Amazon Echo (2019) review: A smart speaker that's too comfortable

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The Good The new Amazon Echo boasts improved sound quality for a reasonable price.

The Bad The midrange sound falters, and the Echo doesn't bring much else new to the countertop than its upgraded speakers.

The Bottom Line $100 seems like an appropriate price for the new Amazon Echo, but it falls between two obvious categories -- not feeling truly wallet-friendly or technically top-grade.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Sound quality 8

Update, Oct 22, 2020:  The speaker featured in this review has been phased out by Amazon's new, fourth generation Echo, which launched today. We gave it an Editor's Choice award in our review. Our original review of the third generation Echo speaker follows. 


This fall is busy for Amazon. The same week its Echo Dot with Clock was released, it dropped the all-new $100 (£90, AU$149) Echo, reviewed here. The Echo Studio, Amazon's answer to Google's $300 Home Max, is out soon, too, along with a slew of other Alexa-enabled gadgets.

But that core speaker lineup -- the Dot, Echo and Studio -- seems to be finding its form, and the new Echo occupies a unique spot within that family tree. Yes, it's the most direct descendent of the original Echo, which started the smart speaker craze a few short years ago. But it's also, now, a middle child, with neither the accessibility of its cheaper sibling nor the technical prowess of its more expensive one.

The new Echo's sound is improving, and it still has a great voice assistant. It's nice, but in the words of Drake, "Nice for what?"

Still A.L.E.X.A.

What makes Echo devices stand out isn't usually their speaker quality, but rather the voice assistant they house: Alexa. And yes, the new Echo brings all of Alexa's tried-and-true smarts to bear. That means you can check headlines and weather, control a wide array of smart home gadgets, get delivery and calendar updates, ask Alexa to listen for break-ins while you're out of town and even get help putting your kids to bed.

Alexa's skills are constantly growing and improving, and Amazon has promised everything from fluency in more languages to celebrity voice implementation. It's a little hard to give a voice assistant that is changing so rapidly (and competing so aggressively with Google Assistant) a static evaluation, but basically, the Alexa assistant can be genuinely helpful and is as good as it's ever been.

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While the same height, the new Echo is built a little more solidly than its second-gen predecessor.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Amazon state of mind

If the new Echo looks familiar, it should. The fabric mesh-covered face and rounded edges make it look like a stretched-out Echo Dot, more aesthetically unified with Echo's new generation of speakers. But the design isn't brand-new. It's copped from last year's $150 Echo Plus. In fact, the new Echo shares its specs almost exactly with that device: a 0.8-inch tweeter and 3-inch woofer, along with a 3.5mm audio in/out port. The only difference is that the Echo Plus includes a Zigbee radio transmitter, allowing for more smart home control.

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