Easy to use
About the new Echo Dot
Amazon's Echo Dot started out as a low-cost way to dip your toe in smart home waters, and it remains that, but with upgrades like multi-room audio, stereo pairing, and Amazon Sidewalk compatibility, even seasoned smart home fans have good reason to add a Dot or two to their smart setup.
There are three versions of the Dot: the Dot, the Dot with Clock, and the Dot Kids Edition. While the majority of this review will focus on the regular Dot, all of the same features can be found on the Dot with Clock and Kids Edition. The Dot with Clock is exactly what it sounds like. It has a numerical display on the front that shows the time or status of timers you've set. The Kids Edition is covered in fun animal designs and comes with a free year of Amazon Kids+ programming and a 2-year guarantee (because kids aren't easy on tech!). While the Dot with Clock and Kids Edition aren't new for the 2020 Echo line, the new design makes them worth a look.
Here are the Echo Dot's specs:
- Price: $49.99
- Colors: Charcoal, Glacier White, Twilight Blue
- Speakers: 1.6-inch front-firing speaker
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, WiFi (2.4 GHz and 5GHz), 3.5mm line out
- Special features: Sidewalk compatibility
- Smart assistant support: Amazon Alexa
- Weight: 12 oz.
- Dimensions: 3.9" D x 3.9" W x 3.5” H
A note about privacy and Alexa
It’s safe to assume that any time you invite a smart or connected device into your home, you’re sacrificing a portion of your privacy. There are, however, steps you can take to protect your privacy from Alexa. Your conversations won’t automatically be stored away for review unless you give your Echo permission to do so, so during the setup of your Echo speaker, make sure to poke around the settings and adjust the privacy controls to your liking.
There’s a mute button for the mic on the top of the speaker to prevent Alexa from listening when you don't want her to. You can also delete Alexa recordings that have already been stored.
What we like
The new Dot is pretty
Dots have always had a sleek aesthetic, but the new orb-like design is as minimal as it gets. It has no harsh lines or contrasting colors, and with the physical buttons just out of sight on the backside, the Dot looks like a small mesh ball. With three color options, the Dot will blend nicely with most décor, and its tiny footprint makes it easy enough to hide if you're going for the so-minimal-it's-not-even-there look.
Surprisingly good sound for the size
While you just can't expect mind-blowing sound from a speaker barely larger than a baseball, the Dot allows for a surprisingly decent listening experience, especially when linked with another Dot as a stereo pair.
One of my favorite uses for the Dot so far is to descend into my cave of a basement, set one Dot on each side of my body, a few feet away, and crank my music of choice up to about 75% (any higher and the lack of deep mids and bass is quite apparent). In this setup, I can't even hear my
herd of elephants three children frolicking a floor above.
While playing bass-heavy tunes makes for a somewhat disappointing experience, acoustic tracks sound pretty respectable. My go-to writing playlist (mostly Jon Foreman albums) is as pleasant on these speakers as on any other small smart speaker I've used.
Alexa impresses as always
Each of these speakers is pre-loaded with Amazon's smart assistant, Alexa. While her main competitor, Google Assistant, tends to be a better conversationalist (offering more natural conversation), Alexa has more skills and compatibility than any other smart assistant. That means that an Alexa speaker is an excellent choice if you're starting your smart home and don't know which products you'll be adding in the future.
It's likely that whatever smart lock, smart switch, or even connected appliance you bring into your house, Alexa will be compatible with it. Compatibility allows you to control, check, and otherwise interact with your connected smart products with just your voice or through the Alexa app.
What we don't like
The notification light is slightly harder to see
While there's a lot to love about the new Echo Dot design, the light ring, which notifies you when you have a message, when Alexa is listening, and when the mic is muted, has migrated from the top of the speaker to the bottom. It encircles the flat base and might be harder to spot depending on the surrounding décor. This change made the ultra-minimal aesthetic possible, but it might be a bit of a sacrifice in terms of function.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The new Dot is a great entry-level speaker or way to expand your smart home.
If you're looking for a low-cost Alexa speaker, it really doesn't get better than the new Dot. While larger, more expensive speakers like the 4th-gen Echo ($99) or the Bose Home 300 ($199) will deliver far superior sound quality, the Dot is certainly sufficient for smart home control, Alexa interactions, and background tunes at dinner.
The Dot with Clock, while $10 more than the regular Dot, might just be the ultimate nightstand smart speaker, with its digital clock that adjusts its brightness to the light in the room. Aside from the clock, it's exactly the same as the regular Dot, but depending on how and where you plan to use it, the clock can be a useful addition.
The Echo Dot Kids Edition is also $10 more than the Dot, but it's perfect for kids who like to play their favorite music or listen to stories in their room. The Amazon Kids+ feature allows parents to monitor usage and choose what programming is available to their kids, so it's much preferable to tossing a regular Dot onto their nightstand and turning them loose.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Sarah Kovac is an award-winning author and accessibility editor for Reviewed. Previously, she worked with a multitude of outlets such as Wirecutter, TIME, PCMag, Prevention, The Atlantic, Reviews.com, CNN, GOOD, Upworthy, Mom.me, and SheKnows.
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