Sunday 23 September 2018

Tech review: Amazon looking good with Echo Spot but audio quality is limited

Amazon Echo Spot (€145)

Amazon Echo Spot (€145)
Amazon Echo Spot (€145)
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Smart speakers are probably the fastest-growing new gadget in our homes. While Google recently launched its Home speaker, Amazon has had an early lead with its range of Echo devices (see our previous reviews of the Echo Plus and Echo Dot on Independent.ie).

Now, the tech giant brings the Echo Spot to Ireland. The device uses the same Alexa smart voice assistant as the bigger Echo machines, but now has a colour touchscreen for a few other features.

This can be used for video calls between Echo Spot devices, as well as news headlines and even watching (very small) video pieces. It's also handy for the weather or displaying your calendar.

Physically, the Echo Spot is nicely designed. Being round, it looks a little bit like a Nest. Its screen is only 2.5-inches across, so you won't be watching a movie on it.

For those new to the idea of Alexa, the system allows you to ask it questions, phone calls, send messages, play music or get news or weather.

It also allows you to set alarms. It works with smart home gadgets such as lighting and heating systems, allowing users to speak commands to control household functions.

In our house, we use it to listen to the radio and podcasts a lot. Because it responds to voice commands, you just say 'Alexa, play Radio One' and it will go straight to RTE.

The advantage to the Echo Spot is that it's one of best looking smart speakers on the market.

The only thing close to being a drawback is that its audio prowess is distinctly limited. It's absolutely fine for a bedroom, or home office desk. But it struggles to hold a kitchen, unless it's a very small one. While the audio levels are decent for its size, it sounds a little tinny if you're more than a few feet away.

This isn't a criticism of the unit itself as it doesn't set out to be a hifi speaker. But I suspect many people will think of this as a replacement for the kitchen radio.

It can do this, but just know that you won't get the kind of sound quality you'll get from a bigger speaker.

If good audio is important to you, I'd recommend getting the Amazon Echo Plus (€170), which has much better sound as it's over twice the size.

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