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Bird Brain Review: Does Amazon Echo Make the Grade?

March 30, 2016

We Break Down the Pros and Cons of Echo Integration

If you caught this year’s Super Bowl broadcast, you probably saw a number of quirky commercials featuring Alec Baldwin speaking to a little blue cylinder called “Alexa”. They were ads for the Amazon Echo, the online retailer’s affordable voice control device that claims to make life in your Delray Beach home easier by giving you direct access to information and control over other connected devices. But does the Echo really live up to its claims? We’ll take you through some of the pros and cons of the new gadget after the jump.

Pros

Smart automation is quickly becoming more affordable and ubiquitous, so it’s nice to see devices like the Echo come along to simplify the multitude of apps you’ll need to control all your connected gear. Here are some of our favorite things:

The Alexa App. The Echo itself can connect to the Internet and provide you with loads of information, but it’s actually the companion app Alexa that helps you set up and take control of other devices in your home. It’s frequently being updated with new compatible controls, meaning one day you may be able to command your entire home. Plus, you can rename it for a more personal touch.

A wide range of connectable devices. The Echo connects to a lot of devices, including Samsung Smart Hub (giving you voice control over your TV) and devices like the Philips Hue smart light bulbs.

The Echo Remote. The Echo has a listening distance of about 20-30 feet – which is a pretty decent range – but there will be times when you’re simply out of the area. In those cases you can control the device with the Echo remote, which has a much greater range.

Calendars and Grocery Lists. The original function of the Echo was to connect to your smartphone. You can still efficiently make grocery lists and schedule your day with the device, and check the list with the app on your smartphone.

Now Connects With Nest. One of the biggest concerns with the Echo was that it didn’t work with Nest, one of the leading smart thermostats on the market today. Great news though, Amazon struck a deal with the manufacturer so you no longer have to use backdoor hacks for total control of your climate.

It’s playful. Just say “Alexa, beam me up.” Trust us.

Cons

As with any relatively new device, the Echo has some drawbacks. Here’s what didn’t work for us:

• Voice Comprehension. Speech recognition is cool, but not when you have to rephrase and repeat what you’re trying to say. Echo frequently misunderstands commands that are not phrased in exactly the correct way, so that takes some getting used to.

• No Sonos. It doesn’t work with one of the most popular and successful wireless smart home devices. However, Amazon is working hard on a support deal with the company, so that may change soon.

• No Smart Locks. This one is only kind of a con; you can’t control your smart locks with the Echo. Of course, you wouldn’t want a bad guy letting himself in by simply saying “Alexa, unlock the door,” so maybe it’s not such a bad idea.

Our Rating

The Amazon Echo is still in its infant stages, but it’s available at a low price point and it can control a lot of devices. Early adopters will have fun with it, but without other connected devices it’s not much more than a nifty toy. However, if you want simple smart home automation that you can control with your voice, the quickly developing and frequently updated Echo may be a good starting point.

Want to simplify your life with smart automation? Contact us today.

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