Amazon’s new Echo Spot is one of the most novel takes on a smart speaker yet, and while it is certainly more than just a smart clock, that’s what it’s best at — an attractive voice-assisted smart desk or bedside-table accessory.
What is it?
The Echo Spot is to the Echo Show what the Echo Dot is to the original Amazon Echo. That is to say, it can do everything the Echo Show can just in a smaller, cheaper ball-shaped device with a circular screen. That includes playing music, answering questions and showing the weather, video from cameras and the like.
The Echo Spot is the first of Amazon’s small army of voice-assistant speakers that can really be considered cute-looking. The 91mm-tall little black or white ball looks incredibly modern with just three buttons on the top and a crisp-looking 2.5-inch circular screen on the front.
There’s a camera above the screen, a small speaker in the base and a power plug and 3.5mm audio socket in the back. It all looks very neat.
The Echo Spot runs through a short set-up routine on its screen when you plug in the power cable for the first time. After you’ve typed out your WiFi password and logged into your Amazon account — which is non-negotiable — you’re greeted with a short video that runs through the basic principles of communicating with the voice assistant Alexa and what the Spot can do.
Most settings are available directly on the screen through a swipe down from the top of the screen, with a few things such as skills and connections to smart home devices handled by the Alexa app on a smartphone or tablet.
What does it do?
Like every other Echo device, the Spot listens out for your choice of wake word — the default is “Alexa” — and then starts streaming what you say to Amazon’s servers, coming back with answers, information or actions on your commands. It’s practically instant.
From Flash briefings, timers and answering questions to smart home control and music playback, the Echo Spot does everything the Echo Show can except for playing web videos, such as YouTube.
The Spot will also do video calling to other camera-enabled Echo devices or smartphones with the Alexa app (or audio calling to other Echo devices), which works well despite the small screen. On a desk you tend to get a bit of an up-the-nose shot, however.
The Spot defaults to a clock face, with your choice of digital or analogue options, most of which are attractive. As with the Show there are options to display photos from your image library, and a cycling collection of information cards such as diary dates, the weather and trending news.
There’s a night mode that dims the screen significantly, which is still easy to read from your bed but was dim enough that it didn’t wake me up. An optional do-not-disturb mode can also silence notifications and calls, allowing only timers and alarms
The Echo Spot sounds pretty good for a small speaker, and better than the Echo Dot. It’s more than loud enough to command from across the room and clearly hear the answers, and it’s perfectly fine for playing the odd spot of music, particularly as a bed-side speaker. But it isn’t a patch on £100 speakers or the audio-only Echo. The Amazon Echo Spot costs £120 for one, in black or white, or two for £200.
For comparison, the Echo Show costs £200, the second-generation Amazon Echo costs £90, the Echo Plus costs £140 and the smaller Echo Dot costs £50.
— Guardian News & Media Ltd, 2018
Attractive and clear screen
Bluetooth and video calling
Excellent smart home control
Always-listening object in your house
No web video support
Expensive compared to Echo