Amazon Echo Pop
It lacks the bells and whistles of its bigger siblings but, writes PAT PILCHER, the Echo Pop is very smart and a genuine bargain.
Alexa is everywhere at Casa Pilch. Our first introduction to the least bright but ever so handy Aussie Sheila I’ve ever met came in the form of the original Echo Dot. It was a basic, puck-shaped widget that did what it said on the box. Since then, Alexa has evolved massively, but there’s still plenty of scope for a basic (and more affordable) smart speaker. Enter stage left: Amazon’s Echo Pop.
Would you like to support our mission to bring intelligence, insight and great writing to entertainment journalism? Help to pay for the coffee that keeps our brains working and fingers typing just for you. Witchdoctor, entertainment for grownups. Riveting writing on music, tech, hi-fi, music, film, TV and other cool stuff. Your one-off (or monthly) $5 or $10 donation will support Witchdoctor.co.nz. and help us keep producing quality content. It’s really easy to donate, just click the ‘Become a supporter’ button below.
The Echo Pop is basic. It’s a speaker with a mic and a smart assistant that lets you turn lights on and off, control smart appliances, play music, set alarms, get weather forecasts and so much more. Design-wise, it looks like someone took a knife to the spherical version of the Echo and cut it in half. This also handily means that it’s super compact, making it ideal for areas where space is premium.
As the Pop is available in charcoal (black), midnight teal (blue), and lavender bloom (purple), there are options for most decors too. The Pop isn’t big: its front is just 4 inches across, with the entire unit roughly the size of a cricket ball. Around the back is a power socket, and that’s it. Like the original Echo Dot, it also sports an RGB LED to tell you when it’s listening, updating or has a notification. Functionality-wise, it’s identical to an Echo Dot. The killer part, however, isn’t the Pop’s compact dimensions, it’s the sticker price. Priced at just $89, adding Alexa to smarten up your home has never been easier.
Its petite size means that the Pop doesn’t deliver audiophile-grade sound like its bigger counterpart, the Echo Studio (see my review here), but it’s fine for background music. At lower volumes, bass is hinted at, but with little body. Upping the volume sees mids and highs muddied, but that’s not what the Pop is designed for.
For notifications and responses to queries, the Pop excels. Its mic array had no problems pulling my voice out of background noise most of the time. While there is a small delay as Alexa’s servers, somewhere on planet Earth, think things over, it was otherwise pretty responsive.
Getting set up as with other Echo hardware is dead easy. Using the required Amazon app, I did a few taps and let Amazon do its thing (previous Alexa installs handily meant that my home’s Wi-Fi and password were remembered and transferred to the Echo Pop). Five minutes later, I was good to go.
Driving the Pop is easy. Most of the time, you’ll use voice commands such as “Alexa, what’s the weather like today?”. For anything else, there are three buttons on the Pop’s top. These consist of volume controls and a mic mute button. Once the mic mute is pressed, Alexa will glow red so you can see at a glance that she cannot hear you.
The Pop comes with a hidden bonus for Ero mesh router users – it can be used as an Ero mesh node that can extend Wi-Fi coverage. In practice, this translates into a throughput of up to 100 Mbps, with support for up to 10 devices on the 5 GHz band.
So, what’s missing? Given its petite size and super affordable sticker price, it isn’t surprising that the Pop lacks motion and temperature sensors. Still, for most of what you’ll likely end up using the Pop for, their absence is not a deal breaker.