The Echo Flex is a compact Alexa device designed for utility

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Fri November 29, 2019

Amazon has always focused on creating Echo smart devices that pack the intelligence of Alexa with quality sound and unique features. The Echo Show has a full display. The Dot with Clock takes a stab at the alarm clock market. And Echo Studio focuses on high-end sound.

But the $24.99 Echo Flex zooms in on Alexa, which gives you the ability to add a smart assistant to any room, as long as you have an open outlet. It has a tiny speaker and a small LED light, and to help you compensate for losing an outlet, there's a built-in USB-A port.

Let's dive into our full thoughts, but I'll tease with this: The Echo Flex screams utility.

It's really compact

The Echo Flex can likely fit in the palm of your hand. It's 2.8 inches tall and just 2.6 inches wide. You'll get the Alexa button and a microphone mute on the front above the speaker ports and below the LED indicator light. The bottom features one USB-A port and the back has the standard electrical plug. There really isn't much to it.

You'll likely need a two-slot outlet to place this in and I'd highly recommend the bottom spot as to not block a full outlet. It's plastic and only comes in white, but I hope a black variant will arrive in the future as it may not stick out as much. And you most certainly won't find an Echo Flex with a mesh outer shell.

That bottom USB-A port is two-fold to a certain degree. Yes, it gives you that outlet back and lets you plug in a cable to charge another device, like a phone, but it also supports two accessories designed for the Echo Flex. A Smart Night Light or a Motion Sensor — both retail for $14.99 from Amazon. These are specially designed and crafted to fit with the Echo Flex and match the design in both color and build.

It's a bare-bones device and can fit into almost any outlet, like in a hallway, a garage or maybe even behind a bookshelf. It solves the problem of placing an Echo with a cord somewhere that you don't have the space to run it.

Alexa is front and center, although more quiet than usual

The biggest appeal of the Echo Flex is being able to put Alexa almost anywhere in your house. It doesn't need to take up that much space and is ideally more affordable. And I'll give it to Amazon. There's definitely a tiny speaker, but Alexa's voice comes through in a clear and crisp manner —- it just doesn't get that loud. And I don't recommend listening to music on the Echo Flex. Your best bet is to buy a 3rd Gen Echo Dot.

Even so, I found myself using the Echo Flex in my garage, where it t turned on lights throughout the home and kicked off routines. It comes in handy for small tasks or even if I'm getting ready to leave, the Flexcan turn on Alexa Guard and switch smart devices on or off. It's that simple.

And if you opt for the Motion Sensor attachment, you can automate much of this. For instance, if you walk past it, the Echo Flex can start a routine, send an alert or even just turn on lights or unlock a smart lock. I see it as the enabler for the Alexa ecosystem.

The same goes for the Smart Night Light attachment, which reminds me of the Echo Glow, but this one just attaches to the Echo Flex. You can ask Alexa to change the color, set it to turn off at a certain time and even change the brightness level. And it can get bright, so it's quite handy for hallways or stairs that you need illuminated.

The downside is that you can only pick from two accessories and neither features an extra USB-A port to make up for the one it occupies. After all, these accessories need power, so it would sweeten the deal to have an extra outlet.

Bottom line

After using the Echo Flex, it feels like both the most intriguing Echo and the most exciting one in years. It's all about putting Alexa in one more place at a price point that doesn't break the bank. The two accessories open up the ecosystem, so I hope more are on the horizon.

Just don't play music on it. Promise me that, because it won't sound good. But even at $24.99, the Echo Flex is all about utility and expanding Alexa's presence.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.