Just when you thought you’ve seen every iteration of the Amazon’s popular smart speaker, another limited (echo)RED was recently released for 2020, in support of the sixth annual (SHOPATHON)RED that raises money for the Global Fund seeking to end AIDS and COVID-19.
As the name suggests, this Echo is bright red and based on the fourth-generation model launched in the fall, the new spherical shape a radical style departure from the outgoing cylinder. With a 144-millimetre diameter it’s not exactly compact, but does look great sitting on a shelf or table.
There’s a lot of other stuff going on here than a simple redesign: the powerful hardware hidden underneath the exterior fabric gets a major upgrade featuring a 3-inch woofer, dual-firing tweeters and Dolby stereo sound. The audio has a multi-layered quality, and even at a volume setting of five is already many times louder and richer than my Echo Dot playing at maximum.
For the first time, there’s a built-in smart home hub providing compatibility for Zigbee protocol and Bluetooth Low Energy devices, as well as Ring Smart Lighting. The onboard proprietary AZ1 neural Edge processor boosts performance, allowing Alexa to process speech recognition faster resulting in better response times.
Amazon claims the speaker even has the ability to automatically detect the acoustics of the surrounding space and fine-tune the sound accordingly, although having just started using it I haven’t noticed any discernable difference yet. And although not obvious, the familiar LED ring is retained but moved to the base of the sphere where the colourful light can bounce off surfaces for increased visibility.
The (echo)RED retails for $129.99 with $10 of every sale going towards supporting the Global Fund. Check out other (SHOPATHON)RED items and learn more about the initiative at www.red.org/shopathon.