The New Dot
A couple of days ago, Amazon released a couple of new products to go alongside their wildly popular Amazon Echo: the Tap, and the Echo Dot. Upon its release, the Amazon Echo was a pretty unique product. It was a smart speaker, which is something that had never really been done before. The Echo is compatible with Alexa, which is a voice-recognition software that is comparable to Apple’s Siri. (However, Alexa is considered to be superior to Siri, generally being faster and more accurate.) The Echo became somewhat of a sleeper hit, and captured the hearts of most people who took the plunge and purchased it.
With the release of the Echo Dot, potential buyers now have another option when it comes to smart speakers. It isn’t always easy to research different iterations of the same product, so if you’re looking to buy an Amazon smart speaker product, you should be happy to know that I’ve done most of the research for you already. In this article, I’ll outline the main points of each device, and compare the two. Hopefully, by the end of this, you’ll be able to make a more well-informed purchasing decision.
- Weight of 1045 grams, which is about as heavy as a bottle of wine. (The shape of the Echo means the distribution of the weight is about the same, too.)
- Height of 9.25″, which is just a little shorter than two soup cans stacked on top of one another.
- 7-microphone array along the light ring, enabling 360 degrees of voice input.
- 2.5 inch woofer and 2 inch tweeter, for bass and treble. (The woofer is enhanced by a reflex port that sits over the top of it.)
- Dual-band, dual-antenna MIMO Wi-Fi connectivity. Compatible with the 802.11a/b/g/n standards. The Echo doesn’t support ad-hoc or peer-to-peer connections.
- A2DP support allows you to stream from your mobile device onto your Echo. AVRCP allows you to use the Echo to control your mobile device. (AVRCP is not compatible with Mac OS X devices.)
When the Amazon Echo released in June of last year, people didn’t really know what to think of it. We had had experience with voice recognition software like Siri and Cortana, but Alexa was entirely different. Initially, consumers were wary of the Echo, citing its always-on microphone as a potential violation of privacy. However, as more and more people actually got their hands on this machine, they came to grow very fond of it. The Echo is a speaker that is meant to be plugged into a power outlet somewhere in your house, and you’re meant to consult it as often as possible. From setting timers to turning out lights to putting on music, the Amazon Echo is intended to be your robot butler.
Most people’s concerns were addressed with the Echo, as well. If you’re turned off by the always-on microphone (which is meant to enable constant, hands-off use of the product) then you are able to just press a button and disable the microphone. It’s as easy as that. However, I think that the Echo shines as something whose use is entirely passive. There’s something very satisfying about being able to use something whenever you want without having to touch a button, open an app, or flip a switch. From an audio standpoint, the Echo’s sound quality is impressive coming from something so small. All in all, the Amazon Echo was a solid first release for this new family of Amazon products, and it probably packs the widest appeal out of all of them.
Pros: Good sound quality, Alexa support, easy to set up and use, microphones are powerful
Cons: Needs to be plugged in constantly (can’t take this on the go), high price point
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Amazon Echo Dot
- Weight of 250 grams, or about half of a pound.
- Height of 1.5″, which is about as tall as a can of tuna.
- 7 microphone array lining the light ring, for 360 degrees of voice input.
- Dual-band, dual-antenna MIMO Wi-Fi connectivity. Compatible with the 802.11a/b/g/n standards. Doesn’t support ad-hoc or peer-to-peer connections.
- A2DP support for audio streaming from mobile device to Echo Dot, or from Echo Dot to a Bluetooth speaker. AVRCP for voice control of mobile devices (Mac OS X is still not compatible with AVRCP.) Bluetooth speakers that use PIN codes aren’t supported.
- Built-in speaker for voice feedback
So, you may think that I left something out of that spec list. “What kind of hardware is the Echo Dot packing for audio?” The answer? None. The Echo Dot is Amazon’s attempt to bring a more “lite” version of the original Amazon Echo. It’s much smaller than its predecessor, but that’s at the cost for a speaker. The Echo Dot is meant to be plugged into an external speaker, and the speaker that is actually contained within the Dot is only powerful enough to provide voice feedback. So, you can talk to Alexa without having the Dot plugged in to a speaker, but you won’t be able to listen to music.
The Echo Dot is still neat, though. At a much lower price point than both the Echo and the Tap, it’s a more affordable option for someone who wants to bring an Amazon smart speaker into their home. And emphasis on the “home” part. Like the Echo, the Echo Dot requires constant power. You can’t really carry it around and take you places, unless you have some kind of mobile power source. People are calling the Echo Dot “the most advanced alarm clock ever” which is a pretty apt comparison. This is meant to be something that carries out the same basic functions as the Echo, with full access to Alexa, but that requires some additional hardware. While the Echo is an all-in-one, the Echo Dot is more of a supplemental tool.
Pros: Affordable, smaller form factor, Alexa support
Cons: Requires external speaker, needs to be plugged in constantly
Which is better?
In my opinion, both products are very different. The Echo is definitely a more premium option, and I think that it’s the safest choice for someone who is willing to blow $180 on a speaker. Why? There’s no additional set-up required, aside from plugging it in. You can hook up your Echo and just forget about it, whereas the Echo Dot’s requirement for an external speaker makes it feel more like an extension of the speaker than a speaker in itself.
Not to mention, the functionality of the Echo Dot is slightly reduced by this limitation. If you plug an older speaker into your Echo Dot via a standard 3.5mm audio jack, you won’t be able to actually modify that speaker through Alexa. It’s just a way of outputting sound from the Echo Dot. Although it could definitely be a cool product, the Echo Dot makes it a lot easier for the user to have an unsatisfying experience. With the Echo, however, all of the equipment is provided to you, so Amazon is sure that you’re using the device to its full potential.
However, the Echo Dot is significantly more affordable than the Echo. If you’re a technophile on a budget, this is the perfect option for you. The Echo Dot allows you access to the critically acclaimed Alexa for a very low price, and it still has the same Alexa-based functionality as the Echo. The only difference is the lack of native sound output, and in my opinion, that’s the only issue. Either way, these are both products that are definitely worth checking out.