Amazon’s latest Echo Plus (2nd Generation) seems to have it all. A new look, a new sound, and new hub functionality. It has the chance to be the central point of your home with premium sound quality paired with the versatile voice assistant, Alexa.
But does it deliver on all aspects? Does this built-in hub mean you don’t need any other hubs? Keep reading to find out.
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What’s New with the Echo Plus?
If you already own another Amazon device or Echo, you may wonder if it’s worth the upgrade. The new Plus comes packed with a ton of bonuses. From the improved looks and sound, to the new built-in Zigbee hub, there’s a lot to offer.
Premium 360 Sound
One of the main reasons why I love my Echo Plus is because of the crisp room-filling sounds it can produce. It fits perfect in my open kitchen where you can say voice commands all the way from my living room.
Many people were disappointed with the original Echo’s initial sound quality (an update fixed that). The Plus only has compliments.
Here are the super hero powers the Echo Plus brings to the table:
- Premium Speaker powered by Dolby to play 360-degree sound
- 3-inch (76.2 mm) neodymium woofer and 0.8” (20 mm) tweeter
- Upgraded from previous 2.5-inch woofer
- Sound is crisper and comes with more bass – thanks to increased back sound
A premium feature is the Echo Plus (2nd gen) can pair with other Echo Plus (2nd gen) and/or the Echo Sub to create a masterful 2.1 stereo configuration. Throwing a party and need the music to reach the whole floor? No problem for the Echo Plus.
I can’t tell you how many friends have mentioned how surprised they were that this little device is cranking out all of this bass. The sound is fuller and richer – The best sounding amazon device hands down.
Echo Plus hears you from any direction with the help of its 7 microphones and beamforming technology —even as music is playing.
Another new addition to the Echo Plus is the temperature sensor built-in so you can see what the temperature is where the Plus is.
- Can ask Alexa what the temperature is in the room
- Use sensor to create new routines (expand your heating in a multi-zone system)
A good way to double-check if your thermostat is correct is to ask Alexa what’s the temperature in the room or check it in your Alexa App.
Echo Plus New Look
The Echo Plus (2nd gen) has been completely redesigned with a shorter stout body and fabric covering the outside. A benefit of moving to a fabric casing is there are no fingerprints marks which were complaints from original Echo’s’ owners.
The predecessor looked like a pringles can but admittingly, it had a really cool volume turn knob which I miss. The Echo Plus comes with 2 new buttons in addition to the original Mic and Action buttons which are:
- Volume Up Button +
- Volume Down Button –
On the backend you’ll also find a nifty 3.5mm Audio Input or Output. This needs to be configured in the Alexa App, but it’s still awesome because many devices don’t even have an audio jack.
3 colors available for the Echo Plus are:
- Heather grey
We wish it had a Walnut finish as the previous Echo had, but unfortunately, that wasn’t included with the new Plus’s redesign options.
One of the highlight features of the Echo Plus 2nd gen is that is has a built-in hub. Can this replace all hubs in your home? We’ll dive deeper in this later.
In lamens terms, Zigbee is a common language that devices use to connect to one another. If two devices ‘know’ the Zigbee language, they can communicate with each other.
If you have any of these smart device brands, you have the opportunity connect it to your Echo Plus (2nd gen) via the built-in Zigbee hub:
- Belkin WeMo
- Philips Hue
- Samsung SmartThings
- Honeywell Thermostats
- Yale Smart Locks
That’s just to name a few.
Connecting my Philips Hue bulb to through the hub was a breeze. It literally took me 2 minutes.
How is the Hub with the Echo Plus?
As we mentioned earlier, the built-in Zigbee hub is inside the Echo Plus. But does this fulfill all smart home needs? No, it’s not the perfect hub which will solve all hub problems. But, it’s perfect for someone who loves great sounding audio and is starting out in their first smart home setup.
It allows you to get your feet wet and get acquainted with the building blocks of home automation with things such as a smart plug, smart lighting, thermostats, and more.
Stick around and we’ll give you our best recommendation for the top all-around-hub.
Here are the disadvantages to this hub:
Can’t connect to any Z-wave devices
Z-wave is the rival of Zigbee and this is like slashing the compatibility in half. Here are a few devices that are Z-wave friendly that won’t work with the Echo Plus (2nd gen):
- Kwikset Obsidian Smart Lock
- Logitech Home Harmony Hub Extender
- August Smart Lock
- Abode Gateway
- ADT Security Hub
If you happen to have a smart plug that isn’t Alexa compatible or Zigbee friendly then you, unfortunately, can’t connect it to your Smart Eco-system through the Echo Plus.
To be honest, these are few and far between. Most smart home devices these days are compatible with Alexa at the very least.
Limited Philips Hue Functionality
Although you can technically use the Philips Hue bulb (included with the Echo Plus), you are limited in a fashion.
You can still turn it on and off, and dim it, but that’s about it. You lose out on the ability to:
- Sync your lights with music
- Compatibility with other sensors
- Automate and set scenes
- Limited to 20 color selections vs. the “16 million colors”
If you want to gain full Philips Hue functionality, that will require an expensive Hue’s Bridge that isn’t included. Then, you’ll have to navigate away from the Alexa App and use the Hue App in order to access full functionality. Time to count the pennies and save up for a Hue Bridge? Your call.
When we think of Hubs, we think of motion sensors, door sensors, and overall security. We think of being able to connect everything to the hub and having central control. Zigbee doesn’t solve that problem (without help).
If you need a true hub, we highly recommend the SmartThings hub. This is compatible with over 40 brands. It also speaks the Zigbee and Z-Wave language so SmartThings and Zigbee can play nice together. Here are just a few of the benefits of SmartThings:
- Alexa Compatible
- Google Home Compatible
- Zigbee Compatible
- Z-wave Compatible
- Sensors: Motion, Multipurpose (door/window/etc.), Water leak
Even though the built-in Zigbee hub isn’t a ‘true hub’ in our eyes, it’s still a fantastic smart device for the beginner trying to get their feet wet. It’s also packs a punch as the best sounding Amazon device.
How to Setup Echo Plus?
Setting up the Echo Plus (2nd Gen) is extremely easy and simple. You can have it done in 5 minutes or less.
- Plug in your Echo Plus and wait for Alexa to say “Hello”
- Download the Alexa App
- Sign into the Alexa App with your Amazon Account
- Navigate to your Echo Plus under Devices to Set it up
- Connect to the Echo’s Wifi from your smartphones WiFi settings
- Configure your Echo Plus by connecting to your personal home WiFi
That’s it! Amazon has made it super quick to get your Echo Plus up and running. Now you can connect it to any other smart devices that are compatible, connect it to your music streaming accounts, and more.
Ask it what’s the weather, what’s the temperature inside, to play a radio station, or ask for an update on a sports game.
The first thing I did was connect it to my Spotify account, but that took a little longer. I found that I had to wait an extra day because the account login screen kept crashing on me for some reason. Not sure if it’s a personal glitch only I experienced or if the Echo Plus needed more time to be calibrated.
5 Cool Things to do with the Echo Plus
Here are some cool things to do with your new Echo Plus. We won’t bore you with the usual weather questions.
Ask Alexa some interesting questions
Don’t be tricked by Alexa’s robot voice, she actually has a lot of dry humor in her. You just have to know the right things to ask.
Try saying these phrases to Alexa!
- Alexa, I am your father! (Star wars reference)
- Alexa, will you be my girlfriend?
- Alexa, who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
- Alexa, what does the fox say?
- Alexa, where’s Waldo?
- Alexa, do you like pizza?
Alexa will certainly surprise you. Here is a full list of 167 things to say to Alexa if you want to know more!
Create a Routine
Routines are a wonderful way to get your day started or end the day. You can have Alexa tell you the weather and traffic while you start your day.
My personal favorite routine is saying “Alexa, Good Morning” and she tells me:
- Local weather
- Traffic on my way to work
- Todays calendar events
You can expand even further because Routines allow you to make things happen depending on another trigger. Triggers can include you saying things to Alexa or even when you Arrive or Leave your home. This is possible through your phones geo-location which you can connect to the Alexa App.
Here’s how I setup my Routine:
- Login to the Alexa App
- Go to the Menu and Select Routines
- Select “Create Routine”
- Choose a Trigger (Voice was mine) for “When this happens”
- Enter a phrase to begin the trigger (Good Morning was mine)
- Add an Action (Weather, Traffic, and Calendar was mine)
There you have it! That took me only 2 minutes to setup and configure my own routine. I had to admit, it was much easier than I expected to set it up.
Be sure to sync your Home and Work address so Alexa can tell you the traffic. Another tip is to sync your Calendar Account in the settings so Alexa can tell you about your days events.
Send Messages or Make Calls
I love being able to send text messages or call someone while my hands are full. You’ll want to make sure you allow Alexa access to your text message and contacts for it to work.
An example is my hands were full earlier and I needed to send a time-sensitive message. No problem. I just say “Alexa, can you send a message to John?” – She’ll ask what’s the message to which I reply – “John, I almost forgot, can you buy some extra steaks and ice for the barbecue?”.
Enable Skills and Play Jeopardy with your Friends and Family
Check out all the Alexa Skills! Amazon has been pumping out Skills left and right. Tons of people don’t even know these exist for their Alexa devices. All Alexa Devices can use Alexa Skills. You most likely already have the Alexa App, so that’s all you need.
There are over 50,000 skills currently and the list is growing daily.
Here are my favorite skills:
- Alexa Find my Phone
- Honeywell Thermostat
- Philips Hue
- Question of the Day
- Trivia Games
- Ambient Noise (help you sleep)
Alexa’s Announce feature is great for alerting the household of the same message. This works on all your Amazon Alexa devices connected to your Alexa App.
Here’s the perfect example, you’re throwing a surprise party and need to tell everyone in your household that the birthday-guest is almost to the house. You don’t want to text message a million people, so announce it through the Alexa App!
Link your Music Streaming Accounts
I love music, it’s with me everywhere I go. In the car, at home, while I get ready for work, and while I work out at the gym.
Sync up your Spotify account (or other streaming service) in the Alexa App and get some music playing!
My favorite phrases:
- Alexa, Play my Relaxing Music Playlist
- Alexa, Play my Party Playlist
- Alexa, Play music from the 90’s
- Alexa, Play that song that goes ‘Love is all you need’
Tip! Have your Playlists created in Spotify first before asking Alexa to play them.
Play an Audio Book
My favorite time to listen to Audio books is while I’m cleaning the house. It’s the perfect time to take in a book while doing those menial yet required household chores.
Alexa offers a ton of free Audio books through Audible like Rich Dad Poor Dad, and offers paid audio books too.
There is bound to be an audio book that you would enjoy.
Connect Other Smart Devices
We covered this earlier, but one thing you’ll want to do is hook up all your other smart devices to the Plus.
Here are a few more examples of more brands you can connect to the Echo Plus:
- Philips Hue
- Netgear Arlo
- Thermostat Ecobee/Honeywell
There are plenty of other things to do with your Echo Plus, but these were just my favorite. Be sure to check out other things like Creating a Shopping List, Reminders & Alarms, and more.
How to Connect your Philips Hue Light Bulb to the Echo Plus
If you were like me, you bought the bundle where the Echo Plus came with the Philips Hue bulb. This means you’re probably wondering how to connect it. Well, Amazon has made this another simple and easy setup.
How do you connect your Philips Hue Lights to the Echo Plus?
Here are the steps below:
- Screw in your Philips Hue bulb into a Light
- Turn the switch on so your bulb is on
- Open the Alexa App
- Click the Devices tab and click the plus sign +
- Click ‘Add a Device’ and pick Philips Hue
Alexa App will search for the Light Bulb
- To make your bulb discoverable, go over to your light switch and turn it OFF and then back ON
The light should flash on and off again, and your Philips Hue bulb should be connected to your Alexa App & Echo Plus now. Pretty easy right?
Now you can go ahead and name your light bulb, add it to a group if you want, or setup a routine with it.
Don’t forget to play with the dim settings and try some of these phrases:
- Alexa, Dim the lights
- Alexa, Dim the lights to 50%
- Alexa, Dim the lights to 100%
Echo Plus (2nd Gen) vs. Echo (2nd Gen)
If you have already owned a previous version of the Echo, you may wonder if it’s worth the upgrade. What else is new besides the top surface changing from a flat top to more of a cynical curved top? Let’s break it down.
Echo Plus (2nd Gen) vs. Echo (2nd Gen), which is better?
|ECHO (2ND GEN) 2017||ECHO PLUS (2ND GEN) 2018|
|Size||5.8″ x 3.4″ x 3.4″||5.8″ x 3.9″ x 3.9″|
|Speakers|| 2.5″ woofer and |
|3″ neodymium woofer and 0.8″ tweeter|
|Sound Quality||7 out of 10||9 out of 10|
|3.5mm Audio output||Yes||Yes|
|Best feature(s)|| Good Sound & |
|Premium Sound + Zigbee Hub|
Just to be clear, there are 3 generations of the Echo, but we only reviewed the 2 most recent Echo’s:
- Echo – Released 2015
- Echo (2nd gen) – Released 2017
- Echo Plus (2nd gen) – Released 2018
We won’t mention in detail, the 1st generation pringle styled can because it came out nearly 5 years ago.
- The Echo 2nd Gen is still sufficient for people who already have an established hub like SmartThings or own Z-wave smart devices.
- The Echo Plus 2nd Gen is perfect for those who don’t own a hub yet and want premium sound and a free Philips hue bulb.
Here are the Color Options:
|ECHO (2ND GEN) 2017||ECHO PLUS (2ND GEN) 2018|
|Heather Grey||Heather Grey|
To be honest, the Walnut finish was my favorite. I wish they had kept it going with the Plus, but we’ll make due with what is available. Aside from that, they have the 3 same colors available for both.
NFL Player Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks (2016) had a limited-edition Echo was designed with a custom skin. It was the 1st generation Echo which responded with Marshawn Lynch’s voice instead of the normal Alexa voice. He teamed up with Amazon to drive a “Treasure Truck” (discounted Amazon products) around Seattle and signed autographs.
What is the Echo Plus Calibration? The Echo Plus needs 45 minutes to 60 minutes to calibrate the temperature using the built-in temperature sensor and other things. After setting it up, leave it alone for a bit if you are running into issues and it should work after that.
How I access my Echo plus Equalizer Settings? You can do this by 1 of 2 ways. Voice Command or Alexa App settings.
- Open Alexa App
- Go to Device Tab
- Click on Device Settings
- Scroll down and Click on Audio Controls
- Edit Equalizer Settings
- Alexa, turn up the bass
- Alexa, set the treble to 5
- Alexa, set the bass to maximum
- Alexa, reset equalizer
What is the Echo Plus Green Ring mean? This is a notification color which means you are receiving a call.
What is the Echo Plus Yellow Ring mean? This is a notification color which means you are received a message in your Inbox. Check the Alexa App under the ‘Communicate’ tab.
Echo Plus got Wet? If you’re Echo Plus got wet, it could damage it and may no longer work. Unplug it immediately. Since it has electrical components inside, water may have damaged the components. Please take it to a professional to fix and contact Amazon for their warranty policies.
Can you listen to live radio on the Echo Plus? You can use the TuneIn Radio Skill to listen to any radio station in the Country that is accessible on the internet. You can also use the Alexa Skills like iHeart Radio or NPR.
What is some Echo Plus accessories? You can use other devices or accessories like an Acrylic Speaker Stand, Amazon Echo Buttons, or to upgrade your audio – pair with an additional Echo Plus (2nd gen) or Echo Subwoofer.
Does Echo Plus Support Z wave? The Echo Plus does not Support Z wave. It does however support SmartThings hub which supports Z wave.
How to Connect your Phone to the Echo Plus to Bluetooth? Just ask it “Alexa, How do I connect my phone to Bluetooth?”. Alexa will walk you through the instructions to connect your phone.
Can I control things in my house using this device Echo Plus and the Alexa App on my phone? Yes, you can control a number of things that are compatible with the Zigbee protocol such as WeMo devices or Philips Hue bulbs.
How well does the Echo Plus work with Philips Hue Lights? The Philips Hue lights work in a limited way such as turning lights on and off. You cannot set scenes or have full access to all lights without a Hue bridge.
Does Echo 2nd Generation have a hub? No, the Echo 2nd generation does not have a built-in Zigbee hub. Only the Echo Plus (2nd gen) has the build-in hub.
Do I need a hub with Echo Plus? You only need a hub if you want to connect Z-wave compatible devices to the hub. Only Zigbee compatible products will connect to it directly.
Is the Echo Plus better than Echo? Yes, the Echo Plus is far superior to the original Echo in terms of built-in hub, premium sound, and redesign.
As you can see, the Echo Plus packs a punch. Be sure to check out our other recommended smart devices like the best smart garage door openers or smart switches!