Music / Streaming / Tech

Tech Review: Amazon Echo Dot (2nd Generation)

After recently testing out the all-new Fire TV 4K UHD stick with Alexa and being suitably impressed by the changes they’d made for the higher quality stream, see my full review here, I thought it was about time to up the ante to a certain degree and finally see what the fuss is about regarding Amazon’s Echo range and, in this specific case, the Amazon Echo Dot (2nd Generation).

So, why specifically the Echo Dot ?

Sure, there are a whole host of choices (I’ll list those at the end) but it’s the Echo Dot because I’ve already got a Samsung wireless speaker and because of the aforementioned Fire TV with Alexa, I just wanted to connect the Echo Dot and Alexa into a whole system. My reasons behind this trial do initially rely on a lot of hope, because ideally I wanted the test to give me a rounder, fuller feel of looped technology and honestly? I’ve been utterly won over by the addition and even more so the bonuses, and so we’ll come back to all that shortly.

Review

First up, some basics: Echo Dot connects to Alexa, she’s a cloud-based voice service (ask her about that) who’s there to help. You can ask her questions about pretty-much anything that you want to know, she can find films, TV and more for you if you have Fire TV, play music, read random facts about the day, set timers and alarms and even control Smart Home devices, should you have any. I mention all these things because I tried each and every thing here, with success and then some.

You will need to download the app to your Smartphone, that’s simplistic enough on Apple or Android and before you know it, Alexa is up and running and ready to offer you that whole host of television shows, movies, music and more. I’d just recommend asking anything to begin with and get a sense of how she answers, as a household we’re already addicted.

What makes Alexa impressive is its far-field voice recognition as it’s got seven little microphones to pick up what you’re asking. You might also remember I mentioned that I already had my own wireless speaker? Well, that connects simply as well, just follow the instructions and it’ll be working pretty quickly. If you fancy it, you can connect the speaker up to Alexa and she’ll respond ‘through’ that, or she can just do it through the Echo Dot itself, I chose to do the latter because I operate music separately and she’ll obviously pause that if you ask her a question.

As well as the speaker, I wanted to know how easy it would be to activate and attach the Fire TV 4K UHD stick and, again, not an issue at all. They get on perfectly. I know it’s easy enough to type in what you’re looking to watch but using this method means you don’t have to go through each letter and, also, it allows you to search parts of titles, or directors, particular film stars and so forth. I never thought I’d say it but it speeds up the process of, ironically, switching off from the world and enjoying what’s on the screen in front of you.

For me, Alexa is superior to Siri as an A.I. and more, dare I say, perceptive. It’s also more interactive, pretty quick to learn and able to connect to Smart Home devices as well – in our case, a Nest heating system which was already app-controlled but is now voice controlled.

Seven installed microphones, they can hear you anywhere

What do I need to set it up?

A plug, an internet connection, ideally some variety of Fire TV Stick and you’ll benefit but it’s probably better if you’re not too scared of new tech or the endless positive possibilities of the internet. BUT even if you are, Alexa really is so easy to use.

One other thing, if you’re here for the separate wireless speaker, you’ll need to keep those reasonably close unless you’re buying one with it built-in, of course.

Are there any downsides?

I’d say you might be addicted in the early days, and possible laziness can definitely come into play, but the Echo Dot is far more stress-free to use than I expected. I’d say Alexa still needs a little refining when it comes to hearing something different, especially when she goes off on a ramble, but 1: You can tell her to ‘stop’ immediately and 2: it’s very rare in my few weeks of experience.

So, should I buy one?

If you were coming here for second opinion on whether you want to pick one up, and after a few weeks of constant use, I’d say go for it. Although I’m not fearful of new tech, see my thoughts here on Yamaha wireless soundbars and speakers, I had my reservations but they disappeared within the first week.

I would recommend you consider if you’ve got the right setup and if you need one in your life though, but if you’ve got an Amazon account (is there anyone who doesn’t?!) though it’ll link in to everything you’ve got there and offer even more flexibility. If you know someone who you’d feel would benefit from a little more ‘world’ connection, you can even phone them on it if they’ve got one as well, then this is also a great choice.

The Echo Dot is not quite perfect but it’ll do everything you could need for now – Buy it here: https://amzn.to/2pDvKyt

While the Echo Dot is the cheapest of the range, there’s also these available if you’ve got cash burning a hole in your pocket. Each one has something extra as you move up the market, click the links for more info…

 

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