Amazon unveiled the Echo Show earlier this year, complete with a display, and it turned out to be a pretty sweet little product. It’s great for displaying information, making calls and watching video. The design, however, left a little to be desired. Enter the newly-released Echo Spot ($130), a smaller version of the Show with all of the same functionality as the Show, except it’s wrapped in a much more adorable package.
The Echo Spot brings Amazon Alexa in the form of a tiny touchscreen alarm clock. Its display is very useful, as its adds additional context and visual information. It’s great for video calls as well. And the $130 price tag is just a tad south of the Echo Show’s price tag of around $150.
Echo Spot Design
The Echo Spot has a circular display and spherical body, much like a retro alarm clock. It’s relatively compact and lightweight, measuring 4.1 x 3.8 x 3.6 inches and weighs just under a pound. The body is made out of a sturdy matte plastic, available in either black or white.
The display is a complete circle, measuring 2.5 inches across and has a 480 x 480 resolution, which is totally adequate. Its also colorful, bright and the viewing angles are wide, perfect for showing to-do lists, calendar and other basic information like weather. It also works well for video calling thanks to the VGA camera above the display.
The settings menu can be accessed by swiping down from the top of the display. Here you can do things like disable the camera, change WiFi settings and enable Bluetooth. This is also where you adjust the Spot’s brightness levels, which is important for dimming the lights when you’re sleeping. You can also choose up to 12 different clock faces in both digital and analog designs. You can use your own personal photos as your clock’s wallpaper by simply uploading your chosen image using the Alexa app or Prime Photos. The touchscreen also works for swiping through lists or playing and pausing media. You’ll still be using Alexa for primary tasks, but the touchscreen gives you extra control over the Echo Spot.
The Spot has three buttons on top: one that disables the microphone and camera, and two for the volume. On the back is a 3.5mm audio jack that acts as a line out for dedicated speakers or headphones. There’s also a 2×2 microphone array plus WiFi and Bluetooth radios. When Alexa is listening, a blue circle appears on the display. It turns red when the microphone is muted.
Using the Echo Spot
The Spot is super easy to set up, just like every other Echo device. The screen makes that process especially simple. Just plug in the Echo Spot, and on-screen instructions will walk you through. When prompted for a WiFi password and your Amazon login credentials, you can use the Spot’s touchscreen keyboard to enter those in. If you like, you can also use the Alexa app, available on Android and iOS, to set up the Spot, but it’s not necessary. Once you’re done, the device plays a short welcome video and then you’re ready to go.
The Echo Spot functions just like the Echo. Using the Alexa app, you can connect your Google Calendar, Spotify and Amazon Music accounts. You can also ask it for the time or the weather, play music or just ask Alexa some basic search questions. The Spot also works with compatible smart home appliances, and supports a wide assortment of “skills” like playing games, setting reminders and making lists.
When you ask Alexa for the weather. The Echo Spot will vocalize an answer, but it also goes one step further displaying the highs and lows of the day, as well as the weather for the next six days. This is the video benefit of the Spot. When adding items to your shopping list, the device reveals the other items in your list without you having to ask. If you’re setting up a second alarm 30 minutes after your first one, it’ll show you the one you already set. The Spot’s display sometimes expands on what Alexa gives you, with more information than you initially asked for.
Even when the screen doesn’t elaborate on Alexa’s answer, being able to look and interact with the display is cool. When you ask for trending topics, for example, the Spot shows you a scrolling list of headlines while reciting the first three. You can then ask Alexa to read any one of them in more depth, or you could just scroll and tap through the list yourself.
By default, the Echo Spot rotates between the time, weather, upcoming calendar appointments, your to-do list, a selection of trending stories and a list of “Things to try,” which amount to suggestions on how to use the device. When you make voice calls and send messages, the existence of the Echo Spot’s display and camera also makes video calls possible. You can make video calls with anyone with an Echo Spot or Show, as well as anyone with the Alexa app installed on their phone. Additionally, the audio quality is very good, making keeping in touch with families a breeze.
The Echo Spot also doubles as an intercom when paired with other Echos in your house. So, if you’re in the bedroom and you have an Echo in the kitchen, you can say “Drop in on the kitchen” and communicate with anyone on the other side. If the other Echo is a Spot or a Show, the cameras will turn on as well. If you’d rather not have the camera on but you still want to chat, you can always hit the camera off button or disable it in settings.
Another handy feature on the Spot is the ability to use it as a monitor for a webcam. That includes the Amazon CloudCam, but it also works with Nest, Ring and any other camera that has the “Works with Alexa” label. For example, you could say, “Alexa, show me the bedroom” to get a peek at what’s going on when you’re not around.
Just like other Echo devices, the Spot can be used for music playback. For example, you can say “play ACDC,” and it’ll play a pre-curated list of all of the group’s songs from Amazon Music. Since there’s a display, you can also view album art, check out the top playlists on Spotify or tap the screen to play and pause. On certain songs, Amazon Music will show scrolling lyrics.
The Spot’s 1.5-inch speaker is not stupendous but it’s pretty damn good for the size. Another thing you can do with the Spot is watch videos. You can watch content from Amazon Prime, movie trailers or short flash briefing news videos from sources like Bloomberg and Reuters. You can zoom in on the video so it fills the screen or zoom out if you’d like to see more.
The Echo Spot is a smaller version of the Echo Show and it’s very cool. It looks great on a nightstand, and it works even better in the kitchen. The screen enhances the standard Alexa experience by showing you information rather than just listening to it. Video-calling is also a plus. You can purchase the Amazon Echo Spot through Amazon.