We tried Amazon’s newest Echo—and it’s their best Alexa device yet
Amazon was really SPOT-on with this Alexa device.
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It’s no secret around the Reviewed office that I’m a big fan of the Amazon Echo lineup. But when the Spot first came out, I was pretty skeptical. The Show, as much as I enjoy having a visual component, is already a bit of a novelty, but now they’ve gone and made the screen more than half as small… and round?! I was convinced I’d dislike the Spot—but then I tried it.
This smart speaker is beyond adorable. The retro-inspired design was a stroke of brilliance on Amazon’s part, and the screen is perfect for what it is. I was right that video playback is a little limited and weird, but after living with the Spot for a few weeks, I realized I wasn’t ever going to use it for videos anyway, so who cares?
I primarily use it as a clock and to get the weather, but I also ask it all sorts of weird questions throughout the day, have it play me songs that get stuck in my head, add things to my shopping list, and even try the occasional Alexa skill that pops up in the "Things to try" screen.
If you're on the fence about buying the Echo Spot, take a closer look at the best and worst features of this tiny powerhouse of a smart speaker.
The Spot does everything any Alexa device can do, and more, all in a small (and totally adorable) package. It’s reminiscent of the classic alarm clock style, but also modern and sleek, especially when you’re able to customize the clock face to suit your decor style (or your mood).
Setup is a breeze
It is so easy to set up a new Echo device, especially when it has a screen. The whole process is straightforward and only takes a few minutes. With a regular Echo, the Alexa app walks you through every step. But with the Spot, everything is done right on the screen. Have your Amazon account password and your WiFi password handy, and you’ll be up and running in minutes. No phone necessary.
You can customize the display
There's a visual settings menu that you can access by saying, “Alexa, open settings” or by swiping down from the top of the screen. Here you can connect to WiFi and Bluetooth, pick themes for your home screen and clock, schedule night mode, adjust the brightness, set different volumes for different alerts like alarms and notifications, rename the device, set the date and time, toggle the camera on or off, and even pair Alexa-compatible gadgets.
If you want to skip right to the fun stuff, just say “Alexa change my clock face,” and she’ll offer you a handful of different preset digital and analog designs. You can also upload your own photos to serve as the background. And if you're planning to keep the Spot in your bedroom, there's a night mode that you can schedule to reduce screen brightness during sleepy-time hours. Holding the the microphone mute button will even prompt you to power down the device, if needed.
It’s great for video calls
The Spot can fit anywhere, but it's really meant to live on a desk or bedside table, which makes it perfect for video calls. It sits at an angle, framing your face perfectly at your desk. If you’re not in the frame naturally, you can get the stand ($20) that magnetically attaches to the base of the Spot and articular up and down. The stand, which works well and looks great, is honestly too pricey for what it is—let's be real though, $10 feels like too much too. But I have to admit it does make the Spot even more versatile.
The price is just right
You know, a lot of other reviewers have called out the Spot for being too expensive. But I completely disagree. Think about it this way: the new Echo is $99. If you spend $30 more, you get all the same capabilities plus a screen and a camera. You do sacrifice some sound quality, but that might be worth it if you want the visual component.
The Echo Show offers a screen too, but it costs $100 more than the Spot (and it's big and bulky). Now that is too expensive. As of writing this article, we’ve seen the Spot go on sale for $15, and Amazon has also promoted a $10/device discount when buying two at a time, so there’s no doubt you’ll have plenty more opportunities to save a few bucks.
As much as I adore the Echo Spot, I have to admit that it is not perfect. The sound could be better, the round screen is a little odd for viewing videos, and there are software issues that can't be circumvented (yet). But none of that is so egregious that I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who was considering an Echo device.
The round screen is a little janky sometimes
While video calls work great, other visual content isn't always the same quality. If you want to watch a video or view a camera feed, the round screen can be fairly detrimental. Rather than fitting the full image within the screen, Alexa shrinks the video down so the whole thing fits across the center of the screen. While this saves you from losing the corners of the video, it makes the image impossibly small—smaller than you'd see on a smartphone screen. But considering video playback isn’t the primary function, it’s not the worst issue to deal with.
The speakers aren’t as good as they could be
The sound quality is okay-ish. Vocals are clear, but even the tamest of basslines delivers a staticky buzz like a bad subwoofer in a teenager's car if you try to turn the volume up past 3 (out of 10). The regular Echo definitely sounds much better, and the Show offers better quality too, but the Spot is leaps and bounds better than the Dot. And if you use Amazon Music, it displays lyrics so you can sing along.
If you want to use it to listen to Spotify or Amazon Music or iheartradio or what have you, you might want to consider hooking it up to an external speaker. You can do this with an auxiliary cable, thanks to the jack on the back of the Spot, or you can connect a speaker via Bluetooth if you want to keep wires to a minimum.
The display is a little pushy
While you can customize what displays on the screen to some extent, there is still no option to disable the “Things to Try” feature that highlights different Alexa skills. If you’re a new Echo owner, this can be fun and helpful. But after a while it gets annoying, especially when you have to wait (or swipe left) to see the time and/or weather. The Echo Show has the same problem, and I’m hopeful that eventually there will be a software update that allows you to further customize what loops on the screen.
Should you buy it?
If you’re at all attracted to the Spot, whether for the design or the screen capabilities, or just because you want to have the newest, shiniest toy—the answer is yes. It's the perfect size for any surface, has a fun but sleek design, offers a ton of useful features, and is just downright fun to have. At a just-right price, the Echo Spot is a great addition to any Echo collection, even if it's the first one you buy.
About the Echo Spot
- Stands at 3.8 inches tall (without the stand), 4.1 inches wide
- Weighs 14.8 ounces (0.925 lbs.)
- 2.5-inch screen
- 1.4-inch speaker (second smallest in the lineup)
- 4-microphone array
- Dual speaker output with Dolby audio
- Line-out for 3.5mm cable
- WIFi and Bluetooth connectivity
- Free calls to any Alexa device or app, as well as any phone number in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico
Prices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time.