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Amazon's fanciest speaker is still a tough sell

"Antonio Lusk" (2020-05-25)

id="cnetReview" section="rvwBody" data-component="indepthReview"> Smart speakers and voice assistants are everywhere these days. We're practically drowning in all the devices announced by major manufacturers in recent months. Products on nearly every aisle of your local home improvement store are adding compatibility with Wi-Fi, Alexa, Google Assistant or even Siri (though changes are slim there).

Amazon is moving full steam ahead when it comes to new Echo devices. At its surprise event in September, the company released a slew of smart home products ranging from wall clocks to microwaves and lots in between. Amazon also introduced the premium Echo Plus, its most powerful Echo speaker. 

The $150 Echo Plus has useful features including a built-in temperature sensor and smart home hub, but there are still better sounding speakers out there. Unless you really want the Zigbee hub built into your smart speaker, your better bet is the Sonos One for sound quality or the Amazon Echo for the same smarts at a better price. 

View full gallery The new Echo Plus (left) got quite the makeover from its first generation (right). 

Chris Monroe/CNET The Echo family tree
There are three versions of the Amazon Echo speaker: the $50 Echo Dot ($40 at Adorama), the $100 Echo and the $150 Echo Plus. The Dot is now in its third generation and the Echo and Echo Plus in their second. Each new generation of these devices brings improved design, sound quality and features. We just reviewed the newest Echo Dot this week at the CNET Smart Home and it's the best-sounding Dot yet. Is the same true for the Echo Plus? In short, yes.

New look
The Echo Plus got a big redesign in its second generation, an absolute necessity to keep up aesthetically with the other smart speakers on the shelves. The original Echo Plus came out in 2017 with a hard, plastic shell and Pelatihan Ahli K3 Migas a tall silhouette. The new Echo Plus ditched that lankiness for a shorter, more compact look.

It also added the fabric covering we've become accustomed to in new Amazon, Google and Apple smart home products. The volume control ring on the top has gone too. Instead you get volume, muting and assistant controls from four buttons on the top of the device. Original Echo users complained about that change, but the move makes more sense now that nearly every Echo device is controlled this way.