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Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) Review: Alexa and ANC on a budget
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As lockdown gradually lifts, the active noise cancelling earbuds which have made working from home more bearable are about to get a taste of the outside world. Amazon’s new Echo Buds (2nd Gen) arrive just in time for that, pitching not only true wireless audio but hands-free Alexa and ANC with a head-turning $129.99 price tag.
That was an aggressive price when the first-gen Echo Buds launched in 2023, and it’s still compelling now. ANC – which uses microphones and software trickery to isolate you from a lot of real-world sounds – has proliferated in the headphone and earbud market over the past couple of years, but it’s still typically a premium feature. There, then, Amazon bucks the trend.
Some of the changes between the generations are mainly practical. The case is less bulky now, and the earbuds themselves are slightly smaller along with being IPX4 water resistant. Rather than the case flapping open like a powder compact, like before, it has the same floss-dispenser shape as most other wireless earbuds have adopted. It’s a little easier to flip open one-handed as a result.
Amazon includes four sizes of ear tips, and two sizes of wing tips, in the box. They’re all interchangeable, which I liked, as I often struggle with getting wireless earbuds to stick in my ear canals. It means you can pair whichever wing tips suit your outer-ears with the snuggest-fitting inner-tips. The Amazon “smile” on the outer face of each earbud makes it easier to figure out at which orientation to slot them in, too.
You pair the earbuds via the Alexa app, available for iOS and Android, and as part of that process there’s an ear-fit test which uses audio and microphones inside and outside of each bud to check the seal. As with any active noise cancelling earbud, it’s important to get that part right as otherwise the isolation tech won’t be as effective.
The setup process also guides you through using Alexa, too, including setting up a voice profile so Amazon’s assistant can differentiate how you sound compared to other people. By default, Alexa is always-on, and listening out for the wake word just like an Echo smart speaker would be.
Once that’s done, in fact, the overall experience is like walking around with one of those speakers on your shoulder. You can get weather reports and news updates, play podcasts, ask for tracks from Amazon Music, and control the smart home devices that are registered in the Alexa app. There are Echo Buds-specific commands, too, like asking what the battery level is or requesting directions to places. Then, using the GPS in your phone, Alexa will whisper navigation instructions to you. If you lose one, you can sau “Alexa, find my buds” to any smart speaker to locate them via an audible chime.
How useful all that is will depend on how much you rely on Amazon’s assistant day to day. If you’re used to spending much of your work day with earbuds in at this point, then being able to quickly get conversions, facts, and issue smart home commands can be very useful. You can also use voice commands to initiate or answer calls, and later in the year there’ll be VIP Filter support so that notifications from only whitelisted apps make it through.
As with the first-gen Echo Buds, the big pitch here is how affordable Amazon makes active noise cancellation. That’s arguably become a must-have in wireless earbuds, but still tends to carry a premium price tag. For this second-gen set, Amazon says its ANC is now twice as effective.
It’s enabled by default, and it works solidly, even if it’s not quite the most effective system I’ve tried. I still think Apple’s AirPods Pro and Sony’s WF-1000XM3 earbuds edge ahead of Amazon’s Echo Buds in terms of overall isolation, but they’re significantly more expensive, too.
You can toggle between ANC mode and transparency mode – where some external noise is piped through so that you can hold a conversation or hear traffic – by long-pressing the touch pad on either earbud. Or, you can ask Alexa to do it, though I did find occasionally that I’d have to unlock my phone first before it would do that. Amazon’s pass-through audio sounds a little crunchier than on rival ANC systems, I thought, with more noticeable background hiss.
For music, meanwhile, Amazon’s new 5.7mm drivers are billed as adding bass and treble in this generation, which is often where more affordable earbuds fall short. Billy Eilish’s “bury a friend,” my go-to for a low-end shakeout, suggests you should keep your expectations in perspective nonetheless. The new Echo Buds are balanced – there’s no outlandish skew to either the top or bottom end – but even with the bass cranked up in the Alexa app’s EQ settings it’s more of a gurgle than a slug.
Pop an earbud out mid-listen, and the music will pause until you put it back in. They’ll also work in mono mode. A single tap on either earbud toggles play/pause manually, a double-tap skips forward, and a triple-tap skips back. You can reprogram the long-press from ANC/passthrough, to volume up or down, manually triggering Alexa, muting/unmuting the microphone, or summoning Siri or the Google Assistant on your phone. It’s also possible to set a different long-press shortcut for each earbud.
$99.99 gets you the new Echo Buds and a regular case, which recharges with a USB-C port on the back. Like Apple does, however, Amazon also has a version with a wireless charging case. Then, you spend $129.99 – just like the first-generation Echo Buds – but get the choice of USB-C or Qi wireless charging.
Amazon has also worked with Anker on a PowerWave Wireless Charging Pad for the new Echo Buds. It’s $17.99, and has a recess in its top so that the earbuds’ case stands upright in the perfect spot. However that doesn’t stop it from charging other devices, like phones, laid flat on top as normal.
On the plus side, the charging pad has a row of LEDs along the front to show the current battery status of both the case and the earbuds: four lights for each. Another LED lights up if it’s another device, like a phone, that’s charging. The downside is that the pad can only supply 5W at best, no great hardship for the Echo Buds but short of what most modern phones can handle.
The Echo Buds should last for up to five hours of music playback, or four hours of calls, with ANC and hands-free Alexa both turned on, Amazon says. The case itself, whether wired or wireless charging, promises two additional charges for the earbuds. A 15 minute quick-charge is good for up to two hours of music playback.
If you can sacrifice hands-free Alexa and ANC, meanwhile, you can stretch each earbud out to 6.5 hours. With the case contributing its charge, then, you’re looking at just shy of 20 hours maximum use.
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New Amazon Echo Buds serve up wireless charging and aggressive pricing
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Amazon today announced the second-generation Echo Buds, keeping much of the functionality from its predecessor while giving the Buds themselves a new design. While the new Echo Buds feature similar functionality to the old ones, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any new features. For instance, Amazon says that these new Echo Buds will offer improved call quality thanks to some souped-up microphones, while the earbuds should offer a better fit with more charging options.
The marquee features of the originals – Active Noise Cancellation and baked-in Alexa support – are returning for this installment, though, just as one might expect. Amazon says that these new buds are capable of cancelling “twice as much noise compared to the first generation,” using both inward and outward-facing microphones to accomplish that. So, not only can the second-generation Echo Buds estimate the noise levels of the environment around you, but they can also estimate the “sound pressure in your eardrum.”
That information is used to inform the Echo Buds’ Active Noise Cancellation, which is turned on by pulling up Alexa via a press and hold action on either earbud and saying “Alexa, turn on noise cancellation.” Users will also be able to enable Passthrough mode – allowing them to hear sounds from the outside world while still listening to music – by saying “Alexa, turn on Passthrough.” Passthrough mode can be managed through the Alexa app as well, letting users determine how much noise is let through.
In its announcement today, Amazon says that the new Echo Buds are 20% smaller than the previous generation. The tips of the earbuds have been shortened for this iteration, so if you weren’t crazy about the design of the first-generation Echo Buds, these might be a little more comfortable. They’re also IPX4-rated, which means they have some resistance to water (but don’t expect much protection outside of sweat and light rain), and they also come with built-in vents that supposedly help reduce ear pressure while they’re in use.
As you’d probably expect, Alexa support is supposed to be one of the major selling points of the new Echo Buds, and it sounds like you’ll be able to do quite a bit with Amazon’s AI assistant, whether you want to set reminders, make calls, plan a commute using public transit (a rather specific use that’s only available in some major US cities), create a shopping list, or make and edit calendar entries. We’ll even see these Buds get VIP Filter support later this year, allowing you to designate which notifications you want to hear and which you don’t.
Amazon says that the onboard microphones have been improved when it comes to recognizing lower frequencies, which should improve call quality and make it easier for Alexa to understand what you’re saying. Battery life with ANC and hands-free Alexa turned on should top out around 5 hours, though this time around, the Echo Buds are launching with a charging case that can be charged via USB-C or wirelessly and has enough capacity for two full Echo Buds charges.
The new Echo Buds are up for pre-order today in Black and Glacier White. The pair with the standard charging case is available for $99.99, while the model with the wireless charging case will run $119.99. These are introductory prices, and after an undefined limited time, they will increase to $119.99 and $139.99, respectively. Amazon’s second-generation Echo Buds release on May 13th, 2023.
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AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX
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In Millennialese: That. Is. Just. Freaking. Insane.
Gordon Mah Ung
A Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX locked, cocked, and ready to crush multi-threaded benchmarks.What is Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX?
If you’re wondering just how AMD went from an 8-core Ryzen 7 1800X to a 16-core Ryzen Threadripper 1950X to a 32-core Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX in the space of 16 months, while it took Intel three years just to go from a 6-core Core i7 to a 10-core Core i7, the magic is in the design.
AMD has four new 2nd-generation Threadrippers on tap, but only one you can order today.
What makes a 32-core Theadripper even possible is the multi-chip design. Rather than the single contiguous or monolithic die approach that Intel takes, AMD CPUs are multiple chips joined together by the company’s high-speed Infinity Fabric. The original 16-core Ryzen Threadripper 1950X joined two 8-core chips together. With the 32-core Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX AMD joins four 8-core chips together.
The 16-core Ryzen Threadripper 2950X features two active dies which each have their own memory and PCIe access.
This method comes with its own special penalty, though. Although the sTR4 socket for Threadripper is physically the same as the server socket used for AMD’s Epyc CPUs, sTR4 is wired to support four-channel memory using two of the dies, rather than eight-channel memory using four dies.
The new 32-core Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX features four dies connected by Infinity Fabric. Two of those dies must access RAM and storage through an adjacent die.
There’s also a reduction in bandwidth across the Infinity Fabric. On the new 16-core Ryzen Threadripper 2950X, which uses just two dies, the bi-directional die-to-die bandwidth is 50GBps. On the four chip, 32-core 2990WX, the bi-directional die-to-die bandwidth is halved to 25GBps.The Ryzen Effect
What that multi-chip design does do is enable core-count scaling at a rate unseen before. With Intel’s monolithic design, an 18-core CPU would require that every single die be nearly perfect and all of the cores functional to be sold. With Threadripper, to get to 32 cores, it just needs four functional 8-core dies. This all adds up to the crazy number of cores now available to consumers.
The Ryzen Effect is in full swing. Ever since the introduction of the AMD’s Ryzen CPUs in 2023, core counts of CPUs have taken off like an F-22 Raptor.Don’t worry, it’s compatible (mostly)
With the 2nd gen Threadripper, there was much hand-wringing that the CPUs might not work with the existing X399 motherboards. AMD has said every single X399 board available today will work once you’ve updated the UEFI/BIOS to support the newer chip. All of the X399 motherboards support “BIOS Back” features, which let you update a board’s BIOS via USB without requiring an older CPU.
While all of today’s motherboards will work, they might not all overclock the same—but even there the news is mostly good. AMD said the main issue is the massive power draw of the 32-core and 24-core versions of the chip, so some board vendors have beefed up existing boards by offering cooling kits.
Gordon Mah Ung
A snazzy new lunchbox-sized case comes with the new CPU.
How fast is it? Keep reading to see our performance benchmarks.32-core Threadripper 2990WX performance
For fairness, rather than recycle older numbers, we updated the original 18-core Core i9-7980XE setup that we used in that CPU’s review with the same version of Windows, newer Nvidia drivers, and the newest BIOS. The last detail is key, as it’s been some time since the original Core i9 review, and we were curious as to whether its performance had improved with a newer BIOS.
The last time we compared Ryzen Threadripper vs. Core i9, Intel’s 18-core Core i9-7980XE took home the prize for performance (although not for value). This is the one to beat.
For context, we’ve included scores for some CPUs that were run on a previous build of Windows. The numbers haven’t shifted, so they’re still valid. We’ll note where you might want to dismiss results for older chips, or we’ll simply exclude them if we think they don’t apply.
Gordon Mah Ung
Here’s what you get with a new Threadripper: a torque wrench, carrying case, big sticker, and CLC adapter that will fit most Asetek-based coolers.Cinebench Performance
The result speaks for itself, as Threadripper 2990WX dusts the rest of the pack. The 32-core Threadripper 2990WX is 52 percent faster than the previous champ, the Core i9-7980XE.
Maxon’s Cinebench R15 scales incredibly well with core count, and the performance of the Threadripper 2990WX is nothing short of phenomenal.
If only it were as easy as running Cinebench and declaring a winner. Reality is a lot more nuanced, though, so we also run Cinebench with it set to use just one thread. This favors CPUs with higher instructions per clock, and also ones that can hit higher clocks.
Running Cinebench R15 using a single CPU thread, you can see that CPUs with higher clock speeds rule the day, and it’s pretty much all about Intel.
The winner is the 8th-gen Coffee Lake-S Core i7-8700K, thanks to its high Turbo Boost clock scores. Intel’s 18-core Core i9-7980XE somein second, with other Skylake-X and Kaby Lake CPUs following. We don’t see AMD show up until we see the Ryzen 7 2700X in 7th place. Granted, the scores are fairly close, but those higher Turbo Boost scores clearly put Intel in the driver’s seat.Blender Performance
The CPU rendering option favors more cores, and the performance of the Threadripper 2990WX again is a crazy 37 percent faster than the 18-core Core i9 chip.
For this test, both the Core i9 and Threadripper 2990WX were on the latest 2.78C version, but we also included the performance CPUs runs using 2.78B for reference on older CPUs.
Blender Performance puts the 32-core Threadripper 2990WX about 37 percent faster than the 18-core Core i9.Corona Photorealistic Render Performance
Like most renderers, V-Ray just loves CPU cores, making the new 32-core Threadripper 2990WX the clear winner. That’s just smoking. For comparison, PC maker Puget Systems measured a dual 14-core Xeon E5-2690 V4 system with a score of 31. So yes, that’s a $1,800 consumer CPU eating the lunch of $4,200 worth of Xeons.
Chaos group’s V-Ray is a realistic ray tracer seeing some success in Hollywood. The standalone benchmark tends to favor thread count over clock speed. The 32-core Threadripper 2900WX takes the prize, but not by the margin we’d expect.POV-Ray Performance
Our last rendering test is POV-Ray—a ray tracing program that dates back to the Commodore Amiga in the 1980s. It’s obviously been updated along the way, and like everything you’ve seen before, thread count should count the most. No surprise, we see the 32-core 2990WX eat everone’s lunch yet again. That 18-core Core i9 is in distant second place.
POV-Ray agrees with just about every renderer we’ve tried: More cores are better.
POV-Ray’s single-threaded results seem awfully similar to Cinebench R15’s in single-threaded mode.VeraCrypt Performance
Thus far, we’ve done the easy, feel good tests. The tests where a giant 32-core CPU make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Not all code and not all tasks are the same. One of those is VeraCrypt, an open-source encryption application that picked up where the now-defunct TrueCrypt left off. This particular test, by the way, was a test AMD used as part of it test suite for the Ryzen CPU launch.
Performance generally appears to scale with core count, as the 16-core Ryzen Threadripper 1950X offers almost double the performance of an 8-core Ryzen 7 2700X. So why is the 32-core Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX so far off the mark?
Is it the die-to-die latency? Is it clock-speed-deficient? We honestly don’t know as performance here is a puzzler. But again, this is benchmark AMD had recommended, so we’re at a loss to explain what’s going on right now.
VeraCrypt seems to scale with core and thread count—but not for the new 32-core Threadripper 2990WX.HandBrake Performance Premiere Pro CC 2023 Performance
Next on our video test is Premiere Pro CC 2023. We take a two-minute video shot on Sony Alpha in 4K and edited for our website. For the test, we take that project and export it using in Premiere using the Blu-ray preset with Maximum Render quality checked, which aids when resizing media. We’ve done this same workload on other CPUs, and it generally scales well with core count. Here are the results from the previous Core i9 test.
Video snobs say CPU-based rendering is superior, and if you do that—you’ll want more cores.
As you can see, the 18-core Core i9 takes the gold, with the 16-core Ryzen Threadripper taking the silver. Because the previous tests were all conducted with Premiere Pro CC 2023, we didn’t feel it was fair to compare directly. But we did rerun the same test on the updated Core i9-7980XE and the 32-core Threadripper 2990WX. The result? Just as with HandBrake and VeraCrypt, the performance is lower than expected. Based on the performance of the Core i9 between the 2023 and 2023 version, it looks like the Threadripper 2990WX is just a bit faster than the 10-core Intel CPUs.
Premiere Pro CC 2023 puts Intel’s Core i9 in front of the 32-core Threadripper CPU.Now hold on, folks…
While this may sound unrealistic to you, it’s not that crazy for a indie video editor to encode in Premiere while also rendering out a visual effect in Blender. In fact, if you could to that without dragging everything to a halt, you would.
Once you do that, the performance of the 32-core Threadripper 2990WX comes alive. In the chart below, the shorter blue bar and the shorter red bar win. In this case, it’s the Threadripper 2990WX by a healthy margin.
Taking the same project, we exported it to Adobe Media Encoder and then simultaneously had it encode the same two-minute video to Blu-ray, HEVC, 1080P YouTube, and 4K Vimeo. Maximum Render quality was selected for the Blu-Ray, HEVC and 1080P Youtube video. The 32-core Threadripper again pulled ahead, but not by the margin we expected. We think that’s because of how long the videos took to encode. The Blu-ray, Vimeo and YouTube videos completed fairly quickly, with the HEVC encode taking the longest. Once they were finished, this turned back into mostly a single video encode, which can’t use all the cores of the Threadripper.
But what about games? Keep reading for the good and bad news.32-core Threadripper 2990WX gaming performance
We actually considered not running any gaming benchmarks on the 32-core Threadripper 2990WX, because if you bought this CPU to play Fortnite, you made a huge mistake. There are far better choices you can make with either Core i7 or Ryzen 7 over the Threadripper 2990WX.
But you don’t care, so we ran them anyway. First up is Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege at a fairly low resolution (for a GTX 1080, anyway) of 1920×1080, and with a visual quality setting of Ultra. We ran the Threadripper 2990WX in both its default Creator mode and in the 1/4, legacy mode which switches off three of the four dies under the lid.
While you shouldn’t buy an $1,800 32-core CPU to play games, it does rather well in legacy mode.
We also ran Rise of the Tomb Raider at 19×10 in DirectX 12 mode and legacy mode. The latter makes the Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX pretty dead-even with the Core i9 CPU. The message is, you still shouldn’t buy this class of CPU if you’re going to play games 75 percent of the time. If, however, you push pixels 75 percent of the time, it’s a no-brainer to buy the new Threadripper.
When all 32 cores are hot, the Threadripper 2990WX can’t keep up with the smaller 18-core Core i9 in Rise of the Tomb Raider at 1920×1080. Switching to legacy mode evens the competition.About that memory latency
We do honestly wonder how much of the Threadripper 2990WX’s performance is impacted when a die has to take a detour through another die. We tried to coax it out using AIDA 64’s memory latency test. We first ran it on default with all four dies on, then with two dies on, and finally with only one die on. We hoped that AIDA 64 would access memory from one of the compute-only dies and we’d see memory latency increase, but all three results were essentially the same. At this point, we’ll say it’s inconclusive but we’ll keep looking. Maybe it’s just not worth worrying about.
Because two of the four CPU dies on Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX lack memory controllers, we expect to see a slight increase in latency in theory, but we had no luck measuring it.Thermals and boost performance
We also want to point out that it was very easy to push the Threadripper 2990WX out of its top boost speeds. Applications that normally would not bump CPUs out of boost speeds, such as Valve’s Steam, would do it to Threadripper. For example, with Steam installed, minimized and essentially doing nothing, the highest boost clock we saw was 3.4GHz to 3.5GHz. Once we exited Steam, we saw saw boost clocks of 3.9GHz to 4GHz. Fortunately, Steam was only installed and running for our gaming tests.
In fact, even using the Ryzen Master software to monitor Threadripper was enough to kick the CPU out of its top boost speeds limiting it to 3.5GHz rather than 4.1GHz. AMD officials were able to replicate that experience, but the company said its own results with Steam weren’t as bad as what we reported.
The new Ryzen Master utility gives you a glimpse of the cores in the crazy 32-core Ryzen Threadripper. Stars mean better CPU cores and the circles mean the next best CPU Core. We did run in to an issue where the CPU not boost when running the utility though.32-core Threadripper Performance analysis
IDGWhat should you buy? The money shot
When you look at how much you’re paying per thread for a CPU, AMD’s the big winner. Perhaps worse, how does Intel sell a consumer 28-core CPU at a competing price, when the server version is almost $9,000?Conclusion
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AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX
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First let’s make it crystal-clear: The 32-core Threadripper 2990WX ($1799 on NeweggRemove non-product link or Amazon) is not the CPU for most of us. Not by a long shot. For those of us who play games, edit some photos, browse the web and even do occasional video editing, an 8-core CPU is plenty, while a 16-core CPU is overkill. A 32-core CPU is double-overkill and honestly a waste. A Ryzen 7 or Core i7 is the more sound investment.
But for those of us who actually do push pixels around for a living, this new 32-core Ryzen Threadripper is Thor’s hammer falling right into your hands with a crackle of lightning and thunder. For these heavy-hitters, it’s well worth the price.
Correction: Our bucks per thread chart used outdated pricing information for older AMD CPUs. PCWorld regrets the error.
Let’s just cut to the chase: With its new Echo Pop, Amazon has delivered an Echo speaker that looks worse, sounds worse, and does less than the only slightly larger and more expensive Echo Dot.
I’m not really sure what the thinking was behind Amazon’s latest Echo speaker, or who it’s supposed to be for. If the half-spherical device was significantly smaller than the Echo Dot, which the Pop replaces as the smaller and least-expensive Echo speaker, I’d be more forgiving.
But the Echo Pop is almost precisely the same size as the Echo Dot, and at $39.99/£44.99, its list price is only $10 less in the US. In the UK, now that the Echo Dot has come down in price, the Pop is actually £10 more. You can read our review of the Echo Dot 5, which we rated pretty highly, to find out why you might want to buy that instead.
The Echo Pop also drops a couple of the Echo Dot’s key smart home sensors, while its flat audio performance makes the Echo Dot’s middling sonics sound much better in comparison.
The Pop is almost all plastic save for the flat, fabric-covered front, while the more handsome Dot has a more expansive fabric covering, giving it a more premium feel
On the plus side, the Pop does come with Alexa and her usual bag of tricks, and besides supporting the new Matter standard and Amazon’s Sidewalk neighbourhood networks, the Pop doubles as an extender for Amazon’s Eero mesh Wi-Fi routers.
But the Echo Dot does all those things too, and while it’s a tad deeper in size than the Echo Pop, it has a much more premium feel; the Pop, on the other hand, feels cheap.
So, at the risk of sounding glib: the Echo Pop flops more than it pops.How big is the Amazon Echo Pop?
Measuring 9.9 x 8.4 x 9.1cm (WxDxH), the Amazon Echo Pop is roughly the same size as the Echo Dot. With its half-spherical design, the Echo Pop certainly looks somewhat smaller than the Echo Dot, but practically speaking, the Pop’s slice-in-half design only shaves about a half and inch of depth and a hair off the height. So yes, the Echo Pop is a tad smaller than the Dot, but it’s not that much smaller.
On the other hand, the Echo Pop is considerably lighter than the Dot, with the speakers weighing in at 195g and 303g respectively. Unfortunately, that loss in heft makes the Pop feel cheap compared to the weightier Dot. Making matters worse, the Pop is almost all plastic save for the flat, fabric-covered front, while the more handsome Dot has a more expansive fabric covering, giving it a more premium feel.
Despite its half-sphere design, the Amazone Echo Pop is only slightly smaller than the Echo Dot.
Ben Patterson/FoundryWhere is Alexa’s light ring on the Echo Pop?
The Echo Pop actually doesn’t have an Alexa light ring, per se; rather, it has a thin Alexa indicator light that sits along the top edge of the speaker.
Behind the Alexa light are a trio of buttons for volume up, volume down, and microphone mute. Eagle-eyed Echo Dot users will notice that the Pop lacks an Action button, which allows you to (among other things) silence alarms and put the speaker in setup mode. For the Echo Pop, the typical function for the Action button – snoozing alarms – can be performed by simply tapping the top of the device.
On the back of the Echo Pop is a port for the roughly five-foot charging cable, which terminates in a (typically, for Echo speakers) chunky wall wart.
There’s no 3.5mm audio-out jack on the back of the Pop – not a huge surprise, given that the fifth-generation Echo Dot jettisoned the auxiliary audio jack, too. But while you can’t connect a secondary speaker to the Echo Pop using a wire, you can still do so via Bluetooth.How do you set up the Echo Pop?
Getting the Echo Pop up and running is a snap for those who already own other Echo speakers. You simply plug in the Echo Pop, wait a few minutes until Alexa says the speaker is ready for setup, and fire up the Alexa app; within a few seconds, a prompt to pair the Echo Pop should appear.
If you’re new to the Echo scene or Alexa as a whole, you’ll need to download the Alexa app and (if you haven’t already) register for an Amazon account. You’ll also be prompted to enter the credentials for your home Wi-Fi router, although once that step is done, you won’t need to repeat it for adding future Echo speakers.Can the Amazon Echo Pop control smart home devices?
With the help of Alexa, the Echo Pop can take charge of your compatible smart home devices via voice commands, and the pool of supported smart devices just got wider thanks to Matter, the new standard that promises to (eventually) unite the big smart home ecosystems, including Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings.
Like the Echo Dot and most other current Echo speakers, the Echo Pop acts as a Matter controller, allowing it to connect other Matter devices in your home together. The Pop can’t connect Matter devices to the internet, however; for that, you’ll need a Thread border router, such as an Amazon Echo speaker; an Apple HomePod, HomePod mini, or third-gen Apple TV 4K; or a Google Nest Hub Max, second-gen Nest Hub, or a Nest Wifi Pro.
If you’re in the US, you’ll want to know that Echo Pop also works with Sidewalk, Amazon’s budding neighbourhood network that allows multiple Ring, Echo, and other compatible devices to work together, creating a low-power, long-range network large enough to cover an entire neighbourhood.
With help from a Sidewalk network (and many US neighbourhoods are already blanketed by Sidewalk coverage), users can install (for example) compatible motion sensors, smart lights, and other devices outside of their homes without worrying that they will be out of Wi-Fi range.
The benefits of Sidewalk are still more theoretical than practical, however, and you can turn off the Echo Pop’s Sidewalk functionality if you’d rather.
The Amazon Echo Pop has buttons for volume up, microphone mute, and volume down.
Ben Patterson/FoundryCan the Echo Pop act as an Amazon Eero extender?
Amazon recently added the ability for most of its current Echo line to double as range extenders for its Eero mesh Wi-Fi routers, and the Echo Pop is no exception.
Each Echo Pop will add up to 1,000 square feet of coverage to your Eero mesh setup, a nice bonus given the Pop’s bargain price.Does the Echo Pop let you chat with Alexa?
As with other Echo speakers, the Echo Pop lets you speak with Alexa. You can ask Alexa a broad range of questions, anything from “Alexa, what’s the weather?” to “Alexa, do I have any appointments today?”
You can also set Alexa to listen to suspicious sounds, such as breaking glass or smoke alarm sirens (via the free Alexa Guard feature, or you can upgrade to the paid Alexa Guard Plus), set alarms or timers, or even shop on Amazon (you can set a PIN to keep your kids from going on Amazon shopping sprees).Can you make phone calls with the Amazon Echo Pop?
Alexa offers most of the same communication features on the Echo Pop that are available on other Echo speakers. For example, you can ask Alexa to “drop in” on an Echo device in another room, allowing you to hear what’s going on in that room or speak to anyone nearby (Alexa will warn you if someone is dropping in from another Echo speaker). You can also ask Alexa to make an announcement (like “Dinner time!”) on all the other Echo devices in your home.
Besides communication with other Echo devices, Alexa on the Echo Pop can make free phone calls to landlines in the US, UK, Canada, and Mexico (free Alexa calls are limited to 10 contacts at a time, unfortunately).Can you play music on the Amazon Echo Pop?
Like other Echo speakers, the Echo Pop can double as a jukebox with help from Alexa. Using the Alexa app, you can sign into your favorite music streaming service, including Amazon Music, Apple Music and Podcasts, Spotify (including Spotify Connect functionality), Deezer, Tidal, Pandora, iHeartRadio, SiriusXM, and TuneIn; missing from the list is Qobuz and YouTube Music.
With your music streaming account linked, you can ask Alexa on the Echo Pop to play a track, an album, an artist, or a genre (“Alexa, play Taylor Swift” or “Alexa, play classic rock”). Another option is to add music playback as an action in an Alexa routine; for example, you could make Alexa play “Happy” during your morning wake-up routines.What’s missing from the Echo Pop?
“Just like other Echo speakers,” has been something of a refrain in my review of the Echo Pop, but there are a couple of key Echo features that the Pop decidedly doesn’t support.
For example, the Echo Pop lacks the built-in motion sensor found in the latest (and, again, only slightly pricier) Echo Dot, and it’s also missing the Dot’s temperature sensor. Both of those sensors can be used to trigger Alexa routines, such as turning on the lights when someone enters the room or spinning up a fan when the temperature hits a certain level.
Also missing from the Echo Pop is a Zigbee smart home hub that would allow the speaker to directly control Zigbee devices – although, to be fair, the Dot doesn’t have a Zigbee radio either.How does the Echo Pop sound?
On paper, you might think the Echo Pop and its 1.95-inch driver has the sonic edge over the Echo Dot and its smaller 1.75-inch driver. The reality, however, is that the Echo Pop’s audio pales compared to the Echo Dot’s–and that’s saying something, given the Dot’s only so-so audio performance.
Going back and forth between the two speakers, the Echo Pop sounded flat and tinny, with just a hint of bass response. The Echo Dot, in contrast, sounded deeper and fuller, with better high-end detail.
Granted, the Echo Dot still sounds pretty meh to my ears, but at least its audio reproduction flirts with actual high fidelity. The Echo Pop, on the other hand, sounds like a cheap Bluetooth speaker, good for hearing your tunes rather than truly enjoying them.Is the Amazon Echo Pop worth the cash?
If the Amazon Echo Pop arrived with a much lower price tag, then sure, it might be worth it.
But considering that its price doesn’t compare well to the sturdier, better sounding, more capable, and only slightly larger Echo Dot, we’d suggest you hang on for a price cut. Right now, the Echo Pop gets a hard “no” from us.
In the past six years, Amazon has expanded the range greatly from that original Echo. Now, there’s a huge choice of speakers – and smart displays – to choose between.
accounts for over a quarter of smart speakers and smart displays sold around the world, according to the latest figures from Statista.
It isn’t too surprising: Amazon was the first company to launch a Bluetooth speaker with a built-in digital assistant – Alexa – back in 2023.
Since then, it has expanded the range greatly, with many models to choose between and a choice of a smart speaker (Echo) or a display with speakers (Echo Show).
With so many different devices costing from very little to quite a lot, it can be hard to know which one to buy. If you don’t want a screen, then look at the Echo smart speakers.
All Echos run on mains power (they’re not battery powered or portable) and they’re all hands-free. That means they respond when you ask a question, but they all rely on Wi-Fi and an internet connection.
You can do a lot with Alexa. You can ask for specific music and have that music play in sync across all your Echo devices. You can also “drop in” on another Echo in a different room to have a quick conversation with a family member. You can also call friends and relatives who have Echos – or the Alexa app – and this can be a video call if you and they have an Echo Show.
Of course, there are more prosaic uses, such as saying “Alexa, what’s the time?” and “Alexa, set a timer for 10 minutes”. But if you have compatible smart lights, or a smart plug, you can also say “Alexa, turn on the lights in the kitchen” or “Alexa, turn off the iron”.
Alexa is built into devices made by other manufacturers too, such as Sonos. You’ll also find Alexa built into some TVs (which run Amazon’s Fire TV software), sound bars – even dash cams and cars – but we’re focusing on Amazon-made devices here.
Read on to see how they differ, but also check out these great accessories for the various Echo devices including the Wall Clock and Echo Connect. There’s also the Echo Sub which can be paired with one or a pair of Echos to provide better bass (but only when streaming music from the internet).
If you want tips on the things you can do with an Echo, here’s how to use Alexa.
It’s difficult to pick the ‘best’ Echo for this roundup. Best can mean different things: best value; best sound; best features. However, whatever your priority, you’ll find what you’re looking for below.
1. Amazon Echo Dot with clock (5th-gen) – Best Value
Useful clock display in ‘with clock’ version
Can extend home Wi-Fi
Sound distorts at high volumes
Best Prices Today:
The Echo Dot has always been an affordable way to get Alexa in your home. The latest model has better bass, a temperature sensor and you can tap it to dismiss alarms, timers and to pause and resume music.
We think it’s well worth spending the extra £10/$10 to get the clock version as it’s so convenient to see the time, how long is left on a timer, the weather and more. The display is improved over the now-discontinued 4th-generation Echo Dot, too. In fact, we’re not quite sure why Amazon doesn’t have the option of a built-in clock on the larger fourth-gen Echo. Maybe this will happen in the future.
Right now, though, the Echo Dot 5 is the best-value option in Amazon’s range. No, the sound isn’t the best, but it’s good enough for most people, and you can pair two Dots for stereo sound!
Alternatively, the Echo Dot 5 can be used singly as a Wi-Fi extender as part of an Eero mesh Wi-Fi system, which is another bonus.
Read our full
2. Amazon Echo Studio – Best sound quality
Very good sound quality
Supports spatial audio
The Echo Studio is the one to buy if you care about sound quality. The Studio sounds good on its own, but even better when paired with the Echo Sub, but do be warned that the sub only works with streamed music, not via Bluetooth from your phone.
Part of the reason the Studio sounds good is because it supports so-called ‘hi-res audio’ which is better quality than the normal quality of streamed music. However, to get hi-res audio you need to subscribe to a music streaming service that offers ‘HD’ music and, not coincidentally, Amazon’s own is the current one to go for.
The Studio also supports ‘3D audio’, which is essentially virtual surround sound. Currently it can play Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio, which can be both music and video soundtracks.
Best of all, the Studio is way cheaper than rivals from Apple and Google.
Read our full
3. Amazon Echo (4th-gen)
Built-in Zigbee hub
No clock display
Best Prices Today:
The Amazon Echo 4 is bigger than the Echo Dot, and its sound quality is better, with extra bass and volume.
As you’d expect, it can’t compete with the Echo Studio in that respect but then again, it’s half the price.
The fourth-gen Echo also has a built-in smart hub, allowing it to connect to and control Zigbee devices such as Philips Hue lights and mean you don’t need a separate ‘bridge’ or hub for those devices.
The light ring, as with the one of the Echo Dot, can be blocked from view because it’s right at the base, but it really depends upon where you put it in your room and where you’re sitting or standing.
If you want more volume and stereo sound, you can pair two Echo 4s together.
Read our full
4. Amazon Echo Show 15 – Best smart display
Large screen great for photo slideshows
Will soon get Fire TV update
Middling sound quality
No third-party widgets
No Zigbee hub
The Show 15 has biggest screen on any Echo at 15.6 inches. You can buy an optional desk stand, shown here, but it’s designed to be hung on the wall.
It works well in a kitchen where it doesn’t take up any space on your worktops and can show recipes which you can navigate with your voice using Alexa.
Soon – Amazon has said before the end of the year – an update will bring the Fire TV interface from Amazon’s Firestick to the Show 15. This is a game-changer and means you can easily access YouTube, live news and other video which is either awkward or impossible to watch currently.
The update will also bring support for the latest Alexa Voice Remote, which is preferable to trying to navigate using your voice. This is a touchscreen, though, so it’s simple to use if you’re sitting close enough to reach the screen.
Even without the Fire TV update, the Echo Show 15 has one feature not found on Amazon’s other smart screens: widgets. These can display useful information such as your calendar, favourite smart home device controls and a weather forecast. It’s only a shame that there are still no third-party widgets and the selection is tiny.
Thanks to ‘Visual ID’ Alexa can recognise who’s in front of the screen and display personalised information in those widgets.
It’s great as a digital photo frame, but as with other Echo Shows, images can only be pulled from Amazon Photos or Facebook, which is quite limiting.
And, because of the thin picture-frame design, sound quality isn’t the Echo Show 15’s strong suit: you’ll want to choose the Echo Show 10 if you plan to listen to a lot of music.
You can use the Show 15 for video calls, but it’s a shame that the camera doesn’t keep you in the frame like the Echo Show 8 and 10. Also note that there is no built-in Zigbee hub here.
Read our full
5. Amazon Echo Show 10
Rotating display faces you
Built-in Zigbee hub
Best Prices Today:
The Echo Show 10 costs the same as the Echo Show 15. Both are considerably more expensive than the 5- and 8-inch Echo Show smart displays, but the Echo Show 10 offers good quality sound and has a screen that can follow you around the room. (You may disagree that this is a benefit, though. Some people just find it creepy.)
Admittedly, it does sound a bit gimmicky but does come into its own if you want a smart display for a kitchen island where you’d otherwise have to turn the screen manually to see it as you move around.
The rotation is also a benefit for keeping an eye on your room when you’re away, because you can swipe on the screen of your phone while using the Alexa app to turn the camera and see – and hear – what’s happening.
Other than that, the overall experience is much like other Echo Shows.
Read our full
6. Amazon Echo Show 8 (2023)
Can operate like a security camera
Camera keeps you in the frame in video calls
No Zigbee hub
Best Prices Today:
It may not have the Zigbee hub that’s included in the more expensive – and larger – Echo Show 10, but this model offers the best compromise of features, screen size and audio quality.
And at this price, those aren’t compromises you’ll ever regret making: Alexa is just as capable here as she is on the Echo Show 10, able to show the video feed from compatible cameras; lyrics for many songs from Amazon Music and much more besides.
Plus, this second-generation model has a 13Mp camera which has plenty of resolution for digital zoom. This is used in video calls to keep you in the middle of the frame even if you move around the room – just like the Facebook Portal and latest iPad Pro’s Centre Stage feature. It’s not as versatile as the 360° Echo Show 10, but it’s a great addition nonetheless.
Thanks to the fact you can watch Netflix on all Echo Show models, they’re a good choice for entertainment. Just note that unlike on Amazon’s Fire TV devices and Google’s own Nest Hub smart displays, YouTube isn’t easily available on any Echo Show.
Read our full
7. Amazon Echo Dot (3rd-gen)
No longer offered with clock display
Best Prices Today:
The third-generation Echo Dot is still being sold alongside the 5th-gen model, at a lower price. We’re not really sure why it’s still part of the range, but it sounds pretty good for its size – especially when listening to the radio.
It lacks many of the new features you get in the fifth-generation Dot, and there’s no ‘with clock’ model available any more. Only the non-clock version is sold.
Really, we’ve kept the Echo Dot in here because Amazon regularly offers big discounts Echos and we’ve seen the Dot sell for much less than the usual $39.99 / £39.99 price. If you see the fifth-gen Dot on sale, then it’s worth spending the extra on the newer model.
Read our full
8. Amazon Echo Show 5 (2023)
Good size for bedrooms
Can be used like a security camera
Screen is a little small
Best Prices Today:
The Echo Show 5 costs less than the Echo 4, yet has a 5.5in screen and camera for video calls. It’s a little small for watching videos from Amazon Prime (or Netflix), but it’s a great size for popping next to your bed as an alarm clock/photo frame.
Sound quality isn’t as good as the Echo 4 or the Echo Show 8, which is the main drawback. This second-gen model has a higher-resolution camera than the first-gen (but not as good as the 8’s) and can also be used a kind of security camera as you can view the camera feed remotely.
Essentially, it’s a good choice if you have a tight budget but want an Echo with a screen and don’t need music to sound amazing.
Read our full
9. Amazon Echo Flex
Good for garages / large hallways
Not suitable for music
The Flex is a different type of smart speaker: it’s a utility device, not one for listening to music or the radio, and is designed to plug directly into a wall socket in your hallway, garage or other area where you just need basic audio.
It’s brilliant for asking Alexa for information, and controlling your lights, switches and plugs. You can plug in a motion sensor (or night light) to make it even more useful.
You can listen to music on it, but it sounds terrible.
Read our full
10. Amazon Echo Auto
Alexa in your car!
Hard to hide cables
About to be replaced by new, smaller version in US
Best Prices Today:
The Auto is an unusual Echo because it is the only option – from Amazon’s range – for putting Alexa in your car. This means you can’t really compare it to other Echo models.
Amazon realised that the design wasn’t very elegant and is about to launch an updated second-gen model in the US which is much smaller and more discreet.
Read our full
CHUWI Lapbook Air review: My travel laptop on a budget
I’ve been testing the CHUWI Lapbook Air extensively for three weeks now so it’s high time that I wrote this review and share my experience on using the device.CHUWI Lapbook Air review 1. Design
As its name suggests, the CHUWI Lapbook Air borrows some elements of design from Apple’s MacBook Air line. As far as the overall design is concerned, I am impressed.
The first thing that stroke me when I unboxed it was its appealing and harmonious design. The laptop has a compact and sturdy design. When I held it in my hands for the first time, I noticed this laptop is not at all fragile. Honestly speaking, I had expected that taking into account its price tag. Once again I was reminded not to judge a book by its cover.
The screen doesn’t bend and the hinges are very strong and durable.
The shiny metal edges around the display, touchpad and the lower part of the “clamshell” add a very professional, business look to it.
The full-sized keyboard with individually spaced keys makes typing on the CHUWI Lapbook Air a very pleasant experience.
The laptop is slim, ultraportable, measuring only 13″ x 8.6″ x 0.8″ (33 x 22 x 2 cm) in size and it weights only 3-lbs (1.4 kilos).2. Display
The display is another pleasant surprise. The 1920 x 1080 14.1-inch IPS LCD display renders clear and vivid images. Compared to my good old Intel i7 HP ProBook 470 that I use daily to write on WindowsReport, the difference is significant.
Indeed, when it comes to display and image quality, the CHUWI Lapbook Air gets a big like. The display is one of its strong points.
However, if glare display is not your thing, you may not like that aspect.3. CPU and performance
The CHUWI Lapbook Air is a budget laptop, so don’t expect it to be the Superman of laptops. The device is powered by an Intel Celeron N3450 processor clocked at 2.2 GHz – this puts it in the mid-range category.
Other key specs include 8GB of RAM and 128 eMMC.
So, if you’re looking for a reliable laptop to complete your school/ college assignments, browse the Internet, watch some movies, connect to your social media accounts, the CHUWI Lapbook Air is powerful enough to help you do that.
On the other hand, if you’re planning to play heavy games, do a lot of video editing work and run tens of apps and programs that usually require lots of computing power, then you should select another laptop model.
The laptop is built and designed for the average consumers, not for gamers and graphics artists.4. Battery
CHUWI Lapbook Air’s battery can power you for up to 5 and a half hours with the brightness setting set to 100%. If you reduce brightness and run only a few apps and programs, you can extend its battery life by one hour.
Expert tip:5. Connectivity
The laptop comes with two USB-A ports, one mini-HDMI port, one headphone jack and one micro-SD card slot. Charging is done via Chuwi’s proprietary port.6. Speakers and sound
Well, as far as sound is concerned, I’ll put it mildly and say it’s satisfactory. However, I recommend that you use headphones or an external speaker if you want to get clearer and deeper sounds.
The built-in speakers aren’t powerful enough to deliver high-quality sounds.
Speaking of sound, there is another thing that I noticed after pairing my Harman Kardon GoPlay speaker to the Lapbook Air via Bluetooth – it tends to overheat.
The good news is that I did not experience any other overheating issues except for that particular case.Why you should buy the CHUWI Lapbook Air
After my three week experience using this budget laptop, my conclusion is clear: this is going to be my travel laptop.
I no longer play heavy computer games, I play only quick tower defense games that I usually download from the Microsoft Store. I already played Prime World: Defenders for a couple of hours and the CHUWI Lapbook Air was up to the task – no lag, smooth gameplay.
As far as my work is concerned, my main tasks involve word processing, basic photo/video editing and surfing the Internet. The CHUWI Lapbook Air has already proved that it can handle the job well.
If you’re looking for a mid-range budget laptop and display and image quality, alongside design are two of your main criteria, then the CHUWI Lapbook Air is the perfect choice for you.
CHUWI Lapbook Air summary of the main strong points:
Thin, light and ultra portable
Stunning design, it actually looks like a laptop costing twice as much
The display delivers crystal clear images, good color, contrast, and brightness
Large screen-to-body ratio
It costs under $450.00
Full-sized backlit keyboard
Good battery life
It doesn’t overheat after long hours of use
A good choice for the average consumer
The charging cable is a bit short, so you’ll have to adapt
The trackpad may sometimes behave erratically, so it’s best to use a mouse
You can’t open the laptop using only one hand.
Buy the CHUWI Lapbook Air from Amazon for $429.00.
I enjoyed using the CHUWY Lapbook Air so much that I already ordered one for my younger sister who started college this year. She needs a light laptop that’s easy to carry around from one classroom to another, and I think the Labook Air is perfect for her.
If you like CHUWI’s products you can back the company up on Indiegogo and help them fund their upcoming CoreBook.
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