Amazon Echo (Dot) – Smart speakers are waiting for language course


Amazon has recently also officially sold its voice-controlled Echo and Echo Dot speakers in the Netherlands. However, the smart speakers do not yet understand our language and only work in English. Does buying an Amazon Echo make sense or should you wait until they understand Dutch? Techzle tested the speakers and compared them with the Google Nest Audio and Mini.

Amazon Echo and Echo Dot (4th generation)

price € 60 (Echo Dot), € 100 (Echo)
Color Dark gray
Link 802.11b / g / n / ac, bluetooth 5.0, line-in (Echo Dot), line-in and line-out (Echo)
Service Bluetooth, touch controls, Alexa app, voice
Format 89 x 100 x 100 millimeters (Echo Dot), 133 x 144 x 144 millimeters (Echo) (H x W x D)
Weight 328 grams (Echo Dot), 970 grams (Echo)
Website https://amazon.nl 8 Score 80 Score: 80

  • Pros
  • Sound quality (Echo)
  • Complete, clear app
  • Smart home capabilities
  • Accurate and fast voice control
  • Zigbee controller (Echo)
  • Negatives
  • Does not understand Dutch
  • App also in English only
  • Price Echo Dot

The Echo speakers have been for sale abroad for some time and recently also in the Netherlands. It concerns two models: the Echo Dot (60 euros) and Echo (100 euros). Amazon lent both devices for three weeks so that I could test them and compare them with the Google Nest Mini (40 euros) and Nest Audio (95 euros). Formidable competitors who use Google’s Assistant voice assistant and do speak Dutch.

At the Dutch introduction of the Echos, in November 2020, Amazon could not tell you about Dutch language support. “At the moment we have nothing to show yet,” said a top executive Nu.nl. Inquiry with the manufacturer shows that the statement has not changed. The Alexa voice assistant will continue to speak British English for the time being.

Installation

The introduction to the English speakers starts with installation. Plug in the Echo (Dot) and download the Alexa app for Android or iOS. This app can only be used in English. Log in or create an account and follow the simple steps to set up your speaker. This will only take a few minutes.

The app is clearly structured, offers many functions and, in my opinion, makes more sense than Google’s Home app. You use it for Nest speakers, but also for all kinds of other Google home automation and services. I like Amazon’s app better, although it cannot be used in Dutch.

Talk in English

Another plus of the Echos is their effect. The built-in microphones to pick up your voice commands and questions work particularly well. They almost always hear me right away the first time and process the information accurately and quickly. Faster than the Nest Mini and Nest Audio, that’s my experience. Smart home products in particular respond more quickly to voice commands via the Echo speaker. I notice the difference with the Nest’s because I already used them and now I am a little bothered by the longer processing time of Google’s platform. The difference may be a second, but it strikes me.

The big downside to all this beauty is that you have to pronounce the questions and commands in English. The Echo (Dot) cannot make chocolate from Dutch. Not a problem for those who speak good English, but if you are less adept at it, it can take some getting used to. Playing music and operating domotics you will probably have mastered quickly, because this is done via short and clear commands. Asking more complex questions can be more difficult, especially if you are not used to this or now do this in Dutch on a Google Nest speaker.

For a smart speaker that focuses on voice control, the lack of Dutch language is a serious concern. Especially because Amazon does not want to say anything about any Dutch language support.

Smart home capabilities

More positive are the many smart home options of the Echos. This shows that Amazon already started selling a voice-controlled speaker in 2014. In recent years, many developers have adapted their products or services to Amazon’s Alexa integration. A lot of home automation can therefore be operated via the Echo (Dot).

From lamps, security cameras and robot vacuum cleaners to thermostats, televisions and speakers; the range is very large. Almost all well-known brands support Alexa. Amazon’s own products are, as expected, well integrated with Alexa. For example, you can operate your smart Ring alarm system via voice commands, just to name an example.

It won’t surprise you, but the Echos can’t do much with Google’s Nest home automation. You can control the Nest thermostat with your voice and show the video images from a Nest camera on an Echo speaker with screen. Such an Echo speaker is not for sale via Amazon.nl, but with the German version.

The Echo also has an interesting function that is missing from the Echo Dot. It is a built-in Zigbee controller to control home automation. That controller can replace a hub and means, for example, that you can connect Philips Hue lamps directly to the Echo. The separately available Hue bridge is not necessary. Google’s Nest speakers lack this feature.

Sound quality of the Echo and Echo Dot

With all the possibilities of the Echos you would almost forget that they can also play music. The Echo Dot has one speaker as a compact model. Inside the larger Echo are an upright center speaker and two tweeters that wine left and right. The difference in sound quality is big. The Echo Dot sounds great for background music, but don’t imagine too much of it.

Compared to the Nest Mini, the Echo Dot performs better. This is not surprising given the larger housing. More interesting is the difference in quality between the Nest Audio and Echo. Although the speakers are roughly the same size, the Echo produces significantly better sound. Voices sound clearer, musical instruments appear fuller and the speaker produces much more bass. He makes his surface – in my case an Ikea coffee table – vibrate. The Nest Audio doesn’t and sounds a bit duller.

It is worth noting that you can only use the Nest Audio wirelessly. The Echo Dot can be connected to a good speaker set via its line output, which makes you so smart. The Echo can do this too and also supports line-in. This way you can play the sound of an external source from the Echo. Both speakers also support Bluetooth 5.0 and can therefore also play music via this wireless method. In addition, you can link two Echos or Echo Dots for stereo sound or multi-room audio, where all speakers play the same.

Privacy

Good to know is that the Echos work by letting you process voice commands on Amazon servers. This is done online and Amazon employees listen to a small part of the worldwide recordings to improve the Alexa voice assistant. The manufacturer has emphasized for years that the employees do not know whose recordings they are listening to, also in 2019.

The Echo speaker microphone is always on by default. Not everyone likes that. For that reason, the loudspeaker has a button that switches off the microphone completely, so that the loudspeaker does not hear anything. Only when you press the button again, it switches the microphones back on.

Conclusion: buy Amazon Echo?

The Amazon Echo and Echo Dot are smart speakers that leave a good technical impression. They respond accurately and quickly to voice commands, offer good sound quality and can be connected to a full speaker set. Amazon’s experience with smart home functions is reflected in the extensive Alexa support for a variety of services and products and a user-friendly app. Extra handy about the Echo is that it can also function as a hub thanks to its Zigbee controller.

The Echos are therefore ideal as a smart speaker to listen to hands-free music and / or to control your smart home. But then I come to the main flaw of the speakers: they don’t understand Dutch. That is impractical if you pronounce Dutch (street) names, radio stations, artists, product names and shops, because the Echo does not understand them. In addition, you must ask all questions and commands in English. It is better to live with that, but it remains non-ideal. Google’s Nest speakers can be used in Dutch and that is a real advantage.

On the other hand, Google’s speakers sound less good, music is less versatile and have less extensive smart home capabilities. Amazon therefore has the basics in order, but has yet to resolve the language barrier. The Echo and Echo Dot are therefore now for a niche audience, but have enormous potential.

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