Amazon's Echo Dot has been the most affordable smart speaker from the Echo family, which focuses on smart functionality first and audio later. It has never been a great speaker. However, with the 3rd generation Dot, Amazon has managed to bridge a balance between the two.
The new Echo Dot has a significant design update over the previous version. It is slightly bigger and heavier than the 2nd gen. To give it a premium look, Amazon has used a mesh cloth on the circumference of the speaker, which hides multiple speakers to broadcast 360 degree sound. My review unit in black looked good but the mesh cloth attracts dust. The Dot houses four buttons on the top--volume up, down, microphone mute button with a new icon and action button. There are four far-field microphones (pin-holes next to the buttons) to pick up the voice. The underside of the device has a much wider base of silicon base, which grips the table well and doesn't skid. At the back are DC power supply and aux ports. There is a light-ring running on the top that glows in blue, red or orange, displaying the status of the speaker.
The device is easy to set up, all I had to do was to install the Amazon Alexa app on iOS or Android device and log in using Amazon account. Once done, I tapped on the home icon on the bottom right, selected the '+' icon followed by 'add device'. I had to turn on Bluetooth on the phone, and the app started searching the Echo device. In simple words, you just need to follow the instructions and the device would be ready to use in less than a couple of minutes.
Using Echo Dot
Smart speakers are powered by intelligent software that sits in the cloud. And for the speaker to process commands, fetch information or communicate with the device, it requires wireless connectivity. In the case of the Dot, calling out Alexa alerts the speaker and it starts processing the command (the ring glows blue). As I had used Alexa in the past, the activated skills for fetching news, music and more were synced automatically. But first-time users will have to head to the 'skills' section, within the Alexa app, and activate it. Skills are divided into various categories -- business & finance, education & reference, food & drink, games, trivia & accessories, kids, and more.
For instance, for news updates there are skills such as Aaj Tak News, India Today News, CNN, and more. For music and audio, there is Saavn, All India Radio, TED Talks, etc. There are skills for compatible hardware too. For instance, there is one for Philips Hue, Syska, Oakter, Xiaomi, and a lot more. For controlling Mi Air Purifier 2S with the Dot, I had to activate the Mi Home skill and log in using the same email account which I am using for Alexa. Once done, I was able to turn on/off the air purifier or even select the speed.
Using the Alexa app, I was able to set schedules where Dot would perform actions automatically. For instance, the wake-up alarm was set for the morning, and Alexa would turn on the room lights automatically in the evening. There were times when Alexa would start talking on its own at night, and hence, I scheduled a 'Do Not Disturb' for the Dot between 11 PM to 6 AM.
Pairing Smart Devices
The Echo Dot can be used for controlling WiFi connected lights, appliances and smart devices. Unlike Echo Plus that has a built-in smart home hub that seamlessly connects and controls Zigbee smart devices, Echo Dot doesn't come with one. For instance, the Philips Hue smart bulb is on Zigbee standard and to pair it with the Dot, you will have to buy the hub as well. Once the skills are enabled, all I had to do was ask Alexa to look for compatible devices and within 45 seconds it recognised the gadgets and displayed them in the app as well.
The sound is one of the biggest improvements in the 3rd generation Dot. The sound output is not just loud but clear as well. For its compact size, it handles lows and highs well. There isn't any hiss in the treble either. At maximum volume, it did a good job that makes the new Dot ideal for music needs in a small sized room.