Amazon’s latest Alexa-powered device, the Echo Spot, is one of the best looking gadgets ever produced by the retail giant, but it isn’t without flaws, according to a series of reviews out today.
The $130 device is somewhat of a mini-version of the Echo Show, the same way the Echo Dot represents a more compact model of the Echo. It first debuted in September at a big Amazon hardware event that saw the introduction of several new Alexa-powered devices.
The device combines a tight design, with a 2.5-inch touchscreen display and camera. It can play music and video, display song lyrics and serve as an alarm clock.
Echo Spot will hit the shelves of Amazon’s brick-and-mortar stores and pop-ups tomorrow, but the company warns that an online order of the new device may not make it in time for Christmas.
One look at the Echo Spot shows just how far Amazon’s device design has come. It fits in much better in a bedroom than the original Echo. And while everyone loved the design, reviewers took issue with the touchscreen, the camera and even the price.
Todd Haselton of CNBC calls the device his “new favorite Echo.” He doesn’t recommend it for first-time Echo buyers, but for owners of multiple devices, Echo Spot makes perfect sense.
The Echo Spot reminds me of a grapefruit or a Magic 8 Ball sliced in half, with a 2.5-inch touchscreen display that shows, by default, a clock. It’s meant to sit next to your bed, in your kitchen, or in other rooms where you might not already have a larger-sized Echo product.
Given its size, I’ve found it not only works well in my bedroom or on my desk without taking up too much space, it would also be perfect for carrying along to use in hotel rooms. Connecting to Wi-Fi during setup is a breeze — you just type in the Wi-Fi credentials right on the circular display.
Dan Seifert at The Verge writes that the Echo Spot is an “almost perfect smart alarm clock.” The thing holding it back from perfection is the attached camera that enables video calling.
In practice, video calling is a feature that’s better suited for the larger Show than the Spot. Not only is the Spot’s screen much smaller than the Show’s, making it hard to see multiple people in the frame, but I can’t ever imagine wanting to make video calls from my bedroom — nor do I want an always-watching camera in the most intimate and private room of my home.
Ry Crist of CNET was not as high on the device as some of the other reviewers. The camera gives him pause about putting it in the bedroom
But (again, like the Show) the Spot’s touchscreen doesn’t add as much to the Alexa experience as you might think. You’ll see album artwork and in some cases lyrics when you play music, and you can stream video from sources such as Prime Video or Twitch — no YouTube, though. Aside from that, this is still very much a voice-first user interface, which makes the camera and touchscreen more than most people probably need (and if you’re like me, more than you actually want). The Spot is a charming and likable gadget, but it isn’t a must-buy yet, even for Alexa fans.
Nicole Lee of Engadget disagreed with Crist’s take and lauded the capability of the touchscreen. But she was spooked by the $130 price, with the bigger Echo Show costing only $20 more after Amazon dropped the price last week.
I adore the Echo Spot. It looks great on my nightstand, and I love using it in the kitchen to look up recipes or add to my grocery list. The screen enhances the standard Alexa experience; I love being able to see the information rather than just listen to it. Video-calling is also a bonus. Plus, who knows what other uses Amazon and third-party developers will add to the display over time. For me, it’s worth the $50 premium over the screen-less Echos.
Yet, right now, the Spot really is just a smart alarm clock. The tiny display isn’t great for much beyond short videos, and even though I find the screen useful, it’s not really necessary. Even though it’s not Amazon’s fault, the lack of YouTube could also be a dealbreaker for some. So, while I really do like the Echo Spot, I’d recommend waiting for its price to drop.