August 28, 2017
I recently came across the following quote “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” ― Maya Angelou This is my new goal in life. Not to conform to be normal, but to be amazing and I hope to inspire you to be amazing too.

Not a review of my Amazon Echo

I wanted to say, at the beginning, this is not a review post; it's an opinion and usage post. I will put a link in this post to the Amazon Echo that I have, just to say that this will be an affiliate link. That means that if you did purchase one - you would not pay any extra but would mean I would earn some affiliate commission which would be nice.

So, the Amazon Echo

I must say, I've always liked the idea of a smart speaker. I picked up my old iPhone 3GS after seeing something in a program where they docked it and then used ‘Siri' to look up something on the Internet or play some music. I loved the concept of walking in and saying ‘Play me this tune or that’ (not specifically the words this tune or that, those were replaced with names of artists or tracks). Being able to say ‘spell a word’ or ‘whats the capital of Portugal’.

You get the idea. I loved the idea of asking for something from a device and it would reply. I will say up front that there are limitations, at least with the Echo. I’ve not tried any other smart speaker system (I hope to try the Google Home at some point - hint hint Google) so I can’t compare, I can only judge on what I have in my home.

Ok, back on track. So, you can see that I have loved the idea for a while, but at around £149 or so for the speaker, well, it was a little expensive for me to actually want to buy. I live value for money, and if I feel I am going to use enough to get that value then I will purchase. Otherwise, I wait until the item is on sale.

So, that's what happened. Prime day 2017, the Amazon Echo was reduced to just under £80 and so I decided that this was a price I was happy to purchase and try.

Phew, a bit of a backstory there. Basically, I wanted to try but only for the right price... But let's get onto the real meaty bit - what do I think.

Using the Amazon Echo

When you get the Echo it comes in a nice box. I’m not going to go on about the box, not really of interest. So, you take it out of the box and you plug it all together and in then turn it on. Connecting it to the home network is simple enough. To start with you need to download the Amazon Echo app onto your phone and then, following the instructions, you connect your phone to the Echo using this app. Once done, you use this to setup your Echo onto the network.

One of the things I like is that you can, using the app, always check the status of your Echo. I have switched on during the day and saw what my daughter had been listening too or is listening too. You can even stop track etc. So, it's kind of like a parenting function to make sure they are not listening or asking anything you would not expect.

Once set up, the Echo is easy enough to use. Using the default word (which you can change in the app) you simply say ‘Alexa. Play me some soul music’. It then searches through the available music you have access to. If you're a Prime member, you get something like 2 million available. If you sign up for the Amazon Music Unlimited you get like 40 million they say. There is even a cheap subscription for this Amazon Music Unlimited just for the Echo. I went for this as it's a massive list it can choose from.

The biggest thing I wanted to use my Echo for was music, so it made sense. One other feature I found also, just to add before I forget it. You can ask it to read one of your Kindle books to you. Obviously, you have to own this book and it is in your Kindle library. But I thought that was a great little extra and it's not a bad reading voice too.

Whats the voice recognition like?

For the most parts, it understands what I ask for. I’ve tried a few things now. I’ve tried music, obviously, but I’ve also had it spell words for me, work out maths and answer simple questions. I have also used the alarm and timer functions quite a bit. I’ve set up calendar events which worked well. I’ve not used the shopping list yet, but I will try. I even bought the Music Unlimited through it (had to for the Echo only account) and all worked well.

Don’t get me wrong. It hasn’t recognized everything I have asked it. Its certainly come out with some funny things during that time. Kind of adds to the amusement. But all in all, for the things I wanted to use it for - it has worked well and recognized around 85% (give or take) of what I have asked for. None of these speech recognition items is perfect, but this one is not too bad.

Whats the speaker quality like?

So, you want to listen to music but if the speaker itself is crap, well, that would be no good. Now, I'm no audiophile, so I’m only coming from the average person point of view. I would say that the sound quality is actually quite good. When playing music, the sound quality of that music, for me, is good. I have not heard any distortion or cracking (or anything else you may hear from cheap speakers). I can’t talk about how the mid-tone or so on is; as I say I’m just the average daddy user; but we were rocking down to music from Trace to Iron Maiden (and some Little Mix and nursery rhymes).

All of this sounded good from my humble opinion. Which is good, because, at the end of the day I was buying it for its music playing functionality the most - with the odd asking of questions and setting up of timers.

What about build quality?

A valid question indeed. I find it of a good quality construction. It feels like it has some weight to it when you pick it up, which always adds to the quality feel - at least for me. It, I believe, is a plastic and not metal body, but again, for me, this takes nothing away from the good quality feel. Ok, it would feel more quality if solid metal, but then the price would probably be doubled.

Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo

The other things I enjoyed is that it sits nicely on the side. It doesn't feel like it would easily be knocked over or off. That said, those looking at my images would see that mine is actually on a stand. I did purchase a stand for mine as it's sitting on a smaller radiator cover in a room with two very active and inquisitive kids. If this was sitting on my kitchen top, then I would have not worried about the stand. As it is, this stand just add size to the base, making it even more stable.

On the top is the Action button and Mic on/off button. The top part also turns which is volume up and down (though you can tell the Echo to go to volume X - where X is a number). The motion of the volume turn is smooth and nice and the buttons feel good and click nicely.

I love my Echo

Overall I really enjoyed this purchase and so did the kids. My daughter loves asking it stuff and for music she likes.

The other great thing is the 'Skills'. These are plug-in type apps that give your Echo skills, such as translations for languages, extra radio channels or the ability to fart. There are many skills, I did particularly like the fart one and the cat one. That amusement only lasted for a short while until I removed them. However, the radio player skill I use quite a lot and enjoyed playing around with the translation skill.

One last thing I love too, that's the ability to ask the date and time, what the day's news is and the weather forecast. These can all be found many places but they are available at the command from Alexa.

Now, remember, this is not a review. This is just my thoughts and comments on my Amazon Echo. Overall, I am very pleased with the purchase. I'm not so sure if I would have been so pleased with paying the full price, after all, getting it at around £70 off what a big bonus. But I find myself using it every day, especially for some downtime chill out music when the kids are finally in bed - or to get my daily news update.

Would I recommend it, I already have - but again, I recommend it only if it's on a sale price. I've yet to compare it to any other smart speaker; I would love to do a gunslinger and noon type of compare off... Who knows, maybe I will someday.

As it's not a review, I'm not going to give it a rating. I will just say I love my Echo. Have you got an Amazon Echo or Dot? What do you think? You enjoying your purchase or not? Why not leave us a comment below on your thoughts.

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I recently came across the following quote “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” ― Maya Angelou This is my new goal in life. Not to conform to be normal, but to be amazing and I hope to inspire you to be amazing too.

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