There’s a reason Amazon’s Echo Dot speaker is so popular. Compact and elegant, these smart speakers fit into any room in the home and offer an affordable way to add smart home functionality for as little as $50 to $60. It also doesn’t hurt that Amazon pioneered Alexa’s virtual assistant technology back in 2014.
Now in its 5th generation, the latest clocked Echo Dot is still compelling and affordable, but has been upgraded with features like better audio quality, a temperature sensor, and faster Alexa responses. Plus, it can now double as an eero mesh Wi-Fi extender for faster home internet.
I’ve been using the Echo Dot with Clock for two weeks now, listening to podcasts and music, snoozing the alarm clock, and glancing at the weather and song titles on the small LED display. While I already have an Echo Spot and an Echo Show at home integrated into my smart home functions, I don’t think I’ll need a Spot with a Clock – but it’s proving to be a welcome and useful addition.
If you’re a current 4th-gen Echo Dot owner, you probably don’t need to upgrade, though the new information on the LED screen is certainly a handy feature. Can’t decide? Here’s what you need to know about the latest Echo Dot with a clock.
The best budget smart speaker just got better
The latest Amazon Echo Dot improves on our favorite cheap smart speaker with better audio, Wi-Fi extension, and a better LED display for clock models.
At first glance, the Echo Dot with Clock looks a lot like the 4th-generation model, with fabric covering the top half of the spherical device, while the bottom is wrapped in matte plastic. There are four slightly raised controls on the top for volume, mute, and motion — all of which can be used to trigger Alexa — and it’s available in soft charcoal and glacier white.
But look closer and you’ll notice that the front LED display now has a brighter scrolling display so it can show the time, the weather, the music you’re listening to, and all sorts of useful information. It might not seem like much, but I found it very useful.
I’m used to listening when I ask Alexa what the weather is for the day, but now I find myself glancing at the display to see that it’s scrolling through the numbers too. For example, a light rain icon or a cloud give me an immediate idea of what the day is like. You can also check if an alarm is set by looking for a dot on the bottom, which is useful because I’m constantly worried that I forget to ask Alexa to wake me up. It adds $10 to the price with the clock display (the latest Echo Dot is $50 without the clock), but I think it’s a worthwhile upgrade.
New temperature and gesture sensors
Another interesting new feature is the Echo Dot’s two new sensors; one for temperature and an accelerometer for interacting with the speaker using gestures. In addition to voice control, you can tap the top of the Dot to play and pause music, snooze alarms or timers, and more. I’ve gotten so used to saying “Alexa, stop the timer” that I have to remind myself that I can tap it if it’s next to me. It works well and is responsive — which is great because sometimes I have to speak more than once to issue commands to the Echo Spot.
As for the temperature sensor, yes, it will tell you the temperature of the room it’s in. But it turns out that’s more useful than it sounds, especially if you have Alexa Routines set up at home. For example, the sensor could interact with other smart home devices to turn an overhead fan on or off when a room reaches a certain temperature.
The Echo Dot won’t give you the rich, crisp sound of more expensive audio gear, but it sounds pretty good for a small Bluetooth speaker. The updated 5th generation model uses larger drivers for clearer vocals and deeper bass.
I mostly use it for podcasts and audiobooks, aside from Alexa’s weather forecast and my calendar. I did spend a few days listening to streaming music, and while it can’t compete with my Sonos speakers, it’s fine for casual listening. I found it to deliver powerful, room-filling sound, and while it might not deliver massive bass, it doesn’t sound tinny either. You obviously won’t get the frequency range of a device with multiple drivers, but it’s one driver that should suffice.
Of course, if you’re looking for better sound, you can always pair the Dot with other Echo or Fire TV devices in your home using Bluetooth. If you don’t normally use a sound bar, you may find that it provides a better audio experience than your TV’s speakers. However, Amazon removed the 3.5mm audio jack on the 5th-gen Echo Dot, so you can no longer physically connect it to a larger speaker.
As an eero mesh Wi-Fi user, the idea of using an Echo Dot with a clock to extend my home’s Wi-Fi sounds tempting, but unfortunately I can’t get the speeds up in my 1,550 sqm single floor feet home.
Amazon’s eero mesh Wi-Fi system uses beacons to transmit and extend the Wi-Fi signal throughout the house. How many beacons you use depends on the size of your home. To test this, I updated my eero router to a newer (eero 6+) generation, replaced the main eero router in my office and the beacon or extender in the middle of my house. I’m hoping to use an Echo Dot with a clock to extend the coverage even further to the guest room on the other end.
Amazon says the eero Built-in can add up to 1,000 square feet of coverage to your existing eero mesh Wi-Fi network (it won’t work with any old routers) and supports speeds up to 100Mbps — but my results No tt support. While most of my house has speeds in excess of 200Mbps down and 12Mbps up, as my son often tells me when he visits, the guest room is a dead zone with average speeds of around 40Mbps down and 7Mbps up. That’s enough to power the Ring Video Doorbell at the front door, but not enough to avoid buffering while he’s playing video.
After linking my account in the Alexa app and downloading the update, I connected the Echo Dot and turned on the option to extend Wi-Fi. After running multiple tests on my phone as well as my son’s phone using the Speedtest app, I seem to actually lose speed rather than gain it.
When I emailed Amazon to discuss this, they mentioned that there could be several factors that can affect Wi-Fi performance and coverage in a home — including layout, wall thickness, and distance between eeros. They advised me to change the location of the device and suggested removing the extra beacons I was using. When I ran the next speed test, I still didn’t get the increased speed I was hoping for, but at least it stopped slowing down.
While it didn’t quite work in my setup, if you know you have a dead zone in your home and are an eero user, chances are the $60 Echo Dot with Clock will help. You won’t get the speed and range you get with the extra $99 eero beacon or $79 eero extender, but it’s a more affordable solution if you just want to extend the signal to a smart door lock or outdoor camera scenario, especially if you’re going to buy an Echo device anyway.
While Amazon is constantly updating its devices, it would be nice if the company also updated its outdated apps. The current Alexa app is difficult to navigate, not intuitive at all, and doesn’t help consumers get organized and accessible as they continue to add more smart home devices. The app’s home tab provides information on things I might like to do or try, like linking my calendar or managing Alexa profiles, but I’d much rather it show me the devices I already have and how to manage and control them they.
The $60 Echo Dot with a clock is similar to the Google Nest Mini. They’re both small, affordable smart voice assistants with decent sound quality. But there are some differences.
The Echo Dot works with Amazon’s Alexa, so it’s the better choice for fans of Alexa-enabled products or products with eero’s mesh Wi-Fi system. It also has a helpful temperature sensor and an LED clock that scrolls useful information.
The $50 Google Nest Mini is also a capable smart speaker that can use Google’s trained voice assistant. However, you don’t get add-ons such as a clock or an LCD screen. As you might expect, it integrates better with other Google or Nest smart home devices — so if you control your Nest thermostat or Nest security system with your voice, you might want to consider the Nest Mini.
Then there’s the $99 Apple HomePod Mini, which boasts better sound quality than the clocked Echo Dot but is nearly twice as expensive. While Apple users will appreciate its support for Apple HomeKit, it doesn’t support as many music streaming services as the Echo Dot. Plus, you lose that funky clock, LCD screen, and manual controls.
If you own a 4th-gen Echo Dot with a clock and don’t want to add a new device to your home, you don’t need to upgrade. But if you’re in the market for a new smart speaker, or are using an older Echo smart home device, the Echo Dot with Clock is an affordable way to add smart features and music to any room in your home. It’s a better version of our long-running pick for the best budget smart speaker, and makes a great holiday gift.
Existing eero users will be happy to know that the 4th generation Echo Dot and Echo Dot with clock will be upgraded in the coming months to enable expanded Wi-Fi support. While I find eero’s built-in features to be limited, it offers a great set of features that make it an affordable buy for anyone looking for a voice assistant with smart home integration. It helps even more if you’re already fully integrated into the Amazon ecosystem.