The Amazon Echo Dot has been out a year in the UK now, is still the cheapest way to get a digital voice assistant into your Home.
The full-blown Amazon Echo is £99.99 more expensive, Google Home is £79.99 pricier and the Apple HomePod will be even more expensive (around £300) when it's finally released in the UK in December 2017.
And the great thing about it is that, in terms of its voice assistant features, the Echo Dot is essentially the same product as the full-blown Amazon Echo, itself a consummate example of the genre. The only thing missing is the 360-degree speaker. As a result, the price is lower, costing a mere £49.99 for a single unit. That's a fantastic bargain.
Everything else works just the same: the voice commands, the shopping capabilities, even the jokes. It still has seven dedicated microphones to pick up your voice from wherever you are in the room and it still employs Amazon's far-field voice-recognition technology to help it home in on your commands through the general noise and clutter of everyday living. All you need to do is say the wake word, which is “Alexa” by default, followed by your command, and you're off.
Read more: Amazon Echo: See what it can do
The main difference, as mentioned above, is its lack of built-in Bluetooth speaker, but that doesn't mean you can't use the Echo Dot to listen to music. If you own a Bluetooth speaker, you can simply pair it with the Dot using the Alexa app – just as you would your smartphone or you can connect it to your speakers physically using a standard 3.5mm audio cable. It's a shame the Dot doesn't come with one of these in the box but they're not expensive to buy separately and given how cheap the Dot is in the first place.
That's not to say you can't use the Dot on its own. It does have a speaker built in, but it isn't very powerful or musical. It's fine for talk radio or the occasional podcast and you'll be able to hear Alexa's general responses clearly enough, but audio-wise the quality is worse than most laptop speakers.
Amazon Echo Dot (2nd Generation), Black
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Amazon Echo Dot review: Verdict
That's the only downside to buying the Dot, though, and the rest of it works just fine. It's a great way to add Alexa to other rooms in your home, allowing you to manage your calendar, shopping list, order stuff and listen to audiobooks wherever you are, and the ability to use it as a smart-home controller only makes it more appealing.
Although Google Home has now finally arrived in the UK and Apple will be here soon, Amazon's Alexa remains the most fully formed system available today, and nothing comes close to the Dot in terms of pure value for money.