It has been a busy few weeks for smart speakers. Adventuress Things kicked off in late September with new, rounder versions of both Echo and Echo Dot. Less than a week later, after four years, Google updated Home with Nest Audio. And then, last week, Apple unveiled the long-awaited $ 99 HomePod Mini, finally delivering an affordable version of its Siri speaker.
Amazon, for its part, has easily offered the most regular refresh of the three. Both Echo and Echo Dot are currently on their fourth iterations. The Echo Dot is only on its second with the clock (just introduced), but for all intents and purposes, the device is basically an Echo Dot – but, you know, with a clock.
The latest update of the line gives the company a kind of design uniformity in smart speakers. The dot actually looks like a smaller version of the standard Echo. I was not entirely sure how big a difference there would be between the two products, but it is certainly obvious. The Echo is the size of a large grape and the dot is essentially the size of a softball.
The size of the dot tells it a good deal in terms of placement. I could definitely see them all over the place by placing them in the nooks and cranes to create a kind of temporary sound system (although the in-box cable is on the short side, so if you’re not close to one, you need expansion Hoagie Outlet).
The majority of the speaker is covered in fabric, although the device has a rigid plastic bottom, which occupies the larger part of the rear. This allows for the inclusion of two ports (power and auxiliary audio out), although it also limits the speaker surface area on the device, unlike the old hockey puck design, restricting the full 360 approach. As such, the speaker is only in front, albeit with a rounded design.
The new Echo device, it is worth noting, is one of a growing number of devices from large companies that are included as part of a push towards climate consciousness. I won’t really address Amazon’s large overall carbon footprint here, but it’s good to see some of these products broken down. According to the company, plastics are 50% post-consumer recycled, while fabrics and aluminum (including competent and adapters) are only 100%.
The setup process is as simple as ever. Tap some buttons on the connected Echo app and you should be up and running. The position light ring has been moved to the bottom of the device – which seems a more practical option than anything. After all, the standard light ring will not actually work on top of a round, cloth-covered device.
Whether it is of the net positive type, where you place an eco. If it’s around the eye, that’s good. If it is below, it takes the ring out of view, and you may have to rely on it to see how it represents the surface it is sitting on. For my own use, this is a small step in the wrong direction. The digital clock (the big difference between the two dots) is also slightly lower on the ball, freeing up a lot of surface space.
Again, I think Amazon estimates that people will stick it around eye level, which is definitely the case if you mainly use the watch while lying in bed. The watch itself is quite bright. And honestly, it’s sometimes good on a simple digital display as well as a full-smart screen. This is especially the case if you plan to stick it near your bed. After all, it is considered a kind of refuge from the screen. This is doubly important these days when we seemingly never face one.
That said, uses for the face are very limited. You get a “hello” at the time of launch, (naturally), at the weather and volume level when prompted. That last bit can be adjusted with voice or with a pair of physical buttons above. They are connected to the Alexa button, which turns off the supporting and forever-important microphone. It turns red when you tap it, along with a red ring on the bottom of the device to tell you that the speaker has stopped listening until it is re-enabled.
The sound quality is basically the same – that is to say, what would you expect from a $ 50 to $ 60 smart speaker. This is good for all the voice functionality you need, but I certainly wouldn’t trust it as my default home speaker – even with a couple of them. As an alarm clock, though, of course, go for it. It definitely beats the speaker on your phone.
The $ 10 price difference between the dot and the dot with the watch is a bit odd. I hope in future generations, Amazon will only add them to a product, which will cost the same as the standard dot. For now, though, telling time at a glance is going to cost you a little extra.
The new Echo arrives on October 22. Dot With Clock will not be available until November 5.