A couple of weeks ago we reviewed the new, third generation Echo Dot. Today, we have with us its more expensive sibling, the Amazon Echo Plus second generation, which was also launched alongside.
As with the smaller Echo Dot third gen, the story with the new Echo Plus second gen is the same; it now has a new design and the sound quality is better.
Starting with the design, the second generation Echo Plus looks like a stretched out version of the new Echo Dot. It looks like a giant marshmallow, especially in our white colored variant.
The new model is largely covered in fabric around the sides. On the top is a plastic surface with the four buttons for volume, Alexa, and mute. Around them is a ring of seven far-field microphones and around those is a ring of LEDs.
At the back of the Echo Plus is the port for pluggin in power and an audio jack for connecting powered speakers.
The base is rubberized and there is also a threaded mount hole, similar to the ones cameras have for tripods but narrower. I'm not entirely sure what its purpose is.
The good thing about the new design is the significantly improved build quality. The previous Echo Plus felt flimsy and creaked when held. The new model is sturdy and well put together with seamless construction.
Coming to the sound aspect, the new model features a single down-firing 3.0-inch woofer and a 0.8-inch tweeter. It also features audio processing by Dolby.
In practice, the audio does sound better than the first generation Echo Plus. The sound is warmer and more full-bodied with a more extended bass response. Unfortunately, that's pretty much the extent of the improvement.
The overall audio quality of the Echo Plus remains lackluster. It sounds best when you're sitting close to it but the farther you move, even in a relatively small room, the audio starts losing all its energy and becomes small and flat. While the low-end is still passable, the mid-range and high-end are practically non-existent. The entire focus of the sound seemed to have been on the bass, which outside its small circle of effectiveness, is also humdrum.
Unfortunately, the Echo devices are simply not the best for music, despite Amazon's best efforts, or perhaps, the lack thereof. Something like a Sonos One is still your best bet if you want good audio with Alexa. Otherwise, you may want to look into a Google Home Max or an Apple HomePod, if you are really serious about audio.
Overall, the new Echo Plus is a decent upgrade over its predecessor. The new design is a significantly better and makes it much nicer thing to have around your house. However, despite the noticeable improvement, the audio quality is still unimpressive and it's best if you don't consider it as part of your purchase decision.
Outside of that, the Echo Plus still redeems itself by having a built-in hub for automatically connecting a whole bunch of smart home devices, without needing a dedicated hub for each of them. That alone makes it worth considering for someone big on home automation. Alexa is also a great voice assistant and the Echo Plus does usual voice assistant duties with aplomb. But it's best to look elsewhere if audio quality is a priority for you.