Amazon’s new Alexa-powered Echo devices, the Echo Pop smart speaker, and the upgraded Echo Show 5 smart display are available starting today. I got hands-on with the pop to get some initial ideas, so read on for more.
Amazon’s new Echo Pop is a $40 Alexa smart speaker that features a semi-spherical design, similar to the Harman Kardon Onyx. The soundbar is designed for smaller rooms and comes in a range of colors, including lavender and teal. Like other Alexa speakers announced last week, the Pop features Amazon’s AZ2 Neural Edge processor for a 20% speed increase, while it can also expand a home network network with built-in Eero capability.
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Rohit Prasad, Amazon’s senior vice president, told CNET that the number of purchases made on Alexa devices has increased by 40% in the past year, and that “an even greater proportion of that has been on devices with a screen.”
To this end, Amazon has introduced an upgrade $90 for the Echo Show 5 With a redesigned speaker system for better clarity and bass. The Alexa-powered smart display also has an improved microphone array onboard, and comes in Pale Blue, Charcoal Black, and White. The $100 Echo Show 5 Kids version has the same tweaks and also introduces a new space-themed design.
Finally, the $50 Echo Buds true wireless earbuds are a stripped-down version of the current $120 Echo Buds, without the active noise cancellation. However, they have the same 20-hour battery life. The design is more AirPod-like, with longer stems, than the Echo Buds, and Amazon says the fit is more comfortable than before. The Echo Buds will be available on June 7th.
Amazon leads both Google and Apple with sales of its smart devices, which also include the Echo Dot. The company faces increasing competition from Google, though, which just introduced its hybrid smart display, the Pixel Tablet.
Hands-on with Echo Pop
I tested the Echo Pop at the CNET AV Lab, and found that it delivered similar levels of performance to what I’d previously heard from the Nest Mini, but not the HomePod mini. The first thing I noticed about the Echo Pop is how small it is at just 3.9 inches. For a visual guide, imagine an Echo Dot or Google Nest mini leaning on their sides. The front of the speaker features a 2-inch tweeter, and as you’d expect from a small speaker, it’s best when used as a digital assistant. Dialogue from Alexa is clear and uncluttered, and I also found it made listening to podcasts fun.
Music, on the other hand, was a mixed bag, and the speaker outperformed the similarly sized but more expensive Apple HomePod mini. The Pop struggled to reproduce any kind of bass, and it sounded a tad small with my audition track Yulunga (Spirit Dance) by Dead Can Dance. Apple was more than able to reproduce the song’s deep bass notes as well as bring the ballroom vocals by Lisa Gerrard to life.
In the meantime, I’ll continue testing, including against competitive Google devices. Look for a full review of the Echo Pop on CNET.com in the coming days.
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