Whereas the compact and cheap Echo Dot makes for an effective way to place Alexa in your bed room, den, or residence workplace, it’s not a lot assist in an area with minimal or nonexistent shelf house, akin to a kitchen counter, a hallway, or a instrument shed. Enter the Echo Flex, a diminutive, squarish Echo speaker with an built-in AC energy adapter so you possibly can plug it instantly right into a wall outlet.
The Flex’s iffy audio high quality isn’t appropriate for music, however it’s completely nice for chatting with Alexa, whereas the built-in USB port permits you to connect non-compulsory nightlight and motion-sensor modules. Better of all, the Flex’s $25 listing worth (which we’re already seeing discounted) makes it enticingly reasonably priced.
Weighing in at 5.2 ounces and roughly the scale of a USB wall adapter, the boxy, 1.75 inch-thick Echo Flex (not counting the 2 rear AC prongs) is, from a design facet anyway, a far cry from the fabric-covered Echo Dot. Whereas the Dot appears proper at residence on a bookshelf subsequent to household photographs, the utilitarian Flex appears prefer it belongs in a toolbox; certainly, it’s an ideal instance of type assembly perform.
On the entrance of the Flex are the usual Echo “Motion” and mic-muting buttons, with an indicator gentle above them that illuminates when Alexa is listening, together with a pair of flanking microphone holes. Beneath the buttons are two small speaker ports, whereas a 3.5mm line-out jack sits on the proper aspect of the unit.
These are basically the identical controls you’ll discover on the Echo Dot, with a notable exception: there aren’t any quantity controls, which suggests you’ll must ask Alexa or fiddle with the Alexa app to regulate the Flex’s quantity. (Then once more, I can’t bear in mind the final time I really touched the quantity buttons on my Echo Dot.)
Look on the underside of the Flex and also you’ll discover its USB Kind-A charging port, which might provide as much as 7.5 watts of charging energy for a smartphone or different appropriate machine. The USB port additionally acts as a socket for snap-on third-party modules that add performance to the Flex. For now, two can be found: a movement sensor and a wise nightlight. These price $15 every (you can too purchase them bundled with the Flex). When plugged in, the modules add about an inch to the Flex’s total peak. I examined the Flex with the movement sensor (which I’ll focus on in larger element momentarily), however I didn’t attempt the nightlight.
One characteristic that’s lacking from the Flex is a passthrough AC socket, which suggests you’ll basically lose an influence socket whenever you plug the Flex right into a wall outlet. That might be a problem in, say, a kitchen, significantly you probably have the Flex plugged into an outlet above the counter the place you may additionally plan on plugging in mixers, blenders, or toasters. At the very least the Flex doesn’t take up each sockets, as long as it’s plugged into the underside one. You may additionally contemplate deploying an influence strip or surge protector right here (click on this hyperlink to examine our high picks in surge protectors).
Nonetheless, the truth that the Flex plugs into any wall outlet with out the necessity of an influence wire or a flat floor opens up all types of fascinating potentialities. Apart from the truth that it occupies an influence socket that you simply may use for an additional equipment, it’s fairly neat to have Alexa at your beck and name above the kitchen counter, on a workshop wall, and even in a hallway, all locations the place a bigger sensible speaker received’t match.
Getting the Flex up and operating is easy if you have already got Echo audio system in your home. In case you purchase the Flex utilizing the Amazon account that your house Alexa gadgets are registered to, the Flex ought to have the ability to join itself to your house Wi-Fi routinely, together with your different Echo audio system appearing as “helper” gadgets for the connection course of, no password required. The setup course of labored flawlessly for me, with the Flex connecting to the Wi-Fi community inside a minute or so after I’d plugged it in. Even when you don’t have another Echo audio system at residence, establishing the Flex is your first Echo machine, you possibly can set it up as you’d another Echo speaker utilizing the Alexa cellular app.
As for the Flex’s non-compulsory modules, properly, you simply plug them into the Flex’s USB socket they usually work, with Alexa discovering the modules routinely. After getting a module plugged into the Flex, you need to use the Alexa app to rename the module (“Kitchen movement sensor,” for instance”) or add it to routines, or you possibly can merely ask Alexa to manage it (“Alexa, flip hallway nightlight on”).
Options and performance
One you recover from the boring design and crappy sound high quality of the Echo Flex (we’ll focus on the Flex’s audio in additional element momentarily), you’ll begin to notice that the Flex can do just about something that an Echo Dot can.
For instance, you possibly can ask Alexa to carry out the standard vary of duties, from checking on the climate and reciting sports activities scores to turning in your lights and enabling “Guard” mode (which makes Alexa preserve an ear out for such suspicious sounds as breaking glass and wailing hearth alarms).
As with an Echo Dot or another Echo speaker, you possibly can pair the Flex with an exterior Bluetooth speaker, or you possibly can join an exterior speaker utilizing the three.5mm audio jack on the proper aspect of the unit. And when you want a second of privateness, you possibly can press the mic mute button, whereas the Motion button permits you to silence alarms or reset the machine.
The Flex’s non-compulsory modules make the diminutive speaker much more helpful. The sensible nightlight module, for instance, could be a intelligent alternative when you plugged the speaker right into a hallway outlet. For the Flex that I put in in my kitchen, I created an Alexa routine for its modular movement sensor to show off my kitchen lights after 15 minutes of inactivity. (I might have additionally created routines to, say, activate the kitchen lights every time somebody entered the room, with each daylight and nightlight modes; however in the long run, I opted to maintain it easy.)
As I’ve already talked about, the Flex’s audio high quality isn’t nice so far as music’s involved, and Amazon (to its credit score) makes no bones about it, saying clearly within the product description that the Flex’s 0.6-inch speaker has “not been optimized for music playback.” Certainly, the audio high quality of the Flex’s “mini” driver is akin to that of an AM radio or a walkie-talkie, and it makes the Echo Dot’s so-so 1.6-inch driver sound positively lush as compared. In case you actually wish to play music on the Flex, you’re higher off pairing it with a Bluetooth speaker or plugging it right into a wired speaker through the three.5mm audio jack. You too can ask it to play music on one other Echo machine or a speaker group.
Whereas the Flex’s puny speaker is nothing to jot down residence about, it’s respectable sufficient—and loud sufficient—to make Alexa’s voice completely audible in say, a busy kitchen, even whenever you’re throughout the room. Simply as importantly, the Flex’s built-in mics are delicate sufficient to listen to you whereas the fridge is buzzing or the tap’s operating. I additionally tried the Flex in a hallway outlet that was solely a foot or so above the ground, and as soon as once more, Alexa had no bother listening to me, even after I was standing a number of yards away and talking in a quiet voice.
Now, you probably have a blender or a desk noticed roaring away, or another loud equipment operating, all bets are off. I fired up the Cuisinart meals processor in our kitchen and tried to wake Alexa, and she or he couldn’t hear even after I was virtually shouting proper in entrance of the Flex. If you wish to chat with Alexa within the shed, you’ll want to show the drill press off, first.
Audio system and microphones apart, the Alexa-powered Flex behaved exactly as my different Echo audio system do, diligently answering questions, obeying instructions, controlling sensible gadgets and sounding alarms, and its non-compulsory modules—or a minimum of the movement sensor that I examined—labored precisely as promised.
Whereas it’s definitely no music speaker (nor was it supposed to be), the compact, plug-in Echo Flex makes for an effective way to place Alexa in locations the place different Echo audio system received’t fairly match. We additionally love the Flex’s modular design, which permits for such add-ons because the evening gentle and movement sensor modules, with (hopefully) extra to comply with. Setup is a breeze, and the Flex’s twin mics do a pleasant job of detecting your voice from throughout a room.