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Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (5th gen, 2022) review

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There’s a reason Amazon’s Echo Dot speakers are so popular. Compact and easy on the eyes, these smart speakers are conducive to any room in the house, and offer an affordable way to add smart home functionality for just $50 to $60. And it doesn’t hurt that Amazon was the first out of the gate with Alexa’s virtual assistant technology back in 2014.

Now in its 5th generation, the newest Echo Dot with Clock is still compelling and affordable, but comes upgraded with features like better audio quality, temperature sensors and faster Alexa responses. Plus, it can now double as an eero mesh Wi-Fi extender for speedier home Internet.

I’ve been using the Echo Dot with Clock for two weeks, listening to podcasts and music, snoozing the alarm and glancing at the small LED display for the weather and song titles. Though I already had an Echo Spot and an Echo Show in my house and integrated into my smart home functionality, I didn’t think I needed a Dot with Clock — but it’s proven to be a welcome and useful addition.

If you’re a current 4th gen Echo Dot owner, you may not need the upgrade, though the new info on the LED screen is indeed a handy feature. Can’t decide? Here’s what you need to know about the latest Echo Dot with Clock.

The best budget smart speaker gets better

The latest Amazon Echo Dot improves on our favorite budget smart speaker with better audio, Wi-Fi extension capabilities and a better LED display on the clock model.

Andrea Smith/CNN

At first glance, the Echo Dot with Clock looks a lot like the 4th gen model, with fabric covering the top half of the sphere-shaped device while the bottom is wrapped in matte plastic. There are four slightly raised controls on the top for volume, mute and action — all of which can be used to trigger Alexa — and it comes in muted Charcoal and Glacier White colors.

But look closely and you’ll notice that the LED display on the front now has a brighter, scrolling display so it can show things like the time, the weather, the music you’re listening to and all kinds of helpful information. It may not seem like much but I found it to be surprisingly useful.

I’m used to listening when I ask Alexa the weather for the day, but I now found myself glancing at the display to see it scroll by in numbers as well. For example, the little rain icon or cloud gave me an instant outlook on what to expect for the day. You can also check to see if an alarm is set by looking for a dot on the bottom, which is useful because I’m in constant fear that I’ve forgotten to ask Alexa to wake me up. Having the clock display adds $10 to the price (the latest Echo Dot is $50 without a clock) but I think it’s a worthwhile upgrade.

New sensors for temperature and gesture

echo dot with clock 5th gen review cnnu 4

Andrea Smith/CNN

Another interesting new feature is the Echo Dot’s two new sensors; one for temperature and an accelerometer for using gestures to interact with the speaker. In addition to voice control, you can tap the top of the Dot to do things like play and pause music, and snooze your alarm or a timer. I’m so used to saying “Alexa, stop the timer” that I had to remind myself I could just tap it if it was next to me. It worked well and was extremely responsive — which is great because sometimes I have to say things more than once  to issue a command to the Echo Spot.

As for the temperature sensor, yes, it tells you the temperature of whatever room it lives in. But it turned out this was more useful than it sounds, particularly if you have Alexa Routines set up in your home. For instance, this sensor can interact with other smart home devices to turn the overhead fan on or off when the room hits a certain temperature.

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Andrea Smith/CNN

The Echo Dot won’t give you the rich, crisp sound of a more expensive piece of audio equipment, but it sounds pretty darn good for a small Bluetooth speaker. The updated 5th gen model uses a larger driver for clearer vocals and deeper bass.

In addition to Alexa’s pronouncements on the weather and my daily calendar, I mostly use it to play podcasts and audiobooks. I did spend a few days streaming music and while it can’t compete with my Sonos speaker, it was fine for casual listening. I found it to offer robust, room-filling sound, and though it may not offer massive bass, it also doesn’t sound tinny. You obviously won’t get the frequency range of a device with multiple drivers, but its one driver is capable enough.

Of course, if you’re looking for better sound, you can always use Bluetooth to pair the Dot with other Echo or Fire TV devices in your home. If you don’t normally use a soundbar, you might find this delivers a better audio experience than your TV’s speakers. However, Amazon removed the 3.5mm audio jack from the 5th gen Echo Dot so you can no longer physically connect it to a larger speaker.

echo dot with clock 5th gen review cnnu 1

Andrea Smith/CNN

As an eero mesh Wi-Fi user, the idea of using the Echo Dot with Clock to extend the Wi-Fi in my house sounded so tantalizing but unfortunately, I was never able to increase the speed in my one-level 1,550 sq foot home.

Amazon’s eero mesh Wi-Fi system uses beacons to carry 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, replacing the main eero router in my office as well as the beacon, or extender, in the middle of my house. My hope was to use the Echo Dot with Clock to extend that coverage even further to the guest bedroom which is at the opposite end.

Amazon says 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 just any old router), and support speeds of up to 100Mbps — but my results didn’t support that. While most of my home gets over 200Mbps down and 12 up, the guest room, as my son constantly tells me when he visits, is a dead zone and averages about 40 Mbps down and 7 up. It’s enough to power the Ring Video Doorbell at the front door but not enough to avoid buffering when he’s streaming videos.

After linking my account in the Alexa app and downloading an update, I connected the Echo Dot and toggled on the option to extend Wi-Fi. After running multiple tests on my phone using the Speedtest app, as well as my son’s phone, it seemed I actually lost speed rather than gained it.

When I discussed this with Amazon via email, they mentioned that there may be a few factors that impact the Wi-Fi performance and coverage in the home — including the layout, thickness of the walls and distance between eeros. They recommended I change the location of the devices and suggested removing the extra beacon I was using. When I ran the next speed tests, I still didn’t get the increased speeds I was hoping for, but at least it was no longer slowing things down.

Though it didn’t completely work out in my setting, if you know you have a dead zone in your home, and are an eero user, there’s a good chance the $60 Echo Dot with Clock can help. You won’t get the speed and coverage an extra $99 eero beacon or a $79 eero extender  would provide, but if you’re just trying to stretch your signal to reach a smart door lock or outdoor video camera, it is a more affordable solution, especially if you were looking to buy an Echo device anyway.

echo dot with clock 5th gen review cnnu 2

Andrea Smith/CNN

While Amazon keeps refreshing its devices, it would be great if the company also refreshed its outdated app. The current Alexa app is difficult to navigate, not at all intuitive, and while consumers continue to add more smart home devices, the app has trouble helping to keep them properly organized and accessible. The app’s home tab offers information about stuff I might like to do or try, such as linking my calendar or managing Alexa profiles, but I’d prefer it to show me the devices I already have and how to manage and control them.

nest mini vs echo dot.jpg

Jacob Krol/CNN

The $60 Echo Dot with Clock is similar to the Google Nest Mini. They’re both small, affordable smart voice assistants with comparably good sound. But there are a few differences.

The Echo Dot works in tandem with Amazon’s Alexa, so it’s a better choice for fans of Alexa-enabled products or those with an eero mesh Wi-Fi system. It also has that useful temperature sensor and an LED clock that scrolls helpful information.

The $50 Google Nest Mini is also a capable smart speaker with access to Google’s highly trained voice assistant. But, you won’t get the add-ons, like clock or LCD screen. As you might expect, it integrates better with other Google or Nest smart Home devices — so if you control a Nest Thermostat or Nest security system with your voice, you may want to consider the Nest Mini.

Then there’s the $99 Apple HomePod Mini, which boasts better audio quality than the Echo Dot with Clock but also costs almost twice as much. Though Apple users will appreciate its Apple HomeKit support, it doesn’t support as many music streaming services as the Echo Dot. Plus you lose out on that groovy clock, LCD screen and manual controls.

If you own a 4th gen Echo Dot with Clock and aren’t looking to add a new device to the house, you don’t need to upgrade. But, if you’re in the market for a new smart speaker, or are using a much older Echo smart home device, the Echo Dot with Clock is an affordable way to add smart functionality and music to any room in the house. It’s an even better version of our longtime pick for best budget smart speaker, and it makes a great holiday gift.

Existing eero users will be happy to know the 4th gen Echo Dot and Echo Dot with Clock will get an upgrade to enable the extended Wi-Fi support in the coming months. Despite the limitations I found with the eero built-in functionality, it offers a range of excellent features that make it an affordable buy for anyone looking for a voice assistant with smart home integration. And it’s even more helpful if you’re already fully immersed in the Amazon ecosystem.

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