We’re big fans of the Amazon Echo Dot. It’s a tiny smart speaker that sounds surprisingly good for its size, with a friendly $50 price and all of the voice control features of Amazon Alexa. The Amazon Echo Dot With Clock is simply a third-generation Echo Dot with an LED clock face on the front. It’s a small upgrade that bumps the price up by $10 to $59.99, and it’s totally worth it. Putting a clock on the Dot makes it significantly more useful on your desk, nightstand, or shelf, and earns it our Editors’ Choice for affordable smart speakers.
Pros: Same performance and features as the Echo Dot. Bright, clear LED clock face.
Cons: Slightly weak high-frequency response. Alexa can be a little stilted compared with Google Assistant.
Bottom Line: The Amazon Echo Dot with Clock is simply an Echo Dot smart speaker with an LED clock on the front-and it’s terrific.
The Echo Dot with Clock is physically identical to the third-generation Echo Dot, with the same 1.7-by-3.9 (HW) rounded puck design with a smooth plastic top and fabric grille cloth wrapped around the sides. The model with the clock is only available in light gray “sandstone,” so you don’t have the options of black, dark gray, and red-purple you get with the standard Echo Dot.
The top of the Dot has the same four buttons (Alexa, microphone mute, and volume up/down) as the non-clock Dot, and the same four pinholes for the far-field microphone array. A light ring around the top panel glows blue when Alexa is listening or talking, orange when the speaker is ready for setup, and red when the microphone is muted. A power connector and a 3.5mm audio output sit on the back side of the speaker. Unplugged, the standard and clock models are completely indistinguishable from each other.
Plug it in and set it up, and the clock will be staring you in the face with big, bright numbers. An alphanumeric LED array on the front of the Dot shows the time by default, automatically synced through the internet after you use the Alexa app to connect it to your Wi-Fi network and link your Amazon account. It’s a small change, but it’s also incredibly useful, telling you the time without need to first ask for it.
The LED display can show slightly more than just the time. If you ask Alexa for the weather, it will show the temperature outside. It will also display any timer you ask it to set, letting you watch it count down. It isn’t the extensive array of visual information and video that smart displays like the Echo Show 5 offer, but it’s just enough to be casually handy on a regular basis.
As its name implies, the Echo Dot with Clock is an Amazon Echo speaker, and that means you get full access to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Just say “Alexa,” (or “Amazon,” “Computer,” or “Echo” if you change the wake word in the Alexa app) and you can ask Alexa to tell you the weather, control your smart home devices, play music, and loads of other functions.
Alexa is a powerful voice assistant, with strong integration with Amazon’s services as well as plenty of third-party support. Alexa can answer basic requests for information, like weather, sports scores, unit conversions, and trivia. For music, you can ask Alexa to play anything (if you have the relevant subscriptions) from Amazon Music, Apple Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, SiriusXM, or Spotify. You can also simply use the Echo Dot as a Bluetooth speaker and play anything you want from your phone. And you can directly connect the Dot to a larger speaker with a 3.5mm cable to turn it into a bigger, louder smart speaker.
As mentioned above, you can also use Alexa to control a wide variety of smart devices, with support for thousands, including all major smart lights, smart locks, smart outlets, and smart thermostats. Alexa will also let you control your Fire TV device with voice commands if you pair it through the app. Alexa supports routines that control multiple devices with one custom voice command, like turning on the lights and giving you weather and traffic reports when you say “Alexa, good morning.”
While Alexa is useful, it isn’t quite as casual as Google Assistant in terms of syntax and language. It’s gotten a bit better with updates, but you still need to keep in mind the correct terms and phrasing Alexa expects when asking her to dim the lights or set an alarm. Talking to Alexa feels a bit more stiff than the more forgiving Google Assistant, and Alexa isn’t as good at keeping track of the subject of a conversation when you’re giving multiple commands.
The Echo Dot can also make hands-free phone calls to nearly any phone number in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.
You can’t expect powerful bass from a speaker as tiny as the Echo Dot, and adding a clock doesn’t make it any more powerful. It has identical performance to the regular Echo Dot, which in the case of our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” means bass synth notes distort at maximum volume, and kick drum hits sound like insistent foot tapping. It isn’t surprising for a speaker the size of a hockey puck. The Google Nest Mini has slightly more in the way of low-end response, but it still falls far short of room-filling, doesn’t reach particularly deep into the lower frequencies itself, and lacks the more robust midrange of the Echo Dot.
Yes’ “Roundabout” is less punishing on the little speaker, and sounds full and balanced for its size. The opening guitar plucks get a good amount of resonance and solid string texture. When the electric bass kicks in, it gets enough presence to give the track a sense of force, and while the vocals and hi-hat sit slightly in the background, they can still be easily discerned in the busy mix.
While the Dot doesn’t have quite the high-frequency presence as the Nest Mini, or as much lower bass presence, it has much more low-mid and midrange power, which you can hear in The Crystal Method’s “Born Too Slow.” The backbeat and electric guitar riffs sound fuller and have more presence than on the Google speaker.
The Echo Dot’s generous midrange response makes music sound a bit louder and warmer, and will appeal to most users over the Nest Mini. For sheer volume, the Echo Dot also pulls slightly ahead, but not enough to really drive a party or even fill a remotely noisy room.
Put a Clock on It
The Amazon Echo Dot With Clock is exactly what it claims to be-an Echo Dot with a clock on it. That clock adds $10 to the price, but it’s money well spent. Being able to see the time by looking at your Echo Dot is really useful, as is seeing the temperature or checking a timer. If you want more visual functionality than that, you’ll need to step up to the $90 Echo Show 5, and the jump from a smart speaker to a smart display can overly complicate the situation when all you want is a little Alexa puck that tells the time. For these reasons, the Dot With Clock earns our Editors’ Choice for small, affordable smart speakers.
Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com on October 22, 2019.