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What is an Echo Dot? Amazon’s compact smart speaker, explained

Everything you need to know about Amazon’s compact smart speaker

What is an Echo Dot? You might have seen the small, puck-shaped speakers before, but with Amazon’s arsenal of smart speakers increasing in size on a seemingly daily basis, it’s easy to get mixed up.

After all, Amazon currently sells the Echo Dot alongside the Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Studio, Echo Glow, Echo Show, Echo Sub and Echo Flex; with such a vast number of products on offer, we don’t blame you for seeking a bit of clarification.

Below, we explain what exactly the Echo Dot is, and run you through what Amazon’s pocket-sized smart speaker can do.

What is an Echo Dot?

The Amazon Echo Dot is the little sister of the Amazon Echo smart speaker. At 43mm in height and with a 1.6in speaker, the Dot isn’t quite as powerful as the 148mm Echo with its 2.5in woofer and 0.6in tweeter with Dolby audio processing.

There are three generations of Echo Dot product. You can tell them apart by the way they look: the first-generation Dot is constructed entirely of plastic, with flat edges and a black finish (see image below). The second- and third-generation Echo Dots, meanwhile, look more like speakers, with rounded edges and a fabric casing available in several different colours. All three generations have top-mounted controls, an LED light strip that circles the top edge of the product, and a 3.5mm audio jack built into the side. 

Left: Echo Dot 3rd gen | Right: Echo Dot 1st gen

For an additional £10, the sandstone model comes with a built-in LED clock, a feature that is exclusive to the third-generation Echo Dot.

In terms of power supplies, the first-generation Echo Dot uses a basic microUSB cable – the sort that might charge your phone. The second- and third-generation Echo Dot, meanwhile, have a unique power supply that has been copied across from the original Amazon Echo.

The Echo Dot is first and foremost a speaker. The first generation product produces a pretty insubstantial sound, sure, but Amazon has since perfected the formula, and now the Echo Dot is a very viable standalone speaker; it’s not powerful enough for large venues but for a single room, you won’t be disappointed.

The Echo Dot uses Alexa, everyone’s favourite virtual assistant AI. You can tell it to play music, make calls, deliver news bulletins, search the web or even control your heating, lighting, home security and any automated home appliances (such as robot vacuum cleaners) you might own. At this stage, it seems there is little that Alexa can’t do.

Courtesy of a 3.5mm audio jack, moreover, you can plug your Echo Dot into any compatible sound system, boosting your audio experience with the Alexa benefits listed above and below. 

READ NEXT: All the smart devices that work with Amazon Echo

How smart is Alexa?

Amazon says that its AI is always getting smarter. Alexa is now equipped with tens of thousands of “skills”, which are apps that can be enabled on your device. With Alexa’s various skills, you can play games, listen to the radio or ambient noise, or even talk with virtual animals. For a more comprehensive list of Alexa’s skills, see the skills store.

You can link Alexa with your Vodafone and Skype accounts to make calls, and the Echo Dot can also be connected with other Echo devices in your home.

READ NEXT: Alexa skills that get the most from your Amazon devices

How much does it cost?

The Echo Dot (3rd generation) is £50 from Amazon, just over half the price of the larger Echo (£90). Other Amazon Echo devices include the even smaller Echo Flex (£25) as well as the Echo Plus (£140) and Echo Studio (£190).

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