Amazon Echo Dot (2nd Gen) Review Summary
+ Great price when on offer
+ Compact size
+ Solid build quality
+ Excellent microphone response
+ Light ring bright and easy to see
+ Audio 3.5mm output
– Music playback quality average
– Lack of bass and sound depth
– Sometimes needs to be asked twice
Echo Dot 2nd Gen is an incredible piece of technology which offers great value for money. Best suited for background music or those looking to add voice control to their smart lights or heating.
Design and Build
Shaped somewhat like a hockey puck and measuring 83.5 x 83.5 x 32 mm the Echo Dot is certainly compact. It feels solid for a plastic device and has reasonable weight at 163 grams. The underside is covered in a foam/rubber material which grips the desk well.
Both devices have a clean design and look good on any desk or work surface.
On the back we find both a Micro USB power socket and 3.5mm audio output. On the top there are four function buttons; Volume Up, Volume Down, Action and Microphone Mute. The top panel is also home to the light ring and 7 far-field microphones.
Function buttons, light ring and 7 microphone array
It is available in two colour options, black and white. The white Echo Dot has a dark grey top panel. Both devices have a clean design and look good on any desk or work surface.
Function buttons are easy to locate being slightly recessed with concave design. In use they have a positive feel and an audible click when pressed.
Around the top of the Echo is a light ring, this illuminates blue when Alexa detects a voice command. Additionally this light ring is smart enough that the brightest blue segment always faces you as detected by the directional microphone array – a neat touch. When the Echo is ‘thinking’ the blue ring is animated in a circular motion. In mute mode the light ring glows a constant red along with the buttons.
Micro USB and 3.5mm Audio output
Setup and connection
After you have removed the Echo and included cable from the packaging it will need plugging into a power socket. Then use the Alexa App on your mobile phone and follow the instructions to get the Echo connected to a wireless network. Most new owners should be fine with this procedure but some might need assistance to setup their Echo Dot.
Some users might also choose to connect their Echo to an external speaker. This can be done either using the 3.5mm output socket or via Bluetooth. The Echo’s internal speakers is fine for voice audio but can be slightly weak with music playback.
Amazon logo, front of Echo Dot
Alexa voice commands
The whole concept of any Echo device is voice control and this is what it does best. No voice training required, simply say the word ‘Alexa’ and ask away. The possibilities are almost endless: ‘Alexa, how is the weather’, ‘Alexa, what’s in the News’, ‘Alexa, play some relaxing music’, to mention just a few. You can set timers and schedule reminders for everyday tasks, even ask random questions which might save a trip to Google.
If you have Philips Hue lighting or a smart thermostat system then the voice commands expand even more. Utter the words ‘Alexa, turn the house lights on’ and almost like magic it is done. You can even dim the lights by saying ‘Alexa, house lights fifty percent’ – as time goes on the list of available commands will grow ever longer.
Volume, Action and Mute select buttons
You ask a question or give a command and the Echo obeys. Default setting is for Alexa to confirm even a basic request with an ‘OK’. Most of the time Alexa will hear you first time around, on occasion a command might need repeating.
The 7-microphone array is incredibly good at detecting voice commands across a room and often from the next room. Even when music is playing at high volume the Echo will detect the ‘Alexa’ trigger so long as you don’t say it quietly.
General sound quality considering the price point is reasonable. The Echo Dot gets loud enough to be heard across a large room, even into the next room. As with many audio devices it is wise not to turn the Dot up to full volume, stick to around 75% for minimal distortion.
Voice Quality on the whole is very good, when you give Alexa a command the response is clear and easy to understand. The speaker arrangement in the Echo Dot is such that it produces 360 degree sound. Hearing Alexa should be easy no matter which part of the room you are in.
Rubber pad on the base of Echo Dot
We have established that the Echo Dot 2nd Gen is very good with speech via its built in speakers. Music Quality is somewhat more complex. If you are looking to play some background music which has little in the way of bass then the Echo Dot does a good job. Mid and high range is clear if not a little on the tinny side but at low volumes it matches a reasonable radio for quality.
Increase the volume, throw in some bass and the Echo Dot 2nd Gen starts to struggle.
Increase the volume, throw in some bass and the Echo Dot 2nd Gen starts to struggle. Low volumes don’t cause much distortion but there is a distinct lack of bass. Ramp the volume up and distortion begins to wash out the remaining audio. This isn’t a device meant for anything more than background music and voice commands.
Micro USB power socket
Should you buy the Echo Dot
Amazon’s Echo Dot 2nd Gen is a great piece of modern technology for anyone looking to dip their toe into the smart market. Even with no associated music subscriptions or smart lights the Echo Dot still offers some functionality.
For those looking to automate their Philips Hue lights even more the Echo Dot works well. Similarly with Smart Thermostats such as Nest the Echo Dot takes things a step further with full voice control.
If you are expecting to fill the room with loud music then it would be wise to look at the more powerful Echo or Echo Plus devices.
Echo Dot light ring in mute mode
Great value for money, excellent for smart voice control. Not a replacement for your current stereo equipment.