Amazon’s new Echo Flex is an interesting device that furthers the company’s pledge to bring the Alexa voice assistant to as many places as possible.
The Echo Flex speaker comes in a compact package that plugs directly into an outlet. It is a boxed-shaped device, unlike other Echo speakers that are mostly cylindrical in shape. And, there are no cords and cables in sight.
The small and portable speaker is about 2.8 inches tall and 2.6 inches wide. It stays nearly invisible when plugged in, and is designed to go everywhere - bathroom, kitchen, living room, etc.
Additionally, there’s a USB port at the bottom to help you charge phones (and other devices) or connect to other modules.
Microphones and Alexa
Like earlier Echo speakers, the Flex sports an always-on microphone, which means that the Alexa assistant can be enabled with a simple voice command.
But, the Echo Flex has only two microphones compared to the Echo Dot’s seven. Alexa’s responses come via the built-in speaker and the two microphones are to detect your voice.
Unsurprisingly, the device has a slight speech detection problem. While it can hear and respond well to your voice commands within a radius of eight to nine feet, it can hardly catch what you’re saying beyond that.
However, the Flex can do all things any other Echo device can – play the news, answer questions, perform various skills, control smart lights, etc.
There is a light indicator to let everyone know that Alexa is listening in. But you can also turn it off with the ‘microphone off’ button.
How to better the sound output
On the side of the Echo Flex is a 3.5mm audio output jack, which allows you to connect to a more powerful speaker to get better sound output.
You can even connect to external speakers via Bluetooth. This is advisable if you place the Echo Flex in a larger room.
Amazon India categorically states in its product listing that the Flex “is not optimised for music playback”. So, the output lacks depth and is not great for listening to music. It is, however, extremely useful in enclosed spaces like a kitchen.
Connecting the Flex to a proper speaker fixes the sound issue.
But this is ironic because the Echo Flex was meant to be a portable Alexa-enabled device that can be with you everywhere. Hence, attaching it to an external speaker ruins the core experience.
Should you buy it?
The Echo Flex is Amazon’s cheapest Alexa device till date, retailing at an MRP of Rs 2,999.
So, if you’re just starting out with Echo devices, this might be the one to buy. It helps you carry a voice assistant to all parts of the house.
But, if you want a ‘smarter’ experience with better sound quality and higher reception to commands, you should give this a miss and opt for the Echo Dot (which was Amazon’s entry-point Echo speaker before Flex launched).
The question is: Who is Amazon targeting with the Flex?
It might be a narrow audience segment, but an affordable price point is always a plus, especially in markets like India!
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)
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