Amazon Echo Dot Review & RatingJune 26, 2018 0 By admin
Me: “Alexa, are you my friend?” Alexa: “Sure. I’m always happy to make new friends.” If you too want to make friends with Alexa, Amazon’s handy voice assistant, the second-generation Echo Dot smart speaker ($49.99) is the best way to add hands-free Alexa access to any room. It works just fine on its own, but you can connect it to your favorite speaker if you really want to pump up the jams. It’s the least expensive way to get into the world of voice assistance, making it an easy recommendation, and an Editors’ Choice.
This review is about the Echo Dot hardware, but the Echo Dot is mainly a gateway to Amazon’s Alexa system. To learn about what Alexa can do, check out Amazon’s highest-rated Alexa skills in every category. In brief, Alexa can play Amazon media, perform web-based queries, control smart home devices, and perform a steadily expanding set of tasks programmed by third parties including telling you when the next train is arriving and how to properly mix a Manhattan.
“Alexa, How Big is the Echo Dot?”
The Echo Dot is a 3.3-inch cylinder that’s 1.3 inches high and only 5.7 ounces, with a grippy rubber bottom. It has a shiny, reflective surface and is available in white or black. You’ll save $20 when you buy two—Amazon is clearly encouraging you to put one in every room of the house.
The first-generation Dot had a rotating disc on top to control volume, but this model has clearer volume buttons, as well as a mute button and a voice-activation button. On the back, there’s a micro USB port for power and a 3.5mm line-out jack. The Echo Dot only works when plugged in, unlike the battery-powered Amazon Tap. A colored ring of lights around the edge glows for alerts. They’re mostly blue, when you’ve called for Alexa and she’s waiting to tell you something.
Setting up the new Dot is like setting up any Echo device. You download the Echo app to your Android or iOS phone and it steps you through connecting the Dot to your Wi-Fi network. After that, the Dot works on its own, although you can use your smartphone to review queries, change settings, and look at the range of possible Alexa skills.
“Alexa, Volume 10”
The new Dot, like the old one, is not a great speaker. It’s better than the last one, but it still sounds like a 1970s transistor radio, with an almost complete lack of bass. This highlights the fact that the Echo Dot isn’t necessarily meant to function as a stand-alone speaker—that’s what the larger Echo and Echo Show are for (the Echo Show even has a display for video chat and watching movies).
We compared the new Dot with the original and with a JBL Clip 2, an Editors’ Choice for inexepensive Bluetooth speakers. The Clip 2 has a considerable amount of lower midrange presence, giving depth and richness to music that’s completely missing from both Dots.
Amazon shipped our test unit with a pricey UE Megaboom, and of course the difference in sound quality is almost comical—there are vast chunks of sound the Megaboom plays that just aren’t represented on the Echo Dot. But you can connect the Dot to an additional speaker via a standard 3.5mm cable or Bluetooth.
That said, the new Dot is better than the old one. Asking both to tell us the weather at top volume, the new Dot is 5dB louder at a 3-inch distance (although the JBL Clip is 7dB louder than that). The new Dot also sounds less distorted when playing at maximum volume.
It’s all in the expectations, really. If you’re comparing the Dot with a cheap kitchen radio or a bedroom alarm clock, it’s absolutely fine. But it isn’t going to fill your room with gorgeous sound or light up your party with hot jams. For that, you’ll need to attach an external speaker. And Dots won’t synchronize music; they’re not a multi-room music system, like the Alexa-compatible Sonos One.
“Alexa, What Else Can You Do?”
The Dot can recognize its trigger word (Alexa by default, but you can change it) better than the old one if it’s playing music, or if it’s connected to an adjacent speaker playing music. That’s not foolproof, though; especially with hip-hop playing through an attached external speaker, it may hear the lyrics as speech and be unable to figure out when a command ends. In a quiet room, both the old and new Dots have about a 50-foot range for voice commands.
The new Dot does show one irritating bug. While it supports dual-band Wi-Fi on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, it couldn’t recognize our Verizon Fios router’s 5GHz network. It recognized the 2.4GHz network, and it recognized 5GHz on three other routers, including a Netgear Nighthawk AC1900. The older Dot recognizes the Fios 5GHz network.
From left to right: New Echo Dot, old Echo Dot
“Alexa, Should I Buy the Echo Dot?”
The Echo Dot isn’t really about what it is, it’s about who it is: It’s the easiest way to add Alexa to any room of your home. At $50 it’s a much better buy than the Amazon Echo, Echo Show, or Tap if you’re looking for a speaking alarm clock, a voice-controlled kitchen radio, or a smart home hub. The larger Echo’s advantage is that it includes a louder, higher-quality speaker for playing music, the Echo Show has a display, and you can take the battery-powered Tap anywhere. But you can also add any existing speaker you own to the Dot, making it a flexible, expandable solution. That makes the Echo Dot an Editors’ Choice, and the best way to bring Alexa into your home on a budget.