Monday, June 24, 2024
VR&AR

Amazon Echo Frames (3rd Gen) review


For better or worse, I focus better when playing music, white noise, a podcast, or even mindless TV in the background. Usually, my favorite in-ear buds or over-ear headphones remedy my audio fix, or — one of the privileges of remote work– even blasting from my favorite speaker. However, spending nine hours a day behind a screen takes a toll on my eyes, often resulting in a desperate Renpho Eye massager session. While my prescription Warby Parker glasses have a blue light filter built-in, the added pressure from the glasses arms along with in-ears or the headband from over-ear headphones, I end up with a headache all the same or simply feeling claustrophobic. For all these reasons, I was eager to try Amazon’s blue light 3rd-Gen Echo Frames.


Using open-ear technology, Amazon’s Echo Frames have speakers built-in and connect via Bluetooth, acting almost like open-ear buds while simultaneously protecting my eyes, so I don’t have to compromise more blue light exposure for lack of audio or vice versa.

Using open-ear technology, Amazon’s Echo Frames have speakers built-in and connect via Bluetooth, acting almost like open-ear buds while simultaneously protecting my eyes, so I don’t have to compromise more blue light exposure for lack of audio or vice versa. And thanks to Bluetooth multipoint, once paired to both my laptop and phone, it makes for a seamless switch when I have to quickly jump in a Slack huddle or meeting without fumbling to pause my music — or when I’m using my speaker — embarrassingly play music out loud.


Helpful, functional, and also quite stylish, these glasses have become my WFH essential for the past two weeks and have surprised me in more ways than one.

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Amazon Echo Frames (3rd Gen, 2023)

Recommended

Pros

  • Lightweight, chic design
  • Quality sound, speakers, and microphone
  • Easy fashion-forward alternative for bone conduction or open-ear buds
  • Blue light is effective
  • Bluetooth multipoint offers seamless connection and effective communication
Cons

  • Battery life could be better
  • Charging is finicky
  • Bass isn’t the most powerful


Design

Smart style to match function

It might be vain, but style — or lack of it — is a reason I’ve been hesitant to adopt tech wearables in my daily accessory rotation. The 3rd-Gen Echo Frames look more or less like a pair of Warby Parker glasses I’d pick out on my own — especially the Brown Cat Eye model I received for testing. While slightly big for my face, they did take me back to that circa-2008 “hipster” over-sized glasses aesthetic that I didn’t mind. The speakers embedded in the arms result in a thicker than average earpiece, but still, unless told, you’d never know they were “smart” glasses.


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Subtle, stylish, and sleek, unless told, you wouldn’t ever know the 3rd-Gen Echo Frames were “smart” glasses.

The 3rd-Gen Echo frames are surprisingly light to wear and result in little pressure build-up, which I can’t always say for my prescription glasses. And that slight oversize fit actually made for a less-snug feel, but by no means less secure.

Young woman with dark hair working and wearing 3rd-Gen Amazon Echo Frames

Audio quality

Impressive, but not quite an in- ear bud replacement

Unlike the Meta-Rayban smart glasses, the Echo Frames’ smarts only focus on audio, which is both a good and bad thing. I could hear every note of Reneé Rapp’s Snow Angel clearly, without the song sounding overly compressed. Additionally, Rapp’s high notes and rich riffs were punchy as ever, especially when inside. Outside, I did have to significantly increase the volume to achieve the same dynamics, but the volume increase didn’t compromise the audio quality or squish notes together.


And while by no means noise-cancelling, I did have to remove the glasses to really hear someone talking to me, especially if the volume was 50% or higher. For the most part, however, I was aware of my surroundings, which I liked — especially as a young woman in New York City.

While the 3rd-Gen Echo Frames are great for casual commuting or working from home, I’m not sure if they’re ideal in a crowded office space or airplane travel.

A more fashionable alternative to bone conduction headphones

With a speaker that doesn’t actually fit into the ear, the glasses are more comparable to open-ear buds than my in-ear AirPods Pro, but they don’t produce as much bass as the Bose Ultra Open earbuds I recently reviewed. Similar to open-ear or bone-conduction headphones, I did find sound leakage to be an issue. When I increased the volume to 60%, my friends reported they could clearly hear that I was jamming out to Taylor Swift’s Welcome To New York. So, while great for casual commuting or working from home, I’m not sure if they’re ideal in a crowded office space or airplane travel.


3rd-Gen Amazon Echo Frames charging

Mic quality

Sound and seamless

The new model’s microphone was one of its most impressive features, as I had many people on group calls that I sounded extra clear, totally unprompted.

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When outside, I did have to turn up the volume to hear better, but the caller could still hear me relatively well, but asked for clarification a few times. As a caveat, the microphones had to compete with New York City sirens, traffic, and commuter conversation.

3rd-Gen Amazon Echo Frames


Alexa connectivity

Hey Alexa, play I Can See You (and I’ll hear you)

Of course, the Echo Frames wouldn’t be an Amazon product without Alexa integration. While helpful, especially with functions like a neat location-detecting feature enabled by asking Alexa on another device to “find my smartglasses,” creating a ‘VIP list’ for hands-free calling, or asking to play music, I didn’t see Alexa as a make-or-break Frames feature. Plus, Alexa is only available as an on-face concierge if you’re connected to the internet and the Alexa app via smartphone or tablet.

 3rd-Gen Amazon Echo Frames charging

Battery life and charging

Room for improvement

Wireless charging is a plus in theory, but more of a pain in practice when it comes to powering the Gen-3 Echo Frames. To get the glasses into charging mode, you have to fold the arms perfectly on top of one another and place the bridge of the glasses on top of the charging base bridge with the lenses facing up. It doesn’t sound too complex, but the base will not charge the glasses unless in the exact correct position, which even after having the glasses for weeks, still takes me several tries to get right.


Battery life could also see improvement. On average, I get about two hours of active listening at 70% before getting the 20% battery notification announcement from Alexa, after which, I know I only have about 10–15 minutes left of listening. The Frames’ battery can, however, be preserved in stand-by mode, which is triggered by folding the glasses into the carrying case.

A simple solution I’d love to see with Amazon’s next iteration is a charging-capable carrying case, but please, with a less fickle charging stand.

 3rd-Gen Amazon Echo Frames case


Verdict

Smart glasses that are dumb enough for folks not quite ready for a virtual future

With AR/ VR headsets like the Meta Quest 3 and Apple Vision Pro making big waves and companies like Brilliant Labs harnessing the power of AI to create an even more compact AR experience, the Echo Frames don’t push any boundaries. However, I found that refreshing. The glasses presented a simple solution to my simple recurring problem, and did it well. And though I didn’t opt to add my prescription, you do have that option, and they can triple as your main eye wear, blue light protection, and open-ear headphones.

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Overall, the glasses deliver quality audio, a design worthy of any chic eyewear outlet, and a two-in-one solution to my everyday WFH struggle. While talking to Alexa isn’t what I believe a standout feature, I will acknowledge its novelty while still embracing the Frames for what they are: Smart glasses that are dumb enough for someone not quite ready for a completely virtual future.



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