Amazon unveils a huge hardware refresh, including four new Echo devices
Amazon has been holding a press event in Seattle today, showing off some brand new hardware devices ready for the holiday season – and included in the wealth of Alexa-powered devices demoed were four new Echo models and a 4K-capable Amazon Fire TV dongle.
While Amazon's new batch of products aren't game-changers in the way that the original Echo or the Amazon Kindle were, they do help Amazon keep pace with the raft of rival products that have popped up since its last hardware refresh (the likes of the Google Home and the 4K Apple TV).
Indeed one of the selling points of the new, smaller Echo is the range of shells you can get for it, covering different looks in fabric and wood – very Google Home. It's also got a dedicated bass tweeter included for extra audio oomph, and can now handle audio playback across multiple rooms, making it a direct Sonos competitor.
As for the Echo Plus, as the larger model is called, it looks a lot like the original device but adds better sound, all the upgrades of the smaller model, and a built-in smart home hub for even more control over the various bits of intelligent kit you might have dotted around the house.
The final entry in the new Echo line-up is the Echo Spot. This one is essentially an Echo Dot, designed to plug into a larger speaker, but this time with a small 2.5-inch display. One of the tricks that enables it to pull off is making video calls, which was demoed at the Amazon event.
The Echo Plus retails for US$149.99, while the smaller Echo will cost you $99, and the Echo Spot price is set at $129.99. On top of that there's also a more boxy-looking, audio calling-specific model called the Echo Connect coming later this year for $34.99, enabling you to make landline calls in the US and Canada for free.
There was additionally time for Amazon to show off some new Echo Button accessories, which act as inputs for the main speaker – maybe if you're buzzing in on a trivia game, for example. Those are yours for $20 for two.
Moving on to the upgraded Amazon Fire TV, it improves over its predecessor with support for 4K resolutions at 60 frames-per-second, HDR, and Dolby Atmos sound. Alexa is also built right in, as you would expect from anything Amazon makes nowadays. The Chromecast-sized device starts at $69.99.
On top of all these new devices, Amazon announced that its Alexa digital assistant will be making its way to the dashboards of BMW cars in the near future, so it can help you on the road as well as around the home.
The flurry of updates Amazon has rolled out today don't really edge it much ahead of the competition, but they do bring it right up to speed with everything currently on offer from its rivals, from the Apple HomePod to Google's Chromecast Ultra.