Amazon Echo Dot Review: A Great Speaker With Some Limitations

January 13, 2018
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The Echo Dot is a smart speaker by Amazon which the Amazon’s smart assistant Alexa. It has has been in the living rooms for a while. I have been able to test it extensively and you can read my findings in this review.

Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon, a very large American retailer, launched the Amazon Echo in 2014. This smart speaker houses Alexa, a digital assistant who can answer questions for you and carry out assignments for you. The assistant is similar to Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, and  Apple Siri. The hardware named Echo is similar to Google Home or Google Home is Similar to Amazon Echo.

In March of 2016 Amazon launched the Echo Dot. This device in the form of a hockey puck is a smaller and cheaper version of the Echo. It is actually intended as an alternative to the larger Echo for use in, for example, the bedroom as the only device or linked to your existing audio system.

At the end of 2016, Amazon already launched a second generation Echo Dot. This is cheaper, has improved speech recognition and is available in the colors black and white. In addition, this variant can collaborate with a variety of Echo and Dot devices. This review concerns the second generation Echo Dot.

Why the Amazon Echo Dot?

The price. It’s that simple. Do you want to buy a Google Home? Then you will have to deposit $ 129, but this can be higher if you use a shipping service. The Amazon Echo is will cost you $99.99. The smaller Echo Dot costs $49.99. The better competitor for the Amazon Echo Dot is the Google Home Mini which also costs $49.99.

Design

The Echo Dot is available in black and white colors. The device is simple in appearance, contains four physical buttons on top and a border around that lights up when Alexa responds. To ‘match’ the Dot with your interior there are cases of leather or fabric in different colors.

How does Echo Dot work?

Echo Dot works with Alexa. Alexa is a service that runs in the cloud at Amazon and responds to voice commands. Mind you, only English, German and Japanese voice commands, because the device is only officially available in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan. This provides a number of limitations, but I will come back to that later.

Below are voice commands that you can give Alexa:

“Alexa? Play NPO Soul & Jazz on TuneIn”

“Alexa? Turn on the lights”

“Alexa? Turn down the volume”

“Alexa? Set the timer for 4 minutes”

“Alexa? Sing a song”

“Alexa? Turn off the TV”

So Alexa can play music for you on TuneIn, Pandora or Spotify or read eBooks from, for example, Kindle. Products can also be ordered from Amazon using Alexa, but this only applies to Prime customers. In addition, the device can control your smart home devices, such as Philips Hue lamps, WeMo hardware, Samsung SmartThings, Nest, ecobee and Logitech remote controls. Optionally you can ‘program’ a nice link in combination with IFTTT.

Alexa responds to the so-called ‘wake word’ Alexa. This can be adjusted to Amazon, Echo or Computer in the corresponding app, unlike the Google Home, so that the Echo Dot responds to a different name.

As mentioned earlier, the sound quality of the speaker is not too good but that is okay considering the size of the speaker and the price point. There is a 3.5mm jack, next to the microUSB port. In addition, a Bluetooth speaker can be paired so that you can hear the voice of Alexa or the music in better quality. Pairing Bluetooth devices is very easy due to an action in the app and the voice command “Alexa, pair my Bluetooth speaker”.

Skills

Alexa works with the so-called skills. Of these thousands can be found on the Amazon site. These skills can be considered as third-party apps (apps from third parties) that ensure that Alexa works with various software and hardware. For the Philips Hue lamps in the house, for example, the skill Hue is required.

Amazon also makes the so-called Alexa Skills Kit available so that developers have access to APIs in order to add their services to Alexa. In contrast to the Google Home, there are many supported services for Amazon’s smart speakers.

Restrictions and privacy

In addition to the lack of support for different languages, there is also a restriction. You will encounter this when you request the weather or the nearest supermarket, namely the location restriction. Amazon assumes that the Echo Dot owner lives in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany. If you use the device in the Netherlands or Belgium, you will be able to do it through a number of detours and skills, but it is not really user-friendly. You have to enter an address in one of the above countries.

Each voice command is stored in the Alexa app. Each command can be found in the app, where you can provide them separately with feedback. The question is actually: “When does Alexa listen?” According to this article, Alexa listens just before you say the wake word and just after. However, all voice commands are encrypted before they are sent to the Amazon servers. But according to the same article, you give up your privacy if you install devices such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home. If you do not trust it, the Echo Dot has a mute button that lets you turn off the microphone when the device is not being used. In addition, the voice commands that are saved can be manually deleted.

Echo Dot Buttons

Amazon has also released accessories  Echo Buttons for the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot which can be used to play certain games with Alexa and your friends. Check out this review of Amazon Echo Buttons to know more about what it does and how?

Buy Echo Dot

You can order the Amazon Echo Dot from Amazon. Delivery only takes place in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan.

Conclusion

Alexa is used here in the home for the timer, to control music that is played through a Sony audio system in combination with TuneIn, to control the TV via the Logitech Harmony hub, to let Alexa sing a song and to turn on the lights or off via Domoticz. For me, it is a successful purchase.

The purchase price of $49.99 makes the Echo Dot an interesting smart speaker, especially if you want to start with this kind of devices possibly in combination with domotica. The large selection of skills makes the location and language limitation somewhat good. You should also check out this detailed Echo Dot Review before you make your mind about the purchase.

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