Top critical review
3.0 out of 5 starsTemperamental and thick
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on 14 March 2023
I sort of like the Alexa but there's still a lot of work to do.
- Can hear you easily and clearly for the most part, and comprehends simple commands with a decent degree of accuracy. Fairly fast responses
- Good at simple tasks, e.g. "Turn the light on, set timer for 15 minutes, cancel my current timer, take two minutes off my timer, add five minutes to my timer, snooze alarm for 15 minutes, remind me to clean the oven at 5pm, tell me the time, tell me how much time is left on my timer, add cheese to shopping list, remove cheese from shopping list."
- It will tell you if you try to add a duplicate item to any list
- It can buy things for you from Amazon without you needing to look at them, as long as you're happy to buy whatever the Amazon recommendation is for the product you specified
- It can answer some basic questions perfectly well, especially mathematical problems, the kind people struggle with (e.g. "what's 12 per cent of 40" "what day will it be on 4 March, 2024".
- A great way to set recurring reminders without having to pick a phone up and type them, or check your phone for them
- A great way to wake up in the morning, with music from Amazon music, or a radio station etc, at a set time
- A great way to access radio stations without fiddling with a dial
- A great way to shuffle music you like within a theme from Amazon music (free version). Specific songs if you have premium
- A great device for playing relaxing sounds, like rain, for about two hours to help you sleep
- Great hands free task setting, letting you keep going with whatever you are doing
- Good hearing, can usually hear you from across the room (in a fairly quiet room) if you speak up
- Good voice recognition - you can make commands while watching TV without it getting confused as you what you are saying and what is background chatter
- Good with location based weather and temperature updates, as well as traffic updates on specific roads. It can also tell you about current train strikes. Once you set your location you can ask 'what's the weather like here' and get a forecast for your area etc
- Can give you a news briefing on command from one of a few sources, including BBC and Sky
- Can connect to your smart devices and plugs, and turn them on and off hands free
- Very bad at answering nuanced questions. Alexa has given me quite the wrong answer several times. It takes it answers from a questionable search engine (Bing?) and Amazon/Alexa answers, which is just not good. For example, I asked it if I could put my wooden plate in the microwave; Alexa said yes, and ruined the plate. Google is much better for those kinds of questions.
- Struggles with long or compound sentences even when they are important or common, such as "set an alarm for every Thursday at 10am".
- Very bad at deleting future reminders and alarms. Commands such as 'cancel my Thursday alarm' often don't work. It also does not recognise the simple construction 'cancel my next alarm', requiring you to be specific, which can take ages or may require you to remember specifics you don't recall precisely. It may also then list all your alarms, which is a classic example of Alexa rattling on at length uselessly, forcing you to cut it off (Alexa, stop!) and give up on the command (you can do it via the Alexa app instead). It is similarly bad with notifications, for the same reason
- Cannot understand some common and normal commands, such as "set a reminder to pay rent at 10am on the last day of every month" - it does not understand the concept of 'the last day of the month'.
- Babbles on with excessive and irrelevant detail when asked some questions
- Struggles to recognise the difference between a command and a question, e.g. 'can you cook chicken from frozen' may sometimes cause Alexa to tell you she doesn't know how to do that, or that she isn't connected to an appropriate appliance
- Often gives you entirely different answers when you rephrase the question very slightly. Often requires you to repeat the same request in several ways to get a proper answer. The top answer is mysteriously chosen - again, Google is better at picking the best answer to a question
- Has an unfortunate tendency to stop playing music if you tap it or knock it, regardless of whether you want this
- Cannot answer questions about its own status, such as 'what are you doing, why have you stopped' or an accurate answer to 'are you ok' (it says yes even when there's clearly something wrong).
- Sometimes struggles to recognise certain words, and the names of lists - will sometimes ends up adding new lists or bizarrely adding the name of your list to your shopping list, as if it's a product
- Is not great with regional accents, even my factory standard southern RP - mistook the term 'space heater' for 'space eater' and gave me a very odd definition indeed!
- Speaks when unwanted, just to apologise and give a boring explanation for stopping playing music ('Sorry, Amazon stopped playing music because there was no activity on your device'). Repeats this every time
- Stops playing music randomly, or stops due to inactivity even though 'inactivity' is to be expected when you're using your Alexa as a radio while busy doing something else
- Often does not react to the instruction to 'resume' (music) on the first try and requires you to shout at it
- Cannot do compound commands, such as "turn on the light and the dehumidifier". These instructions must be made one by one, which can be time consuming
- Totally ballsed up playback of a well established podcast, jumping back to an earlier point for no reason (with no ability to restore). I think Amazon music is likely to blame here, I have found it questionable on other devices, too
- Often the volume is much louder than you expect and commands to turn it down frequently fall on deaf ears. It does not appear to be a very consistent volume.