Echo Dot Overview
The echo dot is a voice-controlled smart speaker created by Amazon. I have been using the echo dot for almost a year now and wanted to share my thoughts on the product. In the echo dot review (2nd generation) I will be covering the design, the functionality and my overall recommendations. If you are in the market for a voice-controlled speaker read this review before you buy.
Pros and Cons
Lets start this review by briefly indicating my favorite and least favorite aspects of the echo dot.
- Voice control lets you play music, ask questions and control other smart devices
- Has an auxiliary port to connect an external speaker.
- The device is small and has a sleek design.
- Echo dot by Amazon is only $50 USD.
- The microphone does not always pick up voice commands.
- The built-in speaker is convenient but not great.
- Has to be plugged in at all times.
With a general overview of the device and a pros and cons list lets discuss what really makes the echo dot special, starting with the design.
As seen in the pictures, the echo dot is a small circular shaped device. The device is fairly small (about the same width as an apple) and fits perfectly in any space.
The device by Amazon is meant to be placed in a living room, kitchen or bedroom. I personally have my echo dot sitting on my apartment desk where it blends right in with my black furniture.
The echo dot has a simple four button user interface to control the microphone and volume output. The plus and minus allow users to easily turn the volume up and down. While the crossed-out microphone will mute the device from listening. Next the dot seen on the right activates Alexa for voice commands. Lastly the outer rim of the echo dot is an led light indicator which shows users when Alexa is listening for a command.
Overall the simple user interface makes the echo dot easy to interact with. However the main interface that people will interact with is Alexa (more on that later).
The device is simplistic and small. If you have the echo dot sitting in your room, kitchen, or living area it will easily blend in. However when a command is issued and the led ring glows deep blue it can draw some attention to the device. Overall the look of the echo dot is perfect for any environment because of its sleek design.
2nd Generation Echo Dot Covers
If you don’t like the look of the device, Amazon actually provides additional covers that will change the aesthetics. The covers will help users match their echo dot to any decor. Please note that Amazon only sells covers for the 2nd generation echo dot.
- Sandstone Fabric – Amazon Echo Dot Case
- Indigo Fabric – Amazon Echo Dot Case
- Charcoal Fabric – Amazon Echo Dot Case
- Amazon Echo Dot Case – Saddle Tan Leather
The functionality of the echo dot is where the device really shines. With voice control and Alexa integration the echo dot is an extremely powerful system.
When users first plug in the echo dot, Alexa will ask them to first download the app. After downloading the application and connecting the dot to your home network, the speaker comes to life. With the echo dot connected to wifi, users can ask Alexa any question, play music, and automate home devices.
When the echo dot first launched it was at the forefront of home assistant technologies and continues to get better.
Alexa Voice Control
I live in Virginia and every morning during the fall I never know if its going to be hot, cold, raining, or snowing. The weather here is unpredictable which makes deciding what to wear difficult.
Now every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is say ‘Alexa what is the temperature outside?’ and Alexa gives me a full rundown of the day’s forecast. I now know exactly what to wear everyday. If this isn’t the future then I don’t know what it is.
The integrated voice control is seamless when it works and frustrating when it doesn’t. I do believe that with software updates my echo dot has improved over time with understanding more difficult questions. The echo dot works best when asked simple commands such as ‘Alexa play music’ or ‘Alexa turn up the volume’. However the device struggles when asked ambiguous commands or questions.
With machine learning at the core of Amazon’s Alexa it is going to be awesome to see what we can do with this technology in the future. Already people have completely automated their home with smart light bulbs and switches that can be controlled by Alexa.
The echo dot has a companion app that is used for setup purposes and to keep track of issued voice commands.
The Alexa app mainly serves as a hub to keep track of what music is being played, to do lists, reminders/alarms and conversations.
One of the newest features of the echo dot is the ability to send messages and phone calls. Currently user’s can only send messages to other echo dot devices. I tested this feature out briefly by saying ‘Alexa send a message’ and was surprised with how well it worked. After the message was sent, it appeared in the Alexa app as a new conversation.
Honestly I rarely ever open the Alexa app. However with the integration of what Amazon is calling ‘skills’ the Alexa app is a valuable asset. Amazon allows developers to create applications for Alexa called ‘skills’. These skills often add new functionality to the device and connectivity to other devices. For example one of the skills is ‘Jeopardy’, where users can play an entire game of Jeopardy through Alexa.
Overall the Alexa app isn’t anything special and doesn’t add much to the overall experience. The main feature of the application is the inclusion of ‘skills’ which adds developer created content to Alexa.
The overall quality of the Amazon echo dot is a combination of the speaker, microphone and build quality. Lets first discuss the quality of the speaker in the echo dot review (2nd generation).
The echo dot does not have a great speaker. With such a small form factor, the device simply isn’t large enough to output quality audio. However I do give credit to Amazon because the echo dot is loud enough for casual situations.
I do not recommend using the echo dot as a primary speaker. Amazon has included an auxiliary port to fix this issue. If you really want to get the most out of your echo dot then I recommend connecting it to a better speaker. Business Insider has compiled an excellent list of external speakers to use with the echo dot.
I have been impressed by the quality of the microphone on the echo dot. It can pick up a user’s voice from a decent distant.
The major complaint I have with the speaker is that in loud environments it did not perform well. If there is a loud fan or music playing next to the echo dot, then it probably won’t hear you. If I have my fan on in my room, I often find myself yelling ‘Alexa!’.
The echo dot is made entirely out of plastic but feels sturdy. The buttons are pretty clicky and give a good amount of feedback. For only $50 I was definitely impressed by the quality of the echo dot. The device mainly stays in one place so users don’t have to worry too much about it breaking.
Overall for $50, the echo dot has excellent quality. The speaker won’t blow you away but it is perfect for casual settings. The microphone is adequate unless in a loud environment. Lastly the build quality is sturdy and definitely worth the price point.
If you are looking for a way to automate your home or play music with your voice then get an Alexa powered device. The echo dot is the cheapest option at only $50 USD and it is absolutely worth the price. I have not tested out the other more expensive options, but I hear overall good things. If you are on the fence about the Amazon echo dot then do more research about its capabilities first. Finally after using the echo dot for almost a year now, I highly recommend it to just about anyone.
Thanks for reading the echo dot review (2nd generation). I have linked the products down below for you to check out!
Buy an Echo Dot
Here are links if you wish to purchase the echo dot:
Here is a compiled list of similar voice controlled devices:
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