Amazon’s Echo Spot, Echo and Echo Plus
The Echo Spot is a small, circular device that works like Alexa but with a screen. The screen can show you the weather, commute time, watch a flash video, see notes and timers and see other details related to what you’re doing.
The Echo has a new design that is small and fits into your home. It is not something that stands out and won’t get in the way. The shell colours and finishes include charcoal, sandstone, heather grey, oak veneer, walnut veneer and silver.
The Echo Plus comes with a Philips Hue smart lightbulb to start you on the way to having a smart home. The Plus is the model for those who want to set up their home as a smart home. When you ask Alexa to discover your devices, Alexa starts setting up any compatible lights, locks, plugs, switches and other smart devices you have around the home. The Echo Plus connects with Philips Hue, GE, Kwikset and more.
The Echo Spot, Sound and hearing
Music from the Echo Spot comes out through a built-in 2W speaker. You can connect to the device via Bluetooth or a 3.5mm stereo cable. Voice input allows you to control your music from Amazon Music, Prime Music, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and other services.
The sound in the Echo comes delivered by a dedicated tweeter and a 2.5” down-firing subwoofer. Dolby processing gives music improved bass and clear vocals. For the Echo Plus, Dolby processing produces enhanced 360-degree omnidirectional audio.
The microphones of the Echo Spot, Echo and Echo Plus, use the second generation far-field technology, acoustic beam-forming technology and enhanced noise cancellation. There are four microphones in the Spot to pick up what you said from anywhere in the room, including when music is on. A clever feature the ESP (Echo Spatial Perception), where the closest Echo will answer you if you have more than one.
Alexa is better at communicating
Alexa has been improved a great deal as well. Alexa Routines allows you to program set actions from voice commands. For example, you could say “Goodnight, Alexa”, and your lights would be turned off, doors locked and TV turned off. The Routines can be triggered by things like the time of the day. Alexa now has over 25,000 skills.
Speaking to Alexa is more natural now, as you can say “Alexa, turn on the lights” rather than “Alexa, turn on the kitchen overhead lamp”. The ability to understand natural language could be something that gets people more comfortable with communicating with a machine in their homes.
Calling someone is so easy to do with Alexa. Say a name in your contacts list or a number and the call is connected. Users in the United States, Canada and Mexico, will be able to make outbound calls for free. 911 calls are not available, however.
Echo Connect, Buttons and Fire TV
The Echo Connect is an extra device that connects the Echo to a home phone line to make the Echo a hands-free home phone. A landline or VoIP connection is all that’s needed. Set up is easy, as you just connect it to the home Wi-Fi network and home phone jack of VoIP adapter. The Echo Spot allows you to make a video call thanks to a front-facing camera.
A fun new feature that should be mentioned is the Echo Buttons. The Echo Buttons are a gaming device that works like game show buzzers. The games announced for this device include Trivial Pursuit from Hasbro, Sounds Fun with Mike Epps, Buzzer Beater Basketball Trivia with Karl-Anthony Towns, Fourth Down Football Trivia with Philip Rivers, Full Count Baseball Trivia with Buster Posey from Ground Control and Beat the Intro from Musicplode.
Amazon has also announced the release of a new Fire TV with HDR and 4K capabilities. This device is a small dongle that hangs from your television’s HDMI slot. HDR10 is supported, and the box can play at 60 frames per second. The sound is produced by Dolby Atmos integration. The processor is a 1.5 GHz quad-core. Alexa is supported, and the Fire TV can connect with an Echo device to become voice controlled.
The standard Echo is $99.99 and available for pre-order. Shipping of the Echo begins next month. The Echo Spot is $129.99, can be ordered right now and will be shipped to US customers in December. The top of the range Echo Plus is $149.99, available for pre-order and will be delivered next month. The Echo Connect is $34 and will be available at some point in the year. The Fire TV is $69.99 or $80 for a Fire TV and Echo Dot Bundle. There are no prices for the Echo Buttons as yet.