Alexa wants a place in all of our homes, but reaching total smart home omnipotence means finding a way into every nook and cranny. Enter the Echo Flex.
The Flex is a plug with Alexa inside, but it‚Äôs not a smart plug, at least not by our usual definition. Rather, the Flex is a tiny Alexa speaker that plugs into an outlet and gives you another way to talk to Amazon's assistant.
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Plug in one of its accessories and it can also function as a motion sensor or night light. Don‚Äôt want either? You can use the USB port to charge your phone instead.
The Flex is ‚Äď actually yeah ‚Äď a flex: Amazon is now so confident in Alexa‚Äôs usefulness that it wants to sell you a product that's little more than a microphone for the assistant. This is a total gamble on Alexa's utility.
But is it worth the $25 price tag? We‚Äôve been living with it to find out.
Amazon Echo Flex: Design and installation
Until now, the Echo Dot has been the cheapest way to put Alexa in your home. So considering the Flex is half the price of the Dot, you should expect some drawbacks ‚Äď and design is one of them.
The 2.8 x 2.6 x 2 inch block has a very utilitarian look, and only comes in white. It‚Äôs basically a tiny brick that goes into an outlet, but that also means it won't be as in view as, say, an Echo Dot or Echo Show.
The front of the Flex has a button to activate Alexa along with a mute button, microphones, speakers, and a small LED that lights up when Alexa is listening.
On the bottom (or top if, like us, you prefer to orient it as such) is a USB-A port, into which can go one of the Flex‚Äôs two accessories, the smart light and the motion sensor, which are sold separately for $15 each.
On the side is a 3.5mm audio jack, which is there should you wish to plug the Flex into a nearby speaker for improved sound quality. Alternatively, the Flex offers a Bluetooth connection, should you want to connect to a speaker that way instead.
Installation is a doddle. With it being one of Amazon's own devices, you simply search for it under the Devices section in the app and ‚Äď within seconds ‚Äď it will be connected to your account and awaiting instructions.
Amazon Echo Flex: Features and in use
The Flex‚Äôs biggest drawback becomes obvious within moments of plugging it in: the speakers are truly cack; perfectly functional for hearing Alexa, but nothing more.
Don‚Äôt buy the Flex with the expectation or playing music or even podcasts on it. Your ears deserve better than that. You deserve better than that. Amazon even warns on its website that the Flex is ‚Äúnot optimized for music playback‚ÄĚ ‚Äď so you know it‚Äôs got to be bad.
But we don‚Äôt consider this a huge black mark against the Flex, simply because audio isn't its priority. The Flex is primarily about putting Alexa‚Äôs ears in more places around the house, blanketing the dead spots left by other smart speakers.
This is Alexa at its most ambient, and we think the Flex works best in places like a hallway or a bathroom ‚Äď sports Alexa has, until now, had a harder time reaching.
Of course, the Flex can behave like any other Echo, giving you weather updates or the latest football scores. But more usefully, it gives you full control over your smart home devices and speakers. We've found the mic sensitivity on the Flex to be good, even when speaking at moderate volume across a room, although the smaller blue LED means it's less obvious when Alexa is listening.
But our favorite thing about Flex is the accessories. The night light will come on when it's dark, and you can ask Alexa to adjust its color and brightness. In our case, the Flex has found a home in the bathroom, where we‚Äôve otherwise not been able to place a smart speaker.
While we don't necessarily need Alexa there, the night light has given the Flex a purpose. Clever, Amazon, clever.
However, the motion sensor is arguably more useful than the night light, letting you set up interesting "triggers" for Alexa routines. For example, you could set it to switch on your smart lights when it detects someone walking by, or even have it perform an action when motion hasn't been detected for a period of time.
Our only criticisms is that we wish we could have both the night light and motion sensor attached at the same time; it's a shame we have to choose just one.
- Stays out of the way
- Accessories are cool
- Sound quality is poor
- Looks meh
- Only one accessory at a time
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