2019-10-19
CNN

First things first. If you're thinking, "Hmm, this new Echo Dot looks just like the old Echo Dot... with a digital clock on the front," well you're correct. From a design and internal hardware standpoint, they are nearly identical. The new Echo Dot with Clock has one core difference from its 3rd Generation Echo Dot predecessor: LED visuals. A clock now appears on the Dot, along with a volume indicator and weather information. It also comes with a $10 price increase. As I said in our 3rd Generation Dot review, that previous model is a capable smart speaker with a cozy, home-like design. So is the addition of an LED face worth the extra $10? We can answer that. But first, let's look a little closer at the Dot with Clock. A friendly and simple screen is now here The Echo Dot with Clock comes in one color a white Sandstone and fits in the palm of a larger hand. It's powered by a 15-watt charger included in the box that plugs into a proprietary barrel jack on the back. One thing to note is that the cord is permanently attached to the wall plug, so think about where you'll set this up. Hopefully, Amazon will eventually update this. An audio jack is next to the power port, which you'll need if you want to use your Dot with Clock for full-room music playback sound -- don't expect Echo Studio or full-size Echo Show audio out of the built-in speaker. The bottom has a rubber build to help it stay snug on a desk, nightstand, dresser, kitchen counter or wherever else. Unlike the Nest Mini, which added a wall-hanging solution, this is designed to sit on a surface. The top keeps the standard Echo buttons: volume up, volume down, microphone mute and an Alexa-call button. The fabric and mesh mix provides a home-like feel to the device, though the Echo Dot with Clock is only available in Sandstone, a mixture of white and off-white. You'll notice the distinctive new feature right away. The LED display on the front scrolls through "Hello" during setup, and by default shows the clock. You can control the brightness in the Alexa app on iOS and Android, but you can't change the color, which is white. While it's not difficult to read, it's a brighter shade of white on a slightly darker shade of white. Another color option, like charcoal, could give the LED display a bit more definition. Hopefully, Amazon can roll out temperature controls for the LEDs as it could be bright for some at night. What else does the LED display do? I've been mostly using the Echo Dot with Clock on my nightstand, and it just might be the alarm clock of the future. Follow me here: It gives you an easy-to-read digital clock (military time is an option in settings) and you can easily set alarms through voice-activation with Alexa -- no fiddling with tiny buttons every time you need to change your wake-up time. She's even smart enough to ask you if this will just be for the next morning or if you want it to be recurring. Then, after the alarm wakes you up, you simply tap the top of Echo Dot with Clock to shut it off. Your alarm clock utility is fully intact, and you get a host of other features handy for a morning routine. For instance, you can ask her to read your preset customized news headlines via the "flash briefing," which can also include weather and traffic, if you like. You can set all of that up in the Alexa app. It's a solid upgrade from a traditional alarm clock. I've previously used an Echo Dot, Echo Show 5, Echo Show and a straight-up original Echo as an alarm clock, and the physical LED clock display makes a big difference. You immediately know the time, so you never need to ask Alexa for it. That's especially helpful when you wake up in the middle of the night and want to check. Echo Dot with Clock is a nice bedroom addition for anyone who is wary of having another full-fledged screen stairing at them. There is no camera here, though of course there are microphones, which can be muted. Asking "Alexa" for the weather will have the current temperature appear on your Dot with Clock display as she reads the conditions and forecast. You can select Fahrenheit or Celsius in the app. It's a nice visual cue. Echo Dot with Clock is also great as a timer, with a physical countdown appearing on the front screen. The 00:00 clock face flashes along with blue ring on the top as the timer sounds. It's impossible to not notice when it is done. Those are the core three features provided by the LED display on the front, and I am hopeful that more will be added. For now, however, that's those are the difference makers and what you should think about to determine whether this new device is worth the extra $10. Sound is still good for most As we said in the 3rd Gen Echo Dot review, the sound experience is a big improvement over the previous generations, and it should be adequate for casual music listening for most people. You will hear some distortion of bass output at volume level 9 or 10, and as we said above, you'll need to plug in external speakers if you want full-room sound, but overall the sound quality is rather good for a device this small. And Alexa does a good job of picking up your voice over the music output, even at higher volume levels. It speaks to the multiple far-field microphones and software enhancements that Amazon makes here. As with any Echo device, you can stream music from many sources, including Prime Music, Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora and TuneIn, and you can even Bluetooth in a library of songs from a connected device. Bottom Line The $59.99 Echo Dot with Clock doesn't change much from the very solid previous model. It's still a great device, but the new iteration really only adds a display to the front. So for an extra $10, you'll need to decide if the handy features enabled by that display justify the extra money. And based on the sale records of the 3rd Gen, you can expect this device to get a discount soon enough. I think many will find the LED display to be a worthy added bonus. It is perfect as an alarm clock that doesn't add a screen to your bedroom. That said, if you don't mind asking Alexa for the time, you're probably good with a 3rd Gen. Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.

See  more