Amazon Updates 4 Echo Smart Speakers

The company also announced a new bedside sleep tracker, two Omni-Series Fire TVs, a Fire TV Cube, and a Kindle you can write on

By Allen St. John

Amazon says it’s upgraded the sound quality in its budget-priced and high-end Echo smart speakers, while also introducing a range of new and updated products, including two Omni-Series Fire TVs, a Fire TV Cube streaming player, a mesh router, a bedside sleep tracker, and a Kindle e-book that lets you annotate what you read with a stylus.

In an interesting twist, two updated smart speakers will also double as WiFi extenders, using the mesh router technology developed by Amazon’s Eero brand. If you strategically place the new Echo Dot and Echo Dot with Clock around your home, they are supposed to work in concert with an Eero router to push WiFi signals deeper into the corners of the dwelling, potentially eliminating dead spots.

This isn’t the first time Amazon has introduced Eero WiFi tech to other products. The online retailer added similar functionality to its Ring Alarm Pro security system a year earlier.

The new Eero PoE 6 mesh router is capable of sending an internet connection over your home’s power lines, the company says.

In terms of its smart speaker lineup, the bigger news is probably what Amazon didn’t introduce. Unlike in recent years, this fall product launch didn’t feature a new high-end smart screen. The Echo Show 10 remains in the line, as does the Echo Show 15 with its large, wall-mounted touch screen, but with added capability that harnesses your Fire TV library and profiles to stream video. Amazon’s iconic Echo, $99, also remains the same.

However, the budget-priced Dot and the high-end Studio both receive sonic upgrades, according to Amazon. While the orb-like enclosure of the Echo Dot remains the same, the model’s innards receive a larger speaker driver that Amazon promises will provide up to twice the bass. Any sonic improvement would be welcome, since lackluster audio performance brought down CR’s overall rating of the fourth-generation Echo Dot.

The new Dot, $49.99, also features an accelerometer for enhanced tap controls and a temperature sensor that allows it to command smart home devices like a smart fan.

The previous version of the top-of-the line Echo Studio is highly rated by CR, and the upgrade announced today should focus attention on a top-performing product that’s often overlooked. The Echo Studio updates promise a clearer midrange and deeper bass, as well as spatial image processing for a more immersive and realistic sound experience. While the enclosure remains the same, there’s also a new color, with Glacier White taking its place beside the existing Black. The latest Studio will ship next month for $199.

There’s some good news for owners of the current Studio: The update is software-driven, so it will automatically roll out as an online upgrade to existing Studio speakers at no extra charge.

A new Dot with a Clock, which sells for $59.99, has improved audio, plus a display that not only shows the time, but also information like a song title or an upcoming calendar event. The updated Echo Dot Kids speaker features new Owl and Dragon graphics. That model will ship next month and sell for $59.99 with a year’s subscription to Amazon Kids+ content.

Halo Rise Bedside Sleep Tracker

Photo: Amazon

The Halo Rise is a contactless bedside sleep tracker that represents Amazon’s venture into an increasingly popular market. The hockey-puck-like device looks a bit like the original Amazon Echo Dot placed on a small wire stand, but it uses sensors to monitor your breathing.

It’s designed to measure only the breathing patterns of the person closest to it.

Amazon says it has used machine learning to detect patterns in breathing during sleep and match them up to sleep stages like REM and deep sleep. The Rise uses that algorithm to track and report on your sleep stages, the company says.

The Rise also includes temperature, humidity, and light sensors to make recommendations about your room that are supposed to contribute to better sleep. With an optional wakeup light, the Rise’s smart alarm can mimic the gradual increase in light levels of a sunrise. It can also prompt an Echo device to play a favorite song as your alarm. The device casts with $139.99 and comes with six months of Halo membership, which you need to access certain advanced features.

The Halo Rise is similar in concept to the Google Nest Hub, which we tested in 2021, getting mixed results compared to wearable sleep tracking devices.

Kindle Scribe

Photo: Amazon

The new 10.3-inch Kindle is the first one you can write on—to annotate books, PDFs, and Word docs. It’s like a bigger version of the high-end, 7-inch Kindle Oasis, $250, but with stylus capability, allowing you to replicate the experience of scribbling in the margins of a physical book as opposed to tapping on the tiny on-screen keyboard found in the other Kindle models.

The device has templates for to-do lists, journaling, sticky notes, and more, making it closer to a tablet than a simple eReader. The included pen has a dedicated eraser and a button for shortcuts, and it attaches to the Scribe magnetically.

The Scribe costs $334. In comparison, the popular 10.3-inch reMarkable 2 e-ink tablet starts at $358 ($279 plus $79 for the basic pen). The device is available for preorder starting today, with shipping “in time for the holidays,” according to the company.

Fire TV Cube and Omni-Series Fire TVs

Streaming fans should note that Amazon will soon have an updated 4K Fire TV Cube streaming box, plus a new series of Amazon Fire TV Omni TVs that incorporate the company’s always-ready “Fire TV Ambient Experience” features.

The new Omni TV sets are Amazon’s top-tier 4K QLED models that use quantum dots for a wider range of colors. They also have full-array LED backlights with up to 96 zones of local dimming, which can help improve contrast and minimize halos around brighter objects when they appear on darker backgrounds. The TVs support multiple HDR formats, and include sensors that can adjust the picture based on ambient room light. They also have presence sensors that can detect when someone is sitting in a room or just passing through, either turning the set on or kicking it into an ambient mode.

As part of the Fire TV Ambient Experience, the TV can be used for other activities when you’re not watching shows and movies. For example, much like Samsung’s Frame TVs, the sets can become a visual display for artwork and photos; 1,500 photos and other artwork come with the set, but you can display your favorite family photos, too. You can also listen to hands-free music and use Alexa routines to control other smart homes devices. A series of new onscreen widgets let you see calendar events, leave Sticky Notes, and view weather and news reports. A “What to Watch” widget shows you what’s trending on Fire TV.

The Fire TV Omni QLED Series will be available in 65-inch ($799.99) and 75-inch ($1,099.99) screen sizes, with pre-orders starting today at Amazon and Best Buy. Shipping will start on October 27.

As for the new Fire TV Cube, like its predecessor, it’s essentially a mashup of a Fire TV streaming player and Amazon’s Echo Dot smart speaker, with universal remote-control capability thrown in for good measure. What makes the Fire TV Cube really unique, though, is that it lets you control a host of other compatible A/V gear, including TVs, sound bars, receivers, and even some cable and satellite boxes. That control doesn’t just allow you to turn on your TV and adjust the volume; it also lets you use voice commands to find shows and movies, navigate to specific channels and programs, and call up streaming services that support it.

As for what’s different, Amazon claims the new model is faster and more powerful, thanks to a new processor. It has a four-microphone array and 360-degree IR blaster to improve voice and control performance. A “Super Resolution Upscaling” feature will automatically upconvert HD video to 4K.

In addition, the new model is the first streaming media player to support WiFi 6, which can reduce interference with other devices. It has Ethernet, USB, and HDMI ports on the back. The HDMI connections let you hook a cable box up to the player and switch channels using Alexa voice control.

The new Fire TV Cube will be available October 29 for $139.99. The previous version was among the better streaming players we’ve tested, so we’ll be looking forward to seeing how the new Fire TV Cube does once it’s available.

Amazon also introduced a new backlit Voice Remote Pro remote control, which will be available this November for $34.99. In addition to the branded streaming-service shortcut buttons, it has two programmable buttons, so you can program and launch an Alexa routine with one button press, for example. It includes a lost-remote finder feature that issues a sound when you ask by voice command.

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