Even with more Echo speakers to choose from than ever, the Amazon Echo Spot remains one of the very top picks – mixing portability, cute looks, and a dinky video screen, the Echo Spot stakes a good claim for a space on your desk.
The Echo Spot immediately grabs your attention as you set eyes on it, and it feels like a natural step forward for Amazon’s range of smart speakers, with new models arriving regularly year on year.
Most of the key benefits of the Amazon Echo range in general apply to the Echo Spot: decent prices, tons of functionality, and a voice interface easy enough for complete tech beginners to get a hold of. It’s no wonder the Echos have become essentials in a smart home setup.
And so to the Amazon Echo Spot, perhaps one of the less well-known of the Echo smart speakers, but undoubtedly one of the best-looking of the bunch: this has the aesthetics to fit into any, ahem, spot…whether you pop it on your bedside table, your office desk, or kitchen counter.
This is all subjective, and depends on how your home is set up, but if you do want our styling as well as our tech recommendations, then the Echo Spot is ideal for sticking next to your bed.
So, appealing looks aside, how’s is the Echo Spot to use? Is a screen that small and round actually useful? And how does the audio quality shape up against its rivals? Read our full Amazon Echo Spot review to find out.
Amazon Echo Spot: design
With features and performance, Amazon’s Echo Spot is much, more more than a smart alarm clock – even if that’s the impression it gives off. For a lot of Echo Spot owners, chunky alarm clock may become the device’s default use, but you’ll find it’s a lot more versatile than that.
In fact, the Amazon Echo Spot carves out its own niche in the Echo line up, and that’s to its credit. The gadget’s neatly curved shell does more than enough to make up for some of the design failings of its siblings.
So where the big, bulky and brash Amazon Echo Show tends to take over any area you put it in, for example, thanks to its black slab look and large screen, the Echo Spot is much more refined in its compact, circular design.
The Echo Spot is proof that the best way to do a desk-based video device is to forgo the TV-lite look, and just go with something that’s compact and well designed instead. Tech companies, please take note.
If you had to place this in context in the Echo line-up, it’s a cross between an Echo Dot and a smaller version of the Amazon Echo Show – the rectangular video-driven gadget that looks a lot like a miniature TV.
This is no Echo Dot replacement, though: the price puts it out of contention for that, and it’s also a lot more versatile. To say it’s a Dot with a screen would be doing it a disservice (sorry, Dot, we love you really).
Size-wise, it’s about the equivalent of a mango. Sure, mangoes may not be the most scientific way to measure things, but at least it gives you an indication that it’s a pretty compact device with a curved back and screen that’s angled up, making it easy to view.
The Amazon Echo Spot is a great-looking device, certainly something you won’t mind having on show in your home… unlike the, er, original Show, which we always felt like tucking away on the kitchen counter.
Amazon Echo Spot: features and setup
The Echo Spot unit we reviewed was black but there’s also a white one available. The screen is relatively small at 2.5 inches, with a 480 x 480 pixel resolution.
On the top of the screen there’s space for a camera and on the top of the Echo Spot as a whole there are three buttons, which all sit flush against the surface for a really streamlined look.
Anyone familiar with the Echo range will know what they are: volume up, volume down, and a mic mute button – that last one disables the camera too, so it’s the button to press for a little added privacy.
Plus, there are four small pin-prick holes too, housing the four-array mics that listen out for the wake word and for you barking commands at Alexa.
On the back of the Echo Spot you have the standard Amazon branding, a slot for power and a 3.5mm audio jack.
The speaker grill for the Echo Spot is right at the base of the device, which makes it invisible when viewing the device face-on. Bluetooth functionality is also available for streaming audio to or from another device.
Setup is similar to other Echo devices, except for this one you can type in your Wi-Fi details straight on the screen instead of going through the Alexa app, thanks to that handy built-in display.
Admittedly, it’s a little bit fiddly putting in your details that way (it asks for your Amazon account password too) but the whole process should take less than five minutes. Then your Amazon Echo Spot is really ready to go.
Once your Echo Spot is up and running, you have the option to watch Amazon’s promo video, which tells you what you can do with the device and gets you started. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s worth sitting through so you get an idea about what you’ve just bought.
Then you get that warm chime sound, which means Alexa is online and ready to take orders. Once this appears it’s a good time to read our best Amazon Alexa skills article, as well as follow the prompts that come up on the screen to find out what your new Echo Spot can do.
Swipe right on the screen at any time to bring up a whole load of Alexa commands you can use, which is a really nice way to learn what to do with the digital assistant. If you’re looking for some fun and silly extras, give our Alexa Easter Eggs list a try, too.
These prompts can be turned off in the Spot’s settings, and it’s here in the settings where you can toggle home cards on and off as well (little blurbs of information that come up on the home screen).
You can have the home screen include your messages, weather, notifications, upcoming events, reminders, drop ins and trending topics.
Amazon Echo Spot: performance
What you get from the Amazon Echo Spot in terms of performance depends on what you actually use it for. Like the rest of the Echo range, the smart Echo Spot is extremely versatile – in fact it may be the most versatile of the lot.
If you do use it as an alarm clock, then it’s got everything you need. There are a myriad of clock faces to choose from on the Echo Spot, both analog and digital, and they’re mainly color-based – so you have the choice of things like Tangerine, Onyx, Bold Teal, Modern Fuschia and Copper (there are a couple of themed ones thrown in too).
We really liked the Record face, so give that a whirl, and there’s an owl one available as well if you prefer something a bit more natural.
The Echo Spot also has a night mode, which is really handy and works well: put this on and it will dim the screen for the hours that you choose.
The Echo Spot can wake you with a song or a radio station. For the latter, made possible by the TuneIn skill, you need to say “Alexa, wake me up to [radio station] at [time].”
You can also read your messages on the screen and make calls. This is a new-ish addition to the Alexa smart commands in the UK that’s been in the US for some time now.
When we used the Echo Spot on our desk, it made us veer more towards the video functionality of the device. You can use the Amazon smart speaker to get your daily briefings, so BBC News (for example) will show you its briefing in video form.
At first, trying to watch a 16:9 video on a small, round screen looks a little strange, but Amazon has given the Echo Spot the option to ‘zoom’ the picture to fit the round shape. This probably wouldn’t work on a larger display but we preferred using this mode on the Echo Spot.
The round screen is also perfect for room-to-room calling. This is functionality that Alexa has been able to do for a while and it works really well, turning the Spot smart speaker into an intercom of sorts.
Ask Alexa to drop into another Echo Spot speaker, and a face pops up on the screen so you can have a chat, much like FaceTime.
You can also ‘drop in’ on people in your phone book (if you and they allow it). This works really well on the Echo Spot – there’s a blurred image for 10 seconds or so, just in case you need to make yourself decent, and then the screen appears clear.
Like the Echo Dot there’s an integrated speaker and we were surprised with how good it sounds, considering the speaker’s compact size.
Unlike the Echo Dot, which is only really passable for things like voice, the Amazon Echo Spot had a nice sound to it. You will probably want to hook it up to a better speaker system via Bluetooth or aux if you’re an audiophile, but if it’s on your bedside table, then you won’t complain about the sound.
If you listen to something with Amazon Music, then you also get the added bonus of having lyrics come up on the screen.
This can get addictive, watching the lyrics flow – and when it comes to swear words, we can confirm that Alexa kindly stars them out so your eyes aren’t unduly offended.
Another way Amazon wants you to use the Echo Spot is as a smart cam monitor.
We saw a demo where you could get a smart cam video link up on the screen – from a compatible smart cam – where it was streaming from a nursery. The stream on the demo was clear and bright.
Unfortunately, our current setup at home is Hive and at the time of this review, the Hive View wasn’t compatible (but might be soon).
In theory, this is a fantastic idea, especially if you have the camera set up in a nursery as we do. It will also work with a number of smart home brands, including Netgear Arlo, Logitech, Nest and smart doorbell manufacturer Ring (now owned by Amazon of course).
When it came to using the Echo Spot in the kitchen, we found it great to watch something on Amazon Prime while cooking our food. It synced really well with our Prime Video account and knew which episode of Red Oaks we were watching.
Having the ability to call up recipes and times and actually see them on the screen was a real boon, too – the ability to have multiple timers running at once really helped when cooking a roast dinner.
Again, this is functionality you can have on other Echo devices but having it at-a-glance on the screen is great and means you don’t have to whip your phone out for this sort of stuff.
The Alexa digital assistant continues to get smarter across all these Echo devices too, including the Echo Spot. Vague requests can now be directed to the appropriate skill, so you don’t have to remember the exact wording every time.
Another recent update means Alexa can more naturally understand what you’re blabbing on about. It can also now keep listening and keep responding to questions even if you don’t say “Alexa” each time.
Amazon Echo Spot: final verdict
The Amazon Echo Spot does everything the Echo Show does, but it all feels better in this smaller form factor. The design is great – it’s available in black and white – and we can easily see the Spot being used in the bedroom, kitchen or even on a desk. In fact, you may want it in all of these places.
That’s the thing with the Amazon Echo Spot – much like other Echo smart speakers, Amazon wants you to have a multitude of them in your home so you always have access to video chat and Alexa no matter where you are.
Essentially, Amazon seems to want the Echo Spot to replace the Echo Dot. The Amazon Echo Spot is a little more expensive than the new Echo, though, and in turn much more expensive than an Echo Dot.
This is because of the addition of the screen. While we still haven’t seen that killer skill for the screen, it does enhance the look of the Echo Spot and opens up the possibilities for it being much more than just a smart speaker. Amazon’s rivals are busy building smart speakers with screens too, it’s worth noting.
We’re just hoping that the Amazon Alexa skills become much more video-friendly: once this happens, the Amazon Echo Spot will become an absolute must-have for the smart home.