Amazon Echo (2nd gen): Should you upgrade?

Alexa gets a brand new form, but does size really matter?

Amazon's Alexa voice assistant began life in a tube with the original Echo, but now she has so many different homes: the Echo Dot, Echo Plus and even your smartphone. She's everywhere.

Now her primary home is changing form, thanks to the new Amazon Echo (2017). This new model replaces the tall cylinder with a smaller one, but it looks a lot more inviting and it packs in the same powerful voice-driven abilities as the old one.

If you have the old Echo, though, do you really need to swap it out for the new one? After all, it's still Alexa – and as we've firmly established, she's everywhere. Here's our advice.

Size: It's short but sweet

One of those places Alexa has been lately must've been the gym, because the Echo has trimmed down a fair bit for this new iteration. Granted, it's been three years now, so the ability to trim some fat makes sense.

The new Echo loses more than three inches in height, dipping down from 9.3in tall to 5.9in. At about half a foot tall, it's almost as short as the Google Home now, and it can potentially hide a bit better in your space.

It's about 0.2in larger around than the previous Echo, but you won't notice the difference. Overall, Alexa occupies less total space here, so you might find that the new Echo fits into some more convenient spaces.

Design: Adds a bit of style

And the new Echo looks a lot more stylish, too, no doubt inspired by Google Home. Whereas the original Echo looked very industrial and sparing in design, the Home looked quite a bit more decorative and better able to blend into a living room. Also, it looked a bit like an automated air freshener, but that's neither here nor there.

The new Echo sort of splits the difference. It's still a cylinder, but the shorter form here is wrapped with Heather Gray, Charcoal, or Sandstone-coloured fabric.

Sound quality: Surely improved

Amazon says the Echo features an upgraded speaker setup inside, with a downward-firing 2.5in subwoofer and an upward-firing 0.6in tweeter with Dolby processing.

What's the end result? According to the company, you should get clearer, louder playback than before, allowing you to fill a room with sound without needing a whole setup of speakers. Improved vocals and beefier bass should come along with those upgrades.

However, if you want something more, the new Echo does have a big perk: a 3.5mm audio output port, letting you link up external speakers for potentially fuller sound. That way, you can marry the ease of use of Alexa with a proper Hi-Fi system.

Mic quality: It has better ears, too

The new Echo should hear you a bit better than before, too, thanks to a revamped far-field microphone setup with enhanced noise cancellation. The previous mic setup worked pretty well most of the time, but not if you were, you know, actually using the Echo to blast music.

Now, the Echo should be able to hear you from farther away, as well as discern voices even if you're blaring tunes in your space, the dog is barking, and your kids are yelling. Well, we'll have to see (well, hear) that one to believe it, but it certainly seems promising.