Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (2nd-gen) review: We're just dotty for this clock

It's the display that makes this spherical speaker shine

New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock
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The conundrum of the smart home is that you just don’t know how much you need it until you have it. Try going around using actual light switches after living with Philips Hue bulbs and some motion sensors for a month – it’s positively philistine. Herein lies the main appeal of the new Echo Dot with Clock, by far the best sub $60 smart speaker available today.

It’s a speaker and a clock, a clock and a speaker, a marriage made in heaven that we forgot we needed. The smartphone almost made us abandon the humble clock, but as wrist-wear and digital displays have come roaring back, we’ve come to realize that it's actually really handy to have an easy-to-see clock.

And, as Amazon revealed out when it launched the first Dot with Clock last year, asking for the time is one of the top requests made of Alexa - which seems a bit like asking Superman to open the pickle jar.

Essential reading: The best smart speakers

The new 2nd-gen Echo Dot with Clock solves this simple problem by giving you a small LED display that shows the time, as well as a few other tricks.

In all other elements it’s the same device as the new fourth-gen Echo Dot, but it costs $10 more, only comes in Glacier White or Twilight Blue (no Charcoal option here and Sandstone is only available on the third-gen model).

We’ve had the new Amazon Echo Dot with Clock by our bed for a few nights now, read on for our full review.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock review: Just dotty for this clock

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock 2020: Design and setup

The new Dot design bulks up the speaker from a diminutive 1.9-inch by 1.7-inch hockey puck, into a more bulbous 3.9-inch by 3.5-inch softball-sized device.

It also dispenses with the plastic top, sliding it down the bottom and giving the rest of the speaker over to oodles of that trendy fabric material.

Bonus points to Amazon here for including 100% recycled fabric and 50% recycled plastic – especially as they’re essentially asking us to upgrade to a device that doesn’t do a whole lot differently from its predecessor – except look better.

The LED display remains the same size and color (just white), and still has adaptive brightness, but it's more prominent thanks to the larger surface area – it also sits slightly higher up, making it a bit more visible.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock

The small LED display shows you a clock by default, analogue or 24 hour, (more on its other features in a bit) and adapts to the light in your room so you can always see it but won’t be blinded by it at night. You can also adjust it manually in the app or by using your voice.

As with the new Dot and the 4th-gen Echo, there are four plastic buttons protruding from the fabric at the top of the speaker – volume up and down, mute, and the action button (for waking up Alexa without calling its name).

In this model they make a lot of sense as you can feel which button you’re pressing – handy when you’re grappling in the dark.

The buttons are also closer together and leave the perfect amount of space between them for an invisible snooze button, just tap this fabric area to snooze an alarm without having to mumble any expletives at all.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock buttons on top

The light ring that indicates what Alexa is thinking is now at the bottom, which is another savvy move for what is undoubtedly the best smart alarm clock you can buy – as it no longer blinds you when you’re lying in bed.

Instead, it has a much softer glow with this basement position, so subtle you can even press the mute button and not be disturbed by the red light that emanates to indicate Alexa is now deaf to your snores. (Speaking of, a future feature promises that Alexa will be able to react to snores – even run a Routine to play some white noise so your partner doesn’t wake up and smack you).

Setup is simple, and exactly the same as with the Echo Dot (read about it here if you need tips). But once you’re up and running you’ll want to hop in the Alexa app and fiddle with the clock settings, where you can turn on tap to snooze, adjust brightness, and enable auto-brightness to activate the built-in light sensor that dims and adjusts the display to suit the light in the room.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock v Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock 2nd-generation: Features

The main reason to get a Dot is still that it comes with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, and Dot with Clock serves up all Alexa’s latest and greatest tricks.

From controlling smart home devices to keeping your shopping list up to date, acting as an in-home intercom for Drop-In calls or announcements, to doubling as a home phone (you can make phone calls right from the Dot), this diminutive device has a lot of uses beyond being a great clock and good speaker.

Of course, you can play music from it using your streaming service of choice or pairing your Echo with your phone or another speaker over Bluetooth; and you can also plug it into better speakers thanks to its 3.5mm aux port. (More on sound later)

The Dot’s small size and affordability make it a great device to put in multiple rooms in your house for all the above reasons, but also because of its security features courtesy of Alexa Guard, which mean it can listen for smoke alarms and sounds of glass breaking (with more capabilities coming soon) when you’re not home, and alert you using the Alexa app.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock power

Herein lies our biggest grip with Dot with Clock, you pay an extra $10 for the clock, which is so useful it really should just be part of the Echo Dot. You can turn it off if you want, so having two models just doesn’t make sense. Let’s see this LED display in every Dot, heck, in every Echo smart speaker.

The Clock is also not just a clock, it’s a visual display for a variety of features that you often want from a smart speaker but may not want to invest in a smart display to get.

For example, it will display the temperature when you ask it, show how much time is left on a timer, and also indicate the volume level when you raise or lower it manually or with your voice.

When you have an alarm set a small dot appears as confirmation, and a second dot indicates if a timer is in progress. The display is white only, and it would be nice if there was the option to change the color, or opt for a warmer white, but those are minor quibbles.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock in bedroom

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock 2nd-gen: Sound quality & smarts

On the sound front – the Dot has the same sound specs as the third-gen Dot and Dot with Clock, but the 1.6-inch speaker is now front firing, taking advantage of that extra room.

This helps produce crisper vocals and fills the room better than its predecessor – which sort of blasted music out everywhere. On its own the Dot with Clock is fine for podcasts, audiobooks, and talk radio, but if you want to play tunes either upgrade to a big Echo or get two Dots and pair them as a stereo pair.

We tested these out on either side of a bed – and in that position they really were able to pack some powerful sound. Nothing an audiophile would swoon over, but perfectly decent for bedroom tunes.

While the Dot with Clock would make a very useful kitchen smart speaker or office accessory – its perfect place is really in the bedroom as a smart alarm clock.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock v old echo dot

Alexa has so many great features for waking you from your slumber, from the traditional alarm clock to rousing you with your favorite song, radio station or even a personalized news bulletin.

You can also get really fancy and set up Alexa Routines that mixes lights gradually turning on, smart shades opening, music playing, and even a kettle boiling for the ultimate wake-up experience.

Our only gripe is that, for an alarm clock, it would be nice to have an option of battery back up. Being sure you'll be woken by your alarm is key to a good night's sleep, and if the power goes out you could be stuck snoozing.

The Echo Dot with Clock is really the best version of the Dot, and if you don’t have one you should definitely consider it. If you really think you don’t need the display, go with the third-gen Dot, which is now only $39.99.

But if you like the new design, Dot with Clock is just a better device than its time-challenged sibling. Don’t bother with the original Dot With Clock, which remains (for now, at least) at $59.99, unless you love the sandstone color or miss the flatter form factor.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock
Amazon Echo Dot with Clock

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock
Easily the best budget smart speaker on the block, the Echo Dot with Clock sounds good, works great, and the display gives it a real edge over its dimmer sibling and flatter rivals. We have 8 Echos in our house right now and everyone wants this one. The round form-factor may disappoint some, but we think it enhances the LED display's function and fits much better into our home decor. The only disappointment is that there are no new features for the display, yet.
  • Useful display
  • Sleek design
  • Simple setup
  • Tap to snooze
  • Alexa built-in
  • Bigger
  • More expensive
  • No new features on the display
  • No battery backup

TAGGED    amazon alexa    smart home

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