The new Amazon Echo ($ 100) is smaller, contains new microphone technology and offers better sound. The old Echo form factor was redone in the Echo Plus ($ 150), which comes with an integrated smarthome hub. This is not very good.
Do not get me wrong, it’s a good idea to combine two smart devices into one unit, especially if your smarthome is accumulating as it is. But Echo Plus’s built-in smarthome hub is not doing enough work to justify it. Let’s talk about why.
There is no Z-Wave support
For starters, it looks more like half of a smarthome hub. There are two major open smarthome protocols that most devices use: Zigbee and Z-Wave . Any smarthome hub worthy of the name supports both. The Echo Plus only supports Zigbee. Are you kidding me, Amazon?
The fact that Amazon stuffed a smarthome concentrator inside the Echo Plus but did not include support for an entire protocol – while almost all the other hubs do it – would be laughable if it was not so frustrating.
Granted, you might be able to find a ZigBee equivalent of a given Z-Wave switch or smart sensor. But you will have fewer choices in the smarthome products that you buy, especially given the prevalence of Zigbee. It does not make sense that the smarthome hub of Echo Plus only supports Zigbee. This, in my opinion, makes the Echo Plus a non-starter.
Alexa’s integrated control sucks
One of the great advantages of a smarthome hub is to be able to control everything from a central application. When it comes to Echo Plus, it means using the Alexa application, which is not very good.
Of course, since you have Alexa at your disposal, you will probably use your voice to control your smarthome most of the time, but for times when you want to control your phone’s devices, you’ll need to count in the Smart Home section. from the application Alexa, who just feels half-cooked for this purpose.
To begin, you have to go through the menus to get there, and once you get there, nothing is really in order or organized in any way. Once you have finally found the device you want to control, it is pretty sloppy and quirky. For example, the Hue lights do not update in real time when you change the brightness until you lift your finger from the slider, making it harder to quickly search for a brightness setting satisfactory. And sorry, you can not use the Hue application instead, since all this assumes that you are using the Echo Plus as the hub and not the Hue Bridge.
Let’s use my Ecobee3 smart thermostat as another example. I connected it to my Wink Hub as well as to the Echo Plus. In the Wink application, I can change the temperature setting, turn off the thermostat (or switch to heating / cooling mode), control the fan and turn on or off the Home and Away modes.
In the Alexa application, however, I can only change the temperature setting … and nothing else. Useful, huh?
Overall, the Alexa application is not meant to be a smarthome control application – it is intended to be a companion of Alexa’s voice control. So, if you plan on getting the Echo Plus, you’d better make sure that you are allowed to strictly use your voice to control everything.
The functionality is extremely limited
It does not matter that the control within the application is rather bad – functionality in general is severely limited to begin with. For starters, it does not support nearly as many devices as other smarthome hubs. In fact, take a look at what all the Echo Plus supports and you’ll notice that it’s only about a handful of d & # 39; Light bulbs, switches, sockets and latches – forget motion detectors, detectors just about anything else.
In addition, Echo Plus does not allow you to customize, program, or automate connected devices. With any other concentrator, you can, for example, turn off the thermostat if no motion is detected after 30 minutes. This is one of the most useful parts of having a hub. but with the Echo Plus, you can only turn on and off the devices, change the brightness of the lights and set a thermostat.
The marketing of Amazon would have you believe that it replaces other hubs, but that is not the case. Amazon strongly recommends completely bypassing the Hue Bridge and directly connecting your Hue lamps to the Echo Plus, but at the same time, you lose a ton of features including using the app Hue. Whether you use your voice or Alexa’s built-in control, you can only turn Hue bulbs on and off and change their brightness: you can not create scenes, routines, or use geolocation to automatically control your lights. . Even Philips mentions on his own website that you will get a lot more features from your lights if you use a Hue bridge.
What annoys most, however, is that Amazon says that Hue color bulbs can be connected directly to the Echo Plus, but you can not even change the color of the bulb of the application Alexa. And since you can not use the Hue application in this scenario, you can only use your voice to change color. Way to go, Amazon.
True, not all devices connected to the Echo Plus are as limited, but it’s pretty disappointing that you can not get all the features of a product if you’re using the built-in smarthome hub. Echo Plus.
You save very little money
The Echo Plus comes with an integrated smarthome hub in addition to what you’ve already released from a classic Echo, so you surely save money by not having it. to buy a separate smarthome hub, is not it? Well … not exactly.
For starters, the built-in smarthome hub feature is costing you $ 50 more compared to the classic Echo (that may have for $ 99 ). Granted, buying a smarthome hub by itself can cost you up to $ 100, but you can easily get a hub SmartThings or Wink ] used a lot less on eBay. At this point, you are not saving money by consolidating your Echo and Smarthome hub.
Moreover, even if you end up saving a little money, you give up the feature I talked about in the previous section. So, what you save in cash, you add headaches.
You’re better off with a dedicated smarthome hub
I’m going to be right here: if you are slowly dipping your toes into the smarthome and not looking to get all the bells and whistles for now, then the Echo Plus could work well. This can be a good way to learn the smarthome landscape.
But if you’re serious about smarthome – or if you plan to expand beyond a few devices – it’s better to use a dedicated smarthome hub, like SmartThings or Wink. Not only will you get more features on your connected devices, but the control within the app will be much better. In addition, you can still connect these smart hubs to any Amazon Echo and use voice commands to control them. It’s a win-win situation.