Introducing the Echo Dot
Last week, Amazon unveiled two new products to go alongside the Amazon Echo, in their Alexa product line. The Amazon Echo Dot was one of those new products. Advertised as a cheaper, smaller alternative to the original Echo, the Dot certainly turned some heads. Not everyone can afford a $200 Amazon Echo, and it looks like the Echo Dot was a more cost-effective replication. But could it be too good to be true?
Regardless, with the release of the Echo Dot, buyers have an additional option when considering the purchase of a new Amazon smart speaker. Proponents of the original Echo have been very vocal, and it seems they’re more vocal than ever with these new products. Having trouble deciding which smart speaker product is right for you? In this article, I’ll talk a little bit about what we currently know about the Echo Dot, and what kind of consumer I think it’s most well-suited for. I’ll quit blabbering now, and get into the details.
- Reported weight of 250 grams, which is almost half of a pound.
- Height of 1.5″, which makes it about the size of a can of tuna.
- 7 microphone array along the light ring, enabling 360 degrees of voice input.
- Dual-band, dual-antenna MIMO Wi-Fi connectivity. Compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n standards. Doesn’t support ad-hoc or peer-to-peer connections.
- A2DP support for audio streaming from your mobile device to the Echo Dot, or from Echo Dot to a Bluetooth speaker. AVRCP for voice control of mobile devices. (Mac OS X devices currently are not compatible with AVRCP features.)
- Built-in speaker for voice feedback
Before you get into the comments and start ripping on me, no, I didn’t miss anything. The Echo Dot doesn’t actually have a speaker. The speaker that is included in the Dot is powerful enough for voice feedback, but it isn’t powerful enough to play your favorite Spotify radio station. Before I continue to get into the features of the Echo Dot, I think it’s important that you know a little more about the original Echo. The Echo Dot is “related” to the Echo, after all, and I think it’s good to know how the original product has changed with this most recent iteration.
The original Amazon Echo is a smart speaker, which means its a Bluetooth speaker that is able to access the Internet via different voice commands. These voice commands go through Alexa, which is Amazon’s response to Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. Alexa has been praised as being faster, more accurate, and more comprehensive than its competitors. The Amazon Echo features an always-on microphone, which lets you input voice commands from anywhere in your home, without having to touch any buttons. It’s a completely hands-free experience, and your Echo wakes up to the sound of your voice.
How is the Echo Dot any different?
The Echo Dot is essentially just the original Echo minus the integrated speaker, and I think its design drives that point home. It looks like someone took a knife to the original Echo, and just chopped off the top portion. That’s basically the only difference between these two products. I mean, with the smaller form factor, the Echo Dot is a little easier to lug around, but that’s about it. In some ways, the Echo Dot’s missing speaker is great. In other ways, it isn’t so great. It’s just a matter of how you look at it.
By not having an included speaker, the Echo Dot requires a little more set-up. You can’t just buy an Echo Dot, plug it in, and use it as you would use an Echo. It will need to be paired with some kind of speaker to function, either via a standard audio jack or via Bluetooth. Although this allows you to hook up your device to a super high quality Bluetooth speaker, with audio quality exceeding that of the original Echo, it admittedly takes a lot of additional work. Not to mention, Amazon hasn’t been entirely clear as to how the speaker can be controlled by the Echo Dot. I think it’s safe to assume that you won’t be able to control volume via Alexa if your Echo Dot is hooked up to an old junker of a speaker, but how will it handle newer Bluetooth speakers? At the minimum, you’re losing a little bit of out-of-the-box convenience. At the worst, you’re losing convenience and a little bit of functionality, too.
That’s the only real gripe that I have with the Echo Dot, honestly. Considering that it’s almost $100 cheaper than the original Echo, I think it’s one of the smartest moves that Amazon has made with its Alexa product line thus far. It will probably sell very hotly, as a good entry-level, affordable option for someone who is looking to try out their smart speakers. Their initial limited release (only enabling Echo owners to preorder the product at the moment) is probably in anticipation of this eventual hype.
Is it worth it?
I’ll cut right to it. Yes. Although the Echo Dot is a little more of a hassle to set-up than its other fellow Alexa products, I think that with this hassle, comes a lot more freedom. If you want, you can hook your Dot up to a $400 Bluetooth speaker, and enjoy the incredible audio quality that would come with it. If you’re not a stickler about sound quality, just hook them up to some old $15 computer speakers, and be happy with that. The Echo Dot’s price makes it so much more accessible than the original Echo, and I think that the ability to choose your own speaker only makes it more so.
Granted, as an unreleased product, it’s difficult to judge how the Echo Dot will perform exactly. Maybe there’s a design flaw that leads to poor Bluetooth connections, maybe the microphone array isn’t quite as effective at a low elevation. There are plenty of uncertainties surrounding this product, but considering Amazon’s stellar reputation when it comes to hardware manufacturing, I’m very optimistic. I think that the Echo Dot will join the original Echo product that flies off of shelves and steals the hearts of households around the country. If I were you, I would definitely keep my eye on this one.
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