Out of the box this is an impressive device. It is a Grey, cone-shaped, artistic looking perforated, speaker tower with complimentary, muted black at the bottom and at the tapered top. It has a heavy 'feel' to it even though it only weighs approximately 2.3 pounds. I like the modern design of this unit. It looks good anywhere I place it in my living spaces.
What's In The Box?
* Invoke Speaker Tower – Approximately 9 ½ “ Tall.
* Power Cord – Approximately 48” in Length.
* Warranty Card & Registration Information – Limited One Year Warranty
* Safety Instructions
* MS Cortana Product Information
* Invoke User and Set-Up Guide
Being familiar with MS Cortana on three of my devices, I was anxiously looking forward to use the Harman Karman Invoke, voice-activated speaker for test and review. After a week of daily use here are my opinions:
Pros With Restrictions:
** Sound Quality – It is impressive with 360 degrees of rich, vibrant, clear voice treble, and full, profound bass. There are three compact woofers, along with three tweeters and two passive radiators driving the dynamics of bass sound reproduction. You can turn the volume up with a twist of the top ring and make the sound as loud as you want. It fills my room.
** Voice – Cortana's voice is consistent over all MS devices. She has a very pleasing voice, as a digital assistant should sound, in your home. What I like is that she responds quickly to commands and questions, and, has a built-in sense of humor with wacky facts.
** FREE Skype Calling - Free MS Skype calling from the US to mobile phones and landlines in the US, Canada and Mexico. Activate by Sept 1, 2018. Limit 2 free subscriptions per speaker. I paired my phone and Invoke through Bluetooth. Then, I set-up my Skype account in the Cortana App. I can now call anyone on mobile, or landline through my Skype and, or, phone contacts using voice-activated Cortana on Invoke, FREE for a year.
** Listening Range – I have my Invoke on a lamp table in my living room. I can go approximately 40' away from the unit in any direction and Cortana understands my voice commands through Harman’s SONIQUE TM far-field voice recognition technology. It has seven microphones, and a 40 watt amplifier, more then any of its competitors. YooHoo!
** Microsoft Account – You need to have a valid MS Account to access after downloading the FREE Cortana App for IOS, Google, or Windows 10.
** Plays both fee-subscription music ( Spotify) and FREE stations (IHeart & TuneIn) also. At this time there is no support for any other streaming music stations on Invoke.
- - - However, I paired my phone with Invoke and played other music services like (Pandora and ITunes), but Cortana is limited to volume control, play, pause, and previous/next track using Bluetooth.
** Connects easily to 5.0 GHz or 2.4 GHz, WI-FI, radio bands on your router (need password). You can use your existing Cortana App on your PC, download on your Phone, or listen too Cortana's voice-activated, set-up instructions by tapping the top of unit after powering it up. Additionally, Invoke WI-FI is 802.11b/g/n/ac, primarily made for 5 GHz, and is many times faster than 802.11b/g/n. Invoke will work on 2.4GHz radio frequency also.
** No Commercials, whatsoever, other then those that pop-up on your music stations. WooHoo!
** Ask Cortana Anything - She will give you your answer based on MS Bing searches over the Internet.
- - - No other 'search-engines' are supported at this time.
** Calendars - Cortana can connect to MS Outlook and recognize events listed there, add, or change, accordingly, and also MS Office 365 accounts. Cortana works across your devices. - - - At this time there is no support for any other type of calendar service.
** Control your Smart-Home devices. I have a Nest home thermostat that I can use Cortana to raise or lower the temperature by using my voice. Invoke works with, Philips Hue, Nest, Wink, SmartThings, Samsung Smart Home and Insteon.
- - - MS is now working with companies like Honeywell, Johnson Controls, etc. for additional services for Cortana. There is a comprehensive list of skills and such compatible with Cortana at the MS home page.
** Simple Controls – Starting at the top is a Touch-Sensitive Pad. Just below the pad is a Volume Ring, which turns in either direction. At the front of the base of Invoke is a WI-FI, status LED. On the back of the base is a Bluetooth Pairing Button, Microphone ON/OFF Button, and a Factory Reset Button. On the bottom inside is the j120V power connection and an Micro-USB for 'service' only. Light displays on top let you know what is happening.
- - - There is no 3.5 mm jack for Input/Output to connect an outside music source or another speaker.
** Notifications & Information Across Devices – I synced my PC notifications to my Smart Phone through the 'Settings' in my Cortana App. I turned ON, 'Send notifications and information between devices', and when my phone came up, I allowed it as trusted device.
- - - However, Invoke can only handle one MS account at this time, the one it was set-up for only. Information, notifications, and calendars cannot be shared by multiple-users.
* Cortana has difficulties at times recognizing different voices.
* Invoke is basically a 'stand-alone' speaker - cannot pair with other speakers in my home.
* One MS account, and, only MS support limits the great potential, future use, of Invoke.
* The 120V power plug is enormous. It takes up three outlets on my surge protector strip.
* If I am using my laptop both Cortana's respond at the same time to any of my commands.
* No TV or Gaming control. Not integrated with services like Netflix, Xbox, etc.
Having been a fan of MS for over 20 years, I think that MS Invoke with Cortana is truly 'a work-in-progress'. As a speaker the sound is far superior to the other major, voice-activated, digital assistants I have heard in friends homes. I love the richness of the mid-ranges and full bass in my living room. There is no doubt in my mind that MS will roll out numerous 'skills' for Cortana in the near future even though the competition is definitely way ahead of Cortana at this time. However, you have to consider a year's worth of FREE, unlimited, MS Skype domestic and international calls is a 'bargain' in itself.
Even with my listed restrictions, I highly recommend the purchase of the Harman Kardon Invoke with Cortana. It is a FUN device that will only get better in the near future. Go for it!