Smart tech such as voice controlled smart speakers are making their way into all our homes and ours isn’t any different. We already have Echo Dots and an Echo Show in various rooms throughout the house and they get used from everything as mundane as asking the time or setting alarms to playing music, or down the serious stuff and the kids favourite – asking Alexa to give them a fart!
In our kitchen we had an Amazon Echo Dot that we had connected to a Bluetooth speaker. We have just recently had the kitchen redecorated and used the opportunity to have a clear out and declutter. One of the things we didn’t want on the countertop was the Echo Dot but had nowhere suitable where it could be put out of the way whilst still being able to use it. Then we noticed the Amazon Echo Flex with Alexa.
The Echo Flex is a more budget-friendly compact plug-in version of the Dot that is perfect for our kitchen setup with the Bluetooth speaker.
For those of you who are familiar with the Dot, the Flex is very different – it is not really any use as a speaker for playing music, but is perfect for setting timers, intercom functions, asking questions, checking the weather, controlling other smart tech in the home; turning on lights, adjusting thermostats, locking doors and more, with compatible connected devices.
The Echo Flex device plugs into a normal power outlet without the need to sit on top of something else and no need to run cables anywhere, effectively meaning that it can be plugged in anywhere around the home. It looks similar to a wifi plug you would use to extend your wifi signal into other rooms. It has a small speaker that is perfect for voice but sounds quite tinny if using to play music. It also has Bluetooth so that you can connect to an external Bluetooth speaker and a 3.5mm audio jack if you prefer to connect to speaker using a wire. It also has a USB port that you can use to charge your phone or attach an optional extra third party device such as a night light, motion sensor or even a clock.
Setting up is very easy using the app (when purchasing you can have it linked to your Amazon account for easier setup or untick the option if you are buying for someone else).
We connected it via Bluetooth to an external speaker as we would also be using it for music (Amazon do have warnings on their website that it is not optimised for music and an external speaker of some sort would be required).
For the most part, the Flex works as well as our Echo Dots, except when the cooker extractor is on making a quite loud noise or when we placed it too near the Bluetooth speaker itself (the output from the speaker seems to mask any commands that we give it). The sound from the internal speaker is perfect for voice but is tinny for music, connected to our external speaker the sound is perfect.
We like it because it just plugs into a wall socket and can be “hidden” as such and is not taking up room on the countertop. It functions just as well as our other Echo devices, letting us drop in on the other devices, setting timers for when we are cooking etc, checking the status of our Amazon orders (we have the ordering function turned off so that the kids can’t accidentally order something).
For those that are worried about privacy issues and it “listening in”, the microphone can easily be turned off/on at the touch of a button on the front of the device.
We are impressed with the Flex, especially if you want a cheaper alternative to a Dot and you don’t want it for music (unless you connect another speaker). If can be plugged in anywhere around the house and the USB port is getting lots of use for charging our phones and tablets (we don’t need another charger plugged it).
An inexpensive and compact smart speaker that is perfect for rooms where you just require notifications, controlling other compatible smart devices, asking random questions (or kids asking it to fart) or even ordering your shopping.
The only negatives are that the microphone does sometimes struggle with background noise and the speaker isn’t great for music playback, but it is only designed for voice feedback and it does this well. If you want better sound it does have the option to connect your own speaker.
If you want Alexa in your home for the basic functions on a device that is hidden away without losing a plug socket to charge your phone then the Echo Flex is the device for the job. If you want a smart speaker for music listening then you would be better off with a Dot or adding your own speaker.
[UPDATE] After using for several weeks now we have had to revise our rating of 4.5/5 to 2/5. When it works, it works well but it is becoming increasing difficult to get it to pick up commands, respond in the correct way, or respond at all, and is really becoming unusable. It is possible that we have a faulty item and needs to be exchanged or the quality just isn’t as good as its sister devices.
Available to buy from Amazon here.