Amazon Echo: Hey, Alexa? Is This Thing Any Good? [review]

Amazon Echo review Alexa
Written by Sandy Berger

Alexa is the whip-smart, music playing assistant that is part of Amazon’s new Echo hardware and service. Ask her anything. But don’t ask her when she’s planning to become sentient. Sandy Berger doesn’t want to know. Amazon Echo review.

aNewDomain — Since its November 2014, release the Amazon Echo intelligent assistant has been available by invitation only. That changes now. Amazon is now officially selling the Amazon Echo — for $179.99 smackers. Is it a good price? Is there any bang for that buck. Here’s my Amazon Echo review.

Alexa? Can You Hear Me?

amazon echo

This is an amazing offer because the Echo is an amazing device. It’s a virtual assistant for the entire household, voiced by Alexa, a voice recognition program akin to Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. Alexa is intelligent and constantly learning but, unlike its competitors, you don’t have to have a device on your wrist or in your pocket to use Alexa. All you need is the Amazon Echo. That alone is pretty cool.

Also, because the Echo is always listening  you really don’t have to press any buttons to use it. You just call out the name “Alexa.” I’ve found she’s pretty much always ready to deal with you, provided she’s within earshot. You can tell if she’s listening, by the way, by the blue pulsing ring around the top of the device. That means Alexa is listening. And waiting.


The Amazon Echo is a Wi-Fi connected black cylinder that plugs into the wall for power, which means you can set it up anywhere in the house that has outlet access. The device stands nine-and-one-fourth inches tall and three inches in diameter and has surround sound speakers. You can use a free Android or iOS app to get her it up.

Not only is Alexa useful, but she can be fun, too. You can ask her the time or weather, have her to set an alarm or give you the current news about the topics of your choice (like tech, business, sports and so on.). She will tell you a corny joke and answer just about any question, no matter how silly. If she doesn’t know the answer she will scour the Internet for some sort of response and present it on your smartphone or tablet.

She always comes up with something.

After I spent time with Alexa, I decided she’s not just smart, she’s on another level of smart.

For instance, if you ask her, “Do I need need an umbrella today,” she’ll respond with the chance of rain. She gets many linkages.

Besides being a quick wit and endless facts, Alexa excels at playing music. Thanks to the hefty SurroundSound speaker that makes up the bottom two-thirds of the unit, she actually sounds really decent. You can find Alexa-compatible apps like Pandora, iHeart radio and more. And, with a $99 per year subscription to Amazon Prime, she will  play over a million ad-free songs for you.

Video: Amazon Echo – Now Available

Please Turn Off The Lights, Alexa …

Since I received Alexa a few months ago Amazon has improved greatly upon her functionality. She can now control lights and electric devices with  Belkin’s WeMo switches and Philips Hue lights. Just say, “Alexa turn the living room light to 50 percent brightness,” and she complies. She can also tell me what appointments I have coming up in my Google calendar. She can even give me traffic reports and read my Audible and Kindle Whispersync books.

In just a few short months Alexa has become a part of my family. I use her every day and so does my husband. When there are kids around, they have a ball asking her questions. The best thing about Alexa? She keeps getting smarter and smarter. If you’re looking for a fully functional digital assistant, I highly recommend the Amazon Echo. And I will keep recommending her unless she become sentient or something. Then she will just freak me out.

Great work, Amazon.

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All screenshots courtesy of Amazon

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