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Amazon Echo Pop review: Just buy an Echo Dot instead

Our Rating :
$39.99 from
£44.99 from
Price when reviewed : 45
inc VAT

The Echo Pop is another great smart speaker from Amazon but it's only £10 cheaper than the excellent Echo Dot

Pros

  • Cute as a button
  • Optional sleeves add colour
  • Solid sound quality for its size

Cons

  • Echo Dot is better in every way
  • Should be cheaper

Congratulations to Amazon’s Echo range, which just introduced a bouncing, baby Echo Pop to the family.

For a while, Amazon’s Echo family has been expanding, with the likes of the Echo Input, Echo Flex and Echo Auto threatening to confuse what used to be a simple, easy-to-understand product line.

Now it’s the Echo Pop’s turn and this is possibly the most confusing entry yet. In short: an entry-level smart speaker below the Echo Dot makes sense but pricing it like this doesn’t.

The Echo Pop sells for just £10 less than the Echo Dot and, while it’s perfectly competent – good even – I can’t think of any reason you wouldn’t want to spend a little more. That’s especially true when Amazon can barely go a month without offering some kind of generous discount on its own-brand products.

Amazon Echo Pop review: What do you get for the money?

The Echo Pop costs £45 at its normal price, although Prime Day showed that Amazon will happily sell the Echo Pop for as little as £18 if you catch the company in the sales spirit.

That’s great but, at its regular price, it’s a tough sell, especially when you can pick up a fifth-generation Echo Dot for £55, or £65 for one with a digital clock on the side. This offers slightly superior sound quality and a built-in temperature sensor.

Nonetheless, the Echo Pop is still cheaper than Google’s offering: the £49 Nest Hub mini. And it sounds a bit better to my ear, but more on that in a moment.

In the box, you’ll find the Echo Pop itself and its power cable. You won’t, however, find any of its Amazon-made silicon sleeves, which sell for a slightly cheeky £20 each. I was sent the red one for review and while it fits nicely and adds a splash of colour, I personally prefer the speaker without it.

That’s partly because, for me, it cheapens what is actually quite a nice design. Crudely, you could describe the Echo Pop as like an Echo Dot sliced unevenly along the middle, giving it a cute headlamp-style shape. This takes off a not insignificant 144 grams of weight, which is impressive when it doesn’t seem to miss out too much by way of sound quality.

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Amazon Echo Pop review: What do we like about it?

Despite its diminutive size, Amazon packs (almost) everything you would expect from an Echo into a cute little package.

That starts, of course, with Alexa, Amazon’s smart voice assistant. Say the wake word followed by a question and Alexa will do its best to answer.

It’s great for setting timers, alarms, picking out songs and controlling smart home equipment (“Alexa, turn off bedroom light” is a lifesaver when your bed is far from the light switch with a frame that’s just begging to be kicked in the dark). It’s less good at answering general knowledge questions – it’s noticeably dimmer than Google Assistant in this respect – but still handy to use in a pinch.

The sound quality is solid, with its sole 1.95in front-facing speaker putting out sound comparable to a cheap portable Bluetooth speaker. It’s a little muddy and suffers from noticeable distortion, especially at higher volumes, but if you’re looking for something for the radio or audiobook playback in a small room, then it won’t let you down.

Curiously, when played side by side, the fifth-generation Echo Dot sounds markedly cleaner, despite on paper having slightly weaker specs; it has a 1.73in driver. Amazon acknowledges this, describing the Pop as having “full sound” but the Echo Dot offering a “bigger vibrant sound”.

Again, though, this speaker is aimed at smaller spaces and, with that in mind, it’s perfectly sufficient. The design is compact and stylish and the ability to apply skins – even if they are cheekily priced – is a nice touch. The familiar blue ring that lights up when it hears the wake word has been replaced by an arc that appears along the top but it looks just as good.

And, despite the size reduction, Amazon has managed to maintain most of the physical buttons, with two volume controls and a switch to mute the microphones. The physical “Alexa” button has gone, however, which is a shame: sometimes it’s nice to get Alexa’s attention without having to raise your voice, especially if the mics can’t hear you.

That’s more likely to happen with this model, by the way, as it only has three microphones compared to the Echo Dot’s four. In general, though, I found it pretty good at picking up voice commands without a fuss.

Echo Pop review: What could it do better?

So far, the drawbacks have been pretty minor: the sound is a little muddy for music, and it’s a shame that the Alexa button has been removed for this version. No big deal on a speaker of this price, though.

The bigger problem is how it suffers in comparison to the Echo Dot, which – remember – is only £10 more. Not only does the Echo Dot have the extra button and better sound quality, it also comes with a built-in temperature sensor and motion sensing.

These are undeniably nice extras to have, unless you find such sensors a bit too intrusive. But bluntly, if you own a smart speaker, you’ve probably accepted a bit of intrusion by now.

These drawbacks would be fine and dandy if the Echo Pop were, say, £35. But the Echo Dot offers an all-round superior experience for just a tenner more and that leaves the Echo Pop in a sticky place.

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Echo Pop review: Should you buy it?

The Echo Pop is undeniably a super little speaker, especially if you’re working with a small space. Alexa voice commands work well and sound quality is decent, especially if you’re more into your spoken word content than music.But it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Echo Dot is a mere £10 more expensive – and often heavily discounted itself. When put side by side, it’s hard to justify the Echo Pop.

In other words, Amazon is a victim of its own success. It’s not that the Pop is bad – it’s just that the Echo Dot is so good it’s impossible to recommend the Pop outside of big sales.

 

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