Amazon Echo is a wi-fi connected smart speaker that performs voice-activated tasks. This is the second generation of the Echo featuring Amazon’s digital personal assistant, Alexa. The new Echo boasts all of the voice-activated smarts of its predecessor but in a smaller and more attractive package.If you want to play music, you simply say “Alexa, play REM” and before you know it Alexa has accessed your preferred music service (Spotify and Amazon Music both work well with this device) and you’re listening to Michael Stipe et al and some beautifully melancholic college rock.
If you want a flash news briefing, just ask “Alexa.”
Amazon Echo Dot is better than before
I’ve had both a Google Home and the new Echo side by side in my apartment for a few days, and in general Alexa is better at understanding my commands. Case in point: I like to have my “Chill at Home” playlist in the background when I’m preparing dinner or getting ready for work, but I get sick of hearing the same few songs in the same order all the time. To shuffle songs and skip to the next track after I put the playlist on, I usually have to tell Google to shuffle and skip in two separate commands. With Alexa, I just have to say “Alexa, shuffle and skip,” or, “Alexa, play my Chill at Home playlist on shuffle.” I can’t even get Google to shuffle my playlist from the get — it has to be a separate command.
Alexa can now learn “Routines,” which let you set a group of actions for the assistant to carry out when you say a specific phrase — just like the Google Assistant already does. For example, tell Alexa, “Start my day,” and she will rattle off the weather forecast, the traffic report and a news briefing. I tried to create a routine called “Goodbye” that would turn off my lights and stop my music. The latter isn’t an option at the moment, which is too bad, but at least I could set Alexa to switch off my lights when I said “Goodbye.”
in November of 2017, Amazon issued a firmware update that tweaked the new Echo’s equalizer settings to give it deeper-sounding bass. Some users report fuller-sounding music playback since the update, while others think that the boosted bass might be muddying the mix a little bit. As for me, I ran my tests again and really couldn’t hear much of a difference at all. At any rate, your mileage will vary based on what music you’re listening to, and how loud.