While the compact and cheap Echo Dot makes for a good way to place Alexa in your bed room, den, or house workplace, it’s not a lot assist in an area with minimal or nonexistent shelf area, corresponding to a kitchen counter, a hallway, or a device shed. Enter the Echo Flex, a diminutive, squarish Echo speaker with an built-in AC energy adapter so you possibly can plug it straight right into a wall outlet.
The Flex’s iffy audio high quality isn’t appropriate for music, however it’s completely effective for chatting with Alexa, whereas the built-in USB port permits you to connect non-obligatory nightlight and motion-sensor modules. Best of all, the Flex’s $25 checklist worth (which we’re already seeing discounted) makes it enticingly inexpensive.
Weighing in at 5.2 ounces and roughly the dimensions 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. While the Dot appears to be like proper at house on a bookshelf subsequent to household photographs, the utilitarian Flex appears to be like 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 “Action” and mic-muting buttons, with an indicator mild 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 facet of the unit.
Those are basically the identical controls you’ll discover on the Echo Dot, with a notable exception: there aren’t any quantity controls, which implies you’ll must ask Alexa or fiddle with the Alexa app to regulate the Flex’s quantity. (Then once more, I can’t keep in mind the final time I really touched the amount buttons on my Echo Dot.)
Look on the underside of the Flex and also you’ll discover its USB Type-A charging port, which might provide as much as 7.5 watts of charging energy for a smartphone or different suitable 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 top. I examined the Flex with the movement sensor (which I’ll focus on in higher element momentarily), however I didn’t attempt the nightlight.
One function that’s lacking from the Flex is a passthrough AC socket, which implies you’ll basically lose an influence socket while you plug the Flex right into a wall outlet. That may very well be a difficulty in, say, a kitchen, significantly if in case you have the Flex plugged into an outlet above the counter the place you may also plan on plugging in mixers, blenders, or toasters. At 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 this link to read about our top picks in surge protectors).
Still, the truth that the Flex plugs into any wall outlet with out the necessity of an influence wire or a flat floor opens up every kind of fascinating potentialities. Aside from the truth that it occupies an influence socket that you simply would possibly 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 gained’t match.
Getting the Flex up and working is easy if you have already got Echo audio system in your own home. If you purchase the Flex utilizing the Amazon account that your own home Alexa units are registered to, the Flex ought to be capable to join itself to your own home Wi-Fi mechanically, together with your different Echo audio system performing as “helper” units 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 for those who don’t have every other Echo audio system at house, establishing the Flex is your first Echo machine, you possibly can set it up as you’ll every other Echo speaker utilizing the Alexa cellular app.
As for the Flex’s non-obligatory modules, properly, you simply plug them into the Flex’s USB socket and so they work, with Alexa discovering the modules mechanically. Once you could have a module plugged into the Flex, you should use the Alexa app to rename the module (“Kitchen motion sensor,” for instance”) or add it to routines, or you possibly can merely ask Alexa to manage it (“Alexa, turn hallway nightlight on”).
Features 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 same old 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 maintain an ear out for such suspicious sounds as breaking glass and wailing hearth alarms).
As with an Echo Dot or every other Echo speaker, you possibly can pair the Flex with an exterior Bluetooth speaker, or you possibly can join an exterior speaker utilizing the 3.5mm audio jack on the proper facet of the unit. And for those who want a second of privateness, you possibly can press the mic mute button, whereas the Action button permits you to silence alarms or reset the machine.
The Flex’s non-obligatory modules make the diminutive speaker much more helpful. The sensible nightlight module, for instance, can be a intelligent selection for those who 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 may have additionally created routines to, say, activate the kitchen lights every time somebody entered the room, with each daylight and nightlight modes; however ultimately, 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.” Indeed, 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 compared. If 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 by way of the 3.5mm audio jack. You also can ask it to play music on one other Echo machine or a speaker group.
While the Flex’s puny speaker is nothing to jot down house about, it’s respectable sufficient—and loud sufficient—to make Alexa’s voice completely audible in say, a busy kitchen, even while you’re throughout the room. Just as importantly, the Flex’s built-in mics are delicate sufficient to listen to you whereas the fridge is buzzing or the tap’s working. 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 hassle listening to me, even once I was standing a number of yards away and talking in a quiet voice.
Now, if in case you have a blender or a desk noticed roaring away, or another loud equipment working, all bets are off. I fired up the Cuisinart meals processor in our kitchen and tried to wake Alexa, and he or she couldn’t hear even once 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.
Speakers and microphones apart, the Alexa-powered Flex behaved exactly as my different Echo audio system do, diligently answering questions, obeying instructions, controlling sensible units and sounding alarms, and its non-obligatory modules—or no less than the movement sensor that I examined—labored precisely as promised.
While it’s definitely no music speaker (nor was it meant to be), the compact, plug-in Echo Flex makes for a good way to place Alexa in locations the place different Echo audio system gained’t fairly match. We additionally love the Flex’s modular design, which permits for such add-ons because the night time mild 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.