Dubai: Have you ever made a mental note to add something to your grocery list, only to forget it later? Or, missed calling home to remind your child about something, because you got busy at work? I constanly struggle with remembering things and have often wondered how great it would be to have an assistant, who could remind me of small tasks that I put off for later. I just found the perfect solution – the Amazon Echo Dot (fifth generation), one of the most popular home assistant devices in the market right now.
It's a small and affordable device, which can be used to control smart home devices, play music, set reminders, get weather and traffic updates, and so much more.
The Echo Dot (fifth generation) is part of Amazon's line of smart home devices. The concept behind it is quite simple: you speak commands into the device, and it responds with whatever information you need or want. The device also has a built-in smart assistant that allows you to do more with your voice. For example, you can ask questions, such as "What’s the temperature in Dubai?” or “what song is this?”.
- Convenient tap gestures
- An upgraded high-density dot display
- Good sound for a small device
- Can serve as an Eero mesh network node
- Highly useful ambient temperature sensor
- Accelerometer for gesture recognition
- No 3.5mm jack
- Limited frequency range
- Mesh node feature is useful only for Eero users
Design and display
The Echo Dot box comes with two things in the box – the device and a white 15-watt power adaptor.
At first look, it appears as a sleek, squat spherical device with an LED ring light at the base, which indicates when it is listening to your commands. On the top are four buttons, with different functions, like activating the device or turning off the microphone.
The Echo Dot with clock comes in two colours Cloud Blue and Glacier White. The regular Echo Dot 5 comes in three colours – Charcoal, Deep Sea Blue, and Glacier White. The device has a quite minimalistic design and will go with most home decors.
When you first get your Echo Dot, you will need to connect it to your Wi-Fi network. For this, I downloaded the Alexa app from the App Store on my iPhone (It's compatible with the Google PlayStore, too). Once I signed in to my account on the app, setting up was pretty easy, the app and the device gave me clear instructions at every step.
The fifth-generation Amazon Echo Dot adds tap gestures and mesh networking, but is otherwise nearly identical to the previous version. The Echo dot with clock comes with an upgraded high-density dot display.
The device has received quite a bit of praise from both consumers and tech reviewers alike. Most people who have used it seem to be quite happy with its performance and capabilities. It is easy to set up and use. You don't need to know much about technology in order to get the most out of it.
The Echo Dot has many similarities with other smart home assistants, but there are also some features that set it apart from the rest. For starters, it is small and portable - you can take it anywhere, where there is a power outlet (the networking is wireless, but the power is not). Second, it is easy to keep clean. Since it does not have a screen, you can just leave it on top of your countertop without having to worry about fingerprints.
This review is based on testing performed on the Amazon Echo Dot (fifth generation) with clock. Apart from the lack of the dot display, both the Echo Dot fifth generation and the Echo Dot with clock are similar in function and specifications.
The fifth-generation device also looks almost physically identical to the fourth-generation model. The sphere’s design is split diagonally, with the top and forward half covered in grille fabric and the bottom and back half bound in matte plastic. There are four rubber buttons (action, mic mute, and volume up and down) along the top of the sphere. A light ring runs around the flat base; it glows blue when you interact with Alexa and will focus a particularly bright point to indicate the direction from which it registered the voice command.
Functionality and features
New motion sensors in the Echo Dot lead to additional ways of interacting with the speaker, beyond using your voice and the few physical buttons on top. The accelerometer enables new tap gesture controls. You can lightly tap the top of the speaker to play or pause songs, end calls, stop ringing timers, or snooze alarms without asking Alexa.
Eero mesh network
As someone who uses the Eero 6 dual-mesh band WiFi router, I find it really helpful that Amazon has also added the Eero mesh network support to the Echo Dot device. This means that my Echo Dot device doubles up as a WiFi extender.
Amazon says the node allows for up to 1,000 square feet of Eero Wi-Fi coverage with speeds up to 100Mbps for up to 10 devices at a time. While this may not be the ideal speed for a big house with many floors, for an apartment it's more than sufficient.
The Echo Dot also supports Bluetooth and dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
As an Echo speaker, the Echo Dot uses Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Not only is Alexa, a powerful and useful voice assistant, she is also hilarious. From cat facts to jokes, Alexa seems to be slowly becoming a source of entertainment in my house.
Over the past eight years, Amazon has continually pushed a steady stream of updates to give more functionality to its powerful voice assistant.
In terms of entertainment, Alexa can sift through music on Amazon Music and audiobooks on Audible. It can also access Amp, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, Deezer, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Saavn, SiriusXM, Spotify, Tidal, and TuneIn to play music, podcasts, and radio stations via those services.
If you pair the Echo Dot with an Amazon Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Cube, or Fire TV, you can control these streaming devices through Alexa, too.
Alexa is one of the most widely supported voice assistants for controlling many smart home devices across major consumer home automation brands – this includes video doorbells, security cameras, smart bulbs, smart locks, smart plugs, and smart thermostats. You can set up routines to control multiple devices with a single voice command, or based on factors such as the time of day. Alexa’s intelligence evaluates the state of smart home devices based on your past behavior and prompts you to do things like lock the doors or turn off the lights when you’re away from home.
Alexa can remind you of meetings, keep a shopping and to-do lists and play music and radio on demand. With Announcements, she can broadcast messages to all connected devices telling the household “Breakfast is ready,”, “it’s time for bed,” or whatever your message is.
One of the first things I did after I set up my Echo Dot device was to leave reminders for my child from the time he returned from school. From getting him to immediately wash his hands as soon as he enters the house, to reminding him about his Arabic classes, she manages tasks that I had a hard time doing, during my office hours.
It’s impressive that Alexa is the same no matter whether you buy an inexpensive Echo Dot or the flagship Echo Studio.
Upgraded dot display
The new Echo Dot shows more than just the time – it displays artist and track names as you listen to music and detailed weather information when you ask for a forecast. It also displays units or measurements when you ask Alexa to do calculations.
Like the fourth-gen Echo Dot with clock, it will also show the volume (out of 10) and the time remaining on a countdown timer. The display brightness adjusts automatically based on room brightness, but you can set it manually, too.
Whichever model you pick, it will have a temperature sensor built in. This means you can automate smart heating or cooling systems based on room temperature. Plus, you can ask Alexa “what’s the temperature in the dining room?” or whichever room you have your Dot in.
Another new feature is a sensor that can detect a tap to pause and resume music, end calls, snooze alarms and dismiss timers.
For a device this small, the Echo Dot 5 has excellent sound quality. I found that a volume level of four or five is enough to hear music clearly inside a medim-sized room.
Amazon has upgraded the single speaker inside the Echo Dot 5 to a slightly larger one with higher excursion, which leads to delivering clear vocals and better bass among other things. Its redesigned audio architecture features a custom full-range driver. Overall, the Dot 5 sounds good for a small smart speaker.
Unfortunately, a critical feature from the previous Echo Dot is missing in the latest version – a 3.5mm jack. This means the new Echo Dot cannot be connected to a larger speaker.
The Echo Dot and Echo Dot with Clock are simple to set up and easy to use. First, plug in your Echo Dot device. Open the Alexa app and select “Add a Device” under “More” then select “Amazon Echo” followed by “Echo, Echo Dot, and more.” From there, follow the instructions to finish setting up your device.
Unique features to try
Prayer Time Reminders: You can now appreciate an easier and integrated spiritual experience with Alexa’s capabilities. You can remind yourself about prayer timings with just a voice command and personalise this feature to best meet your needs and requirements. With this new feature, you can set up routines with Alexa to ensure the feature is recurrent indefinitely, choose to have your reminders setup as an “adhan” calling, and personalise it further to fit your own needs and preferences.
“Alexa, enable prayer times”
“Alexa, remind me of prayer times”
“Alexa, enable prayer calls”
You can also stop the reminders by simply saying “Alexa, cancel prayer calls”.
Smart home: Control compatible smart home devices with your voice and routines triggered by the built-in indoor temperature sensors. Create routines to automatically turn on compatible lights when you walk into a room, or start a fan if the inside temperature goes above your comfort zone.
“Alexa, turn on the fan when the room is 71 degrees.”
“Alexa, turn on the TV in an hour.”
Amazon has built multiple layers of privacy protections into Echo devices. From microphone controls to the ability to view and delete your voice recordings, it gives you control over your Alexa experience.
- Size: 100 x 100 x 89 mm
- Weight: The Echo Dot (5th Gen) weighs 340 grams, the Echo Dot with clock weighs 349 grams.
- Audio: 44mm (1.73”) front-firing speaker.
- WiFi connectivity: Dual-band Wi-Fi supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5 GHz) networks. Does not support connecting to ad-hoc (or peer-to-peer) Wi-Fi networks.
- Smart Home Protocols: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy Mesh.
- Bluetooth connectivity: Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) support for audio streaming from your mobile device to Echo Dot or from Echo Dot to your Bluetooth speaker. Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP) to control connected mobile devices with voice. Hands-free voice control is not supported for Mac OS X devices. Bluetooth speakers requiring PIN codes are not supported.
- eero Built-in
- System requirements: Echo Dot comes ready to connect to your Wi-Fi. The Alexa app is compatible with Fire OS, Android, and iOS devices and also accessible via your web browser. Supported operating systems. Certain skills and services may require subscription or other fees.
- Languages: Based on your language setting, Alexa understands Khaleeji and Modern Standard Arabic, or English. Alexa can speak Khaleeji or English.
- Accessibility Features: The Alexa app and Alexa-enabled products include several features for customers with accessibility needs related to vision, hearing, mobility and speech.
All in all, I would definitely recommend the Echo Dot (fifth generation) if you are looking for an affordable, intelligent, and powerful smart home assistant. The device is ready right out of the box. Setting up your device takes just a few minutes using the in-app instructions. My favourite feature has to do with the smart assistant, and how you can set reminders for yourself or your family members, even when you are not at home.
Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.