Amazon Echo Flex review: Alexa muscled her way into my garage

Android Central Verdict

Bottom Line This is a true utility product, and as such, I believe that just about everyone can find a use for it in their home.

Pros

  • +

    Can fit anywhere there is a standard outlet

  • +

    Great starting price to get Alexa in your home

  • +

    USB port to charge devices

  • +

    Available nightlight or motion-sensor attachments

Cons

  • -

    Attachments are an additional expense and more than half the price of the device itself

  • -

    The speaker is not suited for music

  • -

    Can't be used as a smart plug

Why you can trust Android Central Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

When Amazon announced the Echo Flex at its September 2019 event in Seattle, the product received a mixed, if muted reception among the tech press and Echo/Alexa fans. Some saw it as another example of Amazon just throwing a bunch of crud up against a wall (which, ironically, is where this thing goes) to see if it would stick, some didn't pay it much attention at all, and some thought it was possibly the most important product announced at the event.

If you're wondering "what the heck is the Echo Flex anyway?" then let me back up a step. The Echo Flex is basically a souped-up smart plug that is meant to bring Alexa functionality to those spaces in your home that are not conducive to placing a larger smart speaker or similar device. It plugs directly into any standard wall outlet and allows you to make queries of Alexa and hear her responses.

My initial feelings on the Echo Flex were somewhere between the "throwing stuff against the wall" take and a "technological singularity" moment. Now that I've finally had some time to plug in the Echo Flex and put it through its paces in my own home, have my thoughts crystalized any further? Let's find out.

Amazon Echo Flex Price and release date

Echo Flex

Source: Amazon (Image credit: Source: Amazon)

This flexible little Alexa device debuted at $25, and while it has regularly gone on special for $20 or less, it is still a fantastic bargain at its full retail price. Particularly when you bundle it with one of the available attachments described further below in this review.

Amazon Echo Flex What I like

Echo Flex blue

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

The Echo Flex is a product that I've been waiting on for a long time. As an early Alexa convert who purchased the very first Echo in late 2014, I always thought it would be great to have one of these in my garage for when I'm not inside but still want access to Alexa. And you know what? I was right, I use this thing all of the time!

Just the other day a reminder popped up on my Echo Show 5 to clean out the garage, and I was like groan! But when I remembered the Echo Flex was out there, it wasn't so bad. I got my Flash Briefing while I broke down a bunch of Amazon boxes — we can address my problem at another time, okay? — then I listened to a little holiday music while I swept the garage floor, and even asked Alexa to remind me to finish this article while I took out the trash. And I may have ordered more Topo Chico when I glanced in the garage fridge, but don't tell my wife!

The Echo Flex works just like any other Echo, with an easy set up in the Alexa app, and all of the same functionality you've come to expect from other Amazon devices. It has a speaker, albeit underpowered, and two microphones so that Alexa can hear your requests. You can use the device to control your smart home, answer questions, set reminders and timers, and even listen to audio entertainment in a pinch.

Echo Flex with sensors

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)
Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategoryEcho Flex
Size2.8" x 2.6" x 2.0"
Weight5.3 oz
Wi-FiDual-band Wi-Fi; 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5 GHz) networks
BluetoothA2DP and AVRCP support
USB connectivity1 USB-A port to charge devices at 7.5W
Line in/out3.5 mm line out
Speakers0.6" mini speaker
Microphones2
Privacy featuresAlexa wake word
Streaming indicators
Mute button
Ask Alexa to delete recordings

The "Flex" in the Echo Flex name obviously stands for flexible, and Amazon was smart to build this thing with attachments and accessories in mind to make it even more flexible. I purchased the nightlight attachment (opens in new tab) and found that it works really well for my needs. I had some simple nightlights in my garage, and this literally outshone those older ones quite well. It attaches to the bottom of the Echo Flex via the USB-A port, and is set to turn on/off when it detects darkness or light. You can ask Alexa to turn it on or off for you or to change the color of the light, or you can create routines from within the Alexa app to dictate when you want it to turn on or off.

Amazon also offers a third-party motion sensor for the Echo Flex, whose motion-detection can trigger routines to control various tasks in your smart home. You can create these routines from within the Alexa app. To me, this is ideal for places where you might want hands-free control over lights, such as a utility room, hallway, or even the garage.

As for my Echo Flex wish list, while I appreciate how Amazon is leaning into their privacy features, I would still love the ability to call out to Alexa to mute the microphone, just as I can now ask her to "forget what I just said" or to delete my conversation history. The logical extension of this privacy feature is that you'd then have to physically press the mute button to umute the Echo Flex. Not only would this be more convenient when you're in a place where your hands might be occupied or dirty, but I think this might go a long way towards continuing to build trust in Amazon's privacy features, and make folks a little less paranoid about plugging these devices around their homes. Actually come to think of it, they should enable something like this on all Echo devices.

I hope the next generation of the Echo Flex brings more smart attachments.

I also really hope to see Amazon or its partners continue to come up with innovative solutions for that USB-A port on the Echo Flex in the future. Perhaps they could come out with an attachment with a better speaker, or one with a mini-LED display. Or maybe even a true smart plug attachment for the ultimate wall warrior!

Amazon Echo Flex What I don't like

Echo Flex death light

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Okay, I'll start off with the low-hanging fruit here: the speaker is not great. I know, I know, that's not really the point, but this is an obvious area in which they can improve in future generations. Another area for improvement is the microphones. In my regular-sized two car garage, I didn't find that the Echo Flex had any trouble understanding me, but if it was in a bigger or noisier space, I could see the device having some problems hearing a person. I almost put my Echo Flex in our laundry room, and our dryer can get really loud sometimes, which would have made the Flex all but useless during those cycles. Adding a couple more microphones might really make this product even more useful in utility spaces.

While I do think the available attachments are practical and are the perfect launch accessories, they strike me as a little pricey at their full retail price of $15 per device. That's over half the price of the Echo Flex itself, and could possibly turn off some people from picking up what are otherwise really great additions to the product.

Don't panic, but the AI is physically spreading everywhere.

Finally, and this is the biggie, I get mixed feelings about Alexa's ubiquity. On the one hand, I totally see the value in having ready access to Alexa wherever you might need her. The garage, utility room, kitchen, etc are all places that having a hands-free smart assistant can be valuable. Whether you are changing the oil on your car, doing laundry, or chopping onions, the last thing you want to do is stop what you're doing to get a simple question answered, task fulfilled, or music playing.

And yet, I can't help but feel like this is not only the next logical step towards artificial intelligence taking over our lives, it is part of a bigger, longer stride than ever before. Putting smart virtual assistants in spaces where we didn't think they could (or should) previously go means that there practically isn't any respite from them. Is this a good or a bad thing? I guess we'll find out!

Amazon Echo Flex Should you buy it?

Okay, so that got dark quickly, but I didn't really mean for it to! I still lean towards seeing the positive side of having smart virtual assistants like Alexa in our lives, but I do think we should all continue to talk about how this relationship between smart humans and smart assistants should evolve.

4.5 out of 5

As far as smart virtual assistants go, I think that they can be most helpful in our utility spaces, and that is just what the an Alexa speaker like the Echo Flex is for. If you are interested in smart home technology or automation at all, then the Echo Flex is a great little device to have where you need it. It is not perfect and it still has some room for improvement, but it's a first-generation product that I'm sure will get even better and more useful in the years to come. If you have a garage, laundry room, or mud room, I recommend you pick one up along with one of the attachments to make your life just a little bit easier.

Jeramy Johnson
Editor-in-chief

Jeramy is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.

4 Comments
  • I could see some value to this, but as an early adopter of the Alexa world, I now have Echo devices in every room in my house, so I would have no place to put it!
  • I feel that... I'm pretty much in the same boat too... but it is handy!
  • Amazon's page for this shows it in a garage and that's where you put it but I'm concerned about temperatures. I can't find anywhere what the recommended operating environment is for this. How cold is too cold? What about humidity from a shower if it was used in a bathroom. Any specs on this?
  • I have three of these. One with light, one with sensor, one naked. The light is in a guest bathroom set to come on when it is dark, based on light, not dusk to dawn. The sensor is in a walk in pantry, where you do tend to walk in with an armload of stuff to put way. It can be used to trigger some other smart home lights, which is what it does. It is also the ideal place for adding stuff to the shopping list. Both these locations don't really lend themselves to a device sitting on a counter with a cord hanging off them. The last, naked one, is in a man cave work area where I like having something I can drop in from or two, but don't need a nice speaker. There is an actual stereo in there. One thing these locations do have in common is outlets that aren't just above the floor. I think it would be weird having Alexa talk to you from ankle height.
    I too wish there was some "Alexa, stop listening' option. I would like it paired with an 'Alexa, start listening' command. In between she could listen for the Start command, but not respond to anything else. This is distinct from turning off the mic. I just get tired of her responding to the TV when they are complaining about Alexa ordering ponies for children whose parents turned on the auto-order, (which is off by default) and didn't use a PIN.
    BTW, if you are going to recycle articles, you might check and see if there is anything you should update. Instead of wishing for an LED display, you could note a smart clock module is coming this month. Seems like it does the same things the Dots with clock do. The man cave might get one of these.