One of the easiest smart speakers to set up, the Amazon Echo Flex is a quick and simple way to add voice control to any room. Neatly, it can be upgraded to be a night light or motion sensor, although you can use it as a low-power phone charger, too. A weedy speaker makes it only good enough for voice replies, and this is a smart speaker that has more niche appeal, with the Echo Dot proving to be better for most people.
- Review Price: £24.99
Just when you thought that there couldn’t possibly another way for Amazon to introduce a new type of Echo smart speaker, along comes the Echo Flex. The cheapest Echo device with an integrated speaker, the Echo Flex simply plugs into a wall socket and you’re good to go.
Its simplicity and low price make it an attractive option if you want to add voice control and smart assistant smarts to any room, but the poor sound quality limits what you can do with this model.
- Looks like a plug-in nightlight and is just as small
- USB connector on the bottom lets you add additional accessories
- You get the standard Echo controls on the front
Looking a bit like a plug-in nightlight, the Echo Flex is designed to be easy to connect – just plug it into a spare socket, and use the Alexa app to get it set up and you’re good to go. Measuring just 72 x 67 x 66mm, the Echo Flex is tiny and fits into a double socket without obscuring the other socket.
On the front, you get similar controls to other Echo devices, with the Action Button to call Alexa into action, and a mic on/off button to silence the speaker when you want some privacy. There are no volume controls on this model, so you have to rely on your voice to make changes. There’s also a light that shows you when Alexa is listening or responding.
On the side, there’s a 3.5mm audio output for hooking up an external set of speakers, although if you’re going to do this, the cheaper Echo Input is probably a better choice.
Underneath, there’s a USB port, which you can use for charging your phone, although this is only a 1.5A socket, so you won’t get fast charging. You can also use the port for accessories, including a Motion sensor (£14.99), which can be used in an Alexa Routine, a Night Light (£14.99), and the Smart Clock for Echo Flex.
Both add to the flexibility of the Flex, but in all cases, you have to think carefully about where you’re going to plug the speaker in. If you’ve got sockets low down on the wall or behind furniture, the Echo Flex isn’t going to be very good, as you won’t be able to hear its responses and the accessories probably won’t be that useful. Ideally, you’re after a higher-up plug socket, such as you typically find in a kitchen.
As the Echo Flex connects to the cloud to use Alexa, you can do everything here that you’ve come to expect. My full Amazon Alexa Guide goes into more detail but the Echo Flex can give you answers to questions, tell you what’s coming up in your calendar and make voice calls.
Given the small size and slightly weedy speaker, the Echo Flex is particularly well suited to being used for smart home control, turning on smart lights or controlling your heating. Being able to simply, and cheaply, add voice control to a room makes a lot of sense.
With a 0.6-inch speaker inside, the Echo Flex really is the weediest of smart speakers. Playing music on it is tortuous, with a tinny, distorted finish that will ruin anything that you want to listen to. If you have a Sonos system that you want to voice control, the Echo Flex could be a good companion, though.
Fortunately, voice responses are what this smart speaker is designed for, with the speaker good enough that you can clearly hear things like the current weather forecast or responses to general questions.
I do have to say that the Flex is pretty quiet, even on maximum volume: another good reason to place it carefully.
You should buy it if…
- You don’t have much room
This Echo smart speaker is little bigger than a plug and slots into a wall socket, making it a quick and simple upgrade.
- You will use the upgrade slot
You can add a clock, light or motion sensor to the bottom, letting you upgrade what the Flex can do.
You should not buy it if…
- You want better sound quality
The Echo Dot is a superior product for not much more, with a louder and clearer speaker.
- You have sockets at floor level
For the most part, if you plug the Echo Flex in at floor level you won’t be able to use its upgrade slot easily (you can’t see the clock, for example), and the speaker is harder to hear.
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