Amazon Echo Flex review
Among the many new Echo devices that Amazon launched back in September was the Flex. It’s the new entry-level Alexa device and it’s quite brilliant.
Intended for use where you just need to bark a command at Alexa or get a weather update, it plugs directly into a mains socket and offers a basic mobile phone-style speaker for audio. No wires, no fuss.
This makes it ideal for garages, halls or landings where you might want to control smart lights, locks, switches or plugs.
But thanks to a couple of nifty add-ons, it’s more versatile than you might expect.
Echo Flex: Price & availability
You can buy an Echo Flex from Amazon for £24.99 / $24.99, though at the time of writing it was discounted to £19.99 / $19.99. And in the US, you can buy a pair for $35 if you enter the code FLEX2PK at the checkout.
That makes it half the price of an Echo Dot, but the Dot is often on sale so it’s worth waiting for a deal if you’d prefer a speaker that’s good enough for music playback.
You can also check out our guide to the Amazon Echo range.
Echo Flex: Features & design
Amazon spotted companies making wall mounts for Echo Dots, and some of these even let you pop your Dot into a holder that attached to the mains adapter. And so it thought it may as well solve the problem with a new model, and thus the Flex was born.
At 67 x 72mm it’s small enough to plug into a double wall socket (the UK type, at least) without blocking the neighbouring socket. The same isn’t true if you have an extension with multiple sockets as they tend to be closer together, but in any case, this is a very small device.
It only comes in an off-white colour, but this is undoubtedly a better choice than black, which would be far more conspicuous.
A small LED lights up blue to let you know Alexa is listening, and there are two buttons: the multi-purpose select button, and a mic-mute button. There are no volume buttons.
On the side is a 3.5mm audio output so you can connect a speaker for better sound, but in some ways this seems a little unnecessary for most people. However, it’s a bonus nonetheless.
Underneath is a USB port which you could use to charge your phone (though not fast charge it) but its real purpose is to allow you to attach accessories.
Currently there are only two: a motion sensor and a night light. These are made by a third party (Third Reality) for Amazon so are as close to official accessories as you can get.
They’re more expensive than they should be: at £14.99 / $14.99 each they’re more than half the price of the Flex itself, but the motion sensor in particular could be the killer feature that will make it worth the money.
We’re still waiting to receive one to test it out, but have already heard great reports that there is minimal delay between motion being sensed and the trigger action being carried out.
The sensor can be configured in the Alexa app and you can create a routine to do pretty much whatever you like. Commonly you’d set it to turn on lights when motion is detected, but you can equally get Alexa to read your Flash Briefing instead.
Unfortunately, there is no USB passthrough so you can pick only one accessory, not both.
Plus, because the motion sensor has to be plugged into the Flex, you can only have one unless you buy multiple Flex units. For most situations, though, none of this will be a problem.
In fact, the main problem most people will have is the location of their mains sockets, which tend to be near ground level. That’s fine for the motion sensor, but it means the speaker is further away.
In what we consider a bit of a missed opportunity, there’s no mains passthrough, but the Flex could have doubled as a smart plug that you could use to turn Alexa-compatible gadgets on and off.
Alexa skills and smart features
The two farfield mics can pick up your voice even when there’s noise, and the speaker is loud enough to hear Alexa most of the time.
And in terms of quality, the speaker is fine for making or receiving calls, for making broadcast announcements and listening to talk radio or podcasts.
These are just some of the things you can do with Alexa. But the Flex is just as capable as any other Echo speaker as far as Alexa is concerned. She will turn on your lights, turn off the fan, set timers, convert units, tell you what a ristretto is, add items to your shopping list, when the local supermarket shuts and a whole lot more. We’ve written a guide explaining how to enable Alexa skills.
The Flex is a great addition to the Echo range, and is ideal if you have lights and plugs you can control with Alexa in places where even an Echo Dot might be an over the top expense.
The accessories can make it even more useful, but it’s a shame that it isn’t a smart plug itself.
Amazon Echo Flex: Specs
- Size: 72 x 67 x 66 mm
- Weight: 166 g
- Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5 GHz)
- Bluetooth (A2DP support)
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