Home / Reviews / Amazon Echo Flex review: This tiny plug-in speaker puts Alexa in places where other Echo devices won’t go

Amazon Echo Flex review: This tiny plug-in speaker puts Alexa in places where other Echo devices won’t go

Whereas the compact and cheap Echo Dot makes for a good way to place Alexa in your bed room, den, or residence workplace, it’s not a lot assist in an area with minimal or nonexistent shelf area, equivalent to a kitchen counter, a hallway, or a instrument shed. Enter the Echo Flex, a diminutive, squarish Echo speaker with an built-in AC energy adapter so you may plug it instantly right into a wall outlet.

The Flex’s iffy audio high quality isn’t appropriate for music, but it surely’s completely high-quality for chatting with Alexa, whereas the built-in USB port helps you to connect non-obligatory nightlight and motion-sensor modules. Better of all, the Flex’s $25 record worth (which we’re already seeing discounted) makes it enticingly inexpensive.

Design

Weighing in at 5.2 ounces and roughly the scale of a USB wall adapter, the boxy, 1.75 inch-thick Echo Flex (not counting the 2 rear AC prongs) is, from a design facet anyway, a far cry from the fabric-covered Echo Dot. Whereas the Dot seems proper at residence on a bookshelf subsequent to household photographs, the utilitarian Flex seems prefer it belongs in a toolbox; certainly, it’s an ideal instance of kind assembly operate.

On the entrance of the Flex are the usual Echo “Motion” and mic-muting buttons, with an indicator mild above them that illuminates when Alexa is listening, together with a pair of flanking microphone holes. Beneath the buttons are two small speaker ports, whereas a 3.5mm line-out jack sits on the suitable aspect of the unit.

These are primarily the identical controls you’ll discover on the Echo Dot, with a notable exception: there aren’t any quantity controls, which implies you’ll have to ask Alexa or fiddle with the Alexa app to regulate the Flex’s quantity. (Then once more, I can’t keep in mind the final time I really touched the amount buttons on my Echo Dot.)

[ Further reading: The best smart speakers and digital assistants ]

Look on the underside of the Flex and also you’ll discover its USB Kind-A charging port, which may provide as much as 7.5 watts of charging energy for a smartphone or different appropriate gadget. The USB port additionally acts as a socket for snap-on third-party modules that add performance to the Flex. For now, two can be found: a movement sensor and a wise nightlight. These value $15 every (you too can purchase them bundled with the Flex). When plugged in, the modules add about an inch to the Flex’s general top. I examined the Flex with the movement sensor (which I’ll focus on in larger element momentarily), however I didn’t attempt the nightlight.

echo flex main Ben Patterson/IDG

The Echo Flex made for a pleasant match within the AC outlet above my kitchen sink.

One function that’s lacking from the Flex is a passthrough AC socket, which implies you’ll primarily lose an influence socket whenever you plug the Flex right into a wall outlet. That could possibly be a difficulty in, say, a kitchen, notably when you have the Flex plugged into an outlet above the counter the place you may also plan on plugging in mixers, blenders, or toasters. A minimum of the Flex doesn’t take up each sockets, as long as it’s plugged into the underside one. You might additionally contemplate deploying an influence strip or surge protector right here (click on this hyperlink to examine our high picks in surge protectors).

Nonetheless, the truth that the Flex plugs into any wall outlet with out the necessity of an influence twine or a flat floor opens up all types of attention-grabbing prospects. Except for the truth that it occupies an influence socket that you simply may use for an additional equipment, it’s fairly neat to have Alexa at your beck and name above the kitchen counter, on a workshop wall, and even in a hallway, all locations the place a bigger good speaker gained’t match.

Setup

Getting the Flex up and working is easy if you have already got Echo audio system in your own home. For those who purchase the Flex utilizing the Amazon account that your property Alexa gadgets are registered to, the Flex ought to have the ability to join itself to your property Wi-Fi mechanically, along with your different Echo audio system appearing as “helper” gadgets for the connection course of, no password required. The setup course of labored flawlessly for me, with the Flex connecting to the Wi-Fi community inside a minute or so after I’d plugged it in. Even for those who don’t have some other Echo audio system at residence, organising the Flex is your first Echo gadget, you may set it up as you’ll some other Echo speaker utilizing the Alexa cell app.

echo flex socket Ben Patterson/IDG

The Echo Flex is sufficiently small to depart the higher AC socket free for those who plug it into the underside socket.

As for the Flex’s non-obligatory modules, properly, you simply plug them into the Flex’s USB socket and so they work, with Alexa discovering the modules mechanically. After you have a module plugged into the Flex, you should use the Alexa app to rename the module (“Kitchen movement sensor,” for instance”) or add it to routines, or you may merely ask Alexa to manage it (“Alexa, flip hallway nightlight on”).

Options and performance

One you recover from the boring design and crappy sound high quality of the Echo Flex (we’ll focus on the Flex’s audio in additional element momentarily), you’ll begin to notice that the Flex can do just about something that an Echo Dot can.

For instance, you may ask Alexa to carry out the standard vary of duties, from checking on the climate and reciting sports activities scores to turning in your lights and enabling “Guard” mode (which makes Alexa preserve an ear out for such suspicious sounds as breaking glass and wailing hearth alarms).

As with an Echo Dot or some other Echo speaker, you may pair the Flex with an exterior Bluetooth speaker, or you may join an exterior speaker utilizing the three.5mm audio jack on the suitable aspect of the unit. And for those who want a second of privateness, you may press the mic mute button, whereas the Motion button helps you to silence alarms or reset the gadget.

The Flex’s non-obligatory modules make the diminutive speaker much more helpful. The good nightlight module, for instance, can be a intelligent alternative for those who plugged the speaker right into a hallway outlet. For the Flex that I put in in my kitchen, I created an Alexa routine for its modular movement sensor to show off my kitchen lights after 15 minutes of inactivity. (I might have additionally created routines to, say, activate the kitchen lights at any time when somebody entered the room, with each daylight and nightlight modes; however in the long run, I opted to maintain it easy.)

echo flex modular design Ben Patterson/IDG

Two non-obligatory add-on modules can be found for the Flex, together with a movement sensor (pictured above) and a wise nightlight.

Efficiency

As I’ve already talked about, the Flex’s audio high quality isn’t nice so far as music’s involved, and Amazon (to its credit score) makes no bones about it, saying clearly within the product description that the Flex’s 0.6-inch speaker has “not been optimized for music playback.” Certainly, the audio high quality of the Flex’s “mini” driver is akin to that of an AM radio or a walkie-talkie, and it makes the Echo Dot’s so-so 1.6-inch driver sound positively lush as compared. For those who actually need to play music on the Flex, you’re higher off pairing it with a Bluetooth speaker or plugging it right into a wired speaker through the three.5mm audio jack. You can even ask it to play music on one other Echo gadget or a speaker group.

Whereas the Flex’s puny speaker is nothing to jot down residence about, it’s first rate sufficient—and loud sufficient—to make Alexa’s voice completely audible in say, a busy kitchen, even whenever you’re throughout the room. Simply as importantly, the Flex’s built-in mics are delicate sufficient to listen to you whereas the fridge is buzzing or the tap’s working. I additionally tried the Flex in a hallway outlet that was solely a foot or so above the ground, and as soon as once more, Alexa had no bother listening to me, even once I was standing a number of yards away and talking in a quiet voice.

Now, when you have a blender or a desk noticed roaring away, or another loud equipment working, all bets are off. I fired up the Cuisinart meals processor in our kitchen and tried to wake Alexa, and she or he couldn’t hear even once I was virtually shouting proper in entrance of the Flex. If you wish to chat with Alexa within the shed, you’ll want to show the drill press off, first.

Audio system and microphones apart, the Alexa-powered Flex behaved exactly as my different Echo audio system do, diligently answering questions, obeying instructions, controlling good gadgets and sounding alarms, and its non-obligatory modules—or at the least the movement sensor that I examined—labored precisely as promised.

Backside line

Whereas it’s actually no music speaker (nor was it supposed to be), the compact, plug-in Echo Flex makes for a good way to place Alexa in locations the place different Echo audio system gained’t fairly match. We additionally love the Flex’s modular design, which permits for such add-ons because the evening mild and movement sensor modules, with (hopefully) extra to comply with. Setup is a breeze, and the Flex’s twin mics do a pleasant job of detecting your voice from throughout a room.

Word: While you buy one thing after clicking hyperlinks in our articles, we might earn a small fee. Learn our affiliate hyperlink coverage for extra particulars.

About Ben Patterson

Check Also

Hisense Roku TV (B7120UK) review

Hisense and Roku’s newest collaboration is superlative, and will have huge implications for the way …

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.