John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Amazon dot review

A friend of mine bought an Amazon dot … the first question I asked was why? Then he said do you want to play with it first? Um, sure I thought. So let’s start with what is it. Well first of all it’s a voice activated digital assistant. Think SIRI. You can ask it things like what’s today’s weather. From this point of view given I have an iPhone I don’t see a value. But frankly at $69 it’s cheap enough there doesn’t need to be a lot of value to have one. Setup is pretty easy but be aware it’s impossible from what I can see to set one of these up without an Apple phone/tablet or Android phone/tablet. And even using it without these is not going to be all that rich an experience. Now for someone tech savvy enough to want one of these that’s not a huge barrier, but they could have provided a web interface to interact with it, but they didn’t. And seeing what the dot is playing is seen entirely on your phone/tablet since there is no screen on the dot.

Taking a step back lets look at the physicals. What you have is a round device a little thicker and larger than a hockey puck. Jack wise there is a micro USB plug which goes into a 5.2V 1.8A 9W adapter. In general I saw it drawing around .5A so around 2.5W. So not a whole lot of power. It also has a 3.5mm audio plug you can plug into a stereo. On the top of the device is a mute, volume up/down, and and activation button that calls up Alexa if you don’t want to use voice commands. There lights that go around the outside of the device that have a bunch of meanings. These can be disabled using the devices do not disturb mode. And if this is in the bedroom I HIGHLY recommend you look at this before it inevitably wakes you.

So give me some examples of what you can ask it? Well the list is long but as mentioned above, the weather. If you link your calendar you can ask it your calendar. You can get Alexa to add items to a shopping list that you can see on the phone and share with family members. You can add timers, alarms etc. There is no way that I can see to get emails or text messages from your phone. You can use Alexa to make voice calls to other Alexa enabled devices. You can also make phone calls using your contacts from your phone.

You can ask it other things and it will go out and try and find answers for you. I do find SIRI more conversational than Alexa (which is what the assistant is called). The mic in the dot is really quite good and picks up your voice from quite a distance. Miles better than the mic on iphone which was never meant to be used from across the room. By the way, Apple has a similar device that rocks a whopping $349 price tag. Pass, even if it is an amazing speaker, I’ll still be using my home stereo.

The dot can connect via bluetooth to a home stereo. This opens a few new possibilities for the device. You can use it to play music from Amazon music, find radio stations on tunein and the like. I couldn’t get the radio player Canada skill to work for whatever reason. Paired with the home stereo the sound worked very well. Tunein sadly did not identify the song playing, a HUGE miss for me. I long for a music player with something other than basics, like lyrics, who is the band, what is the song, what’s there discography etc. Not here. Now if your stereo is smart enough to have bluetooth, it probably already has an internet radio player built in. So this is largely a wash. But it does sound fine. Amazon music player does identify the song playing. The dot switched seamlessly back to the internal speaker when the bluetooth disconnected. Well done.

There’s supposed to be a way to pair the dot and my amazon fire TV but I couldn’t get this working. Nor do I see it all that useful.

My Radio WIFI thermostat was not supported so that functionality was out.

The dot can add new “skills” that can add additional functionality you can call on. I like that the device is extensible.

So in the end, it is a neat device, but I’m not sure there is enough room in my digital world for it. And what I don’t need is another gadget that I don’t use. So I won’t be grabbing one … for now. Now if something in a similar price range that used siri and fit into the Apple eco system existed, that I would buy.

March 3, 2018 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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