Home Bluetooth Speakers Amazon Echo Review

Amazon Echo Review Echo Dot

Remember when the future was represented in movies through automated homes that could do just about any everyday task? We are not quite there yet, but smart devices are certainly making some aspects of home automation possible. If you have a few billion pounds to your name (and some exceptional programming knowledge) like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, you could have a futuristic robot butler controlling your home right now. However, if your budget is a little more realistic, you might want to consider a smart home gadget like Amazon’s interactive speaker, the Amazon Echo.

The Echo features an in-built assistant which responds to vocal commands and queries. While primarily designed to play music through the unusual cylindrical speaker, the unit can also access the internet and perform searches, hold simple conversations, liaise with apps and smart gadgets, and provide a hub for controlling home smart tech. Even more remarkably, it can be picked up for less than £150! There are new features being added to the device every day, and it is certainly one of the market leaders in home assistant technology. Read our review below to discover what makes the Amazon Echo so special, and to find out why you need to pick one up today.

Statistics And Specifications: A Look Inside The Amazon Echo

What exactly is the Amazon Echo, and what does it do? We took a look at the Echo and its sister gadget, the smaller Amazon Dot. Learn what the two devices can do, how they work and what they cost with our handy guide below.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo review and buyer's guide

  • Size: 235 mm x 83.5 mm x 83.5 mm; 1.1 kilograms
  • Price: £149.99
  • 360 degree speaker
  • Alexa voice-controlled assistant
  • Mains power
  • One year warranty

 

Amazon Dot

Amazon Echo Review Echo Dot

  • Size: 83.5 mm x 83.5 mm x 32 mm; 0.16 kilograms
  • Price: £49.99
  • Alexa voice-controlled assistant
  • Mains power
  • One year warranty

The Echo features a cylindrical speaker for 360 degree sound. The case includes a 2.5 inch subwoofer and 2.0 inch tweeter, plus reflex port to enhance bass sounds and create the effect of a much larger speaker case. At the top of the unit sits the control panel, volume ring and the computer itself. This top section is, in essence, the Dot. The dot misses out that 360 degree speaker, and is designed to be connected to your own sound system instead. The Echo can also be hooked up to a surround sound set-up if preferred.

Assistant Alexa is responsive and you will find her pleasant enough. Depending on which region your device was intended for, you might find she has an American or British accent. As yet, there are no plans for custom voices or a wider range of choices, but this might be something seen in a later update, once the more practical features are firmly in place. Set-up for the device is simple: plug in and make sure the Wi-fi is connected, and use the mobile app to connect the system. There might be a need to calibrate the microphone to ensure Alexa can hear you properly – check the manual for more information, and follow the audio prompts from the device.

What does Amazon Echo do?

The Amazon Echo and Dot devices have a huge range of functions, and more keep being added through upgrades to the operating system. Thanks to constant internet connection, any new compatible applications can be merged with the existing functions to expand what the gadget can do. Below we have listed just some of the features:

  • Stream music and access music files
  • Read audio books and articles
  • Play trivia games
  • Act as a kitchen assistant
  • Order a takeaway
  • Call a taxi
  • Control smart home devices
  • Manage your calendar
  • Perform local searches
  • Deliver news and weather reports

For some services, subscriptions are needed. This includes streaming services like Amazon Prime Music and Spotify. For other features, the associated smart devices are required. For example, there is a ‘lock doors’ function which can be activated when the August Smart Lock is installed. This new generation of technology, with devices that can talk to each other, is known as IFTTT (If This, Then That) and is part of the wider Internet of Things – a comprehensive network of internet-connected devices which can respond, learn and communicate with each other.

Amazon Echo Privacy Concerns

The fact that Amazon Echo is always connected to the internet is a big plus if you like your devices ready to go right when you need them. With Alexa always available, it is easy to control your home, access your diary or change the music without getting up or stopping what you are doing. However, that constant connection might also raise a few privacy questions. Is Amazon Echo safe? What are the chances of the device being hacked and personal data being stolen? Does it raise the risk of a data breach from a connected device? We took a look at these privacy concerns.

Technically, the device is always listening while it is on. Does this mean that your conversations are being recorded and stored somewhere? In a word, no. The background noise heard by the device is not kept, and the recording feature only kicks in when the gadget hears its name. At this point, a short clip is recorded and sent to the central server, through encrypted channels for added security. Entries can also be reviewed and deleted in much the same way as your browser search history, if you have concerns about device privacy.

Of course, like any network, there will always be some risk of a sophisticated hacking attempt. However, the way the Amazon Echo has been designed ensures that the risks are few and far between. Despite working on an IoT network, the connection is local and limited to your own space – just like your Wi-fi router. Any potential for abuse will be limited by the encrypted technology use to pass queries, and your account details will be kept safe by password access. In short, Amazon Echo is about as safe as can be expected from a smart device and the risk is small.

 

Images used with thanks to Amazon.co.uk and Wikimedia.org
Prices and product details correct at the time of writing, taken from Amazon

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