Thanks to Amazon Echo Drive, Alexa comes in all (or almost all) the cars in trade, regardless of the presence of Bluetooth or a hands-free system integrated. Here’s our review.
The packaging and design
The packaging reflects the design of other products in the family Echo, with the blue color that covers a large part of the box. On the front we find the photos of the Echo Drive, while on the back there is some information about the features of the product. Inside is the device, an AUX cable, the support for the nozzle of the aeration, the car charger and the Micro-USB cable. Full equipment, we have everything you need to connect the Echo Drive our car.
Amazon Echo Drive is made of black plastic, with a strip of LED on the front edge. The materials used are of excellent quality and give the impression of being solid and long-lasting. The total weight is 45 grams, dimensions 85 x 47 x 13,28 mm. Lightweight Design and not bulky, but not the greatest in terms of aesthetics.
On the top we find the button to deactivate/reactivate the microphone and the Action button. On the right side we have the output AUX audio and ports Micro-USB for power. The LED changes color based on the status of the device (active, non-active, connected, receiving a voice command, etc…).
Good quality also to support the nozzle of ventilation, the top has a magnetic insert on which to apply the Amazon Echo Drive, and right at the bottom, a clip fastening to sort the most of the different cables inside the car. On the back, we find the actual clip that can be rotated to choose the most appropriate measure.
This support is not really the best in terms of design, both in size and aesthetic in its own right. In addition, it also is “catch-fingerprint” is not little.
Then pay attention to the fact that the media is not compatible with all the jets. For example, in my Mini Countryman is not possible to use this accessory, so I found an alternative way, by mounting the Echo Drive in the vicinity of the central tunnel.
The sore point in the mounting in the car is that we always need at least a cable, a power cord, since Echo Drive does not integrate any battery. This means that it will not be easy to hide it from view unless you are good at mounting the cable inside the car.
The connection is simple and fast. The first thing to do is to mount the support (if compatible, otherwise get jiggy with the imagination), and place Echo Drive in a horizontal position, with the indicator light facing towards us.
At which point, you need to connect the Echo Drive power, using the 12 V output of the drive (the USB port of the infotainment system or via cigarette lighter) and you will see a orange light that flows on the specific indicator, which represents the mode of pairing with the smartphone. Through the app Alexa on the iPhone-just follow a few simple steps to complete the configuration. When you turn on the car, just be sure to turn up the volume on the phone and select the correct input on your stereo system. To configuration complete, simply give the voice command “Alexa”, wait for the beep and make the request.
Here you will find the list of cars with Bluetooth system is not compatible with the Echo Drive (the alternative is of course the AUX-connection). Also, in some cars it will use the microphone of the Bluetooth hands-free system to which is connected, Echo Drive, and not the seven microphones on the device.
Once the configuration is completed, Echo Drive and will use the data connection of your smartphone for all the functions.
Thanks to Amazon, Echo is the Car you Alexa and all the related functions in your car. Amazon Echo Drive connects to the App Alexa on your iPhone and plays all the content from the speakers of the car, directly from the AUX input, or, as we have seen, by connecting the device to the Bluetooth of the smartphone.
Echo Car is equipped with 8 microphones to ensure a great speech recognition in any condition, even during the music playback in the car or in the conditions of the strong noises of the traffic. From our tests we have not noticed any particular problems: Alexa recognizes our commands without the need to raise the voice and with the music at high volume and with the car window open. Promoted to full marks. Compared to the Echo “home”, however, Echo the Car has more difficulty recognizing the commands given in a low voice.
Using voice commands, we can then use all of the features of the Alexa for playback of music, podcasts, radio stations, news, Skill, and much more. A special button allows you to mute the microphone to protect our privacy. Of course, we can use the Echo Drive is also to ask Alexa to initiate a phone call, which will be managed through the microphones of the device, and the speaker of the car. Also in this case, there is no problem in terms of operation. The audio of the interlocutor is clear, as well as the volume of our voice, even if the other side perceives quite clearly that we are in a hands-free, seen that the 8 microphones, Echo, Auto capture even the background noise. Nothing particularly serious to make it difficult to understand what we are saying, indeed.
As mentioned before, using voice commands, we can do everything that is expected from the platform to Alexa. We can start a song or playlist on the Apple Music, Spotify and/or Amazon Music, check appointments (connected to the Calendar on iOS), add something to the shopping list, send messages to other devices in the Echo (both our friends), ask the latest news of the day, get information about the weather, start a Routine maybe created specially for the car, start a podcast, play a radio station or start a among the many Skills available in the platform (from the schedule of the evening on TV, moving on to the traffic info, sport, highway, and so on). With the skill and the compatible accessories we can for example ask the Amaxon Echo Car turn on the air conditioner in the house when we are about to arrive, adjust the thermostat, open the garage door with a simple command (obviously having compatible devices), and so on.
You can also combine the commands in the style of “when I get home” and “when I go out of the house” that use geofencing, for example, to automate some operations such as the switching off of the lights in the house or turning on the thermostat when we are going to return.
Small note to the directions, one of the most used functions in the car. The compatibility with the app on iOS is not the best, and, at the moment, it seems limited only to Apple Maps. In practice, after having asked Alexa the directions to a certain place, the assistant will ask you to confirm the operation of the notification received on the iPhone. This operation should be performed whenever, we will restore the directions in the future. Once you have made the confirmation on the iPhone, you will need to click on the “Street” in the Apple Maps and start to listen to the directions from the system of the car. We will do more tests to see if this system can be automated completely.
All very nice, but serves as a boar, a system of this type? The answer is “it depends”. Staying in the eco-system of Apple, I’m not a big fan of Siri, and all the times that I tried to use the command “Hey Siri” in the car (I don’t have CarPlay, the result has always been ups and downs (how many times I had to scream…). With Amazon Echo Drive, we have 8 microphones that provide an excellent speech recognition in any condition, without considering that the platform, Alexa is much more complete and feature-rich.
After our home and our office, the cars are the place where we spend most of the time, and you also have there a device that Alexa creates a system of continuous and homogeneous can be very useful. In short, if you are accustomed to use the devices Echo in the home or in the office, it seems natural to use it also in your car.
Another lack is the display. There are those who would have preferred to spend a little more and get an Echo Car, with the screen, maybe to see information on the fly as the song or radio station playing. Also, one of the most important functions of the drive, i.e. the directions, is quite cumbersome to manage.
With CarPlay work all the multimedia controls, the device shows the green led in the receiving of the call and, as with the other scenarios, it is possible to call Alexa with no problems. Difficulties arise, however, when you decide to play music invoking to Alexa. Unless you use Spotify and play the music on Echo Car through the Connect service, Alexa will start playing through your player. It means that if you use Apple’s Music, the device will be able to play your favorite music, but will not show any information through CarPlay. To obtain the reproduction information, it will be necessary to exit from the interface of CarPlay and position the cursor on the default of your infotainment system on-board.
The ideal would be to have an app CarPlay, which invokes the assistant Amazon. For now, we can say that those who have CarPlay has no need to buy Echo Car, unless there are specific needs (for example, products of home automation compatible only with Alexa and not with HomeKit).
The risk of Amazon Echo Drive is a device that is superfluous, there is, especially if you have a car with CarPlay or Android Auto. Otherwise, given the price, to have the whole platform to Alexa, in the car can be very interesting to manage music, make phone calls, and get info about traffic, and much more.
Beyond some small defect, the Echo Drive is a great device that will make “smart” any car. In short, if you have a car older-free infotainment system, the purchase is highly recommended. With respect to the use of the Google Assistant on Android smartphones, however, the only point in favor is the best voice recognition of any condition to the inside of the car. Unless, of course, not love in its entirety the platform to Alexa.
Amazon Echo Drive is easy to set up, has all the features of Alexa in the car and has microphones excellent. Unfortunately, it does not work without a smartphone and requires the user to use at least a cable, that drive is not really the best.
Amazon Echo Drive is available today at a price of 59,99€.
Echo Drive is a fun addition but not necessary for most cars, unless you have models older. Of course, having the platform to Alexa, in the car can be a “must” for those who are accustomed to use the devices Echo, also in the house. Echo Drive is a gadget that perhaps not essential, but certainly fun, well made, and compatible with almost all the cars.