Review: New Amazon Echo Is Smaller, Cheaper and Better

The new Amazon Echo is cheaper, smaller and has a less imposing stature, but is it still the best smart speaker going?

Amazon's voice assistant Alexa has improved greatly since the Echo's introduction to, altered behind the scenes without users needing to do anything thanks the virtue of being a cloud-powered product. It has gained new skills, routines and other smart home control abilities. Its voice recognition and understanding has improved, and it is now a little more conversational, remembering certain topics that you're talking about the way a human would.

But the outside of the speaker has not changed, until now. The new Amazon Echo for 2017 is just under 9cm shorter, standing 14.8cm tall and is covered in your choice of fabric, wood or metallic finish, standing in stark contrast to the monolithic black or white towering cylinder of the previous generation. It looks more friendly, blending into the fabric-covered surrounds of the home a little easier, but in some way looks a little less unique and impressive.

The attractive and useful LED light ring is still there in the top, cycling round when Alexa is listening to you or performing an action. The volume ring that physically turned at the top has been replaced with buttons joining the mute and action buttons in the top, mimicking the look of the smaller Echo Dot. It's functional, but feels less futuristic somehow. I will miss it.

Whether you find the new Echo more or less attractive than the old one or rivals such as the Google Home will be personal taste. I like the design, although the fabric covered variants will be slightly more difficult to keep clean. At least the mottled grey color won't show dust quite as readily.

What Does It Do?

An array of seven microphones in the top listens...

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