I don’t have the best relationship with Amazon’s smart home devices. Earlier this year, I declared the Echo Show 15 was an underwhelming attempt at a smart home hub and although not home tech, the Alexa-powered Amazon Echo Buds also weren’t something I gave much praise to. Amazon will, however, be happy to know I kinda love the new 5th generation Echo Dot with Clock.
It’s small, sounds good and most importantly, it does everything it should and nothing that it shouldn’t.
5th-generation Echo Dot with Clock
Amazon announced the 5th generation Echo Dot with Clock in late September. Both the Dot and the one with a clock (the one I’ve been reviewing) have been updated with a new audio architecture, which includes a full-range driver and what Amazon calls “the highest excursion speaker” of any of its Echo Dot devices. The company promises clear vocals and “up to double the bass” over the previous gen of devices.
The Echo Dot and Echo Dot with Clock have new processors and sensors for Alexa to perform contextual commands. That’s all part of Amazon’s idea of ambient computing, which will allow you to set up actions that turn on a connected gadget when the Echo Dot senses you’ve entered a room.
There’s also an accelerometer in the Echo Dot and Echo Dot with Clock that enables gesture controls.
You plug the Echo Dot with Clock in, download the Amazon Alexa app and add the device. As I was severely lazy, I didn’t log out/uninstall the app from when I first set up the Echo Buds/reviewed the Echo Show 15, so I was still logged in and upon opening the app, the Dot with Clock was there for me to add. It took about a minute, then Alexa started talking to me via the Dot to say she was updating. About 10 seconds later, the device was good to go.
The app is helpful, immediately giving some tips for using the Dot.
Creepy, but unsurprising, after I added which room the Echo Dot with Clock was in, it loaded my address, as I use it for default Amazon.com.au delivery. I set the premises as ‘Home’, which I could then use if I wanted to add smart lighting and ask Alexa, for example, to turn lights on at home when I’m on my way back of a night.
Surprisingly good sound
I set up the Echo Dot with Clock in the spare room I use as an office when working from home. Currently in this room, I use the Google Home Hub (renamed to the Google Nest Hub), which came out in 2018. As it is just one device in a set of five (six if you count the TV) Google Home speakers I have in my two-bedroom apartment, its lack of great sound hasn’t ever been a problem. It sounds fine but is by no means a good speaker.
This was probably a good thing for Amazon, as the Echo Dot with Clock is a 2022 device, it sounds like a 2022 device (read: much better than one from 2018).
For such a small little thing (100 mm x 100 mm x 89 mm), the Echo Dot with Clock packs a decent punch. With the volume on 5 (out of 10), the sound is clear and pretty much perfect for still hearing yourself think. The 44 mm front-firing speaker sends music out of a bookcase to fill a small room, not producing a vibration that rattles everything on the shelves.
Creeping up to 6 or 7 and you’re safe, but around 9 is when it starts to sound tinny, and at 10, it’s best to not try. The speaker range spans a number of genres, and using it to listen to podcasts is quite pleasant, with voice handled well.
By default, the Dot plays music from Amazon Music, but you can link Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, I Heart Radio and Vevo from within the Alexa app. Once enabled, you can either add that to your command (ie, Alexa, play Architects on Spotify) or go via the app and tap the Echo Dot as the device you wish to play music from Spotify through.
While I prefer the voice of the Google Assistant (familiarity breeds contempt), I feel she understands me just as well, despite not having the history and knowledge base the Google kit has. Zero complaints about Alexa, you’re doing good, sweetie.
The clock part is useful
The 5th generation of the Echo Dot with Clock boasts high-density LED “dots” so you can peek at things like calendar events and the weather from afar, even in direct sunlight. It displays the clock as default (I know, shocking) and when a new song starts playing, it’ll run through the title of the track.
Earlier I mentioned it does the stuff it should and not the stuff it shouldn’t, which is a welcome change from the Echo Show 15. You can do all of the Alexa things you’d want – ask it questions, play music, turn off lights, etc – and there’s no wasted space of a screen. As it’s got no screen, it doesn’t try to be a pointless home hub or tablet replacement.
But, it does allow for smarter things.
If you pair the Echo Dot with Clock with compatible light bulbs and smart plugs, for example, you can use the Dot to control these devices using your voice, motion commands or indoor temperature. Yep, the Dot can sense the room is cold and therefore turn up the heat (providing it’s all connected, however).
You can pair more than one Echo Dot with Clock (even with just the Echo Dot), use it as an alarm (physical button on top, or just yell at Alexa to let you sleep) and you can also turn off the mic, if you’re concerned about household chatter being overheard by big bad big tech.
The Amazon Echo Dot with Clock is small, smart and super cheap. It isn’t one smart home device to rule them all, but it’s a very good entry to smart home devices. No one person has the same smart home experience as the other, and Alexa is smart enough to get to know you. You’ve got the ability to keep adding devices to your home to create a more immersive experience (if that’s what you’re after). The sound is fine for a small room like a bedroom or office, it offers the convenience of a clock and it takes up barely any room.
I’ve got nothing bad to say about it, and I’ve always been a Google Home user.