The Echo Present – Amazon’s touchscreen-based and Alexa voice-control product – has been via some ups and downs in its quick life. The unique mannequin marked a step change for the Echo household – which till then did not provide a screen-based answer – however did not fairly stay as much as its billing (woes like not having the ability to show YouTube movies due to a dispute with Google did not assist).
For the second-generation new-and-improved Echo Present, which we have spent a lot of days dwelling with, there is a neater design that is good for being utilized in a household room or a kitchen space. Do not consider it as a pill substitute, somewhat a pleasant additional for the household to acquire key data they need to know – the place visible, audible or each.
Whereas Echo Present was a novel proposition when it first launched, there at the moment are a number of rivals, together with Google Dwelling Hub and Lenovo Sensible Show – each of which use the Google Assistant somewhat than Alexa and, subsequently, exist in a unique household. To not point out Amazon’s personal Echo Spot, the smaller-screen ‘bedside desk’ expertise.
Does the Echo Present sequel stay as much as its billing for spherical two?
Design, show and sound
Massive 10.1-inch HD (1,280 x 800) touchscreen show
Twin 2-inch Neodymium drivers, passive bass radiator
Buttons: quantity up/down, mic on/off
246 x 174 x 107mm; 1.7kg
White or charcoal finishes
The redesigned and rethought Echo Present is extra of an leisure system than the outgoing mannequin. That is thanks to 2 standout options: its 10.1-inch HD touchscreen show and beefed-up audio.
Though it is bigger total than its predecessor – the display screen is Three-inches greater than the 7-inch panel earlier than – the brand new Echo Present would not seem as cumbersome or clunky wanting by design. There’s not heaps of area assigned to a front-facing speaker this time round, making for a far better-looking product.
As an alternative, the second-gen Echo Present options upgraded side-firing audio system with 2-inch Neodymium drivers that basically can fill a room with sound. Amazon labored with Dolby on the sound processing. It will be greater than sufficient punch in your kitchen – except you have obtained a meals preparation space to rival Downton Abbey.
Because it’s doable to stream to Present out of your Bluetooth system, this Amazon system stays interesting even when you do not use Spotify or Amazon Music (which the Echo helps natively).
Nonetheless, one drawback with the Present’s audio is that it may be too bass-heavy. That is fantastic when you’re listening to most kinds of music – and like listening to it at an honest quantity – however at low volumes the mids and highs get misplaced, to the purpose that different members of the Pocket-lint household remarked that bass was coming via into one other room.
The 10.1-inch show is sharp sufficient, however we had totally anticipated a better decision at this scale. Our guess is that is a sure for subsequent yr’s mannequin. However as video playback is not actually a energy of the Present’s software program providing – extra on that later – it is not a dealbreaker.
There are different show points: it’s extremely shiny and thus there are many reflections; it is also not the brightest going. In a shiny room – say a kitchen with quite a few downlighters – it’s possible you’ll discover this can be a drawback when making an attempt to learn textual content on the display screen.
Zigbee good hub on board
Alexa Calling, Drop In, Skype forthcoming
Except for the brand new show and audio, the Intel Atom-based Echo Present has a number of different new specs and software program enhancements of notice.
Identical to with the Echo Plus, the Present presents a built-in Zigbee good hub, so now you can ask Alexa to find new good residence gadgets – offering they’re Zigbee compliant.
There is a 5 megapixel digicam for HD video calling – as with the unique system you should utilize it for Drop In calls to family and friends – and Amazon can also be fairly pally with Microsoft, so Skype can also be coming to Echo Present (though the ability – which is basically a third-party app that lets you use Alexa – is not accessible on the time of writing). If you happen to frequently use Skype to contact family and friends it is a welcome addition, as you’ll simply ask in your Skype contacts by title.
There are eight microphones on the Echo Present, however similar to all Alexa gadgets there are occasions when Echo Present would not hear you – often via speaking too quick or too quietly. Usually, although, the mic pick-up is fairly first rate and you will be heard most occasions you say the ‘Alexa’ activation phrase.
Coincidentally, simpler setup is coming to many Echo gadgets by way of the Alexa app (which itself is way improved since first launch), however establishing the Echo Present continues to be just a little gradual since you will must enter your Amazon account username and password on display screen at current.
Software program and Alexa
No YouTube integration
Step-by-step cooking directions
Two-way Ring communication is coming
It is nonetheless an elephant within the room that the Echo Present cannot totally play YouTube movies. Amazon has labored to avoid this by putting a take care of Vevo to stream its music movies. Good as that’s, it isn’t YouTube, proper?
There’s one other barely clunky workaround although. Because the Echo Present now presents browsers – Silk and Mozilla Firefox at the moment are on board – it is doable to entry YouTube.com. Due to touchscreen controls, it is doable to navigate your means across the browser, so you are not needing to ask Alexa to navigate you round as you might be with many Alexa abilities. This does remedy the issue, simply not in probably the most eloquent of how like a devoted ability by way of an app would.
The Echo Present is nice for visualising a number of the easier instructions you may give Alexa: climate comes alive; a run-down of your calendar in spoken phrase; and extra. It is very like Google’s Dwelling Hub on this regard.
Nevertheless it’s the place the third-party abilities are available that issues go awry. There are stacks of Alexa abilities, after all, however lots of them aren’t optimised for Echo Present and the general impression continues to be of patchy assist for Amazon’s touchscreen gadgets.
The wedding between Alexa as a voice assistant and Present as a screen-based system is not fairly aligned and you will find your self making an attempt to the touch your means via a ability while you really need to present the following command together with your voice. This could really feel much more laboured than simply getting your telephone out and discovering the data one other means.
Numerous that is because of the poor data and graphics displayed on display screen. A primary instance of that is when you ask “Alexa, play Radio 1”, then the BBC ability opens and also you simply see the letters BBC on display screen. There is not any indication of what station it’s or what present. Ask “Alexa, play Radio 1 from TuneIn”, and you will see the station brand and title.
You possibly can watch Amazon Prime video content material however we do not suppose Present is the perfect system for consuming content material for any size of time – it is fantastic to play the youngsters a cartoon when you’re making dinner, however you are not going to face there and watch everything of The Best Showman on it. And it is glorious for Amazon Music – the display screen will even present you lyrics now for a lot of tracks.
Amazon now owns good doorbell firm Ring. You possibly can presently view what’s occurring at your door by saying “Alexa, present me the entrance door”, however a future replace may also provide two-way communication via the Present itself. You probably have a Ring doorbell already, that is a compelling purpose to purchase an Echo Present.
Palms-free recipes had been one other promoting level of the unique Present. Amazon has now partnered with a number of cooking websites to supply educational movies for the up to date Present, in addition to step-by-step directions must you want them.
The brand new Echo Present ups the ante, particularly when it comes to the beefier sound and bigger show than the unique. It was essential that the Present improved its audio providing, not least as a result of we’re all in search of higher high quality sound from good audio system and gadgets. That is what makes it such a compelling good speaker for the kitchen.
Nonetheless, Echo Present nonetheless has room for enchancment. We might count on a higher-resolution display screen subsequent time round. There’s loads of work to do on the software program facet too. The shortage of YouTube assist is obvious, whereas many Alexa abilities merely aren’t optimised to reap the benefits of the display screen. As such the Echo Present is in an attention-grabbing place the place Amazon-designed software program parts work effectively (procuring is nice as you’d count on) however third-party stuff usually would not.
As a subsequent step on the journey, the brand new Echo Present is well-poised to be the important kitchen system when you’re an Amazon and Alexa devotee. It is higher sounding than Google’s Dwelling Hub, too, which is able to additional cement its place.
Additionally take into account
Google Dwelling Hub
If you happen to’re invested within the Google Assistant somewhat than Alexa then you definately most likely need the Dwelling Hub as a substitute. It is a related system to Echo Present however has a smaller 7-inch show and smaller sound output. Nonetheless, it has native YouTube, after all, and it will additionally hook up with Nest gadgets – so you’ll see video from the Nest Doorbell, for instance.