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Regardless of size, the idea of adding smart speakers can prove to be intimidating for a lot of people, especially those new to the smart home. The new $40 Amazon Echo Pop, however, is the perfect way to get started.
If you're like me, you may be wondering: With as many smart speakers as Amazon has in its marketplace, why launch another small smart speaker? That's what I hoped to find out during my week-long testing of the Echo Pop.
This small, compact speaker packs a punch that you wouldn't expect from its size, but the portability of it is arguably its biggest draw compared to competing smart speakers.
1. The Echo Pop can fit almost anywhere
Amazon is marketing the Echo Pop speaker as the perfect fit for small rooms and bedrooms. If you love to do housework while listening to a podcast or audiobook, then an Echo Pop may make the most sense for your lifestyle. Given its compact nature, the speaker can fit almost anywhere, from a shelf to an office desk to a nightstand.
I have several Echo speakers around my home, including a Show, Studio, and a couple of Echo Dots and when I unboxed the Echo Pop I didn't know yet where I'd put it. My bedroom has a Sonos Era 100 for both Alexa and TV sound, while the bathroom's Echo Dot can control my blinds and play music when I want to shower, so I didn't need another device there.
After testing the Echo Pop in my living room and finding it too small for such a wide open space, I settled for the kids' bedroom. The space-saving design on the Echo Pop means it's a perfect fit on a bookshelf, desk, or side table, but it also makes it significantly less powerful than other speakers, like the Echo Dot.
My two older kids share a 250-300 square feet room where we've set up some smart lights. Naturally, adding a smart speaker for easier control made the most sense. The room also houses children who often throw their own dance parties, so an Echo Pop was a win-win there.
2. The sound quality is surprisingly good
Setting up the Echo Pop is easy with the Alexa app, thanks to Amazon's Frustration-free setup (FFS), which connects your new devices to your Wi-Fi network for you, making the entire setup process no longer than one to two minutes.
To my ears, the Echo Pop sounds much better than similarly-sized speakers, though the quality is not as good as the latest, fifth-generation Echo Dot. The Pop features a 1.95-inch front-facing, powerful directional speaker, a slightly larger one than the Echo Dot. The speaker is powerful, able to put out booming sounds in small spaces, so much so that it can become a problem if you accidentally max out the volume.
That being said, the design and technology within the new Echo speaker result in an improvement over older versions of the Echo Dot, if you're weighing in on upgrading from an older speaker.
While the Echo Pop takes up just over half the space of an Echo Dot (see image above), its comparative sound quality is good enough to compete with other compact speakers like the JBL Flip lineup, which cost a lot more.
Since setting it up in the kids' bedroom, I've used the Echo Pop's Alexa built-in feature to control the kids' lights, as well as set routines to run during bedtime. It also serves as an alarm clock, complete with a Spongebob Squarepants tone to wake them up for school in the mornings. Oh, and it also includes Eero Built-in and Matter support.
What I'd like to see in the next model
Here are some changes that I'd like to see with the next iteration of the Echo Pop, ones that will take it from a smart speaker that's just good enough to a must-buy for me.
1. Better microphone array -- or an Alexa button
Due to the oomph that the speaker produces in smaller rooms, it can be a challenge when you're trying to talk to Alexa in the middle of a song. The lack of a dedicated button to call on Alexa is frustrating, as my kids will often change their minds about a song or want to move on to another activity and the speaker simply won't hear them or me.
Without a button for Alexa, you're left trying to speak over any audio playback, screaming the wake word as needed. This is a problem with many smart speakers, not just the Echo Pop, but it's one that I rarely encounter with the 5th-gen Echo Dot's microphone array or even the Sonos Era 100.
2. Crisper sound
The Echo Pop produces vocals with a lot of clarity, but they aren't as crisp as other speakers and it seems like the overall sound quality suffers from that signature, compressed sound quality notable with compact speakers.
However, this speaker is built for smaller rooms, everyday listening, and smart home control, so it's unlikely that someone looking for an Echo Pop, a tiny smart speaker that can be tucked away on a shelf, is also looking for the most clarity, balance, and detail. If Amazon can make any improvements to the audio frequencies, I'd say that's a win.
Amazon's new Echo Pop has proven to be a great smart speaker for small spaces like bedrooms and bathrooms. It's also been a breeze to use Alexa (or Ziggy, which is the wake word we've given it) to control accessories like smart lights and help my kids learn to wake up with alarms during school days.
The Echo Pop, which comes in four different colors (charcoal, glacier white, lavender bloom, and midnight teal) is available right now on Amazon for $40.
Should I buy one?
As a simple smart speaker, the Echo Pop makes for a great addition for anyone who wants great sound and a smart voice assistant without consuming precious square footage in their living space.
Considering that the Pop is only $10 cheaper than the superior-sounding 5th-gen Echo Dot, I'm not sure if that saving is worth compromising on audio quality and extra features; I'd pay $10 just for that Alexa button, myself. But for someone looking for a small speaker to listen to their favorite true crime podcast or workout music, or even if they have roommates or are a student in a dorm room, the Echo Pop is one of the safest options as far as smart speakers are concerned.