I know, I know, we are late to the party. Amazon recently upgraded and added a total of 11 Echo devices – including a new Echo Dot, Echo Plus, and Echo Show. But the Echo Spot didn’t get an upgrade. I’ve been using the Echo Spot as my smart speaker for some time now and here’s our full review of the Echo Spot.
Design and internals
The Echo Spot is Amazon’s smallest Echo speaker with a round display. For most people, it will resemble an alarm clock that sits on their bedside table. As is the case with most Echo devices, it is a design that blends in nicely with any decor and doesn’t look too flashy. I think the Echo Spot has the best design of any Echo device made by Amazon. But, let it be known that the rubberised base tends to attract a lot of dust.
All the controls – which include the volume controls and the mute switch – are placed on the top. These buttons offer a good tactile feedback but I doubt you are going to be using it often considering the Echo Spot largely depends on voice commands. The four far-field microphones are placed on the top as well. These microphones are extremely powerful and can easily recognise your voice even from very far away (show that separately in the video).
On the rear, you get a port to insert a 3.5mm cable to connect it to any other speaker. The only other port on the rear is the one that connects the power brick. Note that the speaker needs to be connected to a power brick at all times.
I placed the speaker in our kitchen, where we used it to ask Alexa for recipes. My wife was so enamoured by it that she used it for recipes even when she knew how to make the dish by heart.
Display, and software
The circular display on the front has a 2.5-inch measurement diagonally. If you are not a fan of bezels, the one of the Echo Spot might be irritating for you. It is massive. However, that’s not really a problem if you ask me. The Echo Spot’s display is not meant for constant viewing like you would on a smartphone. It has a resolution of 480×480 pixels. It is fairly crisp and the touch response is great too. No complaints there.
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As far as the UI is concerned, it looks a lot like Android. You get a home screen with your vital information like time and weather. And, there are other screens that can be swiped right. You swipe down to access the settings which let you change the clock style — and choose a wallpaper of your own if you like. It is all very intuitive. Setting up Alexa wasn’t too much of a hassle either.
One of the features of the Echo Spot is the new camera. You can make calls to other folks with an Echo Spot or Alexa on their phone. I tried it out with a friend, and it worked just fine. The video quality was pretty good but the sound quality could’ve been better.
As a matter of fact, the overall sound quality of the Echo Spot definitely needs some work. While the Spot can get loud, it doesn’t sound very resolving. It works well for mid-frequencies but the bass feels bloated and the treble is not too great either.
Furthermore, the speaker drivers inside the speaker are downward firing. Therefore, when you place it on a soft surface like a bed it tends to absorb the sound. Ensure that you place it on a hard surface for clean sound.
As far as the video quality goes, you don’t get YouTube integration, therefore, all the videos you request for are served from Dailymotion and Vimeo. The video can also be cropped to fit the screen but it defeats the purpose of watching the video in any case. There are very few sources that actually made videos fit for the circular screen. The only use case for watching videos on the Echo Spot is when you are in a hurry, or like I mentioned before, in the Sanjeev Kapoor app for recipes.
Having said that, the display is genuinely useful for quick glance at little titbits of infirmation in case you don’t want to fish out your phone from your pocket. It makes a sense on a smart speaker.
Alexa voice intelligence and skills
At the heart of the Amazon Echo Spot is Alexa – the female AI voice that lives inside of the speaker. You can talk to it and it talks back to you. Your wish is her command. Alexa responds by her name, or Computer or Echo. I prefer calling her Alexa, though. And you know what? Thanks to the four mics on the Echo Spot Alexa can hear you from anywhere in the room. In fact, sometimes even from a different room.
Now Alexa is also really skilled. It can play music and videos sure, but it can also call for a cab on Uber, Or, order something on Zomato. It all works very well.
However, there are some things about Alexa that I do not like. For example, the fact she is not contextually aware of the next question. For example, if I ask Alexa “what is the weather like today?” and follow up with a “will it rain tomorrow?” I will get no response. I have to constantly keep calling out her name. Alexa likes attention.
Similarly, Alexa has a weird Indian accent. It feels fake and put on, like Appu from the Simpsons. We don’t talk like that Amazon!
Overall, you can find a good use for Alexa but you will have to live with her idiosyncrasies.
Should you buy the Echo Spot now?
With the new Echo devices around the horizon and the Echo Show prepped to launch in India soon, the Echo Spot at around Rs 12,000 might feel like an expensive proposition. But here’s the interesting thing, Amazon has made no update to the Echo Spot just yet. So, if you plan on getting this small alarm clock-like Echo, the 2017 Echo Spot is the only option for you.
And, trust me, the Echo Spot is not a bad buy at all. The display is a smart addition to a smart speaker setup. But, the sound quality could’ve been better. Although, you can still hook up your BT-enabled speakers to it (audiophiles, I am looking at you).
What do you folks think of the Echo Spot? Do let us know in the comments section below.