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What the Harman Kardon Invoke can do that Amazon Echo can't

So you're considering the Harman Kardon Invoke over an Amazon Echo. Or, more specifically, the $150 Echo Plus, which is closer in price to the $199 Invoke.

Both are smart speakers. Both have "Skills," which let them hook into services like music or connected home products or, well, whatever. Anything and everything.

Echo's Skills hook into "Alexa," the personification of Amazon's digital assistant. Invoke's Skills run through Cortana. Eventually these will all be one and the same. Amazon and Microsoft have a reciprocal deal that will let Cortana use Alexa, and Alexa use Cortana. We're not there yet, but it's coming.

How badly do you want to make Skype calls through a speaker?

No matter, though, because there's really not much that the Invoke (again, via Cortana) can do that the Echo can't. In fact, there's only one that that stands out.

Amazon Echo can't make Skype calls. The Invoke can.

That's a big deal, I suppose, if there's somebody you want to talk to over Skype, and if you only want to do it over the Invoke and not through a phone or computer. I'm not convinced that's a reason to buy the Invoke over an Echo, or Google Home. Sure, you can also dial up a phone number via Skype. But Amazon and Google do that, too. And both of those do a lot more (for a lot less money) than the Invoke.

OK, the one other thing Invoke does that the Amazon Echo doesn't is Cortana and Bing. That's inherent ot the platform, though.

At the end of the day, though, that's a pretty short list for those asking us this question. And neither of them is a particularly good reason to pay more money for something that ultimately does, for the time being, much less.

Phil is the father of two beautiful girls and is the Dad behind Modern Dad. Before that he spent seven years at the helm of Android Central. Before that he spent a decade in a newsroom of a two-time Pulitzer Prize-finalist newspaper. Before that — well, we don't talk much about those days. Subscribe to the Modern Dad newsletter!

79 Comments
  • What about a comparison between Alexa and Cortana? To me, that's what the main differences will boil down to. 
  • You forgot to mention how MUCH better the Invoke sounds!!!
  • That's right! I don't get why these devices are called speakers when there speaker capabilities are not even taken into account. They must be called microphones instead;")
  • The reason for that is probably because they are just about to close down the music service for Windows devices like this, so it's not something ideal to crow about. Basically, a home smart speaker without a music service that (outside the US) neither the Microsoft nor the Harmon web sites even acknowledge exists, let alone promotes or provides for sale. Not a compelling package. I'm not convinced it will take the market by storm. In fact, I have a feeling that these Harmon guys have been given the usual Microsoft treatment and will be hung out to dry by Ol' Nads without a second thought. Disappointing, but only to be expected I suppose.
  • It has support for several music services, doesn't it?
  • Yup, Spotify is one of them.
  • It also support bluetooth, just like all the other speakers you've bought with out music services in the past.  And if you pick one up for while it's still 99 dollars the speaker quality alone makes it worth the price of admission.
  • It supports Spotify.
  • It does, but out of the box it's the free spotify.  If you want to play your playlist, and specific music on demand, you will need the paid service for spotify.
  • ...which has nothing to do with the Invoke, Cortana, or Microsoft.
  • Another failure from Microsoft. Do you know the level of Google Now and Alexa? Cortana can not compare; in fact, Cortana is nothing but a relic in a deleted timeline!
  • Alexa is just ok. I consider Google assistant to be better at understanding me. Generally Cortana is not too bad either. So really it is brand recognition. MS needs a small speaker like the dot or mini to really sell the platform
  • Microsoft needs an ability to market products to consumers to sell the platform. They don't have it and I don't see any sign that they ever will.
  • The Harmon Kardon Invoke is not a Microsoft product.  As such, it will not be another failure from Microsoft.
  • ..but the Kardon uses Cortana and Cortana is a failure.
  • MS claims that there are 148 millions active Cortana users at present.  I won't call Cortana a failure exactly.  Besides, that number can only grow with the expanding W10 user base.  There is a difference between Cortana and the Cortana speaker.  HomeHub will be the MS' future platform.
  • 600 million Windows 10 users with Cortana front and center. 150 million Cortana users is actually kinda sad.
  • I get about the same results out of all three but Cortana understands me better. Google products also come with a service agreement that says they have the right to use whatever I do for whatever they want as well... Which makes their products void.
  • The only reason I bought the Invoke is because it was $99 after Black Friday. At that price point the arguments for the Invoke are more compelling. I just can't believe (well, I can) that Microsoft dropped the ball here again...I understand that Harman Kardon sets the prices for their products, but if I were Microsoft execs I would've subsidized however much I needed to in order to get this to undercut the Echo and Google Home on price...
  • You can't blame anyone but yourself for disappointment in Microsoft. Failure is their modus operandi. You have to take a sit back and wait approve. If their new product is fire in sales and mindshare and their second year model is solid. Then jump in
  • Still is 99.00
  • I picked up the Invoke for $99 and plan to get another before that sale ends next month. It's frustrating that Microsoft has so much potential in Cortana and hasn't been able to keep up with Amazon and Google but, regardless of what happens going forward with capabilities, the quality of the Invoke make it worth the purchase at the sale price even without a built in voice assistant.
  • It is 99.00 right now
  • There is nothing wrong to bundle that with a $30 Echo Dot and have them stand side by side.  You would get a premium speaker, Microsoft Calendar integration, Skype calls as well as 20K+ Alexa Skills.  With any Echo device, you almost have to buy a quality external speaker which can be expensive.  You can choose to wait for the Alexa support, but you have to use the wait word "Hey Cortana Open Alexa" each every time.  That could hurt your tongue.  :-)
  • I got an echo plus. Although I have Microsoft Calendar linked to it, I can't make calls through Alexa. Am I missing something here or is that facility not there at all?
  • https://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=16713667011&tag=hawk-future-20&asc...
  • I don't think calling anything other than another Alexa or Alexa app is supported. With the invoke you can all any number including mobile numbers. This is a big differentiator that the author overlooks.
  • It can. Out of the box an Echo can call phone numbers in the US, Canada and Mexico for free. If you add a Connect it basically connects to your landline and acts as a speakerphone.
  • Why do we keep having these articles hating on the Invoke? We get it, you all have Alexa. Good for you, it's a great device. So is my Invoke, it does everything I want it to do and works excellent with my smart home devices. It also has superior sound over the over the other devices.
  • I think theyre doing their due for their readers. I received an echo as a gift. Didn't want it but I'm glad I have it. Was curious to how Microsoft's next fai--umm, next product would fare next to alexa and Google. Now I know
  • It doesn't seem like a failure to anyone that has used it.
  • Not really. Theyre doing you a disservice by showing their bias. I've used both and settled on the Invoke, both are great devices. The fact that I can control my smart home devices, the better sound quality for music and Cortana integration (my schedule, contacts and everything in her "notebook" on me) meant that the Invoke works better for me. Not sure about Google Home, but Alexa is great and it's obvious it's the device writers here chose before the Invoke even released. That's fine and I it's advantages, but to continue to act like the Invoke is a second class citizen that doesn't do anything doesn't help anyone.
  • But a) is about to have its music service cancelled and b) requires that one travels to the US to get hold of it. It doesn't matter how great it sounds if you can't hear it. As usual, a Windows product was released and no-one noticed.
  • Right and Spotify doesn't work with it either. See I made some s up too. Btw Spotify works great with Invoke. While I get the US only argument this happens for all sorts of companies including Amazon.
  • Actually AndyCalling is absolutely correct, the Invoke is ONLY available in the US and Groove music pass has been canned. Not only that but no-one noticed the Invoke speaker because it isn't available worldwide.
  • Why do you keep spreading this fud?
  • Andy - I'm sorry to be harsh, but your response is really ignorant
    "is about to have its music service cancelled" You can listen to Spotify, iHeartRadio, Tunein.. and Pandora is coming.. not to mention bluetooth.
    Its *FAR* superior to both the Echo and Google home when it comes to sound. I haven't tested against their higher end speaker.. but the smaller ones are terrible and muddy comparatively. Here is the only drawback I know of with the Invoke (and Cortana) compared to the other two platforms: No multi-room support for music. I have to assume that is coming, and when it does, this will be a superior product for me. I dont need or want to order Dominos or an uber from my speaker. I want to listen to music, set a timer for cooking, as some questions that I'd otherwise search the internet for, and use some smart home features. For all those, Cortana and the Invoke work well.
  • Yeah multi-room support and multi-user support is sorely needed. Those are the biggest drawbacks for sure.
  • But the Invoke is a non starter for people in the UK as it isn't even available, so why should I be worried what it can do that Amazon Echo and Google Home can't when I can't even get the product to begin with?
  • I have both Echo's and the Invoke, what we really need is the ability to play Amazon Prime music through the Invoke. Possibly that is coming later in the year when Alexa and Cortana become more integrated. tuneIn radio is terrible and I refuse to pay for Spotify
  • I agree that that Harman Kardon Invoke can diferentiate itself from the other services by enabling the ability to play music from many sources including devices on the home's local network such as a PC with music on it.  From a home automation point of view, the sky is the limit.  Most modern receivers can be controlled via IP.  It would be cool to give voice commands to my Denon receiver.
  • Spotify is Sooo much better than Groove and Amazon music. It's probably the best service, but I hear ya with the paying. MS needs to add more music options
  • Alexa can access my Outlook calendar, but that's it. No Outlook email, No Microsoft To-do Tasks, No Cortana Reminders or Lists, No SMS integration with my phone. Cortana and/or the Invoke is a must at this point for someone using Microsoft's services.
  • And it's only 99.00 and sounds much better than Alexa...and changing commands is comming
  • I have tried using the Invoke to read me emails, it does not work; says "Try the Cortana app on the phone or PC". Reminder/Calendar works fine. As a speaker, it is fantastic, although a bit loud (even at 1% volume it fills the room at night - and I have a large room, or maybe I just have sensitive ears, lol). Anyway.. happy with the purchase. Hopefully Cortana will evolve over time.
  • I agree with everything in this article except the Invoke is down to $99 on the Harman Kardon site.
  • And the Ms site and best buy too.
  • Agree or not, the article focuses on the wrong things This isn't just a digital assistant, its a speaker.
    As a speaker, this thing blows the others out of the water. 
    And for $99? Its ridiculously well priced. Who cares about a million skills if most of them are dumb.. its like counting all the fart apps on smart phones. Who cares?
    I dont want to order a pizza or check my fitbit stats or get an Uber. 
    Let me do some smart home things, make calls, and listen to music. That's what these are good for.
  • Would love Google music on the invoke For $99 I'll give it a shot. An Xbox skill would be awesome as well.
  • +1 on the Xbox skill!
    I keep saying they need to tie Cortana to a Halo game and let gamers hear her voice through another device - like an inexpensive speaker. I just saw an ad last night when Amazon is showing off the Destiny 2 Ghost Skill with Alexa. Microsoft should be able to pull something like that off with 1st party properties and gamers would jump on it if the price is right!
  • Agreed but also a skill to control Xbox. So Kinect could be for games. Or just listen and pick closest device.
  • Also it reportedly has better sound, if that's important. Since I already have an Echo Dot, I've been thinking thoughts about trying the two in tandem by running the Dot through an Invoke as a Bluetooth speaker. Almost the best of both worlds, mabye? Currently the Invoke is cheaper than the Echo Plus.
  • Yup its 99.00 everywhere. Jeez I thought this was an Ms site.
  • why can't I use any bluetooth spaker as the default cortana device? I just dont get why I cant do it. Its really just that easy MS and it should of been done 2 years ago.so sTooopid. Multiple devices as well 1 2 3 4 jeez.
  • Why you can't use speakers to listen to you? Because they are speakers. This, and other smart hubs, have advanced microphone arrays. It is not just a speaker.
  • Giddora, many (even cheap) Bluetooth speaker have microphones built into them, to allow one to take and make clls when linked to a smartphone.
  • Microsoft needs to partner with someone to make a Cortana mini and sell it for 50 like Amazon and Google.
  • This thing at $99 could honestly sell.  A few clutch skills, especially the xbox skill....makes it very compelling.   Combine with smart things hub and it takes over alot of the smart home stuff, which is what I intend to do.   I WANT TO BELIEVE MICROSOFT!!
  • Microsoft didn't build this nor is it selling it as a rebranded item. This is on Harmon Kardon.
  • Hrm, damnit. I really wished this came out a long time ago.  I've slowly introduced Echo devices into my home and they are used quite often.  I don't believe I can justify buying these big devices for every room.  Nevermind that I wated until the Dot (and soon the Spot) to do all of this.  I don't need music, etc, I just want voice interface to my Smart Home.  If it served as a smart speaker that could be controlled actively by Smart Home (think announcements), I might reconsider.  But even then, I have Sonos.  I'm not sure I would displace those for this device.  For me, this might be a game of: too little too late.  I will still keep my eyes peeled.  I saw that one thermostat with Cortana interface.  I'm happy to swap things out as I love Cortana and, generally, Microsoft ecosystem... but I need more.
  • Got the invoke and a skype number. Now business calls forward from my office desk to skype and onto Invoke. Is great for large noisy conferences for me. Been using Alexa less & less lately.
  • Cool..👍
  • This device Invokes much further discussion.
  • And it looks nice.
  • People getting new Windows 10 devices are raving about how cool it is for Cortana to do the 1st time set-up. Had no idea this was a thing !
  • Here's the thing. I wanted a speaker that actually sounded good first but also included Cortana. I still use Windows Phone and a inspiron 15 2 in 1 so it's nice to speak something to Cortana, and it's on my device in the other room. The sound in the invoke is really good. It sounds better than the other speakers I have in my house. It works from across the room, and my kids love playing with Cortana. I wouldn't trade it for Alexa ever.
  • "And neither of them is a particularly good reason to pay more money for something that ultimately does, for the time being, much less." When did this idiot write this article? He didn't research ****. The HK is tons better than the others in sound. And for the $99 that I bought it for? A no brainer. Damn Amazon fan boys. Hey genius! https://www.windowscentral.com/e?link=https2F%2Fclick.linksynergy.co...
  • Smart speaker... Its all a fad.
  • That's why getting the best quality speaker is the best choice. Once the fad is gone, you still have a nice speaker.
  • The Cortana is too far behind from Siri & Google assistance in terms of technology, support & languages. There're almost no smart home device (Apps) supporting Cortana even the MS own apps not fully support Cortana (i.e. Map, translate etc.)  which is too  shame I would like to support MS hardware, but based on their proactive work It's hard to convince
  • Not a fan of all these devices in general, but got the Invoke because of $99, and it had decent sound at the MS store. Work as expected, and recent update to add gmail calendar is nice. Eventually it will have Alexa capability, so in a sense this is the better buy. Better quality build and speaker, visual design, name brand, and Alexa skills for Amazon shopping I guess. Worse case scenario, a good table top speaker in the kitchen or room. The others are just garbage once you get sick of the skills, or becomes outdated when it can no longer be updated.
  • I appreciate your honesty.
  • Invoke has a much nicer design aesthetic, also,
  • I hate the idea of 'smart speakers' I have a win10 PC in the lounge serving music and video - a USB DAC drives FLAC files out to a Cyrus One amp pushing Focal 926 speakers, quality wise it blows away Invoke, Alexa and Garbage Home, without even breaking a sweat, I can control the PC via Cortana and it will play any of the 65000+ music files on demand..... I wouldnt trust Google with my dog's command history, let alone mine!!!
  • People keep saying the Invoke is behind... Can anyone point out skills other than music that Cortana is in need of to "catch up?"
  • I got mine delivered yesterday and will play around with it when I get in from the gym tonight. I didn't really need it but getting some dough off (thanks Bing points) and the 99.00 price tag made it a no brainer for me. I don't use hey Cortana on the Xbox or Surface (only on my now defunct Icon) I can't really be fair because I haven't used Bixby or the Google voice based assistant, Cortana is all I know and have experienced so I think it will serve me well.
  • We bought our Invoke over the post-BF weekend due to the sound comparison and the $99 (from a brief comment survery alone, HK could sell these like hotcakes if they drop the retail), in-store at Best Buy. The bass response is very good for the form factor; it's in Sonos territory (full disclosure, my wife would have chosen the Sonos except for the $50 premium, though the Sonos was on sale too). The Echo and Home weren't in the same sonic ballpark (she was all "meh" ...if you've got posited she's the music connoisseur, kudos Sherlock). (We also picked up a Dot, a Mini and tossed in a Fire TV and Chromecast: it was a nerd-extravaganza for sub-$100 out the door.) For my wife, the choice was the HK's sound Q. For me? - Cortana. I like the AI. I actually just chat with her - anthropomorphically tilting - sometimes. I'm just a sad old geek with no life lol.  
  • Here's one that Cortana can do and GH nor Alexa can do. I ask the Invoke that the next time I'm at a place for example (Publix which is a supermarket in the south) to remind me to buy or do something, Cortana would search near my location and ask if that location is good. If I say yes she sets a reminder and when I  get to the place it reminds me on my phone. I thought that was pretty darn good. 
  • I thought to myself "This article does not have the same completeness the others have." And then I found out it was written by someone from Android Central. I take no issue with shared articles, but I am very thankful, that we have such great content writing here and a very enthusiastic staff @ Windows Central 😊