Pros / This is the least expensive smart speaker we tested.
Cons / The speaker sounds horrible.
Verdict / If you're looking for a simple voice-controlled remote for smart home devices, this is a good option.
The Amazon Echo was the first entrant in the smart speaker race, and the Echo Dot is its pint-sized sibling. The Dot is less than $50 and frequently goes on sale for less than $40. Calling it a speaker is a bit of a stretch, the equivalent of labeling your smartphone a speaker. It’s more capable of louder volumes than your phone, but it sounds similar. However, if you are interested in controlling the vast sea of smart-devices, the Amazon speakers offer the best compatibility, and the Alexa app makes it easy to add devices and services. The Alexa app is also the most user-friendly app we tested in terms of setup.
We made a list of 25 of the most popular and best-selling smart devices, and the Echo Dot is compatible with all of them. If you plan to fill your home with smart products, there’s no better controller. The Echo Dot controls some devices, like switches and thermostats, without a smart hub, but some devices, like smart locks, require a hub. Third-party smart hubs start around $30 and act as a bridge between the Echo Dot and other devices, and add to Alexa’s control capabilities.
The Echo Dot is the perfect shopping companion, especially if you have a Prime membership. Keeping the Echo Dot in the kitchen is a handy way to order groceries and other household products with a simple voice command, and because of the minimal investment, you don’t have to worry as much about splashing spaghetti sauce on it. Unfortunately, the Echo Dot isn’t battery powered, so you'll need to keep it plugged in.
Instead of enjoying the poor audio quality that emanates from the 0.6-inch speaker, it's best to connect the Echo Dot to a home stereo where it can control music from a better speaker. You can place it close to your receiver and hardwire it into an auxiliary input, much like you would with your phone or music player. You can also connect it wirelessly to Bluetooth-enabled speakers or headphones. If you don’t have a stereo or Bluetooth speakers and plan on listening to music, we recommend the full-size Amazon Echo because it sounds significantly better and plays music at a decent volume.
The Amazon Echo Dot is a good low-cost buy. It is compatible with all the popular smart products, and if you frequently shop on Amazon, it’s a great shopping companion. The internal speaker doesn’t sound great, but there are plenty of ways to connect it to better-sounding speakers if you plan on streaming music.