The Amazon Echo (3rd Generation) is the best speaker yet from the company. There, we said it. Yes, Amazon has taken a few iterations to get there but this is not only it's best speaker yet but one of the best smart speakers for the price you can buy.
Amazon Echo (3rd Generation): What you need to know
- $90 price
- Alexa voice controls
- Great design and build
This speaker is the third generation of the Amazon Echo device which brought the Alexa smart assistant to the masses. This latest version of the smart speaker brings higher quality audio in the attractive fabric-finished design - all while keeping the price the same, well done Amazon.
The Echo Plus is near identical to this Amazon Echo (3rd Generation) model, except this one is more affordable as it doesn't feature the Zigbee home automation of the Plus. Since this feature is probably not going to be used by most people, the new model offers the best of the new features without paying for something you likely won't need.
So does this new setup at that lower price make this the best Echo yet? And dare we say it, the best smart speaker for the money?
Amazon Echo (3rd Generation): Design and build
- Four fabric color options
- 3.5mm line-out/in and Bluetooth
- Far-field microphones
- 8-inch tweeter and 3-inch subwoofer
The Amazon Echo (3rd Generation) features the same upgraded speaker system as the Echo Plus, meaning a 3-inch neodymium subwoofer backed by an 8-inch tweeter and Dolby processing in the 5.8 x 4 x 4-inch and 1.72lbs unit. These speakers can be used as an output for any device thanks to a 3.5mm audio input/output port as well as Bluetooth allowing you to directly connect your phone.
But of course this also offer 802.11ac WiFi so the speaker can playback via the internet directly. This is supported by a near-field microphone setup for the best possible voice pickup and audio controls.
That material finish is available in four colours, one more than the Echo Plus offered. That means you can pick from Twilight Blue as well as the previous three options of Charcoal, Heather Grey and Sandstone.
On the top of the Echo is a selection of buttons for physical controls, these include volume up and down, mute and Alexa access. This is surrounded by a circular LED light which glows blue when Alexa is listening or talking, orange when ready for setup and red when the microphone is muted.
Amazon Echo (3rd Generation): Features
- Alexa smart voice assistant
- Multi-room support
- Two-way intercom
The main feature on this smart speaker is the Alexa smart assistant which means you are constantly getting new features as the AI evolves. Primarily it means you can control the speaker with your voice to play music, set alarms, check the weather, ask questions, check traffic and more. The control of the smart home, like connecting to a a Ring doorbell or setting your Nest Thermostat with your voice are also useful.
You can now setup multiple actions to work with Alexa. So you could set "goodnight Alexa" to turn off the downstairs lights, lower the thermostat and lock your doors, if you have connected smart devices.
Music control is a huge use, of course, and Alexa will work with the likes of Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, SiriusXM Radio for music plus audio books from Audible and plenty more.
The Echos will now work in pairs to give a stereo sound system if you want to set them up that way. Or use them across the home for a multi-room system. Using voice control of the Alexa app you can play music in one room, or multiple rooms simply by asking. It's possible to setup groups so you can ask for a certain group, say upstairs, and those speaker will play. Another great use of multiple speakers is as a two-way intercom, allowing you to talk to others between rooms.
Amazon Echo (3rd Generation): Performance
- Great voice recognition
- Powerful bass and wide sound
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When it comes to sounds this generation of Echo has made a big jump forward. The new 3-inch neodymium subwoofer packs way more punch that makes this sound like a speaker double its size, at least. The Dolby processing helps to balance the audio so the mid and higher end from the 8-inch tweeter is balanced well.
Of course on a speaker this size the soundstage is going to get cluttered pretty soon once you start adding lots of instruments to a song. But this is a genuine way to play music and have a smart speaker without spending a lot on something like the Apple HomePod or a Sonos speaker. You could have two Echo speakers in stereo and still wont have spent much over half the price of the Apple alternative in mono.
Alexa definitely picks up voice commands better, be it because of the far-field microphone setup or better software or both - it's great either way. That said, now Alexa also listens to ou two-year old girl, something that we could do without when mid Zeppelin solo it's interrupted by Moana.
The ability to understand what you're saying is decent with Alexa although it still lacks some of the finesse that Google Home's Google Assistant offers. The ability to follow-up an answer with another question, for example, won't work as well on Alexa where you have to keep starting a new enquiry each time. That said the actual understanding of words is near perfect, even with old band names, Alexa gets it right everytime.
Should I buy the Amazon Echo (3rd Generation)?
If you want a speaker that you can control with your voice and also want the sound to be decent enough for regular music listening - but want it all for less - then the Echo 3rd gen could be ideal for you.
The alternative is the Google Home which has the slightly smart Google Assistant but some would argue less impressive sounds and weaker microphones. That said, in real-world use, the two work very similarly. It's only when you spend quite a bit more on the likes of Sonos or Apple HomePod that you notice a big jump up in sound quality.
If even the Echo is a bit pricey then you can save more money and go for the smaller Echo Dot but don't expect sound quality to be as good.
Amazon Echo (3rd Generation): Verdict
The Amazon Echo 3rd Generation is the best smart speaker from the company so far. It offers the most impressive audio combined with the Alexa smart assistant offering more smart home and music controls as well as the ability to answer lots of questions.
Multi-room support means you can create a home audio system, pair up for stereo and even enjoy two-way intercom between rooms.
If you want great audio, excellent smart assistant voice controls for the smart home and beyond, all at an affordable price and with a good look, then the Echo 3rd Generation is the smart speaker for you.