Effectively an Amazon Echo Plus without the Zigbee Smart Home Hub, the Amazon Echo 3rd Gen is a far better product than its predecessor. With improved audio, this is the model to buy if you want a well-priced smart speaker through which you can also listen to music. You can even boost sound by creating a stereo pair with two units, or one Echo 3rd Gen and an Echo Plus 2nd Gen. For most people, the loss of the Zigbee hub won't be a problem, making the Echo 3rd Gen the best-value and best all-round Alexa-powered speaker on the market.
- Improved sound
- Same price as the previous model
- Great colour choices
- Review Price: £89.99
- Amazon Alexa integrated
- 148 x 99 x 99mm
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- Microphone mute, volume and Alexa controls
- 0.8in tweeter and 3in subwoofer
- 1 x 3.5mm audio output
The Amazon Echo has been through something of a strange product journey. Starting out as the original smart speaker, it was soon joined by a number of relatives. More recently, the Amazon Echo 2nd Gen was slightly outshone by the Echo Plus 2nd Gen: sure, the Echo 2nd Gen was cheaper, but it didn’t sound as good. With the Amazon Echo 3rd Gen, the product line now makes more sense.
Effectively an Echo Plus without the smart home hub, the Echo 3rd Gen offers the same sound quality at a lower price. For many people, then, this will be the Echo speaker to buy.
Amazon Echo 3rd Gen design – A neat-looking speaker now available in an extra colour
The Echo Plus 2nd Gen was an attractive-looking device, so it’s nice to see that Amazon has stuck with the same design for the new Echo. In fact, both this and the previous generation of device are exactly the same size (148 x 99 x 99mm) and sport the same style of case. The difference is that the Echo 3rd Gen is available in an extra colour option, Twilight Blue, which accompanies the Charcoal (black), Heather Grey and Sandstone (white) options.
The control layout is identical, too, with the Echo home to volume buttons, a microphone mute and an Alexa activation button. Peek around the rear of the device and you’ll still see a 3.5mm jack. It can be used as an audio input, which could be useful if you want to boost the sound from an external device such as a TV.
If you’re going to use it as an audio output then you might as well save a fortune and buy the Amazon Echo Input instead.
Related: Which Amazon Echo should you buy?
Amazon Echo 3rd Gen features – No Zigbee hub, no problem
The main difference between the Echo 3rd Gen and the Echo Plus 2nd Gen is that the new speaker doesn’t have a built-in Zigbee hub for connecting smart home devices directly. Is that a problem? For most folk, it won’t be.
The presence of Zigbee means that some devices, such as Philips Hue bulbs, can connect directly – although the level of control doesn’t extend to that on offer when using a Philips Hue Bridge. As such, the lack of Zigbee isn’t such a disaster; Alexa has powerful Routines that can be triggered by devices coming from plenty of manufacturers, regardless of whether they’re connected directly, or via an Alexa Skill.
For example, if you have a Hue motion sensor or a Ring Alarm motion sensor, you can use that to trigger an Alexa Routine that turns down your heating in a particular room when you’re not in it. Amazon has put in much work with Alexa Routines – so much so that they’re now a powerful means by which you can automate your home, whilst also running multiple tasks through a single voice command.
As with all other Echo speakers, the Echo 3rd Gen connects to Alexa via the cloud, giving you access to the same range of features available on other smart speakers. For that reason, my Amazon Alexa guide is kept up-to-date with the latest features.
In short, Alexa is pretty good at answering general questions, and informing you about upcoming appointments – but particularly good when it comes to smart home control. In addition, there are always new features appearing online, such as the ability to make Alexa outbound calls to UK landlines and mobile numbers for free.
Amazon Echo 3rd Gen sound quality – A decent mid-range speaker
If there was one thing that I particularly liked about the Echo Plus 2nd Gen, it was the improved sound quality. Fortunately, the Echo 3rd Gen carries the same internal components, with a 0.8in tweeter and 3in subwoofer.
Bass is loud and punchy, and the high-end comes across faithfully. The mid-range loses slight detail, so some tracks don’t maintain their full subtlety. However, for the price – and particularly since the Echo 3rd Gen is £50 cheaper than the Plus – the sound quality is excellent. I’d happily listen to music on this speaker.
Plus, you have the option to boost sound quality further. First, you can create an Alexa stereo pair using two Echo 3rd Gen speakers (or an Echo Plus 2nd Gen, if you have one). You can also add an in Amazon Echo Sub for more bass. The combination of both is quite impressive, creating a superb mid-range system that costs just under £300 – or not much more than a single HomePod.
It’s true that the HomePod sounds better as a single device, but you don’t get the same levels of stereo separation. And while two HomePods in a stereo pair is better than the Echo combination, you’ll be paying closer to £600 for this.
Should I buy the Amazon Echo 3rd Gen?
Trying to work out if the Echo was worth buying used to be more difficult: the speaker sounded better than a Dot, but it wasn’t as good as a Plus, despite being cheaper than a Plus. Today, the job is far easier: you get the same decent, mid-range audio here as you do on the Plus, but you save £50.
For that saving, you have to sacrifice the Zigbee hub, although this is unlikely to affect most folk; if you’re not sure if you need this feature, you probably don’t.
The overall result is that the Echo 3rd Gen now feels like something of a bargain. In addition, it’s a great starting point for building a better-sounding music system with the help of an additional speaker and the Amazon Echo Sub.
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