Microsoft enters speaker race with Harman Kardon Invoke

Harman Kardon’s Invoke speaker is finally going on sale for $200 this Sunday, as Microsoft officially introduces a new Cortana contender to the home speaker race. Amazon Echo devices still dominate the scene, followed by the Google Home family and other smart hubs.

Early reviews are in and most people agree that the distinguishing feature of the Invoke is its design and sound quality. There is little else going on in the feature department, particularly limited by Microsoft’s and Cortana’s catalog of abilities.

The Invoke is exclusive to the United States, and it is unknown if the tech giant will expand overseas in the future. Harman Kardon was recently acquired by Samsung and it already has an Alexa speaker on the way, so the company might try out what it’s like to work with all AI assistants and maybe introduce cross-support.

Harman Kardon Invoke looks slick and sounds great

For the Invoke, Harman Kardon went on and played it safe with a traditional cylinder design. However, they added their own twist to make this a unique home for Cortana: the cylinder is wider at the base and it gets narrower at the top.

On top, there is a button that doubles as a volume dial, encased in a chrome ring so it stands out. You can press the button to have Cortana tell you a random fact or piece of trivia, or you can long press to interact with her, ask questions, and play music.

The speaker grille comes in either black or white, and it hides a seven-microphone array that allows the Invoke to detect your voice from across the room, even if music is playing through its set of tweeters, woofers, and radiators.

Invoke can do free Skype and play nice with your smart home

In terms of functionality, the Harman Kardon Invoke can perform your usual set of tasks. Within the Microsoft ecosystem, it can set up alarms and reminders, consult your schedule and calendars, fetch emails, tell you about the weather forecast, make unit conversions, and more.

Nevertheless, there are other few welcomed features, like free Skype calls to any number in the U.S. for six months, and compatibility with smart home devices by Nest, SmartThings, Phillips, and Insteon. The Invoke is also a Bluetooth speaker and has a micro USB port.

The Harman Kardon Invoke supports a small range of Cortana Skills, which you can use to do things like order pizza easy and seamless with just your voice. You can buy this speaker right now from the manufacturer itself online, the Microsoft Store, and Best Buy for $199.95.

Source: Microsoft