The Plus sits above the £90 2nd-gen Echo in Amazon’s smart speaker line-up. Despite its improved chops, it costs less than the original Echo. Does your phone have a semi-permanent residence down the side of your sofa? Grab the Trackr skill and it’ll ring your phone loudly. Even when it’s on silent. Still the easiest way to brainify your home, Philips’ Hue lightbulbs can be turned on and off with both your phone and your voice thanks to Alexa. Like the Echo Dot, the Plus has a 3.5mm audio-out socket, meaning you can plug it into external speakers if the onboard audio isn’t good enough. Left it too late to get the train into town? Give Uber a shout on your Echo and it’ll order a car to your front door. Setup can be a little tricky but it’s worth it. On first look, the Plus looks almost identical to the original first-gen Echo. There are no stylistic changes, save that it now comes in silver as well as black and white. It’s got the same dimensions, the same plastic build with speaker grille around its lower half and volume/notifications ring around the top. Two years is a long time in gadget-land, and that industrial cylinder look just no longer cuts it – especially compared to the slick new Sonos One and Apple Homepod.
2 Emergency basses
Internally, the Plus has a new speaker setup consisting of a 2.5in woofer and 0.8in tweeter, and this makes for much improved audio playback. There’s more weight, depth and bass to your tunes, so you can happily sit through whole albums without gnashing your teeth. But Sonos remains on top for this sort of stuff by quite a margin – so long as you’re happy to pay a little bit extra.
3 Smarter than Hue
Since it has its own built-in smart home hub, you can buy a Philips Hue lightbulb and connect it to the Echo Plus – rather than having to buy Philips’ own Hue hub for another £50. Beyond Hive and Samsung’s Smartthings, though, there aren’t a whole load of other products that support this feature. So you’ll probably still be stuck with a bunch of different hubs fighting for space around your router.
4 My imperfect cussin’
If you have hooked up a device directly to the Plus, you’ll now be able to use the Alexa app to control it. The only trouble is, the level of control you get is in some cases nowhere near what you’d get via the device’s actual app. For example, the Hue app let’s you choose from thousands of colour tones; Alexa does not. It feels like a nice idea that just hasn’t been properly executed yet.
TRACKR PHILIPS HUE UBER