Amazon Echo Spot review: Full, in-depth review
- Display is neat
- Audio output
- Webcam is creepy
The Echo Spot feels like a smart speaker that’s definitely for someone - but one that's not going to be for everyone.
Price$ 199.00 (AUD)
With the smart speaker category has fetishizing audio quality as much as it does, it’s hard not to see the Amazon Echo Spot as an interesting rebuke to that arm-race. We could have made them look like anything, why do they have to look like speakers? Why not an alarm clock?
Unfortunately, any novelty this fresh angle might bring feels worn away by more pressing concerns. Despite the evidence, there is a real fear and trepidation around the tension between the convenience that smart speakers and AI assistants provide and the cost to privacy they exact. And the Echo Spot feels like it doesn’t do enough to assuage those concerns.
Deliberate or not, this failure is ultimately what ended up defining the Amazon Echo Spot for me.
Dimensions: 104 mm x 97 mm x 91 mm
Weight: 419 grams. Actual size and weight may vary by manufacturing process
Smart Assistant: Amazon Alexa
Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n)
Ports: 3.5 mm stereo audio-output
Color: Black, White
It doesn’t feel unfair to say that, at a glance, the Echo Spot looks like a speaker swallowed an alarm clock. On some level, it’s just a specialised and refined take on the notion that smart speakers like the Echo and the Google Home should be as inconspicuous as possible.
However, a few caveats and unintended consequences do haunt the pitch here. The Echo Spot features a ring of speakers running around the lower half of the note-like unit, and a circular screen on the front. Perched above that is a small webcam.
Now, Amazon say this allows users to remotely see what their Alexa sees - potentially allowing a concerned parent to check on their children, make video calls or investigate a notification sent by another smart security product. However, as an everyday user who didn't fit into those boxes, I found it a little unnerving to have it there at all.
Otherwise, the display is bright and detailed enough - but not impressively so. Same goes for the sound. It’s audible - but I don’t really feel driven to recommend or praise it in any particular sense. You can hear what Alexa says clearly enough but listening to music on this feels like a bit of write-off. You can do it. I wouldn’t recommend it. Thankfully, like the Echo Dot, the Spot does feature audio output - so you can connect it up to something that sounds a little better.
You can use it to play music, get news and sports updates, check the weather and remotely control your smart home devices. Unlike the other options, the Spot’s occasionally uses its display and webcam functionality to augment its responses to user requests.
By default, it’ll jump between acting as a clock, showing you the weather, recent news updates and any messages you’ve received using the Alexa app. However, reading through the latter (or any particularly long news updates) on the Echo Spot’s screen feels like a bit of a waste. It’s pretty small, so there’s a lot of scrolling involved.
The Bottom Line
It honestly feels the Echo Spot would be a totally different proposition if it kept the screen but dropped the webcam. Framed like that, it’s just a more compact approach to the smart display niche fast-gaining traction among Lenovo, LG and the like.
As it stands, the Echo Spot feels like a really-specific option that’s only really going to be worth if you’re comfortable with letting another webcam into your life and actively-enthusiastic about the ability to integrate Alexa voice commands into your current smart security setup.
It's definitely a smart speaker for someone - but it's not going to be for everyone.
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