It's prettier, more flexible, and sounds better.
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Amazon’s Echo has been our long-time favorite in the lineup of Alexa-enabled smart speakers and displays. Since its introduction in 2015, the Echo has stood out in an increasingly congested marketplace for its sound quality, far-field voice technology, and minimal footprint.
The new Echo is no exception to that trend with its improved speaker, rounded design, and ever-helpful Alexa.
Let’s dig a little deeper into what the third-generation Echo is about and whether you should get one.
While you might find the Echo’s entry-level smaller sibling, the Dot, appealing for its lower price point, the Echo is a reasonable place to get started with smart speakers because it manages to produce respectable sound quality for its size and sub-$100 cost. All Echo speakers have Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa, built in, but not all Echos will satisfy the music lover.
Under the hood of the cylindrical casing, the Echo packs a 0.8-inch tweeter, a 3-inch woofer, and Dolby Audio technology. Music services like Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora, Apple Music, and others are a voice command away, or you can stream music from another device via Bluetooth.
As impressive as the Echo is alone, its ability to pair with other Echos, Echo Dots, and Echo Subs means it can be used as one channel of a 2.1-channel smart stereo system. Unfortunately, playing paired Echo speakers via Bluetooth and 3.5mm headphone jack aren't currently supported. You can only play music you've requested from Alexa, which is disappointing.
The previous Echo wasn’t incredibly pretty with its hard edges. The appearance of the third-generation version is considerably more demure. The fabric exterior and complete lack of hard lines makes it less of a statement piece on the coffee table and more of a pleasant spot for your gaze to land.
As far as color options go, we have the usual Charcoal, Heather Gray, and Sandstone versions that can blend in with just about any color scheme, but they’ve also introduced a beautiful Twilight Blue with this new generation.
Many of us are (rightfully) worried about the privacy implications of having an internet-connected, always-listening computer just hanging out in our living spaces. And Amazon specifically has been criticized for the way it handles the voice recordings Echo speakers store when they hear us (or think they hear us) say “Alexa.”
The third-generation Echo might give us some peace of mind, as the mute button on top of the speaker electronically disconnects the microphones. This is the case with all Echo speakers, but a secure mic and the lack of a camera narrows down the number of ways our privacy can be invaded. No power to the microphones means the speaker can’t hear or store anything, and the mics can’t be turned back on remotely. They can only be turned back on by physically pressing the button on the speaker.
There are so many smart speakers on the market today, and it can be tough to figure out what’s the best one for your home (and your money). If you’re not sure about smart speakers and whether you’ll really enjoy having one around, the more affordable Dot might be a better place to start, as it’s half the price of the Echo. But if you know you’re ready to dive in, or you’re expanding the smart home you already have, the third-generation Echo is a smart pick. It’s going to give you great sound and the ability to integrate it into a pretty decent sound system later.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
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