Amazon Echo Dot review

{ 19 comments }

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When the Amazon Echo was released last year, I was mildly interested but not enough to actually order one.  Then when it seemed like everyone was singing the Echo’s praises, I became even more interested. But still not enough to buy one. Now it’s a year later and Amazon has introduced the Echo Dot, a smaller version of the original device and I pre-ordered the same day it was announced. Why? Because I thought it was time that I join in on the fun too!

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What’s in the box?

Amazon Echo Dot
USB Power adapter
USB charging cable
3.5mm audio cable (4 feet)

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The Echo Dot has all the features of the Echo but comes in a much smaller (shorter) package. It stands about 1.5 inches tall and is about 3.25 inches in diameter. It is made of smooth matte black plastic that doesn’t show dust or fingerprints. The base feels weighted, which keeps it in place on a table or shelf.

The top of the Echo Dot smoothly rotates to adjust volume levels. When you do this, the light ring around the top edge lights up a portion of the ring in white to show the current volume level.

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The micro USB charging port and 3.5mm audio out jack are located on the back side of the Echo Dot along with a small power status LED.

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On the top of the device is a microphone toggle button, action button, speaker and multi-directional microphone.

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The Echo Dot or I should say Alexa is always listening. To get her attention, you just say “Alexa” and ask your question. I like that you don’t have to wait for her to acknowledge that she’s heard you. You can just say something like “Alexa, what time is it?”. The light ring around the top edge will light up in blue with a brighter portion lit up to show which direction the microphone heard the question. The microphone is surprisingly sensitive, so you don’t have to exaggerate or raise your voice for the device to hear you.

If the name Alexa isn’t your thing, you can change it to Amazon or Echo.

Interacting with the Echo Dot is a lot easier than I had imagined it would be. It’s amazing how “human” the conversation feels. Here is a very small selection of example questions that you can ask.

“Alexa, what time is it?”

“Alexa, what time is it in China?”

“Alexa, what are the news headlines?”

“Alexa, what will the weather be like tomorrow?”

“Alexa, play It’s a Beautiful Day by U2”

“Alexa, what is 5 times 8?”

“Alexa, add calendar appointment for Friday”

“Alexa, wake me up at 6am”

“Alexa, play me some music”

“Alexa, add toothpaste to my shoping list”  – Where the shopping list is your Amazon list.

There are also a large variety of Skills that allows the Echo Dot to interface with third party apps. To control them you would say something like: “Alexa, tell OurGroceries to add milk to the shopping list”.

“Alexa, tell OurGroceries to add milk to the shopping list” – where OurGroceries is a shopping app for iOS and Android.

“Alexa, tell Dlink to dim the lights” – where Dlink is a hardware/software component that is installed in your home.

The great thing is that you don’t have to say the commands exactly the same way. I think the Alexa voice service just picks out keywords to know what you want.

You can also connect the Echo Dot to IFTTT to do even more actions.

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If for some reason you don’t want Alexa’s always on voice service listening for you to ask a question (paranoia maybe?), you can press the microphone button on the top of the device to turn off the microphone.

When I was first trying to decide if I would buy the Amazon Echo Dot, I was a little concerned about the built-in speaker because Amazon said it wasn’t really designed to fill a room with music like the original Echo. In smaller rooms it does a decent job, so I haven’t been disappointed. I don’t have the original Echo to compare it to though.

I’ve been using the Amazon Echo Dot for a few weeks now and I think it’s a great gadget that continues to evolve. It responds faster than Ok Google and Siri. That said, Alexa isn’t mobile like those other voice assistants, and it is missing a few commands that I would really like. For example, I’d like to be able to add things to my Google Keep lists, and to have the Echo Dot perform like an alarm clock that can wake me at a specific time by playing music or news. As the commands and actions for Alexa continue to be created, I’m sure those actions will be available at some point.

Gadgets like the Amazon Echo Dot might not change your life, but they make it easier. Telling Alexa to add Oreos to your shopping list as soon as you’ve eaten the last cookie is so much quicker than pulling out your phone, laptop or pad of paper. The Amazon Echo is a personal assistant that is there whenever you need her and disappears when you don’t.

To buy one you have to already own an Amazon Echo which is really stupid. But a way around this limitation is to use the Amazon shopping app on an iOS or Android device. Then tap the microphone icon at the top and use your voice to add it to your shopping cart by saying “add echo dot to shopping cart”. The voice method worked for me. 🙂

Source: The sample for this review was purchased with my own funds. Please visit Amazon for more info.

 

Product Information

Price:$89.99
Manufacturer:Amazon
Pros:
  • Responds to questions quickly
  • Powerful microphone can pick up voice from across the room
  • Always updating with new skills
Cons:
  • Isn't mobile like Siri and Ok Google
Posted in: Audio, Video, TV, Reviews
{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Liza May 10, 2016, 11:09 am

    How where you able to purchase a dot without owning an echo?

    • Julie Strietelmeier May 10, 2016, 11:20 am

      You can use the Amazon shopping app on an iOS or Android device and use the microphone to tell it with your voice to add it to your shopping cart. This worked for me. 🙂

  • Tom Clawges May 10, 2016, 7:26 pm

    Another really nice feature is to have Alexa add an appointment to your Gmail calendar. SO much easier than poking your phone!

  • Margaret Dornbusch May 11, 2016, 12:25 am

    I love my Echo Dot! I travel a lot, so I take it with me. When I get to the hotel room, I connect the Dot to my wifi hotspot. It just sips data, so I have no worries about it blowing through my limit. I love being able to get local weather information and set wake-up alarms in the hotel room!

    • Julie Strietelmeier May 11, 2016, 6:53 am

      How do you think the sound compares between the Echo and the Echo Dot when listening to music in a medium sized room (assuming you still have your original Echo)?

      • Margaret Dornbusch May 11, 2016, 11:14 am

        There is a definite difference in the quality of sound. The original Echo is much fuller and richer than the Dot. The good news, though, is that you can couple a Bluetooth speaker to the Dot to get the sound quality you want.

  • aphoid May 11, 2016, 12:03 pm

    We love our echo and echo dot. We have the dot in the bedroom and the echo in the living room. Our most common use cases:

    Alexa, set a timer for 10 minutes.
    Alexa, play ocean waves
    Alexa, what’s the news.
    Alexa, what’s the weather.
    Alexa, what’s the weather in this weekend.
    Alexa, turn off the living room light.

    The timer feature is fantastic for kitchen use or if you’re doing something like icing a muscle after exercise. Ocean Waves is a great “white noise” sound for going to sleep (it’s technically a Prime Music song by “Joe Baker” I think). We also have Alexa linked up to our WeMo switches for a couple lights.

    • Julie Strietelmeier May 11, 2016, 12:37 pm

      Can you say “Alexa, play ocean waves for 10 minutes”?

      • aphoid May 11, 2016, 2:39 pm

        I’m not sure. So far, “Ocean Waves” is long enough that I’ve never not been asleep when it ends. Checking Amazon, it seems to be 60+ minutes it appears that Joe Baker has a few more to choose from. I might try “Babbling Brook”, “Thunderstorm By The Sea”, “Mountain Stream” and a few others.

        It looks like what you say might be possible, but with three commands instead of just one.

        http://theechomagazine.com/2015/10/11/alexa-will-now-lull-you-to-sleep/

        One frustration I find is that Alexa is not nearly as good at Siri or OK Google at figuring out what I want if I don’t use the exact right words in the right order. Through IFTTT, I have Alexa linked to my Harmony remote, and “Alexa, Trigger turn on TV” works,” but I can’t vary that phrase.

  • Pam T. May 12, 2016, 12:56 pm

    I recently bought the Echo when it was on sale and am learning that I love it a lot. I like the idea of adding a Dot to the bedroom to help control lights and set alarms.

    (I really, really liked hooking it into IFFT to control my TV with a Logitech Harmony remote hub. 🙂 )

    • Julie Strietelmeier May 12, 2016, 1:04 pm

      I’m loving the Dot. If you share grocery shopping duties with another person or persons, check out the OurGroceries app. You can just say Alexa tell OurGroceries to add milk to the shopping list and boom, everyone with the app installed now has that in their list. We used Keep for our shopping lists, but until there’s support in Alexa, we’re switching over the OurGroceries.

  • Jonathan June 3, 2016, 7:08 am

    Nice review. Excellent tip on how to order the Echo Dot using the voice command on the Amazon app! I don’t have an Echo but the Echo Dot seems like a good fit at the right price…and now it’s in my cart.

  • Jane P. July 5, 2016, 6:04 pm

    Julie,

    I want to thank you for instructing me how to order the Dot using the Amazon iOS App’s Voice feature. I have been reading a lot of internet articles which offered no way around using an Amazon Device to order an Echo Dot – which – let’s face it – forces one to purchase a device to order a device.

    Additionally, your positive reviews of the Dot did convince me to purchase one.

    I got my new Echo Dot in the mail last week. I spent a couple of days experimenting with it and then connected it to my BlueSound speaker in my office. What this does is allow me to combine my Amazon Prime music library to my iTunes music. How great is that? Plus I can order up any number of streaming music and news services via voice command. And ask it to update me on weather and traffic.

    I’m not set up for controlling lights, etc. But that may come.

    Thanks again for your help.

    Jane P.

    • Julie Strietelmeier July 5, 2016, 6:07 pm

      I’m glad you were able to order one and are having fun so far!

    • Andrew July 25, 2016, 6:03 pm

      How does the Dot work with Bluesound? I am interested, as I have a Bluesound system. Thanks.

      • Julie Strietelmeier July 25, 2016, 8:38 pm

        Hopefully someone else can answer your question since I don’t have a Bluesound system to test with my Echo Dot.

  • Matt Farmer July 20, 2016, 12:43 pm

    I asked for a invite for the Echo in Nov 2014 when it was announced. I received the invite early January 2015 Received my Echo early May 2015 so I had it about two months before it was launched to the public. It has gotten so much smarter since when I first received. I used to walk into the kitchen and tell her to turn on the kitchen. The light above our stove didn’t have a switch you had to plugin and unplug before I got a Wemo switch. We moved 7 weeks ago and I don’t know what light I want it to control. I also own two Dots. I received the second one last night. I have one hooked up to my Bose Solo 15 in our main TV room. I hooked the second Dot to my Bose Wave in my home office. I love them.

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