To Invoke or Not Invoke

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I have been trying to decide if I want to get the Invoke on its Black Friday deal. It sounds like it’s a pretty nice device and it even sounds pretty functional given the limited MS ecosystem.

I’m a realist when it comes to MS and their consumer products: I know that Mobile has been dead for a long while now, obviously Groove is the walking dead, the band/band2, while great was never given a chance. I don’t really trust MS with consumer technology and yet I still am curious about the Invoke and considering getting one. Am I crazy?

Talk me into or out of it…

Comments (40)

40 responses to “To Invoke or Not Invoke”

  1. Avatar

    Jason Liao

    I have the same question. I intend for it to be a Bluetooth speaker for its sound quality. I am a music lover but I also want my speaker to be small in size (no more 2.1 or 5.1 system for that).


    Is the Invoke good enough for causal music listening?


    I just checked Invoke has Bluetooth 4.1. Is this the latest standard for better sound quality?



  2. Avatar

    graple

    I purchased an Invoke the day it came out for $199.00 and I have never regretted it for a moment. The sound is crystal clear, it is deep, rich and resonating. Music and podcast sound fantastic. Cortana is friendly, pleasant and has quite a sense of humor and is really on the verge of being quite the conversationalist. Sometimes I have to remind myself I am talking to a machine, lol. Setup was easy and literally only took 5 mins. I can speak to her from the other end of my home and she will respond with the volume at the half way point. She will hear you and respond over music or the tv.


    She runs my calendar, does reminders, sends email, makes lists, sets a timer, does alarms, does location reminders extremely well with my Android Galaxy S7Edge, Skype calls, plays music and podcasts (I chose free Tune In), and she controls my lights, controls my FitBit, and I have been quite impressed so far.


    The more integration she has with Alexa, and the more skills she will pick up will only make her better.

  3. Avatar

    Tony Barrett

    I wouldn't bother. MS won't market it, or support it properly, and it will probably disappear within 12 months. It's classic MS. Stick with Echo or Google Home. At least you know those products will still be around in a few months.

  4. Avatar

    alexsharma

    A great blog, I will share it with my friends, thanks for your valuable posts thanx

  5. Avatar

    panjjj

    I, too, have had a history of getting burned purchasing Microsoft based hardware (Zune, band, RT, etc.) and was a bit gun shy when the Invoke was announced. I did ultimately make the plunge (at the $99 price) and have been quite pleased with the product. My setup experience was easy (sorry to see others had issues) and am quite pleased with the sound and build quality. I transferred my music over to Spotify, upgraded to the premium option, and have been successful with controlling the Invoke both with direct commands and from my PC through the Spotify app. We are in the nascent phase of this function (smart speakers, etc.) with stiff competition from a number of vendors so the possibility of going down a wrong path is high. I am doing a bit of experimenting without spending too much and have the Echo+ as well (the sound from the Invoke is clearly superior). As others have mentioned, worse case scenario is you will have an excellent Bluetooth speaker and you should also consider the option of how good this speaker is in an office location if your business is standardized on Microsoft Office, Outlook and such, using it as a source for coordinating those functions and giving you great background music.


    I wish they had configured the speaker with at least a stereo pairing option, let alone a way to link across the home. I too am hoping they fulfill their promise of supporting Pandora and providing Alexa command support. Fingers crossed on those.


    Incidentally, I haven't seen anyone talking about products from Grace Digital, an old hand at developing internet based radios. They have released a product called Encore+--basically a networked stereo radio with decent sound, Chromecast built in, internet radio and UPnP media server support, USB input, etc., and would possibly be a great solution for about all music streaming options, home wide streaming with Chromecast speakers and so on. I think you can voice control the unit with Google Home. I've ordered one to replace an old version I bought some years back.

  6. Avatar

    gregsedwards

    I bought a new Invoke shortly after they came out for $199. It's been a great device except for a recurring problem where Cortana stops responding to voice commands, until I unplug and reboot the device. It happens several times a day, even after moving the speaker and performing a factory reset. The worst part is there's very little you can do in the way of troubleshooting; either it works or it doesn't. There's a micro USB port on the bottom, but as far as I can tell no software utility to diagnose issues. I've been in contact with HK and Microsoft support, who've ask for the logs, MAC address, etc., and finally advised me to return the device for an exchange. I bought it on the website but picked it up at the local store, so we'll see how painful that process turns out to be, but it feels like an unfortunate blemish for an appliance that should just work. Say what you will about the Echo products, but at least they've nailed the problem of having a mic that actually hears your commands.

  7. Avatar

    jrswarr

    Well - I liked it so much - I ended up taking MS up on their Surface Pro/Invoke bundle offer. Now I have one in the kitchen and another in my home office.(not to mention a Surface Pro :0 )


    Spotify did a nice thing with their App (IOS and Windows 10). From and IPad/IPhone or Windows 10 the Spotify App knows you are playing something on the Invoke and allows you to control the tracks from the remote device. You are free to switch between the different devices without loosing a beat. Very well done. Wish TuneIn did that.

  8. Avatar

    mark_rasmussen

    As a speaker phone alone (Skype) it's worth it. Other functions leave you bewildered why Cortana is unable take actions from the PC but not the speaker (mobile first/cloud first - except for ...). Simply being able to play audio files from OneDrive would be perfect for those of us who's listening isn't limited to pop music (i.e. lectures, private recordings, books). You might also think saying something like "Play the keynote from Ignite 2017" would get a logical response ... alas

  9. Avatar

    jrswarr

    You are not crazy - I hemmed and hawed myself...


    For 99 bucks - I ended up getting it. However - I have also bought Zune and Windows Phones - so I am obviously a sucker for Microsoft products. (Band was the only one I did not buy...)


    Sound quality is great - but you'll need a subscription to Spotify for that to pay off.


    I also hooked up TuneIn radio which is free.


    Both Spotify and TuneIn have good Windows10 implementations - so it looks to me that both products are tied in well to the Cortana infrastructure.


    In the end - I am going to end up with a couple of Invoke's - I was in the process of getting a Surface Pro - and one of the offers is a Surface Pro/ Invoke bundle from the Microsoft store. So I'm going to have one in the kitchen and one in my office.



  10. Avatar

    seapea

    My Invoke arrived after a delay of a couple of days in Portland Oregon for reasons unknown.

    I just got it set up. The process was painful. You need Cortana to set it up, true. But you also need another app to do the actual setup. This app did not work on my W10 Phone. So had to install it on my MotoX.

    At first attempt, the Invoke did not see my wireless router. 2nd try from the top it did. Got it signed in and the app suggests trying it out. Thing is , the app is running within Cortana and the Invoke only responds to "Hey Cortana". so when trying the suggestions the phone's Cortana kept on picking it up. Extremely frustrating and annoying.

    Setup options are minimal. basically you can only choose a music service from a severely limited selection. And there is no way that I could find of seeing what 'skills' were available or install-able.


    So, the bad is that the software to install and control is awful. Many times the Cortana voice is garbled when responding


    The good , yes there is good, is that the Invoke does look nice and the sound from Tune-In is very good The volume control is very granular (1-99) and can get quite loud (i think my table shook when it was set to 75).


    I am thus far disappointed. When I get my first Amazon Echo i was amazed at how easy it was to setup and get going with useful skills via the software. The HK people and MSFT seemed to not have inspected how Amazon does the software and presentation of skills. To answer the OP - I would not suggest to Invoke, go with the Amazon at the same price point.


    Hopefully the Invoke will get its software and skills acts together real soon. Else the MSFT SmartSpeakers category will be kaput before it even starts.



  11. Avatar

    JimP

    OK, I've had my Invoke for about a day. Here are my initial impressions. 


    First, the build quality is excellent, sound quality is good. It's pretty loud for a speaker of that size. In fact, if I turn it up, it's too loud. One thing that I really liked was that I was able to talk to Cortana from another room and it was able to hear me.


    On the negative side, this is not the same Cortana as the one on Windows Phone and Windows laptop. For example, I asked it how much potassium is in a banana, and Cortana wasn't able to answer the question. But if I asked the same question to Cortana on my Windows Phone and Windows laptop, it answered my question. I'm not sure why. All of them should be connecting to the same back end servers. Hopefully, this is something they will fix.


    Anyway, those are my impressions so far.

    • Avatar

      seapea

      In reply to JimP:

      How are you controlling your Invoke - adding skills, getting it to use your tuneIn account, etc?

      Amazon has a way to view and control via web browser on any device in the same LAN, I am not seeing anything like that for the Invoke.

  12. Avatar

    yaddamaster

    I swore I'd never buy another Microsoft consumer device.....but I just ordered one. $99 was simply too good to pass up.

  13. Avatar

    JimP

    O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! My Cortana speaker came in today!


    They just delivered it a few minutes ago. Unfortunately, I have plans for the rest of the day and probably won't get to unbox and set it up until tomorrow.

  14. Avatar

    johnh3

    A hard question. I bought a Surface RT and several Nokia/Microsoft Lumias. So I guess I dont trust Microsoft as a long player in the consumer space anymore.


    But I suppose it still would work as a Bluetooth speaker if they pull of support of it in the future..

  15. Avatar

    dougga

    Worse case it will be be a great blue tooth speaker that I can use in various rooms. Would be nice if it had a battery option like some of the Bose bluetooth speakers to make it even more mobile. The sound is similar to the Bose speakers that cost 200+.

  16. Avatar

    Luis_Sohal

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  17. Avatar

    JimP

    I bought one last night. Only $99. Can't wait to get it!

  18. Avatar

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  20. Avatar

    jbinaz

    Well, I ordered it. I'm picking it up at the local MS store when it's ready...

  21. Avatar

    Tony Barrett

    Waste of money. Like most MS things. They won't market it, it will get updates for a while, but then stop. HK will get tired of it, and have probably only agreed to make a limited number anyway - with MS financial backing. MS don't even know the term 'in it for the long haul'. They'll bail within 6 months, and leave anyone who bought it in the toilet - again. If you *have* to get one, get it for the potential Echo tie up.

  22. Avatar

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  23. Avatar

    JimP

    I'm considering getting it. I love Cortana, but my phone and laptop aren't good at hearing "Hey Cortana" unless I'm close by. With the Invoke, I should be able to callCortana from across the room.


    Of course, Microsoft will probably drop the product like they always do (Zune, Windows Phone, Band, Kinect, etc.) but I could probably get a few years out of this device.

  24. Avatar

    seapea

    I am in the same boat, made more complicated that i already own 2 echo dots. I'm thinking of getting an Invoke (i do use msoutlook calendar) and moving one of my echo's to the car. Decision made more complicated by Amazon having their 'Plus' version with a smart light bulb on sale for $150.

    Wish I knew more on how the MSFT and Amazon integration deal was coming along.

  25. Avatar

    jbinaz

    I wrote my review of it. Of course, I misspelled Harman as "Harmon" and can't find a way to edit the title... https://www.thurrott.com/forums/microsoft/hardware/thread/my-review-of-the-harmon-kardon-invoke

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