I have an Amazon Echo and I love it. Alexa is a great voice assistant for use around the house and it’s a really convenient way to listen to music whenever you want. When Invoxia, makers of the Triby, offered to provide a review sample of the first third-party Alexa device I couldn’t pass it up. The Triby was released a few months ago but has since dropped in price enough that its worth taking a second look at. I’ve been using it for a few days and want to share my observations with you.

WHAT IS A TRIBY?

The Triby at its core is a Bluetooth enabled speaker that runs Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant. In that way it is very similar to Amazon’s own Echo line. However, the Triby also has a few unique features that help it stand out from Amazon’s offerings. It’s standout features are:

  • Bluetooth speaker
  • Amazon Alexa
  • Streaming Radio
  • Message Display
  • Physical Design
  • VOIP calls

I’ll discuss each in detail below.

Bluetooth Speaker

I’d seen and read several reviews of the Triby when it launched a few months ago. Most said the speaker was pretty poor for a $200 (at the time) device. Perhaps it was received as average but was generally panned as being dull. In my experience it is a slightly above average speaker. Not one that justifies the approximate $100 current price alone, but definitely not a weak link in the overall product. The speaker puts out full, and plenty loud, sound. It is about on the same level as most $30-50 Bluetooth speakers I’ve tried. I demoed the Triby to several people and none of them remarked that the speaker sounded poor. In fairness, none mentioned the speaker as great and I think that says what you need to know about the speaker. It’s fair and mostly good enough.

Amazon Alexa

Alexa integration is really the star of the show. The Triby was the first non-Amazon device to feature Alexa. And, in general, it does everything that I need it to do. It provides commute info, weather forecasts, general facts, sets timers, and more. All with the same friendly Alexa voice you may already be used to.

The Triby can be used in two ways with Alexa – always listening or tap to talk. The Triby doesn’t have the same seven microphone array that the Echo does but it still managed to hear me 90%+ of the time. The success rate of a response was easily equal or better than that of the Echo. There’s a lighted button on top of the Triby and a small chirp that let you know the Triby heard your “Alexa” call. I loved this feedback feature. Alexa can turn the Triby volume up or down and play/pause just like on the Echo.

I did some side-by-each testing with the Triby and the Echo and found that the Triby was at least as responsive as the Echo. The Triby would answer faster about 50% of the time. I have been very pleased with the performance of it. Going into the testing I worried that the Triby would have some built in slow-down due to it being from a third party and perhaps not having preferred API access or some other complications. Those fears proved unfounded and the Triby was just as quick to answer as the Echo.

Streaming Radio

One unique feature that the Triby has is its dedicated access to streaming radio stations. The Triby can store up to 10 radio stations for on demand streaming access. This works by configuring the stations you want to stream within the Triby app on your phone then queueing them up either through dedicated hardware buttons or the app. There are two radio buttons on the face of the Triby that allow for instant radio streaming. That’s a nice feature and one I found myself using a bit more than I expected. The directory that the Triby uses contained all of the stations I wanted and they loaded quickly after launching them from the Triby. This same sort of thing can be accomplished on any Echo or other Bluetooth speaker using your phone but the convenience of the feature is nice.

Message Display

The Triby has a small E Ink display (similar to that found on Kindle readers) that is used to display time, temperature, and messages. The message display is a cute way to pass notes to your family (assuming the Triby is shared). You just open up the Triby app on your phone, type out the message you want to send, and the Triby will update its screen with the message. There’s a yellow rubbery flag that slides out from the side of the Triby to let others know a message has arrived. After they’ve read the message they simply push in the flag and the Tirby returns to normal operations.

It’s a sort of cutesy feature but I didn’t find it particularly useful. Any message I wanted to send my wife, for example, would be better off done via SMS or Allo. It’s kind of fun to show off the flag and messages but after a few times it becomes a forgotten feature.

Physical Design

The design of the Triby is very different from the Echo series. The Triby is a box with an integrated handle. It’s very portable, thanks to its built in battery. The battery will last you a couple of days in stand-by mode but only a few hours in always-listening mode. The face of the Triby is dominated by a metal grill that hides the speaker and all internals. The top half of the face contains the E Ink screen and radio/call buttons. Others described the Triby as a small “boom box” which, I guess, it sort of is.

The back of the Triby has two powerful magnets. The idea is that the Triby is a great refrigerator unit. Slap it on the fridge and you have instant kitchen access to Alexa’s timers, conversions, lists and more. The magnets are strong enough to hold the Triby securely – no need to worry about it falling off. The Triby is rimmed by a silicone bumper that provides it some protection. Replacement bumpers are available in a variety of colors like grey, blue, green, and red. I like the grey the best as it helps the Triby blend in to the background.

VOIP Calls

The VOIP calling feature was easily the least useful feature of the Triby. I won’t spend much time on it other than to say its cumbersome, relies on the other user to have the Triby app installed, and is basically worthless. I would much prefer that the two VOIP dialer buttons on the Triby be additional radio buttons or tied to some Alexa skills. Don’t buy the Triby expecting it to be a phone replacement.

Miscellaneous

  • The Triby only connects to 2.4 GHz WiFi networks.
  • You need the Triby app to configure and connect the unit to your network. Not too big of a deal.
  • The plug on the Triby is microUSB. The included plug is a specialized size to fit the the Triby’s charging hole. Any microUSB cable will work but the included one is best.

CONCLUSION

I love the Triby.I don’t know that I’d recommend it over the Echo at $200 but at its current price of $100 on Amazon it is a real bargain. You get a decent Bluetooth speaker and all of the awesomeness of Alexa. If you already have an Echo and are looking for a second for another room you owe it to yourself to consider the Triby. It’s well made and sturdy and it’s portability features are a real plus. I recommend it.