CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Amazon Echo Plus (second generation) review: Amazon's fanciest speaker is still a tough sell

Amazon upgraded the sound, added seamless smart home hub controls and improved the look of the Amazon Echo Plus, all while keeping the $150 price tag.

Molly Price Ty Pendlebury
Molly Price Former Editor
Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
6 min read

Smart speakers and voice assistants are everywhere these days. We're practically drowning in all the devices announced by major manufacturers in recent months. Products on nearly every aisle of your local home improvement store are adding compatibility with Wi-Fi, Alexa, Google Assistant or even Siri (though changes are slim there).


Amazon Echo Plus (second generation)

The Good

The second-gen Echo Plus looks better than before and includes a temperature sensor and upgraded speakers.

The Bad

It's Amazon's most expensive smart speaker and there are better-sounding options out there for the true audiophile.

The Bottom Line

If you're looking for an Alexa-enabled speaker with a Zigbee hub, the Amazon Echo Plus is your best bet. If you're looking for the best sound quality, the Sonos One is still the top contender.

Amazon is moving full steam ahead when it comes to new Echo devices. At its surprise event in September, the company released a slew of smart home products ranging from wall clocks to microwaves and lots in between. Amazon also introduced the premium Echo Plus, its most powerful Echo speaker. 

The $150 Echo Plus has useful features including a built-in temperature sensor and smart home hub, but there are still better sounding speakers out there. Unless you really want the Zigbee hub built into your smart speaker, your better bet is the Sonos One for sound quality or the Amazon Echo for the same smarts at a better price. 


The new Echo Plus (left) got quite the makeover from its first generation (right). 

Chris Monroe/CNET

The Echo family tree

There are three versions of the Amazon Echo speaker: the $50 Echo Dot , the $100 Echo and the $150 Echo Plus. The Dot is now in its third generation and the Echo and Echo Plus in their second. Each new generation of these devices brings improved design, sound quality and features. We just reviewed the newest Echo Dot this week at the CNET Smart Home and it's the best-sounding Dot yet. Is the same true for the Echo Plus? In short, yes.

New look

The Echo Plus got a big redesign in its second generation, an absolute necessity to keep up aesthetically with the other smart speakers on the shelves. The original Echo Plus came out in 2017 with a hard, plastic shell and a tall silhouette. The new Echo Plus ditched that lankiness for a shorter, more compact look.

It also added the fabric covering we've become accustomed to in new Amazon, Google and Apple smart home products. The volume control ring on the top has gone too. Instead you get volume, muting and assistant controls from four buttons on the top of the device. Original Echo users complained about that change, but the move makes more sense now that nearly every Echo device is controlled this way. 

The Amazon Echo Plus gets a new look

See all photos

Smart home hub

One key selling point of the Echo Plus -- and the thing that sets it apart from other Echo smart speakers -- is the built-in smart home hub. It's a Zigbee radio that connects with smart light bulbs, locks, plugs and anything else running that same protocol. That means you won't need a hub like SmartThings or Wink to add Zigbee devices to your larger smart home scheme. 

It can even partly replace a Philips Hue hub. I say "partly" because the Plus only offers only basic bulb controls, not the full Hue experience. All that control lives within the Echo Plus. This isn't a new feature and the Echo Show also has a built-in Zigbee hub, but it is something that gives the Echo Plus an edge over a regular Echo or Echo Dot, or a Google Home device.


With Wi-FI Simple Setup, it's easier than ever to connect smart home devices to Alexa. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

Having a built-in hub doesn't eliminate your need for other modules and bridges though. Several popular smart home manufacturers including August, Philips Hue and Lutron still require a bridge plugged into your router or a module plugged into a power outlet for the full experience. Still, one less accessory is a point in the "pro" column.

Amazon's new Wi-Fi Simple Setup makes adding devices to that hub more seamless than ever. Granted, it wasn't terribly difficult before, but there were often apps to open and codes to enter. Now, simply plug in your smart home device and say, "Alexa, discover my devices." The Echo Plus does all the setup in the background using the information it knows about your home Wi-Fi and your Alexa account. 

I tested this out Wi-Fi Simple Setup at the CNET Smart Home by asking Alexa to discover a new Philips Hue smart bulb. She replied, "I found fifth light, and you can control it by saying, 'turn on fifth light.'" 

Chris Monroe/CNET

When I tried this same setup with the Amazon Smart Plug , she answered, "I found second plug, and you can control it by saying, 'turn on second plug.'"

The naming here comes not from the brand or device model name, but from how many of those devices I already have in my home. That makes it a bit vague, and I would've liked to hear her call the devices by their names: "Philips Hue bulb" or "Amazon Smart Plug."

Renaming devices through voice commands is part of Amazon's frustration-free setup initiative. It wasn't live yet when I tested, but Amazon told me it will be in the coming weeks. Once it is, you'll be able to say something like, "rename light one to bedroom light" or "change the name of light one to bedroom light." Until then, you'll still need to change the device name in the Alexa app. 

The 5 most interesting Alexa updates (and 5 that don't matter)

See all photos

New features

The Echo Plus also comes with a built-in temperature sensor. That's a great addition and one I wish every smart speaker out there had. It's especially useful for creating routines. You can set one up to trigger based on the temperature sensed by the speaker itself.

I tested this out at the CNET Smart Home by creating a routine that turned on a Philips Hue smart bulb and played a song any time the temperature dropped below 70 degrees. But there are much more practical applications: You could create a routine that will close smart blinds or turn on a smart fan when the room gets too warm.  

Among the Amazon upgrades slated for Echo devices is Local Voice Control. This feature allows speakers with smart home hubs (the Echo Show and Echo Plus) to compress smart home controls and give you access to your smart home devices during a Wi-Fi failure. That's great for essential things like lights and plugs. That feature isn't live yet, but Amazon told me it will be available later this year. 


The Echo Plus has a built-in temperature sensor for creating routines triggered by the temperature in the room. 

Screenshot by Molly Price/CNET

Sound upgrades

Like the new Echo Show and third-gen Echo Dot, the new Echo Plus got a sound quality upgrade along with its physical redesign. The smart speaker now comes with new Dolby speakers boasting 360-degree audio with clearer vocals and deeper bass.

Listening to the old and new Echo Pluses side by side, I heard a definite difference between the two generations. At volume level 5, the sound from the second-gen model is much louder, clearer and the bass much stronger. You can still use your voice to adjust equalizer settings by saying something like, "Alexa, set the bass to 5." The new Echo Plus offers fuller sound despite being half the size. It's more relaxed and delivers a better bass response.

Omnidirectional speakers such as the Amazon Echo Plus and the Samsung R1 often have a veiled sound. They're not as crisp as traditional designs with a dedicated tweeter. While the more expensive Apple HomePod manages to avoid this issue, the $150 Echo Plus just can't compete on sound quality with its $200 rival the Sonos One.

My Lighthouse by Villagers sounded "fine" with the Echo Plus, if a bit nasal. But switching over to the Sonos One showed how much I was missing out on: Conor O'Brien's voice blossomed with a real sense of space and better separation of the instruments.

Test your music system with these great rock tracks

See all photos

Should you buy it?

You can probably do better. When it comes to audio, the second-gen Echo Plus is much improved over the original, but it still doesn't sound as good as the Sonos One. The regular Echo isn't far behind the Plus in terms of audio quality, and unless you're specifically looking for a smart speaker with an Alexa-enabled hub built in, it's hard to find a hands-down reason to make this purchase. 

The Echo Plus feels like it's trying to fill a specific role in the smart-speaker market, one I'm not sure is necessary. Yes, the Echo Plus looks better, sounds better and does more than it did before. And yes, Amazon made all those improvements without upping the price. But I'd spend the same $150 on three Echo Dots, $100 on an Echo or $200 on the Sonos One all before buying the Echo Plus. 


Amazon Echo Plus (second generation)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7Sound quality 7.5
Shopping laptop image
Get the best price on everything
Shop your favorite products and we’ll find the best deal with a single click. Designed to make shopping easier.
Add CNET Shopping