Smart speakers are one of the most popular devices at the moment, and now you can buy one that suits you.
The Echo Amazon ($179) is a voice-activated speaker that can, when asked, tell you the latest news, play music, schedule timers and alarms and tell jokes.
It is powered by Alexa, a digital assistant-available in English. Along with the standard Echo, there’s also the point ($89) that has all the smarts, but only a small speaker and the Echo Plus ($269), which is higher, has a better speaker and includes technology that makes it easy to set up a smart home.
After living with Alexa for a couple of weeks I found the Echo to be a great gadget-but that doesn’t mean that you need one.
To take advantage of it, you’ll also need a Spotify or Amazon music account, since playing music is one of Alexa’s best talents.
The Echo is configured using the Alexa app on your smartphone (either Android or Apple). The application is key customizing its echo and is where you will find and download what Amazon calls “skills”, which are similar to applications for a smartphone.
Amazon music is superb. After a free trial of 90 days, it costs $14.50 per month. You can also use Spotify, IHeartRadio, and Tunel. The downside to using those as opposed to Amazonian music is that you have to say your name when you require music.
Alexa is very accurate when listening to the requests for songs, although she occasionally slipped-I still got Kid rock when ordering a “rock playlist”.
In general, your ability to hear your voice is impressive, especially when the music is playing. However, be prepared to raise your voice occasionally and spell out your words.
The sound is good and will satisfy most people, even if they struggle with a lot of bass.
If you buy an Echo, you need to be happy for Amazon to record the commands and use the data. Although this can be eliminated, in fact, Alexa works best when you have access to it.
You also need to accept another level of gadget intrusion into your life. While Alexa is convenient, it is another device to deal with and some people can be sent back with it by invading their living room, especially if you are trying to limit the technology in your home.
I can understand why Amazon has sold millions of echoes – they are fun to use and if you are willing to spend time they are very helpful.
The Echo Standard ($179) is the best choice for most people and offers good value for money.
If you love music, Alexa is great. While it’s easy to control music with your phone, being able to order songs and playlists is brilliant. However, it means to register to Amazon music or say “on Spotify” a lot.
It also takes a bit of work to get you to do more than the basics. You will have to spend some time to get the most out of it or risk becoming a fun party trick that will take place when visiting friends.
Voice servers will play an ever-increasing role in our digital lives so if you are interested in making them part of your life then the Echo is a good place to start.