What we like
- Improved sound quality and powerful bassBetter smart home connectivityEasy and quality stereo pairing
What we dislike
- A bulky designNo revolutionary upgrades
$100 at Target
Update, Nov. 12, 2021:Thanks to the Amazon Echo (2020)'s reasonable price, solid sound, upgraded smarts and new design, it remainsan Editors' Choice as a top smart speaker for 2021. Our review, published last year, follows.
In a year both Google and Apple launched new $100 smart speakers, Amazon had to make its fourth-gen Echo smart speaker stand out. And at least in design, it did: the Alexa countertop device is shaped like a sphere, a striking departure from the soft-cylindrical speakers of past generations. Six years after the first Echo launched 10,000 (or at least a few dozen) smart speakers, a reimagined design was overdue.
The big question for Amazon and its new Echo is, well, beyond the superficial, how reimagined is it? Voice assistants are growing and changing all the time, but for the most part, they do what they've been doing for years already: Answer questions, set timers, control your smart home gadgets, play music and so on. So why buy a new Echo?
Amazon has faltered recently with its core smart speaker, as the more budget-friendly Dot has become a better entry point to the market and 2019's Echo Studio offers higher-end sound for audiophiles. That left the $100 Echo as a sort of undefined middle child in the growing family of Alexa-powered speakers. But 2020's Echo is genuinely different, and it's not just because of the new spheroidal profile. This Echo has turned up the sound quality and added higher-end smarts than the competition, all for the same $100 price tag, leaving it one of the most forward-looking smart speakers released in years. It's also worth splurging for over Amazon's new, similarly ball-shaped Echo Dot.
Getting the ball rolling
Amazon's 2020 Echo boasts two important upgrades that should inform your decision to buy it or not: improved sound quality and smart home hardware.
When it comes to sound, the Echo represents a significant improvement over the third-gen speaker from 2019, likely in part to the fact that the third-gen Echo essentially copped its design almost wholesale from an older device. In addition, the Echo has adaptive sound, so it can adjust to the acoustics of the room in which you use it. I personally didn't notice dramatic differences in output from room to room, but the speaker sounded good in the various rooms and on the various surfaces I used for testing.
The Echo sounds better than the last generation, but how does it sound compared to the direct competition? Google's $100 Nest Audio, which dropped only a couple of weeks before the Echo, is a solid device. But the Echo simply boasts more power: the Echo's volume at 85% is about equivalent to the Nest's max.
What's more, between the Echo's 3-inch woofer and dual 0.8-inch tweeters, bass and lower-range mids are richer and stronger. Listening to bass-heavy music, like Lil Wayne's A Millior Travis Barker's recent Run the Jewels collaboration, Forever, the Echo keeps the low end thunderous even at high volumes, whereas the Nest Audio ends up feeling treble-heavy as the bass begins to drop out.
That said, if you prefer more acoustic music, the Nest Audio provides marginally better performance of complex, midrange-heavy songs. Both speakers, though, really capture the texture of vocal-heavy music. The Echo, with its slightly better low range, sounds slightly better to my ear when playing Johnny Cash's gravelly baritone in Hurt, whereas the Nest Audio sounds slightly crisper in its treatment of Lianne La Havas's subtle vibrato in No Room for Doubt.
As with Google's new speaker, a pair of Echoes can be set up to work in stereo format. The effect is great, particularly with songs that take full advantage of stereo panning or asymmetric sound, such as The White Stripes' Seven Nation Armyor Pink Floyd's Money. Unlike the Nest Audio, the Echo has a 3mm line in/out port for connecting to other speakers.
Both Amazon's and Google's smart speakers offer great sound quality for the $100 price tag, but after side-by-side testing with dozens of songs, the Echo takes the prize by a small but significant margin. It's more powerful, and if you like hip-hop or trap music, the Echo will treat you well. Otherwise, they're fairly comparable, with the Nest boasting a slight edge when it comes to some acoustic and classical music.
A-round the house
The Echo's sound quality is admirable, but Amazon has distinguished its midrange smart speaker even more from Google's Nest Audio and Apple's HomePod Mini with its built-in hub, which features a Zigbee receiver and Amazon Sidewalk Bridge. If those things don't mean anything to you, don't worry. Essentially, Amazon has built in two new ways for smart home devices to connect to its smart speaker.
The Zigbee receiver lets the Echo connect with countless smart home devices, from lightbulbs to flood sensors, without the need for an additional hub -- the middleman device that translates various types of radio signals so your low-power sensors can communicate with your WiFi network. This small design decision has seriously broadened the range of gadgets Echo users can install in their house without the extra hassle and expense of a smart home hub.
I tried installing a couple of Zigbee devices and found the process to be totally painless. This isn't revolutionary -- in fact, Amazon included Zigbee receivers in their $150 Echo Plus and their $230 second-gen Echo Show -- but it is bringing better home connectivity to a broader audience, and that's a clear win for Amazon customers.
What's less clear is how Amazon Sidewalk, which Amazon says will launch later this year, will affect Echo users. According to a recent Amazon blog post explaining it, Sidewalk will allow users to "contribute a small portion of their internet bandwidth, which is pooled together to create a shared network that benefits all Sidewalk-enabled devices in a community."
Practically, that could mean a larger functional network for devices toward the edges of your property -- say, outdoor lights or Tile tracking devices-- or even beyond. It's a cool idea, though how much you benefit from it will largely depend on where you live, and how big of a change it will represent for most customers remains to be seen.
Home theater in the round
The other home feature I was excited to try with the new Echo was setting up a home theater group. Connecting a voice assistant to your entertainment system feels like a real improvement, if you haven't done it before. And the new Echo, using Alexa, works pretty well here.
I used a 4K Fire TV Stick to create the group, and it felt great to be able to simply say, "Watch The Boys," to Alexa, only to have your TV turn on and begin streaming the Prime show. The speakers worked fairly well, though I had one drop out of the group while I was testing it. If you have fast Wi-Fi, then it seems this setup would work well. In a house with multiple people streaming or using bandwidth in other ways, although relying on your Echoes for stereo sound might lead to more frustration than it's worth.
The other big problem I ran into was streaming music. I expected to be able to stream music as usual from the Echo speakers while the TV was off, then flip it on to stream video when I wanted. Alas, streaming music on the connected Echoes automatically turned on the TV, which scrolled lyrics to the songs. And when I manually turned off the TV, the music also stopped.
Using Alexa to control your TV and dual Echoes for stereo sound as you stream is cool -- it's much better than you could do a few years ago. But the kinks still aren't worked out to the extent I want them to be, so I still wouldn't recommend picking up new Echoes for your entertainment center unless you have fantastic Wi-Fi and don't plan to use the speakers for music, too.
Ball is life
The best changes to the fourth-gen Echo might be sound quality and home smarts, but the most obvious change is its spherical design. Of course, this design isn't some aesthetic revelation: Most smart speakers look basically interchangeable at this point, with a layer of fabric mesh over soft geometric shapes. Google's recent Nest Audio is vaguely rectangular, and Apple's soon-to-launch HomePod Mini is similarly spheroidal.
The ball-like profile, according to Amazon, enables the improved sound output, but it also comes with a few practical drawbacks -- chiefly a larger footprint. If you're planning to replace the third-gen Echo or an Echo Dot with this speaker, you'll probably have to slightly reorganize your shelf. It's a small complaint, but the kitchen countertop is some of the hottest real estate in many homes, and dedicating more of it to a smart speaker might not feel ideal for those of us with limited space.
The Echo comes in three colors: the standard charcoal (black) and glacier white, plus a muted twilight blue. That's a bit more conservative than Google's array of pastels, but again, many of these aesthetic distinctions feel like minor quibbles.
Those criticisms aside, the 2020 Echo feels like a much more worthwhile gadget than last year's third-gen Echo. The powerful sound and smarts distinguish it from the competition, and with an ever-improving Alexa, buying a smart speaker hasn't felt this good in years.
What is the competition to Alexa? ›
There are three worth using—Amazon's Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple's Siri—and each has its pros and cons. If you're new, right now we prefer Google- and Amazon-powered models, as they are the most widely user-friendly.Can Amazon Echo hear everything you say? ›
“So, when you say 'Hey, Alexa,'” Schaub explains, all of “the audio gets analyzed and is being listened to by the microphones on the device, and only if the keyword 'Alexa' is detected, then everything that you say after that gets” recorded.What happens if you tell Alexa thank you? ›
Also, if you say “Thank you” after she's performed an action for you,” she'll say “No problem,” “You bet,” or another acknowledgement of your gratitude. Alexa won't hear you say “Thank you,” however, unless you have Follow-up Mode enabled.How do you get Alexa to answer more questions? ›
- Open the latest version of the Alexa mobile app.
- Tap 'Devices' then 'Echo and Alexa'
- Select the Echo device you want to enable the feature on.
- Tap the Settings cog icon.
- Select 'Follow-Up Mode' and then toggle it on.
- Ask Alexa follow-up questions without repeating the wake word.
Twenty-five years ago, we founded Alexa Internet. After two decades of helping you find, reach, and convert your digital audience, we made the difficult decision to retire Alexa.com on May 1, 2022.Which one is better Alexa or Google Home? ›
Both Google Home and Amazon Alexa are excellent smart home platforms, and whichever one you pick, it'll be available in a wide range of different affordable or premium speakers. We recommend going with Alexa if you want the most home integrations.Can Alexa get hacked? ›
Alexa. It requires only a few seconds of proximity to a vulnerable device while it's turned on so an attacker can utter a voice command instructing it to pair with an attacker's Bluetooth-enabled device. As long as the device remains within radio range of the Echo, the attacker will be able to issue commands.Is Alexa always recording you? ›
The short answer is yes, Alexa is always listening to you. Or rather the microphone on your Alexa smart speaker is always active (by default, at least) and is constantly monitoring voices in your home in order to hear its wake word.Does Alexa work without Wi-Fi? ›
Amazon's Alexa is a device that strictly revolves around Wi-Fi to access everything from Google to various music-streaming services. Without Wi-Fi it is simply impossible to connect to these applications and features.Can you make Alexa say you're welcome? ›
In fact, you can keep adding as many commands as you like, as long as you don't hesitate for more than a few seconds between commands. When you are finished, simply say thank you, and Alexa will say, "You're welcome" or "No worries."
Can you teach Alexa manners? ›
With the help of “Kids manners” your kids can now learn great manners from Alexa. This includes advice and a great collection of manners from all parts of the world, ranging from age old ancient and treasured manners to the recent tech savvy manners.How do you get Alexa to sing? ›
You just need to say “Alexa, sing …” (in the right language) and then the song title from the menu, and Alexa will sing what you'd like to hear.Can Alexa answer questions like Google? ›
To trigger the skill, say, "Alexa, I have a question." You'll hear "what's up?" in response, and you can ask Alexa any number of questions after that. Anything Google can answer, Alexa now can too. This skill contains: dynamic content.How do you get Alexa to say yes? ›
- Open your skill by saying, "Alexa, ask Yes No Maybe…" followed by your quesiton.
- Enjoy Alexa's response!
You can Stop Alexa from saying OK by turning on the Brief Mode. This will automatically silence the responses of Alexa and it will perform the tasks instead.Can I still use Alexa after May 2022? ›
Unfortunately, if you are reading this blog, Alexa.com has already been retired (as of May 1, 2022). Users who have Alex APIs will still have access until Dec. 25, 2022.Why is Amazon shutting down Alexa? ›
On May 1, 2022, Amazon shut down Alexa Internet which subsequently discontinued Alexa Rank with it. While Alexa Internet didn't publicly state why they retired the service, it's likely because of the lack of interest from digital marketers.What is the difference between an echo dot and Alexa? ›
Echo vs. Echo Dot.
|Amazon Echo||Amazon Echo Dot|
|It is a smart home device with a cylindrical-shaped design.||It is basically a stripped version of the Echo without the speaker grille.|
No, there's no monthly fee charged for Amazon Alexa. All you need is a stable WiFi connection to make your Echo work. However, having an Amazon Prime account gives you various benefits of using the Echo.Can you change Alexa's name? ›
Select Devices . Select Echo & Alexa. Select your device. Select Edit Name.
Who is smarter Alexa or Siri? ›
Who's smarter Google or Siri? The results for answering the simple questions correctly was Google at 76.57%, Alexa at 56.29% and Siri at 47.29%.Why does my Alexa light up at 3am? ›
Look in the Alexa app for routines. Mine was doing this at 3am every night and I found a “Morning Volume” routine that was setting the volume to level 3 at 3am every night. Ugh! I disabled the routine and it fixed it!What's Alexa's secret code? ›
So a couple of months back, a fun Easter egg that would be identified and enjoyed by retro gamers was discovered. This was the Super Alexa mode. If you would like to activate the Super Alexa Mode, say the subsequent voice command: “Alexa, up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start.”Why does Alexa start talking on her own? ›
Given all that, the most likely cause of an Alexa spontaneous reaction is a misinterpretation of sound. Given how sensitive Alexa has to be to process wake words, sometimes Alexa will react to a sound (even one we might not hear or notice) and interpret that as a wake word.Does Alexa have a camera? ›
With the inclusion of a built-in camera and a screen on Echo Show and Echo Spot devices, you can make video calls, take photos and videos, and more, while still maintaining your privacy. Let's go over some of the things you can do with the camera on these Echo devices.Can Alexa act as a security camera? ›
Alexa Home Monitoring is a feature that lets you use your Echo Show devices like security cameras. When this feature is on, you can use the Alexa app on your phone or tablet to view a live feed from your Echo Show. You can also view the live video feed from any other Echo Show that's connected to your Amazon account.Why is my phone listening to my conversations? ›
Why is my phone listening to me? Foremost, our phones listen to us to virtually assist us. That's through voice assistant apps, like Siri and “Hey Google,” but also through personalized advertisements that follow conversations had on them.Does Alexa use a lot of data? ›
On average, Alexa uses 36MB of bandwidth per day (or 252MB of bandwidth per week | 1.08GB per month). This average is based on the following daily usage: 30 minutes of music streaming, two smart-home commands, one weather inquiry and one question.Can I run Alexa off my phone? ›
To start giving voice commands to Alexa on your Android, follow these steps: Launch the Amazon Alexa app on your phone. Tap the Alexa icon by the bottom of the screen. Tap Allow to give Alexa permission to access your phone's microphone.Does Alexa use mobile data? ›
Mike Donovan from Good Home Automation calculates that Alexa uses an average of 36 MB per day (per device), which amounts to a whopping 1.08 GB per month, for 30 minutes of daily music streaming, one daily weather inquiry, two commands and one question.
What are the 4 Wake words for Alexa? ›
Unlike its rivals, Amazon allows users to change the Alexa wake word and add a pinch of variation to the Echo devices experience although there are only four different wake words on offer: Ziggy, Amazon, Computer and Echo.How do you make Alexa say whatever you want? ›
Say "Alexa, Simon says," followed by what you want it to say. It will repeat back your command. Download the Text to Voice skill in the Alexa app, go to Test to Voice in a browser, and follow the instructions to pair your Alexa device.Can Alexa greet me by name? ›
If you implement personalized greetings or prompts in your skill, then Alexa can welcome the recognized speaker back to the skill with the speaker's name.Should you be polite to Alexa? ›
Yes! Saying “please” and “thank you” are always good ways to be respectful to others. Alexa and Siri are made to sound like real people, even though they're not. Being kind to them is great practice for being courteous to the real people we deal with each day.Does Alexa have a personality? ›
Alexa is approachable, efficient, trustworthy, and natural. These unique personality characteristics make Alexa, Alexa.How do you get Alexa to whisper in a routine? ›
#1: Say “Alexa, turn on 'Whisper' mode”
Just say, “Alexa, turn on 'Whisper' mode.” She will respond with, “Whoa.
Echo owners have recently noticed that if you ask Alexa to sing(opens in a new tab), she'll serenade you with an extremely cheesy country tune that starts with the lyrics, "When my WiFi left me..." There's just nothing cheesier than tech.What is the Super Alexa mode code 2022? ›
The super Alexa mode code is “UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, B, A, START”. The code doesn't actually serve a purpose or activate anything. It's just a fun, hidden joke that pays homage to video game developer, Konami who put secret menus (“easter-eggs”) in their video games.Can Alexa name a song? ›
Once you've enabled Song ID, Alexa will announce the artist and name of every song before it plays.What's the best voice assistant? ›
When it comes to answering questions, Google Assistant takes the crown. During the test of more than 4,000 questions led by Stone Temple, Google Assistant consistently outperformed other industry leaders including Alexa, Siri, and Cortana when recognizing and responding to questions correctly.
Which is best Alexa or Siri? ›
Conclusion. Features and functionalities of both these platforms are on par. But due to its universality in connecting with multiple devices seamlessly, Alexa wins over Siri, a premium a sophisticated system.What are the disadvantages of Google assistant? ›
Smart home capability is limited – There is some smart home control with Google Home but it is not compatible with as many things as the Amazon Echo. Speaker could be louder – Even though the sound quality is good for answering questions when playing music the speaker could be louder.What are the disadvantages of voice assistant? ›
- Initial cost could outweigh savings. While it's possible to make both time and cash savings using these virtual assistant devices, they don't always come cheap. ...
- Security could be an issue. ...
- Voice recognition isn't perfect. ...
- A microphone in your home.
Who's smarter Google or Siri? The results for answering the simple questions correctly was Google at 76.57%, Alexa at 56.29% and Siri at 47.29%.Who is the smartest voice assistant? ›
Forty-four percent of those surveyed think Alexa is the brainiest, beating out second-place Google Assistant, which was rated smartest by 33%; Apple's Siri isn't far behind in third.What is the most popular voice assistant in 2021? ›
In 2021, Alexa and Siri were the most popular voice assistant in the United States, a survey revealed.Does Siri listen to your conversations? ›
As of 2022, Siri does not eavesdrop on your conversations. Voice assistant technologies such as Siri are constantly waiting for their trigger phrases. For Siri, this is “Hey Siri” or similar. However, while Siri is listening all the time for that phrase, it does not record until it hears it.Who is the voice of Alexa? ›
Nina Rolle is most likely behind Alexa
According to Wired, Stone's research for his book, "Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire," pointed to Boulder, Colorado, voice actress Nina Rolle.
Jam-packed with innovation, HomePod mini delivers unexpectedly big sound for a speaker of its size. At just 3.3 inches tall, it takes up almost no space but fills the entire room with rich 360‑degree audio that sounds amazing from every angle. Add more than one HomePod mini for truly expansive sound.Can you give Google Assistant A NAME? ›
To change your nickname for Google Assistant, open the Google Home app, tap Settings, scroll all the way down and tap More settings, then tap Nickname under the You tab.
Is the Google Assistant always listening? ›
(Pocket-lint) - Google Assistant is always listening, just like Alexa and Siri. They are always waiting for their trigger word, allowing them to respond to your commands. Always listening is different from always recording, but anything you say after "Hey Google" or "OK Google" is recorded and saved by Google.Is Google Home always listening? ›
The Google Home is always listening to its environment, but it won't record what you're saying or respond to your commands until you speak one of its preprogrammed wake words -- either "OK, Google" or "Hey, Google." Here's a list of commands you can give your Google Home.Why do we need smart speakers? ›
Smart speakers let you play almost any kind of music you want, anytime, with a simple voice command. In addition, you can listen to audiobooks, play games, or ask Alexa or Google to tell you a joke.Are Smart Speakers safe? ›
The privacy of smart speakers is a worry for many users, especially when it concerns how their conversations are handled. Generally, a speaker from the big three manufacturers — Amazon, Google, and Apple — is safe to use. But an “always-on” microphone does come with some risks and ethical concerns.What is the future of voice assistant? ›
And as more people get comfortable talking into their phones or intelligent virtual assistants, the more this trend is set to catch on. Just look - by 2024, the number of digital voice assistants is expected to reach 8.4 billion units, meaning there would actually be more voice assistants in the world than humans.