesoftOther
- FTSenior Business Analyst - AgileOther
- TPICT Project Support OfficerQLD
- CCMid - Level Dynamics CRM Functional ConsultantQLD
- CCDevops EngineerQLD
- FTChange ManagerOther
- FTOBIEE DeveloperACT
- FTMurex DeveloperVIC
- FTService Now Alfabet integration specialistOther
- TPEL1 Data AnalystACT
- TPFinance Integration LeadQLD
- TPSenior Project ManagerACT
- FTApplication Support Analyst- SMSF AdministratorOther
- TPBusiness and Data AnalystQLD
- TPSecurity Operations SpecialistQLD