Don’t sleep on the Amazon Echo Flex when you step into the smart home

I have previously written that the Amazon Echo Dot is the cheapest smart speaker of the company you would like to buy. While I agree with that, I’m also not afraid to admit that it’s pretty harsh on the Echo Flex. The crucial difference is that only one of these two is good for listening to music.

The Echo Flex is actually not a bad product at all. I have one and use it most days. But I never use it to listen to music, radio or podcasts. It’s terrible for that. Amazon knows it’s terrible, there’s a big warning on the page when you go to buy one. The speaker in the Echo Flex is not designed for this.

But for the price you can often get, there’s a very good reason to buy. This is the cheapest way to start a smart home right away. And you even get some decent flexibility from the device itself. The name isn’t just for show.

The Echo Flex is firmly in impulse buying territory

Amazon Echo Flex

The main reason I bought an Echo Flex is that it has become an impulse buy item. In the UK you can buy one now for just £9.99. It was also as low as $9.99 in the US, although perhaps predictably leading up to Prime Day it’s holding tight to its regular price.

I already have extensive coverage of Alexa devices throughout my home. But there are gaps, and at the current price point it was one of those no-brainer moments to fill one with an Echo Flex. Since the entire unit attaches to the outlet, I placed one on the landing somewhere I wanted some coverage but also didn’t want trailing cables. An Echo Flex under £10 fits perfectly.

But it’s just as perfect for those who want to dip one more toe into the smart home world. Speaker aside, this is a full Amazon Echo with the power of the Alexa ecosystem behind it.

A perfect starter device

Amazon Echo Flex

Overall, the Echo Dot is still the first product I would recommend. But it also costs about three times as much as an Echo Flex when discounted. If music is a secondary feature, an Echo Flex is a great alternative buy.

The sound quality reminds me of the first and second generation Echo Dot. It’s loud enough to hear in a room with noisy kids, but it lacks any kind of bass or fidelity. It’s like an average quality smartphone speaker, only louder.

But as a device to activate Alexa and get a response, it works just fine. The microphone can even pick up voices from the next room. Likewise, unless you live in a castle or something, you could easily hear the response in the same place.

Most importantly, most of the key features of what makes an Amazon Echo worth buying are right here in the Echo Flex. The hardware privacy controls are here, and in addition to Alexa, there are other cool things you can do with it.

Extending the Echo Flex

Amazon Echo Flex with Night Light Add-on

At the bottom of the Echo Flex is a plain old USB port. The obvious use case here is for charging your phone. After all, the Flex takes up an outlet, so Amazon has added a way to charge your phone. You won’t get fast charging, of course, but it’s there. The real bonus of having this USB port is being able to add third-party add-ons, part of the “Works with Amazon” program. There isn’t a huge range, but there are some handy bits you can integrate.

The most appealing motion sensor, at least for this writer. My plan is to attach it to the Echo Flex on my landing and use it to activate the light at night when it detects motion. This way the children have a clear path to the bathroom without looking for switches in the dark and I don’t have to leave the landing on all night.

Alternatively, there’s a night light module and a clock, but for the latter you’d be better served with an Echo Dot that definitely has the LED clock display.

You can even use the Echo Flex for music if you have access to a decent Bluetooth or wired speaker. The Echo Flex can be plugged into either one, using the Alexa app for the former or the 3.5mm output for the latter. It’s a very neat, potentially very capable little box.

Nice discounts to get

With Amazon Prime Day fast approaching, the chance to get an Echo Flex for an insanely low price is bound to come again. In some places, say the UK, you can now get one for that low, low £9.99. In the US, hold on for Prime Day.

Still, the Echo Flex is an oft-overlooked part of Amazon’s smart speaker lineup, perhaps unfairly. As a speaker in itself, it is admittedly mediocre. But it’s a perfect, inexpensive way to try out some smart home features. Or, as I’ve done, it’s an inexpensive way to increase your Alexa coverage at home. Look behind the poor music performance and you’ll find something damn useful.

    The cheapest Echo is a perfect place to start your smart home journey if music isn’t high on your priority list.

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