Amazon's Echo Dot with Clock review: A welcome display of smarts

Amazon's smallest Echo gets an upgrade – and it's about time

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock
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The Echo Dot with Clock is such an obvious product, it's a wonder Amazon didn't do it sooner. It’s not that the standard Echo Dot wasn’t doing a good job as a tiny smart speaker, as such, just that it had one major shortcoming: telling the time.

Smart speakers without any sort of display are pretty bad at this, because it's much faster to glance at a clock display than listen to Alexa read out the hour and minutes.

Read more: Amazon Echo Dot review

Hence the Echo Dot with Clock. It doesn’t replace the existing Dot – that’s still very much available. In fact, it costs £10 more, suggesting Amazon thinks not everyone will necessarily want the display.

Well, we’re here to tell you that you should want it. If you’re in the market for a mini smart speaker, and you’re thinking an Amazon device is the right choice for you, the Echo Dot with Clock should be your default pick. Read on to find out why.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock: Design

The obvious thing to note about the Echo Dot with Clock is that there’s really only been a solitary change made to the speaker's design – that titular clock.

In fact, before you turn the speaker on, it’s indistinguishable from a standard Dot. When you do hook it up to power, though, you’ll see the difference – a small LED display on the rounded body’s front, opposite where the power wire feeds into it.

The display is behind the mesh grille of the speaker, and is nicely blurred by that barrier - it's still entirely clear to the eye, but has a fuzzy quality that makes it feel embedded in the fabric.

It's permanently on by default, showing the time to the minute, but can display other things depending on what you ask it. We’ll get into those later.

The display's LEDs are white-only for now, with no power to change their color or the warmth of the light, though you can adjust the brightness. The display also shows small dots to indicate if there's an alarm active or timer in progress.

In every other way, though, you’ve got yourself an Echo Dot. That means you’re getting the same updated look and feel that graced the Dot back in 2018, with a fabric cover around its puck-shaped body, and a far more solid feel than previous versions of Amazon’s speaker.

Amazon's Echo Dot with Clock review: A welcome display of smarts

That’s a good thing, though. We were big fans of the Dot’s redesign, and nothing’s changed. It’s still about as elegant as you can expect a smart speaker of this size to be. However, one drawback at this stage is that if you go for the clock-less Dot you’ve got four colors to choose from: black, grey, white and “plum,” which reads as a pastel pink.

For the Dot with Clock, however, this is limited to just the white, or “sandstone” option, for now. That’s not a huge issue, and the unit is still a lovely little thing, but if you have a particularly rigid code of décor at play, you might find it doesn’t fit into your plans.

Elsewhere, you’re getting the same four-button input scheme on the top of the speaker. Two control the speaker’s volume, and another is a multi-purpose action button to silence alarms and suchlike. Finally, you've got the requisite button to mute Alexa, turning the speaker's light ring red for clarity.

We'll also note that, though nothing new, the red ring that lets you know the assistant is muted is a major impediment if you're sleeping with the speaker by your bed.

You'll likely unmute it to be rid of the red light, which is a bit of an annoyance if you don't like the idea of Alexa being able to listen while you sleep. That shouldn't happen, of course, but we totally get why it might be on your mind.

Round the back of the Dot, you’ve still got a 3.5mm aux jack, in case you want to link your Echo to other speakers, and a power cable that leads to a slightly hefty power brick at the wall. It’s nothing outrageous, but might present a slight issue fitting behind certain appliances or between other plugs.

Amazon's Echo Dot with Clock review: A welcome display of smarts

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock: Features

The new feature here is that display – so is it a worthy addition? The short answer is yes. We weren’t exactly clamoring for a clock on our old Dot, but now that it’s there we find ourselves using it all the time. Having that information at a glance is just way more normal and quick than having to ask Alexa - and if you don't want it, you can always ask Alexa to turn it off.

The display is also adaptable. For example, if you ask Alexa about the weather it’ll show the temperature in question – or if you set a timer running, it’ll display that timer counting down. It’ll also show you the current brightness or audio level of the Dot with Clock if you ask for a change to either.

Read this: The best smart alarm clocks

All of these are thing you would otherwise have to hear Alexa tell you, or open the Alexa app to find - it's straightforwardly great to get that information at a glance, now.

More than that, it makes the Dot more useful in a range of settings. We used it for a few nights as a bedside clock, and it worked great. The Dot with Clock has a light sensor built in, which can dim the display to suit the light in the room.

In practice this meant that at night it dimmed down to really low levels, easily enough for more sensitive sleepers to have no issue. Of course, it brought all the other benefits of using an Echo device as an alarm clock regardless of the display, too.

You can also tap anywhere on the top of the Dot with Clock, not just a specific button, to snooze an alarm, so long as the speaker's not muted - that's a nice feature, making it easier to silence your alarms.

Then we moved the Dot with Clock into our kitchen, on a hunch, and found the place it’ll now stay for good. We already liked using a Dot to set a timer in the kitchen verbally, but being able to actually see that timer count down was a hidden bonus we didn’t know we wanted.

It made a genuine difference when cooking too, giving us a visual countdown when called upon. (Echo's Show devices - smart speakers with a display - also display a countdown when you have a timer going, but this is the only screen-less speaker option to do so).

Amazon's Echo Dot with Clock review: A welcome display of smarts

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock: Sound quality

Elsewhere, when it comes to sound quality, the our verdict on the original Dot still applies.

The once-weedy audio of older Dot models is no more, with 360-degree sound that might not rival a proper bookshelf speaker, or even come close, but will do a good job of playing your podcasts and music when you’re not looking for insane fidelity.

If you ask Alexa for the weather it’ll display the current temperature

You can tweak audio settings to up the bass, mid or treble as you like, but you’re unlikely to find a combination that gives you truly rumbling lows. Still, connecting two Dots, with one or both having a Clock, can give you stereo playback, which improves things a little.

But with both aux and Bluetooth on offer, the Dot can be hooked up to a more powerful Hi-Fi system, letting you pump Alexa's smarts through a better sounding setup.


Amazon Echo Dot with Clock: Smart home compatibility

Another area where nothing’s changed in the Dot with Clock is its Alexa integration. If you’re familiar with Alexa, you’ll be able to do everything you’d expect with Amazon’s latest speaker. If you want Google or Siri in your smart speaker, you're reading the wrong review.

Alexa integration means full rein to ask the assistant questions, give it commands and tell it to control any smart appliances you have set up. With four on-board microphones, the Echo Dot with Clock is good at recognizing your voice against background noise, although fully raging washer cycles did pose a bit of a challenge in our kitchen.

Read this: The best skills for your Alexa smart speaker

When the speaker is actually generating its own sound or music, you should still find it can cut through its noise and hear your commands, even at the highest volumes.

Beyond this, your experience of Alexa will really be down to how much it's integrated into your home; how many appliances it can control, and how likely you are to remember to use it.

But the Echo Dot with Clock's mics are good enough at hearing you that you'll rarely find it a frustration, and the addition of the display makes it that little bit more efficient.


Amazon Echo Dot with Clock
We didn't know we wanted a clock on the Dot, but now it's here we're all for it. The readout adds context and at-a-glance usefulness to an already comprehensive little package. It's not an audiophile's dream, but that display is worth an extra $10 for convenience.
PROS
  • Display is genuinely useful
  • Alexa works seamlessly
  • Useful in a variety of contexts
CONS
  • Only one color available for now
  • Still has lackluster bass
  • Chunky power brick

TAGGED    amazon    speakers

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