Amazon Echo Flex review: This tiny plug-in speaker puts Alexa in places where other Echo devices won’t go

While the compact and inexpensive Echo Dot makes for a great way to put Alexa in your bedroom, den, or home office, it’s not much help in a space with minimal or nonexistent shelf space, such as a kitchen counter, a hallway, or a tool shed. Enter the Echo Flex, a diminutive, squarish Echo speaker with an integrated AC power adapter so you can plug it directly into a wall outlet.

The Flex’s iffy audio quality isn’t suitable for music, but it’s perfectly fine for chatting with Alexa, while the integrated USB port lets you attach optional nightlight and motion-sensor modules. Best of all, the Flex’s $25 list price (which we’re already seeing discounted) makes it enticingly affordable.

Design

Weighing in at 5.2 ounces and roughly the size of a USB wall adapter, the boxy, 1.75 inch-thick Echo Flex (not counting the two rear AC prongs) is, from a design aspect anyway, a far cry from the fabric-covered Echo Dot. While the Dot looks right at home on a bookshelf next to family photos, the utilitarian Flex looks like it belongs in a toolbox; indeed, it’s a perfect example of form meeting function.

On the front of the Flex are the standard Echo “Action” and mic-muting buttons, with an indicator light above them that illuminates when Alexa is listening, along with a pair of flanking microphone holes. Beneath the buttons are two small speaker ports, while a 3.5mm line-out jack sits on the right side of the unit.

Those are essentially the same controls you’ll find on the Echo Dot, with a notable exception: there aren’t any volume controls, which means you’ll need to ask Alexa or fiddle with the Alexa app to adjust the Flex’s volume. (Then again, I can’t remember the last time I actually touched the volume buttons on my Echo Dot.)

Look on the bottom of the Flex and you’ll find its USB Type-A charging port, which can supply up to 7.5 watts of charging power for a smartphone or other compatible device. The USB port also acts as a socket for snap-on third-party modules that add functionality to the Flex. For now, two are available: a motion sensor and a smart nightlight. These cost $15 each (you can also buy them bundled with the Flex). When plugged in, the modules add about an inch to the Flex’s overall height. I tested the Flex with the motion sensor (which I’ll discuss in greater detail momentarily), but I did not try the nightlight.

echo flex main Ben Patterson/IDG

The Echo Flex made for a nice fit in the AC outlet above my kitchen sink.

One feature that is missing from the Flex is a passthrough AC socket, which means you’ll essentially lose a power socket when you plug the Flex into a wall outlet. That could be an issue in, say, a kitchen, particularly if you have the Flex plugged into an outlet above the counter where you might also plan on plugging in mixers, blenders, or toasters. At least the Flex doesn’t take up both sockets, so long as it’s plugged into the bottom one. You could also consider deploying a power strip or surge protector here (click this link to read about our top picks in surge protectors).

Still, the fact that the Flex plugs into any wall outlet without the need of a power cord or a flat surface opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities. Aside from the fact that it occupies a power socket that you might use for another appliance, it’s pretty neat to have Alexa at your beck and call above the kitchen counter, on a workshop wall, or even in a hallway, all places where a larger smart speaker won’t fit.