Amazon Echo: The Coolest Gadget I Don’t Need

Dave Zatz —  June 25, 2015

amazon-echo

So the big news is that Amazon Echo is now available for all to purchase, with a July 14th ETA. And, instead of going mass market at $200 as originally presented, it arrives at an even more palatable $180 (having dropped the physical remote). Considering a decent Bluetooth speaker could run that much or more, the voice-controlled, multi-function Echo is really a fantabulous deal when you consider all it offers.

When originally introduced as an Amazon Prime exclusive in limited numbers for $99, I picked up two. Back then, it didn’t do a whole lot — it was largely a silo-ed experience that I mainly used as a voice-controlled alarm clock and iHeartRadio terminal. But the product team has been iterating at a furious pace, bringing native Pandora, Hue control (!), and Audible integration… with promises of more to come and a developer SDK.

My experiences with the voice recognition had been decent, using “Alexa” as the trigger. Echo got most, but not all, things right. Yet the only real annoyances were the times it’d periodically interrupt a conversation it shouldn’t have been privy to or when Alexa and I couldn’t communicate effectively over playing music. And, speaking of music, audio quality was similarly decent. Tucked away in a corner, as photographed above, Echo produced poor, distorted sound. But free on the kitchen ledge and centered on our bedroom dresser, it performed much better… though not Sonos-quality.

As a technology, I find Echo compelling. But, as a consumer, my wife and I just weren’t using it all that much — instead, gravitating towards our smartphones and Sonos for similar functionality. So off to ebay they went.

7 responses to Amazon Echo: The Coolest Gadget I Don’t Need

  1. v2 with a Zigbee chip…?

  2. Thank you for the update, and for getting these so I didn’t have to! ETA should read July 14th, I think.

  3. They did away with the remote? Bummer.

    My fav thing is to sneak into the other room, and “Simon Says: Have you checked the children?” to my wife, and creep her out!! ;)

  4. Remote is now a $30 accessory. Probably unneccessary for most, but had become pretty valuable for me – Echo in master bedroom, but could control Hue lighting (to some degree) in family room via remote. The only weird thing is, as you allude to: Echo speaks responses whether or not you’re there. So my wife would “hear” me adjusting the lights downstairs while watching TV upstairs.

    Of course, Hue is getting a new Apple HomeKit-compatble hub which will bring Siri voice control, among other things…

    https://www.facebook.com/huePhilips/videos/684021741729713/

    Thanks, Kurt – corrected the month.

  5. Here’s a new good, balanced review (as opposed to ZDNet’s “Perfect 10”) which echoes (ha) some of my points:

    http://www.fastcompany.com/3047861/tech-forecast/hands-on-with-amazons-echo-speaker-hey-this-thing-is-remarkably-smart

  6. We had held off – in part based on your review. We did finally order just before this because Amazon added the ability to play Audible books. Sonos’ interface for playing Audible books is annoying. We’re big Audible customers and this looks to be super for my wife. I’m still not sure we’ll like it, but listening to Jason Snell turning out Dan Moren’s lights via a live podcast stream provided loads of entertainment. :)

    We’ll see!

  7. My dental hygienist’s daughter is named Alexa. She had no idea about the Echo.