The Amazon Echo Dot is one of the best-selling smart speakers of all time, and with good reason; since its release in 2015, the Alexa-powered speaker has gone through four generations, each better than the last.
The third generation of the little smart speaker saw an upgrade in the form of the the Echo Dot with Clock (2019), which takes the Echo Dot (2019) and furnishes it will a built-in timepiece – and while it has been replaced by the new Echo Dot with Clock (2020), it’s still worth considering.
Giving the Echo Dot a time piece was a smart move from Amazon; after all, the most regularly-made request of Amazon’s Alexa-enabled smart speaker is “what’s the time?” We put the the upgraded Echo Dot with Clock to the test to see just how much of an improvement it is over the third-gen model.
Price and availability
The Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (2019) is available to buy for $59.99 / £59.99 / AU$99 – that’s $10 more expensive than the third-generation Echo Dot.
As ever, the Dot is one of the more affordable smart speakers on the market – sure, it’s diminutive in size, but has a decent sound for the price, and the addition of the clock element adds to its value.
The new Echo Dot with Clock (2019) looks pretty much identical to its predecessor – except of course, for the addition of an LED clock that runs around the Dot’s front-edge.
With a fabric grille and sleek rounded design, the puck-shaped smart speaker makes an attractive addition to any home; the Echo Dot with Clock only comes in Sandstone (a light gray hue) currently, but this chic shade won’t intrude on your decor, whether you have it in the living room, kitchen, or bedroom.
In fact, the inclusion of a segmented LED display makes it particularly ideal for the latter two examples; in the bedroom it can double up as an alarm clock, while its ability to set timers makes the Echo Dot with Clock a useful tool in the kitchen.
That LED display also adjusts to the brightness of your room, so it won’t blind you in the darkness, and you should be able to see it easily in full sunlight.
Aside from the clock feature, the upgraded smart speaker is otherwise exactly the same as the third-gen Echo Dot. On the top of the speaker you’ll find volume up and down, microphone mute, and Alexa, buttons, as well as a four-microphone array that’s there to pick up your voice.
When you activate Alexa using your voice or the dedicated button, the signature blue-ring that runs along the top edge of the speaker will light up – this happens pretty much the instant you summon the voice assistant.
At the back of the 2019 Echo Dot with Clock, you’ll find a power input and an auxiliary 3.5mm jack, that can be used to connect it to an additional speaker – handy if you want to beef up your sound for a party or lend your regular ‘dumb’ speaker some Alexa smarts. If you want to do this, you’ll need to buy your own cable, which is slightly annoying.
While the Echo Dot with Clock shares many of the same features as its predecessor, it does come with a few extras that justify that $10 price increase.
For example, when you ask Alexa to set a timer, it’ll visibly count down with the LED display, and if you ask for a weather report, the temperature will be displayed too.
Another new feature is the ability to tap the top of the device to snooze alarms. This is very much aimed at the bedside then, with each tap buying you an additional nine minutes of beauty sleep.
Aside from that, you’ll find that the Echo Dot with Clock can do anything any Alexa-powered speaker can do; it can play your music, control smart home devices like smart lights and security cameras, trigger alarms, timers, news reports, place calls and more.
Set up is super simple; all you need to do is download the Alexa app to your smartphone and tablet, and follow the instructions to hook it up to your Wi-Fi, name your speaker, and create different voice profiles.
Alexa responds quickly to commands and questions – but to get the most out of Alexa’s capabilities, you’ll want to tap into the wide range of additional skills on offer – over 100,000.
These include everything from music and radio streaming services to skills that let you turn your Philips Hue lights on and off.
One cool Amazon Echo service is Alexa Communication, which lets you make and receive calls using Alexa – totally hands-free.
If you want to get in touch with a friend over your Echo Dot with Clock , you can call that contact’s landline, mobile, or – if they have one – their own Echo speaker using just your voice.
We tested out the Echo Dot with Clock’s sonic capabilities by enabling the Apple Music skill on the Alexa app. We asked Alexa to “play Little Dragon on Apple Music”, and we were away; we also tried controlling the volume using our voice alone, and found it worked seamlessly.
You can also skip tracks, rewind, fast-forward, and go back to the previous track using voice commands.
Asking Alexa to play well-known artists on Apple Music works well; however, ask the voice assistant to play something a little more obscure, and it starts to struggle. You may find that it pulls up the incorrect song or doesn’t play anything at all.
We also felt that the inbuilt microphones could be more adept at picking up our voice while playing music; play anything above a ‘5’ in volume, and you’ll need to speak uncomfortably loudly for Alexa to hear you.
While the Echo Dot isn’t exactly known for its audio prowess, it performs admirably for its size; listening to ‘Find U Again’ by Mark Ronson ft. Camila Cabello, there were decent separation between the frequencies, with sparkling keys pushing through bassy synths and Cabello’s powerful vocals.
At higher volumes we noticed quite a lot of distortion, which does subtract from the listening experience, and means you miss out on some of the more subtle details in your music. This occurred over a range of genres, whether we were listening to complex electronic tracks of stripped-back acoustic songs.
You won’t get the kind of clarity you’d expect from a bigger, more audiophile-focussed speaker, but if you’re looking for something to play a bit of background music as you potter around the kitchen, the Echo Dot with Clock works just fine.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly wireless speaker that can make calls, control your smart home, and play the occasional song or two, the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (2019) could make a fantastic addition to your home.
It has the chic design of the third-gen Echo Dot, with the addition of an attractive LED display that makes it an ideal bedside table companion.
Sonically, it doesn’t deliver the audio fidelity you’d want from your main speaker, which makes it more suitable as a desk buddy, rather than something you’d use to soundtrack a house party.
However, as a cheap entryway to the Alexa ecosystem and into the world of smart home technology, it’s worthy of parting with your hard-earned cash – and if an extra $10 gets you the added functionality of an alarm clock or timer, it’s absolutely worth the money.