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Amazon’s new Echo speakers have better sound and better looks

Amazon’s new Echo speakers have better sound and better looks


‘Alexa, give me an upgrade’

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Amazon just announced a ton of new products, but the ones that will probably be the most popular this holiday season are the new versions of the Echo Show, Echo Dot, and Echo Plus. I just spent some time using all three devices, and I can say that all of them are improvements on their predecessors, with nicer designs, more features, and, most noticeably, better sound.

The new Echo Show has a bigger screen and sleeker design than the model Amazon released a little over a year ago, which means it will look nicer on your kitchen counter, and it will be easier to see from across the room. But the more significant upgrade is in the speakers, which are comprised of two side firing drivers and a passive radiator for bass. It’s much louder and clearer than the original Echo Show and the improvement is noticeable immediately.

The new Echo Show has a bigger screen and sleeker design

The new Show has a new software interface as well, which includes prettier visuals and more ways to interact with the device. Notably, Amazon has added web browsers to the Show — you can use either Amazon’s own Silk browser or Firefox — which let you pull up any website you want on the device, including, yes, YouTube. You can’t yet navigate to a website by voice; you have to type in the address using the on-screen keyboard, but you still have to open the browser with a voice command. It’s a little clumsy, and hopefully Amazon will iterate on it. Amazon says this new interface will be coming to the prior Show and the Echo Dot as well.

Photo: Dieter Bohn / The Verge
Photo: Dieter Bohn / The Verge

The new Echo Dot, which is the third generation of the device, has a much nicer visual design, with rounded corners and fabric covers. Frankly, it looks a lot like Google’s Home Mini, which isn’t a bad thing. The new Dot is a little larger than the prior model, but that allows it to have a significantly larger speaker with much better sound quality. In fact, the sound is so good from the new Dot that it could give the larger Echo devices a run for their money.

Amazon is only using four microphones to pick up voice commands in the new Dot, compared to the seven the older model, but in my brief time with it, it didn’t have many issues hearing my voice commands. We’ll have to see how that shakes out in the real world, but Amazon insists its ability to hear voice commands is no worse than the prior Dot.

Photo: Dieter Bohn / The Verge

One of the new features coming to the entire Echo speaker line is the ability to pair two speakers into a stereo setup, and add the optional Echo Sub for a 2.1 system. Two Echo Dots paired in stereo sounded impressive, especially given the still rather small footprint they have.

Two Echo Dots paired in stereo sounded impressive

Finally, Amazon is also releasing an updated Echo Plus, which has a new design and improved sound quality. Visually, the new Plus looks more like the Echo released last year, with a shorter, wider cylindrical shape. Like the new Show and new Dot, the new Plus has a fabric cover that looks much nicer than the plastic finish of the older model. The Plus’ speaker is larger and more powerful than before, so its sound quality is noticeably improved as well.

Photo: Dan Seifert / The Verge

One of the tricks the new Plus has over the old model is a temperature sensor built into it, so you can ask it for the exact temperature in its location. You can also use this information in Alexa routines to trigger fans, space heaters, or air conditioners.

All three new Echo devices are available to order today and will be shipping next month. Interestingly, prices are staying the same across the board: the Echo Show is $229.99, the Dot is $49.99, and the Plus is $149.99. I have a feeling the new Dot will be quite popular this holiday season, but stay tuned for our full reviews for more.