Ama­zon Echo Dot

FOR Clear, solid sound; Alexa’s al­ways im­prov­ing; bud­get price AGAINST Alexa is only so in­tel­li­gent

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

If Jeff Be­zos, Ama­zon’s CEO, does take over the world, he might just have the Ama­zon Echo Dot to thank. As Ama­zon does its level best to in­fil­trate ev­ery pos­si­ble prod­uct mar­ket, ev­ery pos­si­ble home and ev­ery pos­si­ble room, the new Echo Dot 3rd gen­er­a­tion is per­haps the most en­tic­ing way to bring Ama­zon’s Alexa voice as­sis­tant into your home. But, if you like the idea of a smart as­sis­tant com­bined with a sim­ple mu­sic speaker, it’s hard to ar­gue against the Echo Dot.

No­tice­ably smarter

There re­mains some­thing quite fu­tur­is­tic about bel­low­ing com­mands at, and hear­ing re­sponses from, a lit­tle elec­tronic voice in a box, but on the sur­face every­thing about this prod­uct is pretty sim­ple. The small, puck-shaped

de­sign re­mains but it has been jazzed-up and im­proved on this 3rd-gen Dot.

Fab­ric re­places the hard ex­te­rior of the pre­vi­ous model and the con­trols on top of the de­vice have had a makeover, too. It looks no­tice­ably smarter as a re­sult – we see it as a nice ad­di­tion to a room rather than some­thing you will want to tuck out of sight.

In good voice

You need to con­nect the Echo Dot to power, and you can wire in other de­vices via the 3.5mm aux out­put for bet­ter sound, but oth­er­wise it can go any­where that it can hear your voice. Once it's pow­ered up, it’s sim­ple to use the Ama­zon Alexa app and get it con­nected to your wi-fi net­work. The 3.5mm au­dio out­put and Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity is about as much as you get. This means if you do want a big­ger, bet­ter sound than the Echo Dot can de­liver, then you can make a wired or wire­less con­nec­tion to an­other de­vice. Oth­er­wise, it’s all about Alexa in terms of fea­tures. It’s worth not­ing that all this con­nec­tiv­ity, and every­thing Alexa can do, is in line with the pre­vi­ous model.

Alexa can still play mu­sic, an­swer ques­tions, read the news, check the weather, set alarms and con­trol com­pat­i­ble smart home de­vices, from TVS to home cinema amplifiers and speak­ers. And you can con­trol Spo­tify and Tunein, as well as Ama­zon Mu­sic. Voice calls are a rel­a­tively new ad­di­tion, while the num­ber of Skills – de­vices that work with Alexa – are con­stantly grow­ing and in­clude a whole suite of prod­ucts from Sonos to Domino’s Pizza and Uber.

What is new, is a new driver and a change to the mi­cro­phone lay­out. There’s a 4cm driver here, com­pared with 3cm on the pre­vi­ous model, and Ama­zon claims it’s 70 per cent louder as a re­sult. In­ter­est­ingly, there are fewer mi­cro­phones – four rather than seven – but tweaks to the de­sign aim to make per­for­mance ev­ery bit as strong.

Clear im­prove­ment

The three key strands of the Dot’s per­for­mance are how well Alexa hears you, how good the speaker sounds (for an­swers and mu­sic), and what it can do. The pre­vi­ous Echo Dot was al­ready pretty im­pres­sive in terms of hear­ing your com­mands, and we’re ev­ery bit as happy with the per­for­mance here. Even with mu­sic play­ing, a clear com­mand will wake Alexa. Un­der­stand­ing your ques­tion, and al­low­ing for ac­cents, means it’s not per­fect but, for the most part, it’s pretty im­pres­sive.

“Alexa, what are the news head­lines?” and “Alexa, what’s the weather?” prove easy; “Alexa, play some French rap” pulls up a rel­e­vant Spo­tify playlist, while a re­quest to “say some­thing in French” re­turns the ac­tual French word for ‘some­thing’ – just the sort of smart Alec re­sponse which AI will hope to im­prove in com­ing years.

“In line with the lat­est Ama­zon Echo prod­ucts, the sound qual­ity has no­tice­ably im­proved on this ver­sion of the Dot, mak­ing it a sim­ple and ef­fec­tive smart speaker that’s easy to rec­om­mend”

We add the Sonos skill and can soon con­trol mu­sic across a multi-room sys­tem of Sonos de­vices. Nat­u­rally, the Echo Dot needs to be able to hear you, but you can also talk to the Alexa app on your phone when you’re out of earshot. Again, prod­uct com­pat­i­bil­ity will only widen and im­prove, but al­ready brands such as Denon, Marantz, Onkyo, Pi­o­neer and Yamaha are be­gin­ning to of­fer Alexa-com­pat­i­ble AV prod­ucts.

The sound qual­ity is ar­guably the most im­pres­sive upgrade here. De­spite sim­i­lar di­men­sions, the change to the driver has clearly had a pos­i­tive ef­fect. It’s louder, for sure – but it’s bet­ter than that. The lean, thin sound of the pre­vi­ous mod­els, which was com­fort­ably bet­tered by the Google Home Mini, has been re­placed by ac­tual bass notes, full-bod­ied voices and a smoother treble.

Back­ground mu­sic

This means we re­ally don’t mind the Echo Dot as a back­ground mu­sic de­vice. Of course, your main hi-fi sys­tem should be some­thing bet­ter, if pos­si­ble, but for the kitchen or kids’ room, or for the oc­ca­sional con­ve­nience, play­ing mu­sic on this tiny bud­get speaker is no prob­lem at all. And that’s say­ing some­thing. More per­ti­nently per­haps, it means Alexa sounds much more agree­able at all times: clear, loud and easy to un­der­stand. The new Ama­zon Echo Dot is the eas­i­est, cheap­est and best way to bring Alexa into your home. It works well on its own, but it can also be nicely in­te­grated into the myr­iad other smart home and AV prod­ucts, bring­ing voice con­trol and smart fea­tures just a com­mand away.

In line with the lat­est Ama­zon Echo prod­ucts, the sound qual­ity has no­tice­ably im­proved on this ver­sion of the Dot, and while for a ‘proper’ smart speaker an upgrade even to Ama­zon’s more sub­stan­tial Echo Plus would be money well spent, this re­mains a sim­ple and ef­fec­tive smart speaker that’s re­ally easy to rec­om­mend.

The con­trols have had a makeover, and the Dot looks smarter as a re­sult

For big­ger sound, you can con­nect the Echo Dot to your main sys­tem

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.