The Best Echo Plus with built-in Hub – Black – 2018
Echo Plus is a simple way to start your smart home. It has a built-in ZigBee smart home hub, which allows for simple and direct setup of compatible ZigBee lights, locks, plugs, and in-wall switches from brands like Philips Hue, GE, and Yale. No additional hub required.; Echo Plus connects to Alexa—a cloud-based voice service—to play music, make calls, set timers and music alarms, ask questions, check traffic and weather, and more—instantly.; Just ask for a song, artist, or genre from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, and more. With multi-room music, you can play music on your Echo devices in different rooms. Echo Plus can also play Audible audiobooks, radio stations, news briefs, and more.; Call or message almost anyone hands-free with your Echo device. Also, instantly connect to other Echo devices in your home using just your voice.; Improved speakers with Dolby processing deliver crisp vocals and extended bass to fill the room with immersive, 360° audio; With seven microphones, beamforming technology, and noise cancellation, Echo hears you from any direction—even while music is playing; Alexa is always getting smarter and adding new features and skills. Just ask Alexa to control your TV, request an Uber, order a pizza, and more.
If you already have an Echo, I'm not sure there much, or any reason to upgrade to this new echo. First, for those people buying this Echo in order to get rid of your current hubs, that may or may not be possible. If you have a Hue hub, this Echo Plus is not a direct replacement for it. In addition to bulbs, the Hue hub supports motion sensors, dimmer switches, and tap switches. It also supports Apple Homekit. If you deregister your Hue peripherals from the Hue hub, and try and connect them to the Echo Plus, while the bulbs will connect, the motion sensors and dimmer switches will not. Also, you will lose Apple Homekit support. You will also lose all the automations the Hue hub supports like sunrise to sunset and other automation. Also, if your internet goes out, your Hue hub will continue to work and you will be able to control your lights with the Hue app. If your internet goes out, the Echo Plus will not be able to control your lights by voice, or the Alexa app. Lastly, all the 3rd party Hue apps are designed to work with the Hue bridge, not the Echo Plus. So, those apps will also not work.If your current hub is Z-Wave, then the Echo Plus will also not be a direct replacement for it. You will need to keep that hub as well the Echo Plus does not have a Z-Wave radio in it. If you want to do simple things like turn a ZigBee bulb on and off, and dim it, then the Echo Plus works fine. If you want to do more complicated scenarios, then you will need to keep, or buy a another hub. Since Zigbee is the only protocol that is supported at this time, you need to look for light bulbs, and some other peripherals, that use that protocol in order for it work with the Echo Plus. But with that said, there will be some devices that use Zigbee that will still need their manufactures hub to work. So, again, it will not be as simple as looking for a ZigBee device and expecting it work with the Echo Plus. Since there is currently no supported list of devices, trial and error is going to be your best bet in trying to figure out which ZigBee devices work with the Echo Plus and which do not.As for sound, that part if more subjective. I like a little more base in my music. The Echo Plus sacrifices bass for treble in this new design. So, to me, it does not sound as great as the previous Echo. To me, it sounds a little flat. My old Echo sounds much richer and fuller than the Plus. So, if you like your music with more bass, then you might be disappointed here as well.Apart from the above, the Echo Plus does everything the old Echo does, so I'm not going to repeat everything here as you can read about those features in reviews of the last generation Echo. The microphones on the Echo Plus seems more sensitive to the previous generation though. It appears to be able to hear me more, even when the music is turned out loud. Where the old Echo had issues doing that. Also, the Plus has a 3.5 mm audio jack. Therefore, you can more easily connect it to your stereo, external speakers, etc. with a wire, if Bluetooth is not an option.So, all in all, the Echo Plus is good device, but I don't think it's that much better than the previous generation to warrant an upgrade. If an upgrade is wanted, then depending on you hub needs, the smaller newer Echo might be the better choice. If you are new to the smart home arena, then try and figure out what you want your smart home to do, then pick the best system(s) that get you want you want. Don't assume the Echo Plus will solve all your smart home needs.
I am a long time user of Echo and eagerly awaited the successors. The Echo Plus is no such thing.Please note that many high star reviews are first time echo owners and they don't have the original good unit to compare too. If you are too and reading this, buy the original Echo for around 80$ (not the second gen). If you are a previous echo owner, don't "upgrade".First and foremost, the sound. Despite being touted as having updated speakers and Dolby, it sounds much worse. Volume does not get as high, bass is always too low, and just sounds muffled. If you have a Dot, then it is comparable to sound quality but just louder. My wife asked what was wrong with it (she didn't know it was the Plus). That was one of the main reasons I got the new Echo, an upgrade to the sound.The speech recognition is about the same. Maybe bit better but I think that's because this Echo does not get as loud and not as much bass interference as the old one.Connecting smart devices is about as painful as before, just in a new way. It does basic commands and for basic devices. Very limited. You are better off with a hidden, more powerful hub.Other than that, it looks almost exactly the same as old Echo, and does same things. Connecting my phone via bluetooth was useless. The new power plug in port is not hidden like the original and cord comes out easily.Overall, I am going to return it. 150$ for a downgrade. It's a shame.
As a long-time user of many Echos and Echo Dots, and a long-time user of Insteon Smarthome lighting stuff from within the Alexa ecosystem, I was anxious to get my hands on the new Echo Plus with built-in Zigbee hub. Here is my review so far after checking it out for a few days. I bought the kit with the single Philips Hue White bulb, so that's all I was testing it with.This is mostly a review of both the Echo Plus *and* the bulb, since most everyone knows how awesome a basic Echo is by now...Some good stuff:-- there is no 3rd party smartphone app needed for the light. All the initial config, and subsequent management, takes place through the Alexa app on your phone.-- Initial config was mind-blowingly simple. I screwed in the light so it was powered up, and told the Alexa app to discover devices. It came back and said "Found New Bulb 1" and that was that. After that, I could rename it, adjust it, turn it off and on, etc. via the Alexa app.-- Voice control was a no-brainer. On/off, set to X%, etc. Brighten/Dim also worked but seemed to jump by pretty large steps, like 50% to 75% as far as I could tell.-- You can definitely create "groups" of lights.-- You can definitely create lighting schedules through the "Routines" in the Alexa app (which, by the way, could also be programmed to start/stop music at certain times?! Did not know that.)-- You can definitely use the Alexa app to check status & control the lights even when away from home.-- Because it's Zigbee, and unlike setting up Wifi bulbs such as the TP-Link bulbs, initial config doesn't require "breaking" the current wifi connection. That makes it easier for me to remote-control or remotely view the smartphone screens of my friends and family to help troubleshoot their lighting setups remotely.-- The affordable white Philips Hue "60 watt" bulb that came with my purchase is a great bulb, with virtual 360 degree light shine and a pleasant, warm-type of glow. I mean it really looks white, not amber or anything, don't get me wrong, but it is very pleasant, smooth white light.Now for a few caveats...-- The "Routines" in the Alexa app only recognize time of day as a trigger -- not, say, sunrise or sunset. Hopefully they will enhance this in the near future because OBVIOUSLY we'd like to set lighting schedules by sunrise/sunset (as well as sunset minus X minutes, etc).-- The light bulb, being dimmable, doesn't work quite so well if it's also attached to a dimmer. I put mine in a torchiere light that has a dimmer (all the way up, of course) and the bulb looks fine & normal at full or near-full intensity, but had a slight, annoying flicker at lower intensities. This is to be expected, I guess, since most dimmers screw with the power transmission "downstream" a bit, even when on 100%. NOTE: If the bulb is in a NORMAL on/off lamp with NO dimmer, there is NO flickering problem at all.--The light bulb remembers its last intensity when you turn it back on. Although this is generally a good thing, there is a downside: If the last intensity was 100%, and you say "Alexa, set Bulb 1 to 20%", the bulb will (very briefly) come on at 100% before quickly readjusting to the requested 20%. Slightly annoying but by no means a showstopper.-- The bulb is not infinitely dimmable; it bottoms out at about 2-3%, for a level that I would say is a bright nightlight. So, there's no going down to pure candlelight levels.-- White bulbs are quite affordable. However Philips Hue full-color bulbs are crazy expensive; hope they will drop in price soon. Didn't have a full-color bulb to play with so I can't confirm how well the Alexa app controls the hue changes.And now for some NON-SMARTHOME observations:-- Although sound quality is supposed to be better on the Echo Plus than the Echo, to my ears they sound very similar so don't expect to hear too much improvement, if any. I could maybe tell a bit better treble presence. I'm not a heavy bass guy so I don't know if it handles deep bass better. On the music I normally listen to, I did an A/B test and really couldn't discern an improvement worth noting. Of much greater importance to the sound is where you place it -- I have an Echo next to a hollow drywall wall, and it sounds WAY huger (due to the sympathetic vibrations/resonance) than another Echo that is next to a cement block wall.-- Major disappointment, which is why I'm giving it four stars instead of five: The new AUX port is pretty stupid, in that when you plug something into it, it disables the internal speaker. To me, whether we wanted the internal speaker disabled should've been controllable via an app setting. I looked, and could find no such app setting. What I was hoping to do was plug it into my stereo, but still use the internal speaker when the stereo was off. WELL TOO BAD, NO DICE. In addition to turning the stereo on & off manually, I would also have to plug & unplug the AUX cable manually. That's just dumb. Essentially, using the AUX port turns this pricey device into a glorified "Dot"... what's the point? I'd be better off using a separate Dot connected to my stereo. Perhaps this is fixable in a firmware upgrade?That's it. Short version: Absolutely DO get the Echo Plus if you want to get started with Zigbee-style smarthome stuff and don't want to mess with a separate hub and separate smartphone app -- it should work great!!!