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Hands-on: Echo Spot makes a great first impression as a bedside companion

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In the past decade, alarm clocks have all but faded out of existence for many thanks to the rise of smartphones. And even though smartphones have replaced just about every household item from timers to grocery lists, the introduction of the Amazon Echo and Alexa have begun yet another shift. So in a natural turn of events, Amazon has brought Alexa voice control and a 2.5-inch screen to your nightstand with the release of its latest Echo device, the Spot. After spending some time with Spot, we’ll be diving into a hands-on review and our first impressions.

Amazon and Alexa have been making a push into our homes for well over a year now. But with the Spot, they’re moving away from the kitchen and rest of the home and onto your nightstand. Having an Echo device in the bedroom is already fairly common for many adopters of the digital assistant. And with Spot, Amazon is willing bet that its smart alarm clock will cause more homeowners to adorn their nightstands with the adorable Alexa-packed device.

Full disclosure, Alexa and I haven’t had the best relationship in past. Having purchased my first Echo device, the Dot, on Black Friday last year, I never really put the digital assistant to much use. For the most part, I’d almost always just opt to use”Hey Siri” for setting timers and controlling my smart home. But now with the Echo Spot, I’m rethinking things, at least in the bedroom.

A cute form factor |

Amazon’s new $129.99 Spot may just be the cutest Echo addition yet. For its latest release, Amazon has opted to ditch the more rigid and angular look of the other Echo devices in favor of a soft, adorable design. The smart alarm clock features the same three volume up, down and mute buttons as you’d expect, as well as a 3.5mm AUX input on the back. Spot comes in black and white to match the rest of Amazon’s lineup.

Of course, because this is an addition to the Echo lineup, Amazon’s Alexa assistant is the main way to interact with the device. And as such, Spot does everything your existing Alexa-Enabled device can do. It streams your favorite music, reminds you when to put the laundry in the drier, orders pizza and just about anything you rely on the digital assistant for.

The device’s 4 beam-forming microphones do a great job of picking up commands from across the room and in my experience has the same solid reliability the Dot does.

A small, but mighty screen |

But it’s the Spot’s adorable touchscreen that really makes the device shine and earn a place on my nightstand. The 2.5-inch circular screen showcases the time, reminders and more, making more than just an alarm clock. There are a total of 16 different clock faces you can choose from, with several analog and digital faces as well as customizable photo-based ones. While the screen only stacks up to 480 pixels wide, you can still watch videos on Spot, so long as its tiny size doesn’t make you uncomfortable. But if you really want to watch a news briefing in bed without pulling out your phone, you can absolutely go for it.

Despite being packed into a softball-sized package, Spot manages to produce loud and quality audio. It easily fills my bedroom with music without major distortion. And while sound quality isn’t perfect, it should be more than enough if you don’t already have another speaker in the bedroom. Replies from Alexa are just as snappy as you’d expect as well.

Just like its larger sibling the Echo Show, Spot also comes packed with a camera that enables video calling and more. Calls can be made to other Echo devices with screens or smartphones thanks to the Alexa app. Brief testing with the latter option proved to offer clear image quality and solid sounding audio. The Spot also extends the Echo lineup’s ability to Drop-in on other devices. This feature lets you automatically connect to the Spot’s camera directly and should prove to be useful as time goes on.

In just about all facets, the Spot is a pretty adorable device. I highlighted this earlier with its form-factor, but Spot’s UI is charming as well and makes excellent use of the small, circular screen. And when paired with the touchscreen, offers a notable and worthwhile experience. Setup was absolutely a breeze, aside from a relatively quick software update, and was mostly due to the newly added touchscreen capabilities. In fact, I had already preemptively fired up the Alexa app expecting to need it in order to configure the device, but everything was handled directly on the Spot itself.

Final thoughts |

Having just spent under a day with the Echo Spot, only time will tell whether or not it becomes a permanent fixture on my nightstand. But as of now, I can quite confidently say that the Spot’s screen seriously makes all the difference. Aside from just the clock and alarm functionality, which I too happen to love, seeing album artwork, reminders and news has been wonderful so far.

Though with a $130 price tag, the Echo Spot isn’t in the territory of an instant purchase like the Dot is at under $50. Despite that, I am excited to give Alexa another chance. And in a new form-factor, Amazon’s digital assistant may be in its most compelling package yet. They say first impressions are everything, and now, you can color me impressed.

Buy Amazon Echo Spot for $129.99

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