The latest line-up of Echo speakers, including the All-new Echo Plus (2nd Gen), is an attempt by Amazon to please audiophiles.

New design: The successor to the tall and thin first-gen Echo Plus, the All-new Echo Plus has a fatter and smaller form factor. That lowers its centre of gravity, making it more difficult to topple over when placed on a table.

The fabric finish surrounding the frame looks snazzy, compared to the bare metal-bodied predecessor. The trademark light-emitting diode (LED) light ring around the top corner lights up when Alexa is listening.

Easy to set up: Though compact in size, the speaker is not fully portable. It needs constant power supply. The initial setup is simple and can be done through the Amazon Alexa app (free on Android and iOS). Once connected, one can use the app as the interface for the speaker, to teach and enable new skills and games, add smart home devices to it and link the account to more audio streaming services such as Saavn and TuneIn (it doesn’t support Apple Music, Google Play Music or Google Podcasts). Speaking to Alexa is a breeze as it can detect and respond to the Indian accent quite well. One can use voice commands to play music, make calls, order products on Amazon.in, get news updates (limited options as of now), listen to e-books (only supports Kindle) and control IoT (internet of things) products like air purifiers, light bulbs and smart switches that support Alexa.

Loud but not for serious audiophiles: The Echo Plus sounds several notches louder and clearer than the predecessor. It has a bigger subwoofer for deeper bass and a 360-degree design which projects audio in all directions. The audio quality is improved from the original and it can fill a small room without sounding cranky. For better bass, users can add the Echo Sub (₹12,999) subwoofer. When issued voice commands, the speaker can detect sounds at very low decibels, meaning it is easy to give it commands, irrespective of your location in the room.

Verdict: The new Echo Plus is loud enough to be used as a stand-alone speaker for personal use. However, its real value lies in the fact that it can be used to control other IoT devices without separate hubs for each.  

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