With over 52% of the smart speaker market share, Amazon has successfully established its Echo product line as one of the industry leaders in the smart home tech space. From the useful voice assistant, excellent sound quality, and other awesome functionalities, these devices have set the standard for what consumers expect from smart speakers. And with the relatively small price tag, the Echo product line has become the default starting point for many people trying to build a smart home.
So, what’s so great about the Amazon Echo products, and why are they such a big deal? Let’s take a look at all the devices in the Amazon lineup, what makes them different and what they can do. You can click to read reviews of almost every device too.
First to Market
If there’s one thing that Amazon can thank for the success of the Echo product line, it’s being first-to-market. The first Amazon Echo was launched in 2014, and it has become one of the tech giant’s bestselling products every year since then.
However, its continued success can be attributed only to the company’s well-executed approach to voice assistants in the form of Alexa. While it’s in no way the only good voice assistant, Amazon has done a great job in coming up with new functionalities and products that can maximize its potential.
Amazon’s Product Line
There are a ton of Amazon Echo products centered around Alexa, and they all play a part in creating an ecosystem designed to bring intelligence and comfort to objects and spaces in smart homes and offices.
The first ever Echo device launched in 2014 has an industrial design language that fits with a lot of modern homes. It had a cylindrical shape resembling a small insulated water bottle or a portable air purifier. So, you’ll likely end up putting these devices on a side table, bookshelf, and other furniture that’s out of the way.
As smart home speakers became ubiquitous in homes, however, the design of the Amazon Echo has become bolder. Instead of trying to fit in with the rest of the home’s aesthetics, product designers look at the Echo as a room’s focal point. Therefore, the current generation of Echo devices are spherical and come in vibrant colours such as Glacier White, Twilight Blue, and of course, the original Charcoal. These devices, therefore, typically end up in more prominent spaces, such as on the coffee table or the kitchen center island.
After the original, Amazon quickly added the Echo Spot to its lineup; one of the first Echo devices with a screen.
Who’s it For?
With a pair of Dolby Audio-certified 0.8″ tweeters and a 3.0″ woofer, these small, versatile spherical gadgets can serve as the main audio devices meant for casually listening to music and streaming podcasts or audiobooks. It also has a built-in smart hub that you can use to connect other smart devices from other brands that use Zigbee or Matter wireless technology standards.
Echo Dot + New Echo Dot with Clock
Riding on the success of the Echo, Amazon released the Echo Dot. A smaller and even less expensive smart speaker designed for smaller rooms. Similar to the Echo, the Echo Dot started with a more industrial design: It was shaped like a hockey puck and was only available in matte black. I had the chance to review the original Echo Dot and you can see what that was like here.
It shares the former’s spherical shape but not its size. In a way, it’s the Echo’s little brother. One unfortunate drawback of the smaller Echo Dot is that it doesn’t have the same audio quality Echo. Instead of the 2.1 audio set-up, these devices have a single 1.6″ front-firing speaker with acceptable sound quality. This makes the Echo Dot good enough as a white noise machine but not as a music enthusiast’s go-to device.
The newest Echo Dot device is spherical and there’s also a version that comes with a LED clock; the Echo Dot with Clock. I really like this iteration and you can find out why in my Dot with Clock review.
Who’s it For?
The Echo Dot, like its big brother, has all the A.I. smarts of Alexa. So, you can still schedule appointments, check the weather, order items from Amazon, control your smart home devices and much more.
The Echo Dot is positioned more as a secondary smart speaker meant to access Alexa functions than the main audio device.
Echo Plus / Echo Studio
Realizing that there’s demand for high-fidelity music streaming devices, Amazon created the Amazon Echo Plus in 2016. It’s an audio quality-centric Echo device with all the accoutrements of the base Echo device.
The main feature of the Echo Plus was its improved bass response. While the Echo already has better-than-average bass, the Echo Plus does even better with its cavernous speaker cabinet. However, as Amazon streamlines its product line, the Echo Plus was chosen to be discontinued in 2018 to give way to an Echo smart speaker truly suited for the discerning audiophile – the Echo Studio.
The Echo Studio, launched in 2019, is Amazon’s attempt at satiating the demand for high-quality smart speakers from audiophiles. The Echo Studio is a sleek, black cylinder with a 30 mm tweeter, three 2.0″ mid-range speakers, and a 5.3″ woofer. These should be more than enough to fill a moderately-sized living room with rich, full sound while still being able to pump out clear highs and mids. In a pinch, it can even replace your full 5.1 sound system, equipped with Amazon’s 3D Audio. This lets it mimic a true 5.1 surround sound system by bouncing the sound off the room’s ceiling and walls instead of directly firing it to the listeners. Echo Studio is still available and quite popular.
Who’s it For?
However, don’t expect the sound separation and overall audio quality to exceed dedicated home theatre systems. The Echo Studio is still geared towards audiophiles looking for some hi-fi music, not cinephiles looking for a cinematic experience.
For some users, interacting with Alexa might not be the best way to interact with a gadget. Voice Assistants, after all, isn’t exactly the most intuitive technology there is. The Echo Show lineup is designed to cater to these consumers.
I was one of the first Canadians to get hands-on with Echo ShowBasically, the Echo Show product line is your typical Echo smart speakers with built-in screens with three different screen sizes – 5, 8, and 10 inches. The smallest one has a smart speaker built-in, similar to the Echo Dot’s mono system set-up, while the 8-inch version has a stereo system minus the woofer. The 10-inch Echo Show, on the other hand, has a similar speaker set-up as the Echo’s 2.1 sound system.
Who They’re For:
Echo Show 5: With a small 5.5-inch screen, it’s difficult to see why people would get the Echo Show 5 as a dedicated movie-watching device. This screen size is even smaller than the average smartphone these days. The screen seems to be meant for more utilitarian purposes, such as looking at and editing your grocery list, looking up recipes, or checking your calendar.
Echo Show 8: While the jump from 5 inches to 8 inches doesn’t seem so large on paper, the screen size of the Echo Show 8 makes it much more suitable actually streaming video content. However, it’s more for a few minutes of content like a 30-minute episode of Friends, not a 3-hour Scorsese movie.
Echo Show 10: Once you get to the 10 inches territory, it’s much more suitable for streaming video content for longer periods. This is the same size as most tablets, so it’s not much of a stretch to think that you can use the Echo Show 10 as a dedicated video player. The excellent 2.1 stereo sound system and the much-loved rotation feature make it one of the best video chatting devices on the market today.
Echo Show 15
The newest iteration of this is the TV-sized Echo Show 15. The Echo Show 15 is designed to be a family hub. Made much larger than previous versions, the Show 15 is a big, framed flat screen now that resembles a TV. This screen is made for video viewing, whether it’s a Zoom call or video chat or watching Amazon Prime TV, Amazon wants you using and engaging with your Echo Show 15 all the time. While you could watch videos on Show devices previously, this big, high resolution screen (1920 x 1080) is designed for viewing. Learn more about it in my full review.
One unexpected product to come out of Amazon’s Echo product line is the Echo Flex. It’s basically a smart USB-A charging brick with a built-in microphone and speaker. It lets you use Alexa to control your home, play music, and even make calls.
Unconventional Echo Products
Amazon’s ambition to get Alexa to be as useful as possible extends beyond the smart home or office. They’re also trying to push it into our daily commutes as well with products like Echo Buds and the Echo Auto, not to mention Echo Frames.
Sometimes you just want to go, without having to worry about phone, keys, sunglasses, headphones, wallet… and carrying lots of STUFF. Amazon Echo Frames 2nd Gen solve this problem by combining two very common devices we like to have with us into one: headphones and sunglasses.
In my hands-on review, I got a pair of second generation Amazon Echo Frames to test and review over a couple of weeks. In this review I’ll tell you what they’re like to wear in terms of fit and comfort, how the sound quality is when it comes to the listening component, about the battery life, and if I think these are a good gadget for you.
Echo Auto is a device by Amazon that brings most of Alexa’s voice assistant features to your vehicle. With Echo Auto, you can perform tasks such as streaming audio, receiving turn-by-turn directions, making phone calls, shopping on Amazon, and more, all through voice commands. It provides a convenient and hands-free way to access Alexa on the go, eliminating the need to fumble with dashboard buttons or your phone.
Echo Auto is a card-sized, speaker-free smart device designed to be connected to your car’s entertainment system. It has most of the capabilities of an in-home Echo, allowing you to access the wide range of skills and features offered by Alexa. Echo Auto is compact and easy to place in your car, with a five-mic array built-in to ensure Alexa can hear you clearly over music, air conditioning, or road noise. It also includes a fast car charger to keep your phone powered up during your commute.
The Amazon Echo Buds are wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation and built-in Alexa. They offer a secure, comfortable fit with three sizes of ear tips to choose from and are sweat-resistant, making them ideal for workouts. As you’ll find out in my full hands-on review, Echo Buds have a five-hour battery life, and the included charging case provides an additional 15 hours of usage.
One standout feature of the Echo Buds is the active noise cancellation, which reduces background noise, making it easier to hear music, make calls, or access Alexa even in noisy environments. They also have a mode called “Passthrough” that lets you hear the world around you without taking off the earbuds.
Another noteworthy feature is their compatibility with Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa, which allows for hands-free voice control. You can use Alexa to play music, get directions, or provide information on the go just by asking. The Echo Buds also feature touch controls that allow you to control playback, answer calls, and access Alexa without touching your phone.
Do you have an all-time favourite Amazon smart home product? If so what’s your top pick… Or if you have not yet entered the Alexa echo system, let us know why not in the comments below.
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