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Amazon Echo Plus stays $150 but gets clearer sound, temperature sensor

The higher-end Echo smart speaker will also have a more powerful bass.

Amazon first introduced the $150 Echo Plus last year, improving the audio of its original smart speaker. 
Ian Knighton/CNET

Amazon unveiled a new Echo Plus, an updated speaker with more powerful bass and clearer sound that still works as a smart home hub. The updated device adds a larger, 3-inch neodymium woofer and increased back volume, giving the bass a stronger feel and providing clearer mid- and high tones. 

The $150 (£140, AU$229) device, which has a new fabric design and temperature sensor, was unveiled at an event on Thursday in Seattle where the e-commerce giant said it was launching the largest number of devices and features it ever has at one time. 

The integrated temperature sensor allows users to set up actions based on how hot or cool a room is. So if your bedroom hits 77 degrees, Alexa can send a notification to your phone and automatically turn on the fan. The Plus also comes with an equalizer feature; you can use your voice to adjust the bass and treble to customize your listening experience.

Amazon is giving the Echo Plus a new capability called Local Voice Control. It provides compressed Alexa controls locally in each device, so the assistant will still be able to turn the lights off even if your internet connection is down.

Preorders for the Echo Plus -- which comes in charcoal, heather gray, and sandstone -- start Thursday. The device will begin shipping next month in all countries where the Echo is available. 

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Amazon's Thursday event also introduced a new Echo Dot, a fully redesigned Echo Show, an input device to make your dumb speakers smart and an Alexa-enabled microwave for just $60.

After Amazon launched the original Echo in 2014, the device became a hit for the company and helped usher in a new era of voice computing. Amazon updated the Echo last September and cut the price to $100 from $180. The device is shorter, with a more elegant design. And it introduced the $150 Echo Plus, which uses the original Echo's taller design but features improved audio and includes a built-in hub to make it easier to connect to smart-home gadgets.

Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft have been racing to improve their own voice assistants and integrate them into more devices to catch Amazon. To stay one step ahead, Amazon aggressively expanded its line of Echo devices, pushed Alexa into hospitality and office spaces, and integrated Alexa with over 20,000 kinds of devices.

Along with the Echo, Amazon has seen success in its equally unflashy but low-priced Fire tablets and Fire TV video streamers. Its rare miss was with the Fire Phone, which quickly failed after debuting in 2014. As of Thursday morning before the event, Amazon had 11 Alexa-powered gadgets in all: the Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Echo Spot, Echo Dot Kids Edition, Echo Look, Fire TV Cube, Amazon Tap, Echo Connect and Echo Buttons.

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Originally published at 10:34 a.m. PT. 
Updated at 11:10 a.m. PT: With more details from event. 
Updated at 12:14 p.m. PT: Adds details from official Amazon release.

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