The Amazon Echo is one of those products that really kickstarted the entire category. The best smart speakers now come from far and wide, many using the same Alexa voice platform. Amazon wasn’t the first to bring a voice assistant to the world, in fact only coming in behind Apple, Google, And Microsoft. Alexa debuted on the original Amazon Echo in late 2014. moment of origin. the rest is history. Competition is fierce but the Amazon Echo not only exists but improves with each iteration. Now we have reached the fourth generation of Amazon Echo and it looks very different from the first one. No longer the iconic cylinder, Alexa as a platform has evolved with each passing year, and in many homes, it has become part of the family. My kids don’t really know about Amazon Echo, they just know how to talk to Alexa and ask for the Encanto soundtrack.
Ease of use is part of what has always made the Amazon Echo such a great device. Even if you’ve never owned one, you probably know who — or rather, what — Alexa is. It is one of those technologies that permeated their hardware and found their way into the wider world. Now, one piece in the Amazon Echo puzzle, Alexa is everywhere. On your speaker, on your wrist, on your TV or in your car. But it all started on the Echo.
It’s 2022 now, nearly eight years after the debut of the Amazon Echo. Google has some first-rate options, Apple has its own, and is onboard with third-party voice assistants like Sonos. Is there still room for the Amazon Echo or has it been grabbed by a smaller, funnier alternative?
The latest generation of the original smart speaker continues to set the bar from the Alexa ecosystem with a cool design, great sound, and an enormous amount of possibilities.
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Amazon Echo (4th Gen): Pricing and Availability
Amazon has very wide global support for both the Amazon Echo and Alexa to sell through their own stores. Even those using the “international versions” do not have full support if there are separate services available.
The Amazon Echo (4th generation) is, unsurprisingly, available primarily through Amazon with a regular retail price of $100. You also get a choice of three colors, with white, blue and charcoal all available. You can also find them at third-party retailers, such as Best Buy in the US, for the same price.
The real magic about shopping for an Amazon Echo is grabbing one of the regular discount events. Prime Day and Black Friday are the biggest of all year, but there will also be sporadic sales throughout the year, and Amazon doesn’t shy away from taking big price cuts on them.
Amazon Echo (4th Gen): Specs
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Design and features: the center of your smart home
The latest generation of Amazon Echo has moved away from the cylindrical design for the first time. Instead, you now get a sphere, and judging by the size, I compare it to holding a crystal ball as you remove it from the packaging. The base is naturally flat, but otherwise, it’s a perfect Echo Ball. The controls are still up, the power connector is still on the back. But the ring light now flashes downward with the same iconic blue color when you trigger it with a magic word.
Moving to a sphere means that it is much wider than its predecessors. But I also think this design looks better at home. It’s subjective, of course, but being back to the origins of previous generations, the latest one is definitely my favorite in looks. I’ve had blue to make changes from years past, and that’s fine. But I wish it was one of the others. It’s not a bad color, but it’s not the greatest shade of blue ever and it basically clashes with the aesthetics in each of my rooms. My tip would be to hold on to the white, but maybe the blue will fit your aesthetic.
The design should get out of the way and it does. If you need to touch it, you can, but 99% of the time you’re going to use your voice. The power cable hooks into the back, so you have some chance of neat cable management, right next to the 3.5mm jack. The Amazon Echo can be connected over a cable to your existing music system to add some smarts and extra audio power.
Better yet, though, the Alexa app has the ability to create a stereo pair. If you also have a Fire TV, it makes for an affordable, easy-to-use home theater setup that you never have to get up from the couch to control. It’s a similar ecosystem to the Apple TV and HomePod Mini, and you can’t deny how awesome it is. The last way to remove audio from the Echo is over Bluetooth. It looks like Amazon can’t really leave it out, but it’s good to have it and not use it any other way.
You also get the Zigbee Smart Home Hub inside the Amazon Echo. The most common way to use Echo with your smart home is through Alexa. But Alexa requires a data connection, not a local Zigbee Hub. Zigbee also uses a separate connection with very low data speeds, so the devices are both power efficient and don’t add to the network noise over your home Wi-Fi.
I don’t have any Zigbee compatible devices to use with the Amazon Echo, but there are a few popular brands that support the technology. Philips Hue is perhaps most famous, along with SmartThings, Ring, and even some smart door locks. You may never touch it, but again, it’s cool that it’s there for the people who want it. This makes the Amazon Echo a true smart home hub.
There’s Alexa for everything else. You can mute the microphone whenever you don’t want to hear the Echo, but other times you just say its name, and off you go. This review isn’t enough to talk about all the services and skills you can use with the Amazon Echo. just know it is very, All the major smart home devices, most of the lesser-known ones, your Xbox, your Fitbit, are a ridiculous array of devices that can hook into Alexa.
This means that the Amazon Echo can be whatever you make of it. You can only use it to listen to music and podcasts. Or you can use it to command and automate your entire home. This extends to home security as well, though Alexa Guard probably isn’t the first reason you’re buying an Echo. Neither has motion-sensing capabilities, but it sends a clear message why smart home enthusiasts should look to Amazon.
Audio: Amazon Echo (4th Gen) packs a punch
For those looking for the highest quality audio, Echo Studio exists. For those who just want something that seems GoodAmazon Echo is generally excellent. It started with Amazon inside this ball of fun. Paired with two 0.8-inch (20 mm) tweeters is a 3-inch (76 mm) woofer, so you get a ton of bass. I’m not the biggest fan of loud lows, but in general, the output from the Echo is pleasing.
At stock settings, you have a warm tone but you can lose a little clarity and volume from the vocals. The sound doesn’t suffer from distortion at high volumes and is a good room filler. The Amazon Echo seems to be a much bigger speaker than it actually is.
You have some basic controls for tweaking the audio, but they’re pretty buried in the settings. Amazon certainly can do a better job of putting audio controls within easy reach for your devices. When you find them, however, you have sliders for bass, mids, and treble. Equalizer presets would be nice, but at least you can customize them manually.
You can link an Amazon Echo to an Amazon Echo Sub if you find yourself looking for more bass. With a stereo pair and one of these, you’ll have a real room shaker.
The sound from the Amazon Echo is good, though, especially for something that only costs $100 and includes all the smart features. Google Nest Audio probably sounds a little better for music, but the Echo will surprise you how good it is.
Should you buy the Amazon Echo (4th Gen)?
$64,000 question; Should you buy Amazon Echo in 2022? The answer is a resounding yes. For most people, the Amazon Echo is the perfect addition to their homes. If you’re a music fan it’s worth the extra expense on the Echo Dot for, well, everything. The new design is the best yet and while the blue is probably the worst looking, it’s no disaster.
Perhaps the only thing really missing from the latest Amazon Echo is the LED clock found on the Echo Dot. It would have been a nice little addition, even if it were an optional model that cost a bit more. But overall, it’s really hard to fault this thing.
It’s been eight years since Amazon made smart speakers. When the Echo first debuted and Alexa was new, it was a device to be excited and enthusiastic about. To some extent that has deteriorated. It’s the best at what it does, absolutely anyone can use it, it doesn’t cost a lot and you really can’t find anything worthwhile wrong with it. Honestly, the Amazon Echo is so good you could even say it’s actually a little boring. But is there anything wrong with that?
Amazon Echo is the best smart speaker for most people with a cool design, great sound and the immense power of the Alexa ecosystem at its disposal.