Amazon's Echo Flex can extend an Echo network to places you don't necessarily want to have an Echo on show (or with a camera) - like in bedrooms, or where there's no surface to put one on - like in the hallway or garage.
Echo users can then control smart devices more easily around the home, extend security surveillance with the optional motion detector add-on, or talk to other home occupants - like letting the kids know dinner is ready.
The most obvious issue with the Echo Flex is that the tiny speaker isn't very good. It also lacks a screen. But for it's intended purpose, and in terms of neatness and cost, the Echo Flex is a winner.
The simple design of the Echo Flex combined with its easy set-up and low price makes it a great entry-level device to getting started with Alexa. It's also a great way to expand an existing Echo system, by adding Alexa to rooms such as the garage or hall.
While the Echo Flex was priced at £25 when it first launched in 2019, it's since come down to just £9.99 at the time of writing. This makes it the cheapest device in the Amazon Echo range by far.
The biggest drawback to the Flex is the poor quality speaker and lack of accessories - which so far has been limited to just a night light or motion sensor.
All in all, the Echo Flex is a budget friendly way to test out Alexa or expand Amazon Echo into more rooms.
- Very cheap
- Doesn't require any space to stand
- Great way to bring Alexa to more rooms
- Poor quality speaker
- Only third-party accessories
|Amazon Echo Flex||£9.99||Wi-fi, Bluetooth, USB||166g||72 x 67 x 66mm|
Setting it up
The first thing you need to do is download the Alexa app and sign into an Amazon account.
Swiping from the left will bring up the option to add a new device, and then it's just a matter of selecting the Echo Flex and following the on-screen instructions.
You'll need to have the device plugged into a mains socket and it's worth familiarising yourself with it's layout at the same time.
The front of the Echo Flex has an LED light, which will be blue when Alexa is listening. Below that is the Action Button, which can be used to invoke Alexa without using voice commands.
Directly underneath this is the button to electrically turn the mic on or off. When it's off, the button glows red.
The mini speaker's output is via the two slots at the bottom.
The Echo Flex's 3.5mm audio out jack is found on the right hand edge of the device.
The 3.5mm audio jack is on the ride hand side of the Echo Flex.
The USB-A port is found at the base.
The USB-A port on the underside of the Echo Flex is where the night light and motion sensor accessories are attached.
Using the Echo Flex
Once it's up and running, the Echo Flex is straightforward to use. Ask Alexa to play music, for example, and she'll immediately respond. As with all Amazon devices, it pays to be a Prime member or have a subscription to Amazon Music.
As already mentioned, the speaker is rubbish. Amazon are the first to admit this, stating in their sales blurb that "the Echo Flex has a mini built-in speaker that is not optimised for music playback. For richer and louder sound try Echo Dot or connect Echo Flex to your own speaker via 3.5mm aux or Bluetooth".
Connecting to a Bluetooth speaker was simple enough - we used the Anker Soundcore Mini. Simply select 'Devices' in the Alexa app and then find the Echo Flex in the menu and tap on Bluetooth Devices.
You could also connect a speaker via the 3.5mm jack, though that introduces the problem of trailing leads.
Alexa worked well with various other requests too. For example, asking Alexa to call someone from your contacts will promptly start a hands-free voice call to the desired number.
The Echo Flex can easily be paired with a speaker over Bluetooth.
Working with other Echos
Given its own limitations - no screen, poor speaker - much of the Flex's appeal lies in its ability to be used with connected Echo units.
Useful examples include asking Alexa to inform other Echos - and thereby anyone standing near one - that dinner is ready or that you're ready to leave. This saves a lot of running around the house shouting at various people.
The Flex also proves handy when used in conjunction with a smart home hub like the Echo Show, as it enables voice control of connected smart devices.
So, for example, if you have a Flex plugged in at a socket in the garage, you could ask it to turn the heating off in the house (via a smart thermostat) or to turn a light on in a particular room (via a smart bulb).
Which accessories are available?
The USB port is great for charging phones with, though it's primary use appears to be as a way to expand the Echo Flex.
There are only two accessories currently available, both made by the same third party vendor - a night light, and a motion sensor.
The night light is pushed into the bottom of the Echo Flex and extends its length by 3.9cm, which is something to think about if you have sockets low down on your walls.
It comes on when it detects that the light level in the room is low, and turns off when the light level increases.
You can choose the light's colour in the Alexa app, which is useful if you want a colour that doesn't wake you up too much during the night.
The motion sensor fits into the Echo Flex the same way and, again, adds 3.9cm to its length.
However, unlike the light, the sensor is only really useful if you have other smart devices that it can be used with - the obvious one being a smart light bulb.
Using the Alexa app, you can set up a variety of routines to dictate how it works. As well as turning the lights on when it detects motion, the sensor can be told to turn them off again after a certain period of inactivity.
It's worth pointing out that you'll need a socket that isn't obscured for the sensor to work.
How private is the Echo Flex?
Like other Amazon smart devices, the Echo Flex's microphones are always on in readiness for us to utter the wake word.
However, this has led to concerns that apps introduced via Alexa Skills may be able to eavesdrop on us in our homes.
Amazon say they are clamping down on malicious apps, and putting protections in place to detect and remove suspect behaviours.
But it's not just third party developers we need to worry about - Amazon itself has come under fire for allowing its workers to listen to select conversations recorded by Alexa in the name of improving the voice assistant.
Everything you say to Alexa is ultimately sent to the Amazon servers for processing. You can see the audio transcripts of your commands on the Alexa app, and choose to delete them if you wish.
You also have the option of automatically deleting subsequent recordings after three or 18 months.
If you don't want the Echo Flex to continuously listen for the wake word, then you can turn the mic off - though this renders the idea of a voice assistant a little pointless.
If you're new to the world of smart devices, then it's worth considering the privacy implications of allowing them into your home before buying anything with an always-on microphone.
|Size (HxWxD)||72 x 67 x 66mm|
|Speaker||0.6" mini speaker|
|Connectivity||Wi-fi, Bluetooth, USB|
Summary: Is the Amazon Echo Flex worth it?
The simple design, easy set-up and low price makes the Echo Flex a great entry-level device.
However, those with burgeoning smart homes may also appreciate a way to cheaply add Alexa to different rooms - particularly hallways and bathrooms.
The Echo Flex's range of connectivity features is impressive, and the ability to easily link with a remote speaker makes us less worried about the low quality of the built-in speaker. That said, if you want a device to play music, then you're better off upgrading to an Echo or Echo Dot.
It's somewhat disappointing that since it's launch in 2019 there haven't been any more accessories created for the Echo Flex. Those that were available initially were made by a third-party, including a night light and a motion sensor, and can now be hard to find.
It could be that due to the low quality speaker Amazon simply haven't wanted to invest any more in the device, focusing instead on the budget Echo Dot.
Nevertheless, the Echo Flex is still a useful device and those who've already committed to the Alexa world will no doubt enjoy what the Echo Flex has to offer.
|Amazon Echo Flex||£9.99||Wi-fi, Bluetooth, USB||166g||72 x 67 x 66mm|