The Amazon Echo Dot is set to be one of the big little gadgets of Christmas 2017. I’ve been having a play with one to find out why.
What is it?
The Amazon Echo Dot is a small hands-free, voice-controlled device. It’s activated by talking to an electronic personal assistant called Alexa.
You can ask Alexa to play music, control devices or answer questions to save you googling. She’ll order takeaway, read the news, set alarms and more. She’ll even sing you Happy Birthday or tell you a joke if you ask.
The Dot is a smaller version of the Amazon Echo, which does much the same thing, but with a speaker included. As the Dot only has a very small speaker, if you want to play music or podcasts you’ll have to connect to speakers or headphones via Bluetooth or a cable.
For size comparison, here’s the Dot (which I was sent for review) next to our Echo (which Himself bought for funsies) plus a Dalek (cos you’re never too far away from one of those fellers in our house):
It’s pretty tiny isn’t it?
What can I do with it?
Loads of stuff! I tend to start the day by asking Alexa for a weather report, or details of when my train is due, then get it playing some music or the radio. You could use it as a smart alarm clock, an assistant in the kitchen, or anywhere you might want a voice-controlled device. If you have compatible devices, you can use it to control lights, switches and thermostats. There are seven microphones packed into that little disc, so it’s good at listening when it’s spoken to.
If you have more than one Echo device then you can use them all around the house, or just to call the kids for tea without screeching up the stairs.
Since it’s an Amazon device, you can also use it to order items directly from Amazon, or just add them to your shopping basket for review later.
Who is it good for?
Although the Amazon Echo Dot is incredibly easy to set up, I don’t think that this is one for the techno-novices. If you’re thinking of buying this as a gift, think of it for someone who’s already into gadgets, loves their smartphone and is likely to have a Bluetooth speaker.
Anyone who’s got their hands full (say, if they’ve got small children) will appreciate the voice-activated controls. And hermits/people who work from home alone and get very little human communication will adopt Alexa as their new friend.
The teenagers in my house REALLY love Alexa. These devices satisfy their love of tech, plus the conflicting need their generation has for both human contact and no human contact at the same time.
The down side?
Occasionally noise in the room or an Alexa ad on TV will set it off. And I found that Alexa sometimes struggles to understand my Irish accent.
Then there was that time we tried ordering pie and chips for a laugh and Alexa assertively repeated our order for penis and chips….
The Amazon Echo Dot is available here, RRP £49.99. As well as the black version shown here, it also comes in white.