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Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) with Clock review: The time is now

Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen Clock front
Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) with Clock review: The time is now
MSRP $60.00
“If you're planning to build up your smart home, the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock is a smart choice that’ll get you up to speed.”
  • LED clock is useful and versatile
  • Physical buttons are easy to use
  • Tons of Alexa Skills to add
  • Diverse compatibility with smart homes
  • Distortion at higher volumes
  • Can't cast from apps directly

While I’m frequently surrounded by cool tech, I confess it took me this long to experience an Amazon Alexa-powered speaker on a full-time basis in my home. That’s partly because I bought a Google Home when it first came out and have been on the Google Assistant train since then. Plus, when you’ve heavily invested into the ecosystem, it’s tough to switch into a totally different ecosystem.

But here I am, taking the plunge and making the switch to Amazon’s Alexa with the company’s latest affordable smart speaker in the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock. I know what you’re thinking. It’s just the Amazon Echo Dot slapped with an LED clock, right? But don’t dismiss it just because that’s a subtle change. Even now, months after its initial release, the Alexa driven smart speaker continues to be a delight when it comes to controlling the smart home — as well as quickly being able to tell time.

If you’re looking for something more comprehensive than just a voice assistant, then consider the Amazon Echo Show 8 for video chat, or perhaps another ideal bedside companion with the Echo Spot. There’s also its successor in the Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) and its many variants. While Alexa is capable of many things, there are always new tricks for Echo owners to learn and use.

Timekeeping at a glance

Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen Clock ring light
John Velasco / Digital Trends

With the advent of smartphones, the bedroom alarm clock has nearly gone extinct. So, why in the world would we need another stationary thing to tell us the time? Well, since even the Xfinity cable box in my bedroom eliminated the clock from its design, there’s actually no other way to tell time unless I glance at my phone.

And that’s why I can appreciate the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock, because when you’re half asleep, you don’t want to be fumbling around to tell the time. Instead, I can quickly glance at the puck-sized speaker on my nightstand. Since the LED clock’s brightness adapts to ambient lighting conditions, it’s never too bright or too dim.

When you’re half asleep, you don’t want to be fumbling around to tell the time.

It would’ve been great to see different color options for the LED clock, but the design of this Echo Dot is refreshingly simple and intuitive. There’s no fuss about it. You don’t even have to touch your phone.

Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen Clock top
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Current owners of the 3rd-generation Amazon Echo Dot won’t find anything drastically different with the design of this latest model. Besides the addition of that LED clock, the rest of the speaker is the same. It has a fabric exterior finish, physical buttons on top, and the signature light ring. Available in just sandstone at the moment, it complements any decor style without completely overpowering whatever else you might have lying around.

While the Google Nest Mini has a more cohesive look, mainly due to how it leverages LEDs and buttons that are embedded into its fabric cover, the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock benefits by offering a more tactile experience. That makes it much easier to use while groggy.

Don’t expect to rock out

Due to its diminutive size, the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock won’t be your prime choice for cranking out tunes when friends are over. That’s a definite no. For smaller, isolated spaces, its audio performance is sufficient, but at higher volumes, distortion becomes noticeable and it exposes how this speaker struggles to maintain clarity.

Once I started to add more skills and my various accounts, it became obvious that Alexa is every bit as capable as Google Assistant.

The 3.5mm auxiliary jack means that you can connect a speaker to boost its music performance if you want, though that might be an awkward solution.

The Amazon Echo Dot with Clock is best suited for interactions with Alexa. The four microphones react well to my voice commands, while Alexa’s responses in her default voice are far more natural in tone in comparison to Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant. All of my requests were accurately discerned by the speaker.

Diverse smart home integration

At first, Alexa didn’t seem to be as intelligent as Google Assistant. However, once I started to add more skills and my various accounts, it became obvious that she’s every bit as capable. It can control my Philips Hue lights, place phone calls, or order a pizza.

The Echo’s LED clock adds the convenience of showing the countdown when a timer is set. It can also show the temperature when you ask Alexa for it. These are minor features, but it further eliminates the need to fumble around with my phone. Besides that, the same features that existed with the last one continue to be available here.

Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen Clock angle
John Velasco / Digital Trends

While you can’t deny Alexa’s ability to control various smart home gadgets, there are still some minor nuisances I have using Alexa. For example, I can’t adjust the volume of the speaker using the volume controls on my smartphone unless I run the Alexa app and select the volume adjustment option.

Another minor complaint I have settling with Alexa is that I can’t cast something I’m listening to on my phone to the speaker using an app. Pandora lets me do this if I’m using a Google Home device, but Echo devices don’t support it. Instead, everything is managed through the Alexa app.

You could argue these functions can all be accomplished by just speaking to Alexa, but sometimes I still like having some control using my smartphone.

That complaint aside, I must admit there’s a huge library of Alexa skills that enhance the functionality of this virtual assistant using the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock. It’s impressive, even if it’s not quite perfect.

Warranty information

The Amazon Echo Dot with Clock comes with a 90-day limited warranty and service.

Try these new features

Alexa just keeps getting smarter, thanks to frequent updates that expand her toolkit. While there are some fundamental features you should definitely know about, there are new tricks that become available each month. You can try out the following with the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock.

Wellness Tips

Working from home has its challenges, especially when it relates to health and wellness. Alexa can help by providing some useful wellness tips. To hear them, just say, “Alexa, what is my wellness tip of the day?”

Group conversation for all of your devices

Getting someone’s attention in another room can be challenging, especially if you have kids who routinely crank the music in their rooms. You can now conduct group conversations using Alexa’s Drop In feature, where you’ll be able to connect to other Echo devices. Essentially, it’s very similar to an intercom system.

Get your reminders on all devices

You can always stay up-to-date with your reminders thanks to a new feature that will play them across all of your Alexa devices. In order to enable this, you need to select the Announce on all devices under Settings > Reminders within the Alexa app.

Daily Music Pick

Tired of the same playlist or carousel of songs playing on your Alexa device? Then check out the daily music pick feature that will provide daily music recommendations from Amazon Music. All you need to say is “Alexa, play the Daily Music Pick” and a new artist will automatically choose a song, album, or playlist.

Our take

Adding an LED clock to an existing speaker may seem like a lazy update on Amazon’s part, but the Echo Dot (3rd Gen) with Clock is still a standout among entry-level smart speakers in the home with its $60 cost, exceptional smart home integration, powerful assistant in Alexa, and a design that fits any décor style.

Is there a better alternative?

If you’re just heavily invested in Google’s ecosystem, then the obvious alternative is the new Google Nest Mini. However, if you appreciate Alexa and just want better sound, then consider either the new Amazon Echo (3rd Gen) or Echo Studio.

Want more options? Check out our favorite smart speakers of 2020.

How long will it last?

Amazon has continually enhanced Alexa’s portfolio of functions with various skills, so you can expect this speaker to continue gaining new features. Since it is stationary and solidly built, the Echo Dot with Clock can stay in working condition for a long time.

Should you buy it?

Yes, especially if you’re looking to start building up your smart home.

Editors' Recommendations

John Velasco
John is the Smart Home editor at Digital Trends covering all of the latest tech in this emerging market. From uncovering some…
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