Amazon just announced a whole bunch of new Alexa gadgets, and while the Alexa-connected microwave won’t be coming to Australia, we’re still getting a nice selection of fabric-covered devices.
Echo Show ($349)
First up, the Echo Show is finally gracing our fair shores. Released last year in the US, Australia has the benefit of receiving the second iteration if the smart speaker with a screen as our first. This means that the comparative improvements – such as a sleeker body, thinner bezels, and a 10-inch touchscreen up from 7 inches – may be lost on an Australian audience.
Still, Australians will soon join the US in being able to make hands-free video calls with the Show’s 5MP camera to other Amazon devices, the Alexa app, as well as via Skype.
Available in Charcoal Fabric and Sandstone Fabric, the Echo Show’s Zigabee smart home hub allows you to connect and control your smart home with your voice. You can also use your voice to open an internet browser (though you’ll have to type in URLs using the on-screen keyboard), stream videos from Prime Video, shop on Amazon, and, of course, ask Alexa to blast your favourite tunes.
Thanks to the screen, you can also ask the Echo Show to show you things. Though according to reports, the older Echo Show wouldn’t comply if you yelled at it to show you porn.
New Echo Dot ($79)
Amazon claims its latest Echo Dot provides a “louder and crisper” sound, but what really drew my attention is its new rounded, fabric design. It looks as though it took some pointers from the Google Home Mini’s similarly soft design, though it stops short of offering similarly bold colour options, sticking to the more sedate Heather Grey, Charcoal Fabric and Sandstone Fabric.
The Dot’s softer look is a marked improvement on the hard, hockey puck style of the previous Echo Dot, and there’s no price change, so there’s really no reason to miss the old one, unless you really like hockey pucks.
New Echo Plus ($229)
The Echo Plus is also getting an aesthetic upgrade, benefiting from the same fabric redesign as the Dot, but this time coming out of it looking like a slightly thinner version of the Apple HomePod. It also comes in Heather Grey, Charcoal Fabric and Sandstone Fabric. Its woofer is now 3 inches, up from 2.5 inches, and Amazon claims its bass has been boosted, with the mids and highs “clearer”.
Unlike the straight up vanilla Echo, the Echo Plus comes with a Zigbee smart home hub that allows you to set up and control your smart home devices. But now the new Echo Plus also has a temperature sensor. This means it can, for example, turn on the smart fan in your bedroom once it hits 40C, which sounds ideal for when you’re lying on the floor immobilised by oppressive heat. (Though it likely won’t have come to that, because you will have set the fan to come on before it hit ridiculous temperatures.)
The new Echo Plus’ price is also unchanged, so you don’t have to wonder if the temperature control upgrade is worth a few extra bucks.
Echo Sub ($199)
Finally, the Echo Sub is here for those who want to pump up their Echo’s jams with a smart subwoofer. The companion device can pair with other Echo devices for stereo sound, and you can adjust the bass, mid-range and treble with voice commands. I’m curious to find out how well the speakers are able to hear people yell over its 6-inch woofer.
Unlike its brethren, it only comes in Charcoal Fabric, so keep that in mind if you want to colour coordinate.
The Echo Show, Echo Plus, Echo Dot and Echo Sub currently available for pre-order on Amazon, and are expected to ship October 11.