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They say that good things come in small packages and the Amazon Echo Dot proves that old adage true.  It is a small device, approximately 3 ¼” around and 1 ½” tall. Dot looks like an over-sized hockey puck. It comes in black or white and you can purchase skins to change its looks. Quite simply, the Dot is a small digital device that packs a lot into its small footprint.

Amazon Echo Dot

If you are aware of the Amazon Echo, which answers to the name Alexa, will find that the Echo Dot is like a small Alexa clone. She even answers to the same name. Although Dot is about 8” shorter than the original Echo, she can perform all of the same functions. The Amazon Echo is not required to use the Echo Dot. The Dot is a stand-alone device.

Since the larger Echo sells for $179 and the Dot sells for $49, your first question might be “What’s missing?” The answer is easy. The larger Echo has a set of surround sound speakers that fill her cylindrical 9” tower. The Dot has a microphone and a speaker, but Dot’s speaker is not made for playing music. It sounds fine when the Dot is talking to you, but you will find the sound lacking for playing music.

Since playing music is one of the main functions of the Echo devices, Amazon has given Dot two different ways to add better speakers. First Dot has Bluetooth capabilities so she can hook up to any wireless Bluetooth speakers. Second, she has a standard 3.5mm audio out jack. That means that with the purchase of a simple audio cable, you can hook up just about any speaker or radio that has an aux-in port. This is actually a great feature. It seems that just about everyone has an old boom box or radio sitting in a closet. With an inexpensive cable, you can bring that old device back to usefulness. I hooked my Dot up to an old Bose radio and now Dot has a voice that is comparable, if not better than my bigger Echo.

Amazon Echo Dot Back

After trying Dot with several devices I can say that she worked beautiful with one caveat. If using the wired connection, the device you use has to keep the Aux setting active. One radio that I tried always turned the Aux port off after a certain period of inactivity. A simple call to the manufacturer led me to the methodology that I needed to use to make it workable. However, depending on your device, changing that setting may not always be possible.

Amazon Echo Dot Top

Once Dot was hooked up and added to my wireless home network through the Alexa app on my phone, she was ready to go.  Dot can perform all of the tasks that the large Echo is known for. She can play music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. The Dot can answer questions, give you news and weather reports, set alarms, put appointments on your Google calendar, and read off your appointments for the day.

She can also control lights, fans, switches, thermostats, sprinklers, garage doors and much more. Amazon has amassed a wide array of home devices that you can control with either Alexa device.

I love having the Echo in the main room in my home and also have a Dot in the bedroom. This allows me to listen to music in both places, but best of all I can have the Echo read books to me. At night when my eyes are too tired to read I can have the large Echo start reading my book to me and then move to the bedroom and have Dot start reading right where the bigger Echo left off.

Amazon is offering the Echo Dot in sets multiples. For example, currently you can purchase a two-pack, a six-pack or a 12-pack at reduced prices. The idea here is for you to place an Echo or Echo Dot in every room of your home. You can have as many Dots as you like in your home. For those opting to have multiple Echo Dots around their home, Amazon has introduced a feature that allows only one Echo Dot, the closest one, to respond to your request.

If you have more than one Echo device, you can play music on either or both devices at the same time. You cannot, however sync the music to have them all play the same thing at the same time. This is one place where the Google Home device surpasses the Echo. If you have more than one Google Home device, you can have them play the same music resulting in a whole-house music solution. Google Home also lets you use an inexpensive Google Chromecast Audio device to extend the audio to devices throughout the home.

Amazon recently announced that Alexa is now available on all newer Fire tablets. I love the fact that Amazon gives you added capabilities without having to purchase a new device. So now  you can use a Fire tablet to talk to Alexa, get answers, and control your home devices. There is also an optional voice remote control that you can purchase for $29.99. But you would be better off the just purchase another Dot or a Fire tablet which you can buy for only a few dollars more.

One of the best things about the Echo and Echo Dot is that they just keep getting better and better. Amazon is constantly improving their voice recognition as well as giving them new skills. Recent additions include increased the ability to have Alexa order you an Uber or a Domino’s pizza.

The Dot is a great product. If Amazon could get it to sync for whole-house music, it would be close to perfect.

Sandy Berger, respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author, has more than three decades of experience as a computer and technology expert. Her eight books include: How to Have a Meaningful Relationship with Your Computer, Your Official Grown-up's Guide to AOL and the Internet, Cyber Savers –Tips & Tricks for Today’s Drowning Computer Users, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Better Living through Technology, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to the Internet, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness, and Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Travel. Sandy’s newspaper column, magazine articles, feature stories, product reviews, and computer tips can be found at her website, Compu-KISS.