Amazon recently upgraded its smart Echo devices globally and in India. The new Echo Dot (review) and Echo Plus (2018 versions) bring in several improvements, including a more inviting design, without any increase in price. Last week, we reviewed the Echo Dot third generation which has improved significantly over its predecessor, now let’s talk about the Plus model.

Besides the outer finish, what else is new in the new Amazon Echo Plus (2018)? Does it make sense to upgrade from your existing Echo Plus? Let’s find answers to all these questions in this Amazon Echo Plus 2nd generation review:

What’s In The Box:

Box content: Proprietary power adapter (30W), some paperwork, and the Echo Plus

Amazon Echo Plus 2018 Review: Design and Build Quality

  • Charcoal, Heather Grey, Sandstone Color
  • New fabric finish
  • 148 x 99mm, 780g

You can very well make out the new Amazon Echo Plus design changes with a quick customary glance. It’s more like a stretched out version of the new Echo Dot. Compared to the last generation Echo Plus, the 2018 version is shorter and has an elegant mash fabric finish. The Echo Plus 2018 looks comparatively muscular and seems to have better build quality than its predecessor.

In line with the existing design language, the top surface of the Echo Plus has four buttons – Volume UP-Down, Mic mute button, and Alexa/ setup button. Also, there are seven far-field microphones which are capable of picking up your voice from a distance or when music is pumping out loud. What complements the top of the Echo Plus is an LED ring with cool animations. 

The bottom end of the new Echo Plus has a rubberized base which ensures it stays put. It is also worth pointing out that both top and bottom surfaces are devoid of sharp edges, as Amazon has tapered them into the body.

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Amazon Echo Plus 2018 Review: Audio and Connectivity

  • Omnidirectional sound
  • Stereo pairing
  • Seven far-feild mics
  • Bluetooth, WIFI (dual band), and 3.5mm port
  • Alexa can adjust equalizer

Just like its smaller sibling, Plus model too gets an incredible audio quality upgrade.  The new top of the line Echo smart speaker houses a single 3.0-inch woofer (down-firing) paired with a 0.8-inch tweeter. It supports Dolby audio and produces omnidirectional sound with clearer vocals and deeper bass.

While playing it side by side with the last generation Echo Plus, the difference is more than noticeable. The new gen Echo Plus is much louder, warmer and has thumping bass. Amazon has also built-in equalizer to adjust settings with your voice. All you have to do is hail Alexa, say the command like  “Alexa, set the bass to 3.” What still needs some tweaking is the mids which seem to get subdued with high bass levels.

The other things that need to highlighted here are that the second generation Echo Plus support stereo paring which means you can pair two of these and it really offers greater room-filling experience. Amazon also introduced a companion device called sub which can be paired along to create a 2.1 system for your home party.

As for the connectivity, the Echo Plus supports dual-band WIFI networks, there are Bluetooth and a 3.5mm physical connection option which works both ways (broadcast and receive) and can be controlled via Alexa app.

You will also have the option to connect Echo Plus 2018 to any regular speaker using an aux cable and convert it to an Alexa smart speaker.

Amazon Echo Plus 2018 Review: A Smart Hub

  • Wide compatibility
  • Zigbee controller
  • Lots of Alexa skills and routines

This Alexa driven smart speaker competes with Google Home and Apple’s Homepod. One thing that lends Echo Plus a cutting-edge advantage is the built-in smart home hub based on ZigBee radio.

What is ZigBee?

Those who don’t know, ZigBee is a smart home interface based on IEEE’s 802.15.4 personal-area network standard specifically developed for smart device. ZeeBee technology operates in mash network and it lets devices from different manufacturers communicate with one another (without Wi-Fi or Bluetooth).
A smart home interface that could connect the speakers to a range of other smart home devices that wouldn’t otherwise be able to communicate with an Echo device.

Like the first generation Echo Plus, the new Alexa powered smart speakers come with a built-in ZigBee hub that means you won’t necessarily need to buy a separate hub/bridge for each smart device manufacturer and can easily set-up and control compatible smart home products (limited features only).

Apart from that, the new Echo Plus has a built-in temperature sensor that can be used to create useful routines. Talking about routines and skills, Amazon has tons of those and keeps on adding new skills every day. Over the years, Alexa’s language recognition has improved and now it understands Indian accents better and can orate useful information from news, facts, time and a lot-lot more. Alexa works better than Bixby, Cortana, or Siri, but is still outsmarted by Google Assistant.

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Amazon Echo Plus 2nd gen Review (2018): Should You Buy It?

In India building, a smart home is still a costly affair and most consumers are still in that phase of deciding whether the benefits outweigh the cost. However, with internet connectivity improving, many more people are warming up to the idea of a smart connected home.

With a built-in hub, the Echo Plus 2018 has a definite advantage for people willing to dive into the smart home ecosystem. Besides, Amazon is rapidly expanding its content services (Prime Videos, Amazon Music) and is packaging all these services under its attractive prime membership.

With improved audio quality, the new Echo Plus is a lot more attractive proposition. Now that Amazon has enabled stereo pairing and launched Echo Sub as a companion device, the Echo Plus could play the pivotal roll in your home’s smart music system.

  • Pros 
  • Improved audio performance
  • Smart home control
  • Stereo pairing
  • New Temperature sensor
  • Looks better

Cons

  • Depth in mid-tones are missing
  • Alexa App needs improvement
  • Fabric exterior is not washable

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