CNET First Look
Amazon Echo: a wireless speaker you can talk toWe go hands-on with Amazon's new Echo smart speaker and its Alexa voice assistant, who might just be Siri's better-sounding twin sister.
[MUSIC] Hi, I'm David Carwright from CNet and this is the Echo. Amazon's new voice activated could connected speaker that talks back to you and acts as kind of a personal assistant though it's capabilities are somewhat limited at this point. Well, it carries a list price of $200. If you're an Amazon Prime member, you'll be able to buy the Echo for $99 in the coming weeks. But anybody who wants to buy one, Prime or otherwise, needs to request an invite from Amazon to have a chance to own one. How well does it work? Well, in a nutshell, it's one of the better voice controlled devices I've used. There are seven microphones embedded in the top of this 9.25 inch speaker, and Alexa, the name behind the voice inside the machine understood most of my commands, and her voice sounded fairly natural responding to me. I think I like her better than Siri. To get started, you have to connect the speaker to your home WI-FI network through an app on an Android or Amazon Fire tablet or phone, or desktop browsers. An IOS app isn't available yet, and that launch, there's isn't much you can do with an iPhone beyond connecting it to the speaker via Bluetooth and streaming audio to the speaker. It works particularly well for getting a weather forecast. Alexxo, what's the weather today? Right now in New York it's 54 degrees with cloudy skies. Alexxo, what time is it? The time is 3:43. Add pretzels to shopping list. Pretzels added to your shopping list. What is a blogger? Blogger, person who writes on a web log. After the initial setup, you don't have to use the Echo app to use the speaker. But you can voice cast Alexa's answers to your tablet or smart phone if you want. I was also impressed by the music playback features. If you're a Prime member you can quickly have Alexa generate a playlist for you. At launch Echo was compatible with Amazon Music, iHeartRadio and TuneIn. And not surprisingly Alexa also makes it easy for you to buy songs from Amazon. It's also worth noting that the speaker has to be plugged in and doesn't have a battery option. And you do get a remote with a built-in microphone. So you can talk to Alexa if you're too far away from the Ecko's built-in microphones. Or just too noisy in the room. The big limitation right now is that beyond the weather and dictionary, Ecko seems to only interface with Wikipedia. Not Google or another search engine, like Bing. That will send a Bing link to your tablet or phone if it can't find what you're asking about. And while the speaker plays loud it produces a fair amount of base it doesn't sound great with music, particularly at higher volumes. In all it's a good start and at 99 dollars I would say it's a very good value. At 200 however I might consider waiting for those additional features to materialize before adding it to my living room. I'm David Carnoy. Thanks for watching.