The Amazon Echo line has come a long way since it was first introduced in 2014. Back then, smart speakers were at their infancy and Amazon was at the forefront of the trend. Almost six years later, and Amazon has released its third-generation Echo, a device that features a greatly improved speaker with a very attractive price tag to boot.
Out of the box, there is little to differentiate the new Echo compared to its previous two generations. It features a familiar slipcover body, circular progress bar and four-button layout that has been there since Gen 1. Visually, the Gen 3 is a little shorter and more circular than previous models, which makes for a cuter and more pleasant looking device on the whole. Still, there is no drastic re-design and it’s not entirely exciting to look at as a result.
Instead, most of the improvements with the new Echo happen inside the actual device. The Echo Gen 3 features a 3-inch woofer with 0.8- inch tweeter that is identical to the one housed in the more premium Echo Plus. Having not reviewed an Echo device since 2018, I was surprised at how crisp sounding and bass-heavy the Echo Gen 3rd Gen is. While playing songs like Rise Up from the Hamilton Soundtrack, there is noticeable base tremble at half volume and at full volume, it’s enough to make small items move. Listening to a song and noticing instruments or themes for the first time is a great feeling and there were several times during my time with the Gen 3 where I experienced this. The Gen 3 isn’t quite loud enough to carry an outdoor get together in the same way that a Bose or Sonos speaker can, but for indoor use or smaller gatherings, it’s more than enough to get the room bumping.
It is a bit mind-boggling that the Echo line isn’t wireless yet, and it’s a bit frustrating to have to wait between 30 seconds to a minute every time you move the device or replug it in. The reason could very well be that Amazon would rather sell multiple Alexa enabled devices to a single consumer, as opposed to just one device that can be moved around easily. Regardless, the boot process and lack of wireless capabilities are frustrating, whether you have one Echo device or many.
Like all Echo devices, you need to install the Alexa app to get the Gen 3 running. Since 2014, Alexa has been racking up more skills and functionalities on the regular. It’s important to note that the skills are not exclusive to the Gen 3 and almost all skills, save for some smart home integration, are compatible with the original Echo devices. Still, daily news briefings, appointment reminders, along with full music integration with Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music makes for a useful smart system. What’s more is that unlike many other tech companies, the Alexa upgrades still work on the 2014 Echos, and it’s comforting to know that the device will likely be supported for years to come.
Perhaps the most significant selling feature of the Echo 3rd Gen is the price. At retail, the Echo costs $129.99 CAD but has been on sale for as low as $79.99. In comparison, the Echo Plus retails for $199.99 and the only difference is that the Plus offers Zigbee Integration.
While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, the Echo Gen 3 is an attractive option for those looking for a great indoor speaker and smart device. The upgraded speaker and consistent array of updated skills, combined with the price tag make for a worthy addition to the Echo line.