8 things you need to know about Amazon's new Echo devices

A better-sounding Echo, a smarter Echo, an alarm-y Echo and a... quizmaster Echo? Amazon's been busy!

It's been ooh about three months since Amazon last launched a new Echo product, so we weren't massively surprised to see a new one arrive today. But we didn't expect five of the blighters.

Yes, just three months after releasing the screen-toting Echo Show in the US, Amazon's unveiled a new Echo speaker, a souped-up Plus model, a smaller Spot version, some funny little button things and a phone of some kind. Oh, and it's also announced a UK release date for the Show and given us a new Fire TV Stick.

Thanks, Amazon: we were kinda hoping to just sit around and play Destiny 2 tonight. But anyway, much of it looks pretty cool so we'd better get on with telling you all about it.

1) The new Echo's going to sound much better

The Amazon Echo was already one of our very favourite devices on the planet, a Stuff Award-winner which has found itself a place in many a home around the country. But for all its talents, it wasn't perfect - and audio quality was probably its biggest flaw. Not that the original version was bad, far from it, but other Bluetooth speakers at the same price were better.

Amazon's looking to change that with the 2017 version of the Echo, giving it a major upgrade in the sound stakes. What you're now getting here is a new dedicated 0.6in tweeter, 2.5in woofer and Dolby processing - all of which should, Amazon says, deliver better vocals and bigger bass.

It also features new far-field tech with enhanced noise cancellation, which should improve Alexa's ability to hear you from across the room - even when the kids are screaming at each other and the dog is loudly barking at the postman.

5) The Echo Buttons look like masses of fun

There we were, thinking the most fun you could have with Alexa was saying "Simon says 'Siri is better than Alexa'" - only for Amazon to announce the Echo Buttons.

These colourful little devices are designed specifically to let you play games with your Echo: they'll work with a bunch of new Alexa skills including Trivial Pursuit, a Beat the Intro music game and and a load of games based around American sports. 

The idea is that Alexa asks you questions and you and your family/friends compete to press the button first, just like you would with a quiz-show buzzer. They'll come in packs of two for £20 and will arrive in time for Christmas. You can sign up to be notified as to when they're available by heading to www.amazon.co.uk/alexagadgets, and if you like the look of them that's probably a good thing to do, because we suspect they'll be a massive hit come the festive period.

6) The Echo Connect is... we're not sure

Oh look, we're back in the 1980s. Yes, Amazon really did release a gadget for making hands-free landline phone calls alongside all of the future-friendly Alexa tech described above, and no, we're not sure why either.

Basically, the Echo Connect hooks up to an Echo speaker to let you make voice calls, tying the call to your existing landline so the person on the other end knows who's calling. And doesn't just think they're getting pranked by an AI assistant.

It's the next best thing to finding a way to wedge a SIM card into an Echo, and means you don't need a second contract - it'll just piggy-back off your existing land line. The US$35 accessory will be springing up on the US Amazon store first, some time later this year. Those of us in the UK will have to make do with Echo-to-Echo voice calls and messaging, which starts rolling out this week.