Amazon Echo Dot review: Alexa on the cheap
Does everything the full-fat Amazon Echo does aside from pump out the tunes — and it's now even cheaper
DEAL ALERT: Amazon is currently offering £10 off the Echo Dot, bringing the price down to just £39.99. Get this deal now from Amazon
Our original review continues below
The Amazon Echo Dot has been out over a year in the UK now, yet it remains the cheapest way to get a digital voice assistant into your Home. By their usual retail prices, the full-blown Amazon Echo is £100 more expensive, Google Home is £80 pricier and the Apple HomePod will be even more wallet-emptyingly expensive (£329) when it's finally released in the UK on 9 February.
Everything else works just the same: the voice commands, the shopping capabilities, even the jokes. It still has seven dedicated microphones to pick up your voice from wherever you are in the room and it still employs Amazon's far-field voice-recognition technology to help it home in on your commands through the general noise and clutter of everyday living. All you need to do is say the wake word, which is “Alexa” by default, followed by your command, and you're off.
You can read more about how Amazon's Alexa engine works in my full Echo review, including how it works with various smart-home devices and how you can download additional "skills" to broaden its practicality – all of which applies to the Echo Dot as well.
The main difference, as mentioned above, is its lack of built-in Bluetooth speaker, but that doesn't mean you can't use the Echo Dot to listen to music. If you own a Bluetooth speaker, you can simply pair it with the Dot using the Alexa app – just as you would your smartphone or you can connect it to your speakers physically using a standard 3.5mm audio cable. It's a shame the Dot doesn't come with one of these in the box but they're not expensive to buy separately and given how cheap the Dot is in the first place.
That's not to say you can't use the Dot on its own. It does have a speaker built in, but it isn't very powerful or musical. It's fine for talk radio or the occasional podcast and you'll be able to hear Alexa's general responses clearly enough, but audio-wise the quality is worse than most laptop speakers.
That's the only downside to buying the Dot, though, and the rest of it works just fine. It's a great way to add Alexa to other rooms in your home, allowing you to manage your calendar, shopping list, order stuff and listen to audiobooks wherever you are, and the ability to use it as a smart-home controller only makes it more appealing.
Although Google Home has now finally arrived in the UK and Apple will be here soon, Amazon's Alexa remains the most fully formed system available today, and nothing comes close to the Dot in terms of pure value for money.