The $99 Echo is now smaller, prettier and sounds a lot better than the original.
Nicole Lee, @nicole
Aside from the Echo Spot, Amazon also introduced two new versions of its speaker-only Echos. One is simply known as the “new” Echo, while the more advanced version is called the Echo Plus. Both boast audio improvements with a new speaker architecture, a dedicated tweeter, a 2.5-inch down-firing woofer and Dolby sound. Both devices also boast improved far field technology, which means you should now be able to shout “Alexa” at your Echo from across a crowded room and it’ll still recognize you.
The differences between the two come down to design and the fact that the Plus comes with the added bonus of smart home integration. The new Echo is smaller than the original, but it’s still much larger than the Dot. At first glance, the new Echo’s size is more akin to the size of Google Home, which is arguably Amazon’s closest competitor in the smart speaker space.
What is particularly different design-wise is that it comes in an array of different cases. You can choose from different fabric options as well as a couple of different wood veneer choices. According to Amazon, you can buy a few and swap them out if you want, which is similar to what you can do with Google Home’s speaker base. In person, the wood veneer looks a little cheap, but I do like the feel of the fabric ones.
The Echo Plus, on the other hand, is just as tall as the original Echo, and has many of the same features as the smaller Echo. The main difference is that it comes with a smart home hub that promises to pair all of your various smart home devices with just a simple command: “Alexa, discover my devices.” Early bundles of the Echo Plus even comes with a Philips Hue lightbulb so you can see this for yourself. Usually, you would need to hook a Hue hub to your router for the lightbulb to be connected. But with the Plus, that Hue hub isn’t required. Right now, the Plus works with ZigBee products, but Amazon hopes to add more compatibility in the future. The Plus also promises enhanced 360-degree omnidirectional audio, with even better sound quality than the smaller Echo.
Though they weren’t connected to anything, I also took a quick look at the Echo Button, which is a sort of odd game show type buzzer that you can use with trivia games. Think of it as the miniature version of the buzzer on Press Your Luck. It glows in different colors, and you can distribute them to your friends to recreate your very own living room game show. Some games include Sounds Fun with Mike Epps, Buzzer Beater Basketball Trivia with Karl-Anthony Towns, Fourth Down Football Trivia with Philip Rivers, Full Count Baseball Trivia with Buster Posey from Ground Control, as well as Beat the Intro from Musicplode. According to Amazon, this is just the first of many different Alexa gadgets, so stay tuned for more of these weird and wacky Echo accessories.
The new Echo is $100/£90, the Echo Plus is $150/£140, while the Echo Buttons will be $20 for a two-pack. The two new Echo speakers will be available next month, while the Buttons will be available this holiday season.