amazon echo dot

Coming in at half the size of the original Echo at a price tag roughly half, Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen is almost a whim purchase.

Is this tiny portal to the magic of Alexa still a valid purchase, though?

Today, we’ll highlight where this tiny and pocket-friendly smart speaker stands and falls. We’ll also be giving you some handy hints on getting the most out of Echo Dot.

Before anything else, a quick snapshot of the key benefits of this compact smart speaker now in its third iteration.

Amazon Echo Dot: 10 Key Benefits

  1. Occupies a much more compact footprint than the original Echo and is also half the price
  2. Alexa-enabled, so you have full access to your favorite virtual butler
  3. Unbeatable interoperability with a huge volume of smart devices
  4. Integrates with most other devices in your connected home, giving you hands-free control
  5. Alexa has 60,000 skills and growing, so you can do everything from ordering a pizza and an Uber to getting help in organizing your day
  6. Robust ability to stream music, although the soundscape is rather underwhelming so you might want to consider using external speakers
  7. Full intercom service with other Echo devices in your connected home giving you hands-free calling and messaging
  8. Drop-In allows you to check in on your kids or elderly relatives with this innovative shift in on-demand communication
  9. Tiny form factor means you can pop Amazon Echo Dot just about anywhere while it’s also a first-class travel device
  10. Set up couldn’t be easier so you’ll be up and running right out the box

Before we move on to some things you might not expect to do with Amazon Echo Dot, let's cover the basics.

We’ll walk you through set-up and break down how this smart speaker performs right now.

Set-Up

Echo Dot setup couldn't be quicker or easier, really.

Plug your device in and download the Alexa app on your smartphone.

Connect your Echo device to your WiFi network in-app.

From here, you’re immediately up and running with a neat portal to voice-activated convenience throughout your home.

Aesthetics

Amazon Echo Dot-Charcoal

The design should never be the dominant factor in your buying decision, but it undeniably always plays a role.

How does the Amazon Echo Dot look, then?

Measuring a mere 3 1/3 x 3 1/3 x 1 1/3 inches, Dot is much like the original Echo sliced in half.

Weighing in at less than 6oz, you will need Echo Dot permanently plugged in. Despite that tiny footprint, this is not strictly a portable device.

The top of the device is encircled with LEDs offering you a status bar.

Buttons are limited to the absolute basics:

  • Volume control
  • Action
  • Enabling mic
  • Disabling mic

Coloring is limited to charcoal, gray and sandstone. You can, however, choose from a broad array of colored cases, ideal for kids or anyone wanting to inject a splash of fun.

The base comes designed not to slide off surfaces and Amazon Echo Dot is intended to blend in rather than stand up. This stealth smart speaker is still very much relevant in 2019.

The plastic housing has replaced the relatively brittle matte body of the outgoing generation.

So, while the design is subjective, Echo Dot hits most pain points on the looks front. If you’re after a subtle and diminutive smart speaker that works with Alexa at a bargain-basement price, Echo Dot is the obvious answer.

Performance and Functionality

Obviously, looks are futile if form vanquishes function.

We’ll clear up one thing right off the bat: as a pure speaker, Echo Dot fails to steal any prizes. Audio is quiet and relatively weak.

While this might seem counterintuitive when the product is marketed as a smart speaker, all you need to do is hook up Echo Dot to an external speaker or headphones. That way, you’ll get all the smarts with a distinctly upgraded soundscape. You won’t get a line-in cable bundled, but you can get rocking with Bluetooth straight out the box.

The main overhaul in this recent iteration is a dramatically improved mic. The earlier versions of Echo Dot struggled woefully at times to pick up your voice, you’ll get no such concerns here. 7 mics are arrayed to pick up on your commands even across crowded and busy rooms.

So, you have your music streaming needs covered, ideally making use of a third-party speaker. The driving force of any smart speaker is the AI-driven digital assistant on board. With the Amazon Echo Dot you’ll get the imitable Alexa, so what do you get for your money here?

This, really, should underpin your whole buying decision. Echo Dot is a portal to all that Alexa offers, but what is it that she offers, exactly?

Alexa Front and Center

Amazon Echo Dot and Fire TV

If she needs any introduction, the ubiquitous Alexa is a cloud-based digital assistant activated by voice commands.

Amazon continues to throw those R&D dollars at all things AI-related, meaning your virtual butler just keeps getting smarter and better.

From playing your favorite tunes to reading you an audiobook, from giving you the lowdown on the sports and weather to triggering a range of core processes throughout your smart home, Alexa is a powerful tool.

Skills are a way for you to get the very best out of your digital assistant, while also educating her at the same time. Think of skills like third-party apps designed to make all aspects of your life easier such as food shopping, delivery services, organizing your day and streamlining operations.

  • Entertainment Controls: Whether you’re watching a smart TV or Fire TV, you can harness the beauty of voice control to take the helm of your streaming and audiovisual devices
  • Group Controls: Group controls come to the fore if you’ve got multiple Echo devices in your home. You can fine-tune and simplify entertainment and smart home control across your various smarts speakers
  • Routines: Home automation is obviously one of the primary selling points with all smart speakers. Creating routines in-app allows you to make just one command and trigger a series of actions. You might want your smart lock opening to activate the hallway and living room lights, fire up the TV and get the heating just right. With a single command, you can make that happen thanks to routines
  • Voice Recognition: Alexa is getting better at recognizing voices. Amazon is still lagging behind Google here but there’s some improvement, which is encouraging. This feature is especially valuable with smart locks or voice-activated purchases.

Alexa: The App

Alexa app is free and available on Android, iOS, Fire IS and also desktop browsers.

You can use the app to sync calendars and existing music services and you can also perform the core function of Alexa in-app, which is smart home control.

By building out simple routines, you can get all the devices in your connected home singing in harmony hands-free.

Get your day started the right way by simply issuing a few commands in the direction of Alexa. Ease out of bed to energizing music playing, the blinds up, and the lights on, ready to step downstairs into perfectly cooled rooms with coffee ready to pour.

Alexa For The Kids

Amazon Echo Dot-Kids Dancing

With Amazon FreeTime, you can readily turn Alexa into a kid-friendly hub.

The user-friendly dashboard allows you to place time limits on the device and also to filter out any inappropriate content.

You can also disable voice shopping preventing any unexpected sprees at the hands of your children.

FreeTime Unlimited comes as a paid subscription. You’ll benefit from an enormous spread of child-friendly content to keep your kids entertained around the clock.

Is Amazon Prime Essential With Echo Dot?

If you’re planning to use Echo Dot primarily for music streaming, you might want to seriously consider a Prime subscription.

We would point out that the regular Prime membership including Prime Music is less than ideal. Our suggestion is to opt for Amazon Music Unlimited, which gives you a Spotify-rivalling library.

You can make orders using Alexa and also track delivery if you’re a Prime member, but this hardly qualifies as an essential.

In short, you don’t need Prime to get the most out of Echo Dot. Think about your intended usage and ask yourself whether the extra commitment of a Prime membership makes sense.

So, with all the basics sketched in, what can you do to get the most from Echo Dot?

What To Do with Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot with Cellphone

It’s no surprise that smart home control is the main draw and the principal reason so many millions of Echo devices have found their way into our homes.

Here are some simple ways to get started putting your Amazon Echo Dot through its paces.

Smart Home Control Hands-Free

Alexa’s core competency is a smart home control. Look for devices under the Works with Alexa umbrella and start controlling them using nothing but voice commands. You’ll be able to change the temperature, dim the lights, answer your video doorbell and much, much more. If you have no ambitions for Alexa beyond helping you with home automation, this feature alone justifies the modest price

Embrace IFTTT for More Robust Control

Maybe you can’t get your smart devices working together just the way you want them to. Use If This, Then That to create recipes – mini-apps – that will get your lightbulbs changing color or your smart lock working with your smart lighting and thermostat. IFTTT allows you to create a workaround to get Alexa singing with unsupported devices. If you’ve never used IFTTT before, don’t be intimidated. Once you get going, it’s pretty user-friendly and adds a new layer of personalization to your connected home

Control Your TV and Media

Whether you want to change the channel hands-free or you fancy asking Alexa for some help choosing a movie, Amazon Echo Dot allows you to kiss your remote goodbye. Fire up your favorite playlist when you’re cooking up a storm in the kitchen, then ask Alexa to dim the lights while she fires up the next episode of Stranger Things for you to binge on

Organize Your Day

From to-do lists and shopping lists to sidestepping the worst gridlock and knowing what clothes to wear for the day ahead, Alexa can be a powerful organizational tool once you explore her wide skillset.

Keep The Kids Entertained

You can do more than just drop in on the kids to check they’re doing their homework. If you invest in Amazon FreeTime, you can let them enjoy a huge amount of age-appropriate music and you can start educating them on the basics of smart home control the easy way

Call and Message Hands-Free at Home

If you try to limit the use of cellphones within the home, you’ll appreciate the way you can call and message hands-free between Echo devices in your home. Amazon soon realized that many households own a handful of smart speakers. They’ve made it super-simple to communicate between these giving you the feeling of an old-school intercom. Tell your kids what it was like back in the days of landlines and two-way intercoms.

Despite all the extras and the various things, you can set Alexa to task with, the overriding benefit of this awesome device is the extra scope it gives you in terms of smart home control.

Final Word

If you want an affordable entry-point into the world of smart speakers and you don’t plan to use it as a primary audio device, Amazon Echo Dot makes a wise bet.

Be prepared in advance to build in an external speaker to boost the volume and clarity and this scaled-down virtual butler will be a home run right out the box.

Don’t forget to bookmark our blog for all the latest smart home news and there’s one way you can get an Amazon Echo Dot for even less than ever.

Sign up to our email newsletter and you’ll qualify for 20% off your first order. The only question that remains is which Echo Dot you’ll be treating yourself to!

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