Tech Junkie Review: Amazon Echo Spot

Over the past few years we have fallen in love with our home voice assistants.  Amazon’s Alexa broke the ice and Google’s Home is working to gain market share.  We knew eventually these devices would get screens.  The Amazon Spot is here and it’s glorious!  I spent a few weeks testing out the sphere-shaped home assistant from Amazon.

Hardware

These home assistants often sit in our kitchens or living rooms so companies know they have to look good!  I think the Amazon Spot is one of the best-looking ones yet.  It comes in white or black.  It's shaped like a ball with an angled round screen on the front.  On the top you'll find the standard mute button along with volume buttons.  On the back you get a power port and an audio-out jack.  More importantly you'll notice the 4 little holes for microphones on the top.  You'll probably never think about these holes but they're super important.  Amazon calls it beamforming technology.  It uses 4 microphones to listen to your voice. This essentially means that when you're across the kitchen and you need to set a quick timer, the Amazon Spot can understand you.  As with previous Echo devices, the beamforming tech is impressive.

Setup

It's an Amazon Echo so setup is as easy as you would expect.  The smartphone app walks you through the process.  Because this Echo has a touchscreen you can also set things up on the screen itself.  No matter how you go about it, it's pretty self-explanatory.  Once connected to your Amazon account, you're ready to go!

Using the Spot

The thing I really like about the Spot is that, first and foremost, it's a voice assistant.  It answers questions in mostly the same way and with the same responses that you would get from a screenless Echo.  The difference is, the Spot gives you additional content on the screen to go with that response.  Ask for the weather forecast and Alexa will tell you the forecast while also showing you the forecast on the screen.

I love having the Spot in standby mode too.  It shows a clock but can also go through your upcoming calendar events from time to time.  It's the feature I didn't realize I needed!  I found myself noticing appointments on the Spot, reminding me of things I needed to do throughout the day.  It could be great for families that keep shared calendars online.

Something you may not realize at first is that the Echo Spot also has a camera on the front just above the screen.  This means that you can use the Spot to make video calls!  Again, it's a feature I didn't realize I would LOVE.  It proved to be a super simple way to make quick video calls to a smartphone or another Spot device.  How cool would this be for the kids to video call Grandma and Grandpa from time to time?  Or how about that kid that is away at college?

Things I'd Change

The Spot isn't perfect.  It will play videos when you ask it, but it won't search Youtube for those videos.  You're stuck with videos from Bing search results and Vimeo.  I realize this is likely due to Google and Amazon not always being on the best of terms but it's frustrating from a consumer standpoint.  Youtube IS internet video.  The lack of Youtube search results makes it tough to find that feature useful.

Also, the sound on the Spot is good but not amazing.  Obviously size is a factor here.  The sound on the much larger original Echo is fantastic.  The Spot sounds better than the Dot but not as good as the Echo.

Conclusion

Hands down, this is the best Amazon Echo yet.  Personally, I'm a big fan of voice assistants and Amazon hit it out of the park with the Spot.  It's the perfect blend of voice response while also using the screen when it makes sense to compliment that reponse.  The added ability to use the Spot for video calls gives it an amazing dual purpose.  It's not the most inexpensive Echo but it's well worth the premium price.

You can buy the Echo Spot at local stores or online at Amazon.com for $130.  The current deal gives you $40 off if you buy 2 - a deal if you're looking to take advantage of the Spot to Spot video calls.

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