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Is it worth pre-ordering Amazon’s new Alexa and Echo devices?

New smart headphones and speakers are on the way, including the Echo Studio, dubbed the 'best-sounding Echo ever'

Is it worth pre-ordering Amazon’s new Alexa and Echo devices?

With Black Friday right around the corner and the festive season not too far in the distance, Amazon has unveiled its updated range of voice-enabled devices in readiness.

Among the new arrivals for tech-lovers to get excited for are the Amazon Echo (3rd generation), Echo Flex, Echo Dot, Echo Show 8, Echo Studio and Echo Buds. You might have also heard about the Alexa Loop ring and Frame glasses, but they’re not coming to the UK just yet.

Keep scrolling for a closer look at what each new gadget has to offer, along with some similarly priced alternatives that we’ve put to the test in our lab.

Best speakers with voice control – top picks for every budget

Amazon’s updated smart product family

Amazon Echo (£89.99)

The latest update to Amazon’s popular Echo smart speaker adds some extra audio power. This 3rd-generation Echo has the same innards as the chunkier Amazon Echo Plus –  and Amazon is promising stronger bass as a result. A three-inch woofer tucked inside the cylindrical speaker will hopefully do an effective job of dispersing sound evenly around your living room.

Unsurprisingly, you get all the perks of Alexa that came with the previous model. That means a simple voice command can let you skip a track, run a Google search and turn on other smart products in your home. Support for downloadable Alexa ‘skills’ also means you can personalise the experience with extra voice commands.

If you’re convinced by the new Amazon Echo, you have four colours to choose from: Charcoal Fabric (black), Heather Grey Fabric (grey), Sandstone fabric (white) and Twilight blue (a light blue). It’s on sale from 16 October, but you can see how the 2nd-generation model did now by reading our review.

Similar price: LG WK7 ThinQ Smart Speaker (£79.95)

With Google Assistant built-in for hands-free voice control and Chromecast for multi-room to connect to other speakers, LG describes the ThinQ as an ‘AI speaker with a truly exceptional sound experience’.

Amazon Echo Flex (£24.99)

The Echo Flex is a brand-new affordable smart speaker that you can plug right into the wall. This space-saving box will free your home of power cables, with a blue LED on the front of the Flex lighting up when Alexa is listening to you. There’s also a physical microphone on/off button.

This mini but mighty speaker works in the same way the Echo does. You wake up Alexa with your voice and then ask a question or issue an order. It can give you an update on the weather, tell you what the roads are looking like before you head out, or control another smart product.

If you have more than one Echo Flex plugged in at home, you can make an announcement through one speaker and have that read out through another speaker in a different room. An optional attachment clips to the bottom of the speaker that lets it double as a night light or a smartphone charger. The Amazon Echo Flex is up for grabs from 14 November.

Amazon Echo Dot (£59.99)

Amazon has added an LED display to its most popular smart speaker, which gives us the all-new Echo Dot (4th generation). With an always-on display, the Echo Dot makes for a handy voice-activated alarm clock. It will sit neatly by your bed or on a shelf in the kitchen, with the display adjusting based on the brightness of the room.

Like its siblings, the Echo Dot can deal with your voice commands, whether you’re setting a cooking timer or making a phone call to a UK mobile number.

This chatty assistant comes in Charcoal Fabric (black), Heather Grey Fabric (grey), Plum Fabric (soft red) and Sandstone Fabric (white). The new Amazon Echo Dot goes on sale 16 October, but you can see how its older sibling, the Echo Dot 3rd generation, performed when we tested it last year.

Similar price: Google Home Mini (£50)

Google aims to bring the power and convenience of its services to your home in an affordable, compact package with the Google Home Mini wireless speaker, powered by the Alexa-rivalling Google Assistant.

Amazon Echo Show 8 (£119.99)

The Echo Show 8 is the only new Amazon arrival that features a full-colour eight-inch display. It’s essentially like propping up a tablet on your kitchen counter, making it ideal for reading recipes or even watching recipe  videos. But you can also use it to manage shopping lists or view footage from your wireless security cameras.

If you’re already subscribed to a music streaming service, you’ll be able to sync your account with the Echo Show 8 in no time at all. The smart speaker supports Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify and other popular services. If privacy is a concern, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Echo Show 8 has a microphone toggle on its top. And you can delete voice recordings at any time.

You can pre-order the Echo Show in Charcoal Fabric (black) or Sandstone Fabric (white). It’s officially released on 21 November, but if you’re keen to know how the previous model performed you can read our review.

Similar price: Google Nest Hub (£139)

The Google Nest Hub – formerly known as the Google Home Hub – is Google’s answer to the rival Amazon Echo Show. Google claims that it’s an all-in-one smart hub for controlling your home and perfect for the kitchen.

Amazon Echo Show Studio (£189.99)

The brand-new Echo Show Studio is Amazon’s answer to the Apple HomePod. It’s a chunky, bass-blasting Bluetooth box that uses 5 speakers to do your favourite artists justice. Amazon says that it will serve up ‘powerful bass’ and ‘crisp highs’, so we’ll be putting those claims to the test in our lab as soon as possible.

Like the HomePod, the Echo Show Studio will adjust sound levels based on the acoustics of your room. It’s powered by the Amazon Alexa voice assistant, which is good news if you want to manage your playlists without having to reach into your pocket for your mobile.

Next time movie night rolls around, you can try pairing the Echo Show Studio with an Amazon Fire TV Stick to bring TV scenes to life. With booming bass, we expect the Echo Show Studio will be well-suited if you’re into action-packed blockbusters. The Amazon Echo Show Studio is available from November 7.

Similar price: Polk Audio Assist (£199)

Loudspeaker specialist Polk Audio is known to focus on high-end consumer audio products, and here turns its expertise to smart speakers with the Polk Assist Bluetooth speaker with built-in Google Assistant for control with your voice.

Amazon Echo Buds (£119.99)

The brand-new sweat-resistant Echo Buds might catch your eye if you’re shopping for some durable headphones to take to the gym. A long press on the buds will open up Amazon Alexa or Apple Siri, which means you can bark orders without breaking your stride on the treadmill.

Just by using your voice, you can have these wireless, in-ear headphones stream music, play audiobooks, make calls and check your schedule. Amazon is confident that the headphones will last up to five hours between charges if you’re using them for music. That shoots up to 20 hours with the official charging case.

An exact release date for the Amazon Echo Buds is yet to be confirmed. We’ll let you know when we hear more.

Similar price: Apple Airpods with charging case (£159)

Apple promises that these 2nd-generation Airpods are ‘more magical than ever’ and claims they have a longer battery life, faster connection to your devices and Apple’s Siri voice assistant built-in for using them hands-free.

New Alexa voice commands on the way

Alongside its new voice-enabled products, Amazon has taken the time to add some extra tricks to Alexa. The updated Alexa voice assistant can now:

  • Recommend routines If you have regular alarms scheduled, Alexa can suggest a daily routine that pairs alerts with other feedback, such as an overview of the news headlines.
  • Tell you what it hears By saying ‘Alexa, tell me what you heard’, Alexa will read back your most recent voice command. Amazon says the feature will roll out in the coming weeks.
  • Delete voice recordings Later this year, Alexa users will be able to have their stored voice recordings automatically deleted on an ongoing basis.

Smart products to look out for this Black Friday

Based on offers we saw last year, we expect Black Friday 2019 to be packed with deals for smart products, from voice-enabled Bluetooth speakers to smart lighting kits. You may want to wait until November to take the plunge with a new smart speaker – and with Amazon’s new products landing, you might save money on older models.

Last year, we saw Currys PC World discounting a selection of smart products. The retailer was offering 40% off the Google Home Mini, taking it from £49 to a far-more-tempting £29. The regular Google Home was also treated to a price reduction, dropping from £129.99 to £79.

Over on the John Lewis website, we saw the LG WK7 ThinQ Smart Speaker at 50% off.

Can’t wait until November? Make sure you consult our expert smart speaker reviews to see models worthy of the Which? Best Buy sticker.

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