Dipping your finger in every pie comes with the territory when you have grown big enough to bestride the world like a colossus.
Amazon began as a lone man using his parents’ money to fund his vision of selling books over the internet before progressing to selling every conceivable thing that can be sold online, then moving on to becoming a producer and a platform of popular entertainment before also becoming an electronic gadget maker and seller. I allude here, of course, to Amazon’s range of Alexa speakers, the Echo, Dot and the Pop, the latter the subject of this review.
But first things first. The crux of the matter here is Alexa, Amazon’s voice AI. According to Amazon itself, “Alexa lives in the cloud and is happy to help anywhere there’s internet access and a device that can connect to Alexa”. Making Alexa part of your day is as simple as asking a question. Alexa can play your favourite song, read the latest headlines, dim the lights in your living room – provided you have suitably fancy connected lights — and more.
“Basically, Alexa wants to make your life easier, more meaningful and more fun by helping you voice control your world — both at home and on the go,” says Amazon. And I somewhat agree.
Now that we have introduced Alexa – not that it (she?) needed any introduction – let’s delve into Echo. The Echo in the Echo Pop is Amazon’s range of smart devices, such as Echo smart speakers, screens and wearables. And Alexa puts the smart in Echo. Quoting Amazon again, “Alexa and Echo work hand in hand — so you don’t have to use your hands. While there are lots of Echo devices, there’s only one Alexa… you can ask Alexa for help wherever you find Alexa in Echo”.
The world of smart speakers is an ever-evolving one. And, as one of the earliest and prime movers in the space, Amazon’s products have left a resounding echo of innovation in their wake, enabling the online retail behemoth to pop out popular new hardware every now and again like the Echo Pop. Contrived puns aside, Amazon’s smart speakers have become essential additions to countless households, from the original Echo to the Echo Dot and beyond.
Today’s test mule — the relatively new addition to the Alexa family, the Alexa Echo Pop — is a pint-sized powerhouse that is not just about voice assistance; it’s a celebration of functionality and style rolled into one compact, decent-sounding package.
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Alexa Echo Pop is its unique design. It’s like someone took a regular smart speaker and gave it a vibrant makeover. This speaker is not content with being just another cylindrical box — it’s a pop of personality for your desk, for, yes, this is indeed a desktop speaker, from its size and dimensions to its sound output, even though Amazon says it is designed for small rooms.
The dimensions are ultra compact, at only 3.9 inches wide, 3.6 inches high and 3.3 inches in depth. Design-wise, it’s as if Amazon took the Pop’s older sibling, the spherical Echo Dot, and cut it diagonally in half, gave it a nifty border around its front edges and put the activity light on top as opposed to the base on the Dot. The Pop’s back is conical and the device comes in a choice of four colours: black, off-white, dark teal and light purple.
Unlike most smart speakers, the Pop is front-firing with a 1.9-inch woofer, which is surprisingly a little bigger than the Dot’s. Controls are minimal and the three buttons – mute and volume up and down – are located on top of the unit just behind the light bar. All said, the Pop’s conical shape is just right to pop it into a corner of your desk or nightstand, from where its sound can pop back out at you.
So how is that sound it pops out, then? The Echo Pop may be small, but it packs a punch. With its larger-than-the-Dot woofer, it delivers crisp highs, balanced mids and surprisingly robust bass for its small size. It’s no audiophile’s dream, but it’s more than capable of filling a medium-sized room with passable volume and a corner of it with rich, immersive sound. The power is less than its older siblings and the richness less detailed than the Dot over a distance of more than around three to four feet or so, but stay close to its firing line and it’s definitely musical at low to medium volumes.
Whether you’re grooving to your favourite tunes, catching up on podcasts, or even using it as a speakerphone for calls, the Echo Pop’s audio quality shines through. It’s particularly impressive when it comes to spoken word content. Alexa’s voice sounds clear and natural, making it a joy to interact with and podcasts and audio books are enjoyable to listen to on it. Just remember, if you’re looking for booming bass or room-filling sound, you might want to consider a larger speaker from Amazon’s Echo line-up.
The Echo Pop supports both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, giving you flexibility in how you play your music. Wi-Fi is ideal for streaming from services like Amazon Music, Spotify and Anghami, while Bluetooth lets you connect your phone or tablet for direct playback.
The Echo Pop was, of course, never intended to be anyone’s primary music consumption device. What sets it apart from your run-of-the-mill Bluetooth speaker is its integration with Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa. Setting up the Echo Pop is a breeze through the Alexa app, and once it’s connected, you’ve got a world of voice-activated possibilities at your beck and call, quite literally.
From setting reminders and answering trivia questions to controlling smart home devices, Alexa’s capabilities continue to expand, and the Echo Pop brings them all to life with just a “Hey Alexa”. The far-field voice recognition technology ensures that Alexa can hear you from across the room and even over the noise of your favourite playlist.
In a world full of smart speakers, the Alexa Echo Pop manages to carve a mini niche for itself… but only just. Its main drawback is that its bigger siblings are all so much more capable both feature-wise and especially in the sound department – and at not a significantly higher price point. However, the Echo Pop’s eye-catching design, acceptable sound quality and seamless integration with Alexa and, most of all, its Dh189.99 retail price, make it a good choice for anyone looking to add a touch of fun and functionality to their home over and above an extant primary smart speaker sound system.
In our estimation, the Echo Pop is what parents will buy for their kids’ and teenagers’ rooms while preferring the more accomplished Echo Dot in the main living room. And this is perhaps the one drawback that we can find in the Echo Pop – it’s lack of market focus and the absence of one shinning, winning feature. Apart from its limited sound capabilities, that is.
In the final analysis though, whether you’re a music lover who likes to have their personal playlist running softly besides them, a smart home enthusiast, or just someone who appreciates a bit of flair in their gadgets, the Echo Pop is worth considering. It’s like a small pop of brilliance in a compact package, and it’s sure to bring both style and substance to your space.
Just remember to keep that space small.
Amazon Alexa Echo Pop portable smart speaker
* Stylish design in a small package
* Alexa integration and smart features
* Good sound quality at low volume
* Lack of sound range and high-volume clarity
* Loses out to other products in Echo range
Rating: 3.5 stars