Amazon's Echo Dot has been the most compelling smart speaker in the market. And the addition of LED at the front makes it just perfect in every sense.
This new smart speaker is the same third-generation Echo Dot that was introduced last year but with an LED display peeking through the fabric. It is still the same compact circular speaker with the fabric on the circumference hiding multiple speakers to broadcast 360-degree sound. The Dot houses four buttons on the top - volume up, down, microphone mute and the action button. A tap on the top of the speaker snoozes the alarm. There are four far-field microphones (pin-holes next to the buttons) to pick up the voice, and the light-ring running on the top glows in blue, red or orange to display the status of the speaker. The underside of the device has a much wider base of silicon that grips the table well and doesn't skid; at the back are DC power supply and aux ports.
Unlike Echo 5, this one isn't a smart display. The LED display peeking out of the fabric only displays time, timer countdown, temperature and the volume level. The subtle LED display is just perfect - especially when you are checking the time at night. Amazon offers a host of controls too. From the Alexa app, I was able to turn off the display, control brightness manually or even turn on adaptive brightness that adjusts brightness basis the ambient light. There is also a slider in adaptive brightness, which Alexa claims will help adaptive brightness feature learn user preference. I preferred leaving it on. On the clock, I was able to switch to 24-hour format.
Setting up the device was rather simple - install the Amazon Alexa app on iOS or Android device and log in using Amazon account. Tapping on the home icon on the bottom right, select the '+' icon followed by 'add device'. I turned on the Bluetooth on the phone, and the app started searching the Echo device. Simply follow the instructions and the Dot will be ready in less than a couple of minutes.
Powered by Alexa, the Dot requires a Wi-Fi network to work. It quickly processed all my commands and fetched information. Be it playing songs, reading out the news headlines, or communicating with compatible smart appliances and gadgets - everything worked smoothly. 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. Same was with the devices paired with my Alexa account. 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 the one. I was able to control my paired Mi LED bulbs with the Echo Dot with just a voice command. For pairing new devices, activate the hardware skill and ask Alexa to look for compatible devices. Within 45 seconds it recognises the gadgets and displays them in the app as well.
Talking about the sound output, it is pretty impressive for its size. The audio was loud and clear, and the speaker handles lows and highs quite well. There isn't any hiss in the treble either. At maximum volume, it did a pretty good job.
The addition of the LED display in the smart speaker has successfully filled in the gap of having unnecessarily an additional screen/display to check the time, without getting too intrusive.
The price difference between the Echo Dot 3rd gen (retailing for Rs 3,999) and the new Echo Dot with clock (retailing for Rs 4,999) isn't much. However, the former is often available at huge discounts during special sales on Amazon with the price going down to as low as Rs 1,999.