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Hands on: Amazon Echo Flex review

Echo Flex brings Alexa to wherever you have a power outlet

What is a hands on review?
Amazon Echo Flex. Image Credit: Tech Radar
Image Credit: Tech Radar
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

The Amazon Echo Flex is a small and clever device that can bring Alexa voice control to rooms in your house where it’d otherwise be impossible thanks to its small, smart design.

For

  • Compact design
  • Full range of Alexa functionality
  • USB port allows for clever accessory add-ons

Against

  • Utilitarian look
  • Speaker is merely functional

Could this be the smartest smart plug ever? Almost certainly – the Amazon Echo Flex is a compact Echo speaker that plugs straight into a wall, no cables required.

Once plugged in, its onboard mic and small speaker brings Alexa AI voice smarts to corners of your home where it’d otherwise be inaccessible. It’s not without compromise, but with some cool accessories and flexible placement, it could prove incredibly popular.

Amazon Echo Flex. Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

(Image credit: Future)

Price and availability

The Amazon Echo Flex is available for pre-order now, priced at a pocket-money impulse-purchase point of just $24.99 / £24.99 (its additional add ons will be $14.99 each). That’s one of the cheapest ways to get Alexa in your home, rivaled only by the super-cheap Echo Input puck. The Echo Flex has the benefit of wall-socket power, giving it added flexibility of placement, whereas the speaker-less Input has to piggy-back off another audio device.

Amazon Echo Flex. Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

(Image credit: Future)

Design and features

The Amazon Echo Flex is, admittedly, not much of a looker. It most closely resembles a Wi-Fi range extender – plugging into a wall socket, it’s a gloss white box with a low profile and a couple of Alexa buttons - one to trigger the assistant, the other to mute the onboard mics. Two speaker grilles are on the lower part of the front side, while the ever-present signature blue Alexa-is-listening light is on the front, too. With no cabling, you simply plug it into the wall, connect it to your network via the Alexa app, and you’re good to go.

From here, its onboard mics give it all the functionality you’ve come to expect from other Alexa devices. Use that wake word, and the Flex comes to life, ready to playback songs, control smart home devices, set timers, reminders and give trivia and news updates, among many, many more useful functions. It’s essentially an Echo Dot in terms of what it can do, right down to an AUX-in port’s presence, except it plugs straight into a wall. This makes it far more flexible in terms of placement around a home, giving you plenty of options on how you want to access Amazon’s assistant in each room.

Where it sets itself truly apart from the other Amazon Echo devices in the range is an onboard USB port, situated on the lower side of the Flex. It’s a 7.5 watt USB 2.0 port, which will be useful for charging devices without losing a power port on your wall. 

It gets particularly interesting with its ability to support add on devices, though. Amazon has partnered with device manufacturer Third Reality, the Echo Flex also supports a night light that can be plugged into the bottom, and a motion sensor. Both of these can be configured to work with Alexa routines and voice commands, adding further flexibility and functionality to the Flex. It’ll be very interesting to see what other accessories come to the Flex, with Amazon already teasing there are more waiting in the wings.

Amazon Echo Flex. Image Credit: TechRadar

An Echo Flex with the motion sensor accessory on the bottom. Image Credit: TechRadar

(Image credit: Future)

Performance

The Amazon Echo Flex is not designed for music, that much is clear. Sure, it’ll play back any tune from any streaming service of your choosing, but its speaker is small, tinny and weak. This is very much an auxiliary Echo device, and while you could feasibly add it to a multi-group set up (and connect a more accomplished speaker over AUX in), you wouldn’t really want to – it’s simply not designed as a real listening device.

Instead, think of the Flex as a companion device to your Alexa ecosystem elsewhere. If you’ve smart bulbs in an attic, for instance, this would be the perfect accompaniment, being a low profile and low cost way of controlling them. As a bedside device it’d give you a quick update on the day’s weather, while we’d quite cheekily enjoy being able to listen to a podcast while on the toilet. We can dream, right?

Amazon wants to get Alexa in every room of your home – Flex makes this truly possible for the first time.

Early verdict

It ain’t pretty, but it doesn’t have to be. The diminutive Echo Flex opens up Alexa to otherwise inaccessible parts of your home, and thanks to its additional add-on accessories, could eventually be an interesting device in its own right. 

If you can fit more than the Flex into your home, but still don't have lots of space, check out the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock. It was also recently launched by Amazon and brings a smart new addition to the smart home favorite the Dot. 

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.