Amazon Echo UK and Alexa Review
Me: Alexa, write a review of the Amazon Echo for me.
Alexa: Sorry, I didn’t understand the question I heard.
Hmm, guess I’ll have to do this the old fashioned way then!
I got my Echo as part of the Prime launch deal. Having had my eye on this for a while I was pleased to find Echo coming to the UK and available so soon after the announcement.
In the box you get the Echo speaker, power cable, instructions and a suggested commands quick sheet.
Setup was fairly easy, the speaker itself just needs plugging in, it’s the Alexa app that causes some issues. You use the app to get the Echo setup on your WiFi, set various preferences and locations and access the various skills and lists.
The app could do with some work, it’s slow to open and had problems connecting my Spotify account; After authorising the app it would prompt me to sign in to Amazon.com, not Amazon.co.uk if you have this issue I recommend using the online Alexa dashboard to connect your accounts.
The Echo speaker is a nice looking bit of kit, I have the black version. Speaker perforations run around the bottom and there is a rotating volume control ring at the top. There are also a couple of buttons, one used during setup and the other is used to disable Alexa from listing, a privacy mode.
The speaker offers fairly average performance when it comes to music playback, decent enough sound quality with some bass, but nothing to get especially excited about. It’s perfect for my use in the kitchen, but I wouldn’t have it as a main speaker.
The exciting part is Alexa and it’s a brilliant system. Responses are fast, commands aren’t ridged so you don’t need to remember specific phrases, and once the novelty had worn off this continued to be a gadget used day to day.
For example, I’ll come down in the morning and while making breakfast I’ll ask for the flash briefing, which I’ve selected should come from Sky News (other options are available).
After proving the news Alexa updates me on the days weather. I’ll then ask for some music to be played, I’m fine with Amazon Music but could use Spotify if I want.
Breakfast done I ask for a travel update for my trip to work, all this done completely by voice control alone.
It’s truly an amazing feeling and makes you feel like the future has almost arrived. I say almost as there are some areas that could do with some work.
So if I want to check when the next train leaves my station I can’t just ask Alexa, I have to start the National Rail app first. There are loads of these apps (or ‘skills’ in Alexa speak) which can be used to enhance functionality, but they don’t always feel as natural to use as the main commands.
I don’t mind setting up my local train station and the station I travel to the most, but once don’t I want Alexa to know that information and not require me to instruct on where to get the travel details.
I already have a Nest thermostat and this was very easy to link to the Echo, allowing me to control the central heating with my voice which should prove handy as winter draw closer.
Unfortunately at the time of review the excellent IFTTT service is NOT compatible with the UK version of Echo, something the I hope will be quickly rectified as it opens up a lot of additional possible uses.
I suspect the Echo and it’s little Dot sibling are going to be something of a gateway gadget, I’ve not been too fussed about controlling lights and sockets via mobile apps, always seems more effort than just going to the switch, but now they can be controlled via voice, well that’s rather special.
If you’re after a speaker the Echo does a decent, but not amazing, job. If you’re more interested in the Alexa AI and already have a decent speaker system I suggest going for the Amazon Dot instead.
Amazon Echo is available now from Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2dqRveM and Amazon USA: http://amzn.to/2d0VX4k
If you’d rather not have the speaker get the Amazon Dot, UK: http://amzn.to/2dqRcRh USA: http://amzn.to/2d0VX4k
Amazon Echo UK Video Review