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Amazon's Echo Show was the first Alexa-enabled device to feature a display. Using it, you could watch movies, video clips or even a feed from your security camera. But at $229, the Show is a bit too pricey for it to be one of those impulse buys when you're shopping Amazon for cat food and baby diapers. Enter the Echo Spot, the best Alexa device for your nightstand.
This $129 orb not only looks markedly different from all other Alexa devices but also gives you a round display for not that much more than the Echo costs. The circular screen limits the Echo Spot's usefulness, but overall it's a capable and compact companion to put on your nightstand or desk, and for those reasons, it's on our list of the best Alexa speakers.
Have you ever wanted a Magic 8-Ball to tell you more than just your future? To create its latest Alexa device, it looks like Amazon ground two sides of that fortune-telling orb flat and added a screen.
It's a real departure from the designs of the other Echo devices, and one that makes the Spot seem somewhat friendlier. Still, I wish it were offered in more colors than just white and black.
The Spot is 4.1 inches in diameter and 3.8 inches tall; it took up far less room on my nightstand than the Echo Show. Its 2.5-inch, 480 x 480-pixel display is surrounded by a rather large bezel. I hope future iterations of the Spot shrink this bezel so that the screen fills the entire face.
At the very top of the bezel is a small camera. The top of the Spot has a button that turns the microphone and camera on and off, and is flanked by two volume buttons. Behind these are pinholes for the Spot's four microphones, and toward the bottom, you'll find a power port and a 3.5mm audio jack, in case the Spot's quarter-inch speaker is underwhelming for you.
The setup process for the Echo Spot is a bit different from that of other Echo speakers. With other Echo speakers, you typically plug in the device, wait for it to power on and then open the Alexa app on your smartphone. The app then discovers the Echo, and connects it to your account and your Wi-Fi network. With the Spot, you have to manually type in your Amazon username, password and Wi-Fi password on the Spot itself. It then appears in your Alexa app. Maybe it's because I've set up so many Echos that I prefer the former method, but the on-screen keyboard on the Spot is tiny.
Small, Circular Screen
By default, the Echo Spot shows an analog-style clockface, which also displays headlines, upcoming events, news alerts and so on. From the Spot's on-screen interface, you can select from six analog faces and six digital faces, or one of four faces onto which you you can add a background photo of your choosing.
I hope Amazon soon allows third parties to create clockfaces for the Spot. That would go a long way toward making this a truly personal device.
As with the Show, you can use the Spot to watch movies, trailers, videos and more (such as Twitch feeds), but feels odd to watch rectangular videos on the Spot's small, circular display. You can either watch a video with two large black bars at the top and bottom, or expand it so that the video fills the entire display; you have to choose whether you want to watch a really tiny video or one where most of the action has been cropped out.
One feature, which debuted on the Show, displays the lyrics of songs as they're playing. It's really handy, especially when you're listening to Pearl Jam.
You can also use the Spot to view a feed from your security camera, such as Amazon's own Cloud Cam or the Netgear Arlo Pro. Unlike with other video feeds, though, you can't zoom in and out, so it's pretty hard to see smaller details.
Either way, I found it a less-than-satisfying experience; the Spot's screen is best used for brief updates, the weather and the time.
The Spot's 0.25-inch, downward-facing speaker is pretty good for its size and far better than the Echo Dot's speaker. It cranked out Walk the Moon's Shut Up and Dance pretty well. While the bass wasn't as thumping as it would be on the regular-size Echo, it was definitely present, and the vocals were clear and relatively crisp. At max volume, I noticed a bit of distortion, but this isn't a speaker that's intended for room-filling audio.
Audio-wise, the Spot is sufficient for playing music to wake to or adding some background tunes while you're reading in bed or chopping onions in the kitchen. However, I recommend the full-size Echo or the Sonos One if you're looking for a speaker that can be used to entertain guests at a party.
Of course, you can always attach another speaker via the Spot's 3.5mm jack or Bluetooth.
Although the Spot has four microphones, compared with seven on the Dot and other Echos, I found that the Spot picked up my voice from across the room just as easily as those other devices.
What the Echo Spot Can Do (and Control)
The Alexa-enabled Echo Spot is capable of performing a number of tasks initiated by your voice commands. For example, it can tell you the weather for the week, order pizza, control smart home devices (such as smart lights and plugs), play music and much more. For instance, I can say, "Alexa, turn on my living room lights," and the lights, which are connected to Lutron smart plugs linked to my Alexa account, will turn on.
MORE: Best Alexa Skills
As with the Echo Show, the Spot has a small camera that you can use to video chat with other Alexa users. The quality was pretty good; I could make out strands of hair, and the colors were accurate. However, perhaps fortunately, the camera's resolution is low enough so that your pimples will be hidden from those chatting with you.
The Spot's camera has a fairly narrow field of view, and because it's tilted upward at a slight angle means that it'll be best for chatting if the Spot is sitting on your desk, or on a kitchen counter.
The $129 Echo Spot will appeal to people who are looking for a smart Alexa-enabled clock for their nightstand or office. Its small, circular screen, while quirky, is useful for delivering information. But I suspect most people will use it just as a clock.
At $149, the iHome iAVS16 Alexa-enabled alarm clock delivers much better sound, a physical snooze button and buttons to control smart home devices. But it can't play videos, and it lacks some Alexa features, such as the ability to connect to other Alexa speakers to fill your whole home with sound.
The Spot is fairly inexpensive, but as of this writing, the Echo Show — which has a larger screen and better speakers — was just $149, down from its regular price of $229. At the lower price, the Show is a much better deal. But when the Show returns to its normal price, the Spot will be the better budget option.
Credit: Mike Prospero/Tom's Guide
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Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.