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

“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 I’ve never used an Amazon Alexa powered speaker in my home until now. That’s partly because I bought a Google Home first and have been on the Google Assistant train since then. Plus, when you’ve invested into the ecosystem, it’s tough to make the switch.

But here I am, 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. But don’t dismiss it just because that’s a subtle change.

Timekeeping at a glance

Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen Clock angle
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 ring on
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 on table
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 enhances 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.

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 decor 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 2019.

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 well built, the Echo Dot with Clock can stay in working capacity for a long time.

Should you buy it?

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

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