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It’s been about six months since I dove headfirst to the Amazon Alexa ecosystem. While it’s not perfect, I’m very happy with my decision to switch away from Siri as my primary voice assistant. Having fully immersed my home in Echo Dots, I initially didn’t see a need to venture outside of Amazon’s most affordable smart speaker.

My feelings changed pretty quickly after I realized how feature-rich Echo Plus was at such an affordable price. More microphones, better sounding audio, and a built-in smart home hub all worked together and eventually pushed me to try an upgraded Echo experience.

A serious audio upgrade

When I bought an Echo Plus, increased audio quality was the feature that I seriously underestimated. Amazon touts it as having premium sound, but I figured with pricier options out there like HomePod and Sonos One that it would pale in comparison.

Having recently tried a Sonos One, I ended up returning it and picking up an Echo Plus instead. Reasons for this decision include a lack of support for Alexa’s Apple Music skill and native multi-room speaker groups. Sonos has recently added support for the Apple Music skill, but as I experienced with the Polk Command Bar, venturing outside of Amazon’s ecosystem can lead to inconsistencies with Alexa.

360-degree Dolby audio, crisper vocals, and deeper bass resulted in a shocking upgrade that I did not anticipate. I now keep an Echo Plus on my desk and thoroughly enjoy the rich audio experience it delivers throughout my work day.

One hub to rule them all

Having a built-in hub was the reason I really wanted an Echo Plus. It’s allowed me to ditch my Philips Hue bridge, which is something that even a HomePod or Apple TV cannot do. It’s also allowed me to easily pair Samsung’s Smartthings Multipurpose Sensor and now trigger my Schlage Sense deadbolt each time the door closes.

This is all possible thanks to the integration of a Zigbee hub. There are loads of Zigbee accessories on Amazon and they can often be much more affordable than HomeKit alternatives. One area I find disappointing is the lack of support for Z-Wave, which in many instances undercuts Zigbee accessory prices.

An abundance of microphones

When looking at the top of Echo Plus, it’s immediately evident that it sports a slew of microphones. Each device sports a total of seven mics, narrowly beating the number offered in Apple’s HomePod by one. Considering that each of my Echo Dots have four microphones, Echo Plus nearly doubles what I had grown accustomed to.

Without question Echo Plus hears me much better and I experience fewer failed queries. That being said, having fifteen Echo Dots has lead to a low amount of failures since there is always one nearby. The one area that is extremely noticeable is how much better Echo Plus hears me when there is a large amount of background noise.

9to5Toys’ Take

At $150, I find Echo Plus to be an excellent addition to my Alexa-driven smart home. It has reduced the number of bridges and hubs in my space while also providing an excellent audio experience. On top of that, opting for an increased number of microphones is a fantastic choice that I’d recommend for anyone that lives in an occasionally noisy atmosphere.

The only real complaint I have is missing Z-Wave support. When shopping for door sensors I found several options that would have worked at a much lower cost but had to pass them up since the current Echo Plus would not support it. Here’s to hoping this is something Amazon addresses in its next iteration of Echo Plus.

Echo Dot Diary Series

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