All-new Echo (3rd Gen) delivers studio-quality audio, while Echo Dot includes a bright LED display that shows time, outdoor temperature etc.
Amazon’s Echo smart speakers have definitely made our homes smart. Walk into a tech-savvy household and you’ll witness the ongoing love affair with Alexa (the virtual assistant developed by Amazon that powers these smart speakers). Family members can be seen issuing commands to their Echo devices to play their favourite music, watching videos or movies on Amazon Prime Video, or controlling their smart home appliances, especially lighting systems. I have noticed that children, more than their parents, tend to be voracious users of the Echo devices, taking its help for their school assignments, asking mundane general knowledge questions, etc.
The Jeff Bezos firm has now introduced a new line-up of Echo devices. There’s the all-new Echo (3rd Gen), featuring an updated fabric design and premium sound, for the same price as the previous generation Echo, that is, Rs 9,999. There’s also Echo Dot with clock: This new variant of Echo Dot includes a bright LED display that shows the time, outdoor temperature, timers, or alarms for Rs 5,499.
The good news is that Alexa can now understand customers speaking to her in chaste Hindi or Hinglish. If a user asks for the weather in Hindi, Alexa will reply in Hindi. For example, “Alexa, aaj mausam kaisa hai?” and when they ask for information in English, Alexa will understand and respond in English, for example, “Alexa, tell me about Chandrayaan-2.” This multi-lingual mode can be useful in Indian households where users speak both Hindi and English.
AMAZON ECHO 3rd GEN (Rs 9,999)
The next-generation Echo features an updated fabric design with colour options for any style—including Blue (new), Black, Grey and White. Echo has the same audio architecture as Echo Plus, including a 3-inch woofer and increased back volume so the bass feels stronger, and the mids and highs are clearer.
For those who are new to the Amazon Echo ecosystem, let me decipher a few things here. Alexa is the brain behind Echo—since Alexa runs in the cloud, the service is always getting smarter. Just ask, and Alexa will answer questions, play music, read the news, set timers and alarms, check the calendar, provide sports scores, control lights at home, and much more. With Echo’s far-field voice control, you can do all this from across the room using just your voice. Additionally, a user can now ask Alexa to speak slower or speak faster, depending on your preference.
Now comes the best part: Besides English, Alexa can now understand customers speaking to her completely in Hindi or Hinglish, in multiple contexts, and varied regional accents and dialects. With the multi-lingual mode, a user can switch between English and Hindi when talking to Alexa without changing the language setting from Hindi to English and the other way around every time. I am sure this multi-lingual mode can be useful in Indian households where users speak both Hindi and English interchangeably.
You can enjoy asking Alexa for diverse Hindi content such as jokes, shayaris, games, Kabir ke dohe, Panchatantra stories, Bollywood dialogues, more than 500 Alexa skills, and even spellings of words in Hindi. In the prevailing socio-cultural scenario wherein majority of parents lay a greater emphasis on English for their children, Hindi often gets neglected. I was glad to see my daughter frequently referring to Alexa on the all-new Echo to understand difficult Hindi words, communicate more in our mother tongue in order to spruce up her Hindi speaking skills.
AMAZON ECHO FLEX (Rs 2,999)
The Echo Flex is a plug-in smart speaker that saves on space by plugging directly into a standard electrical outlet; no more wires and chargers. It is the most affordable way to voice control compatible smart home devices and get help from Alexa at more places in your home. Echo Flex also has a built-in USB-A port so you can easily charge your phone (7.5W) or other devices, all while using only one outlet.
The Echo Flex plugs into any standard electrical outlet, making it perfect for spaces where power cords can be a hassle like the hallway or a bathroom. You can simply ask Alexa to control compatible smart home devices. Switch on the lights as you enter your home or turn off the AC as you leave the room, all without lifting a finger. Echo Flex works with devices such as smart lights and plugs from brands including Philips, Syska LED, Oakter, TP-Link and more.
You can also make announcements on other Echo devices in the household, add items to the shopping list or check the latest score of your favourite sports team, and responses will come through the speaker on the device that’s been optimised for Alexa’s voice. Just like other Echo devices, you can connect the Echo Flex to your preferred speakers using Bluetooth or a 3.5mm audio cable for a higher audio output.
The Echo Flex retails for an affordable Rs 2,999; a detailed review will follow at a later date.
AMAZON ECHO DOT (Rs 5,499)
Earlier, the Echo Dot devices would look like plain, dumb devices. Not anymore. The new generation Echo Dot comes with a clock—a simple, bright LED display for Rs 5,499. With this addition, the new avatar of Amazon’s best-selling device can be the perfect addition to a bedside table or kitchen counter. The LED display automatically adjusts based on the brightness of the room, so you can easily see the time or just ask to see the outdoor temperature, or to set a morning alarm or cooking timer. Plus, you can tap the top of the device to conveniently snooze an alarm.