Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (3rd gen) review: The Echo Dot with Clock is just what it sounds like. And we can dig it – CNET

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (3rd gen) review: The Echo Dot with Clock is just what it sounds like. And we can dig it – CNET

Another year, another Echo (or 10). Amazon’s smart speaker empire, with its displays of various sizes and speakers of ever-increasing quality, is built on an unassuming foundation: the super affordable Echo Dot. Yes, that $50 talky-puck you can catch on sale for half-off every other month. Sure, Amazon is cultivating a strong catalogue of Echo devices available on Prime, but the Echo’s ubiquity is thanks to the fact that your mom might just buy a bundle of Dots for Christmas this year.

But just as swapping a flip phone for the original iPhone felt more dramatic than upgrading from an iPhone 5S to a 6, upgrading Echo Dots is getting less and less rewarding. That’s not a criticism — it’s the reality of incremental product improvement. Last year brought us the third-gen Echo Dot, a speaker with impressive sound, tasteful design and the tried-and-true $50 price tag. A year has passed, and here we are with a brand new Dot, though it’s not meant to replace last year’s. The big upgrade: an LED clock.

Oh, and a $10 price hike.

As with phones, there’s one big question: Is this the generation to buy, or the one to skip?

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

It’s 20% more expensive, but is it 20% better?

Before we talk price, I want to be clear: No one should buy an Echo Dot at full price. Not because $50 is a bad deal (it’s not), but because you don’t have to. Amazon sells Dots at a hefty discount so often, there’s no reason not to wait that extra three weeks to get to Black Friday (or Prime Day or Christmas) to pick up a Dot for $25.

Discounts aside, I don’t love the $10 price hike for the new Echo Dot. The price tag is part of what makes an Echo Dot an Echo Dot, and I don’t like Amazon nudging that price tag upward because of a quality-of-life improvement. Adding an LED clock is the sort of upgrade that should be attributed to incrementalism, much in the way that last year’s beefed-up speakers were. To upcharge a device that’s routinely given away for promotions or sold at significant price cuts feels like it’s chipping away at the wallet-friendliness that made the Dot so special in the first place.

Plus, the clock is the only real improvement to this year’s Echo Dot.

Echo Dot 4 point… oh

No, this isn’t a Dot 4.0. The speakers on the new Echo Dot are identical to last year’s. In fact, other than the clock, all the specs are the same — including the audio cable input, the four far-field mics and the fabric-faced design. Last year’s device was a big improvement from the previous generation and Amazon seems to be thinking, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. This approach leaves the new Echo Dot feeling a little safe, particularly as Google launches its new, upgraded Nest Mini (which is still just $50, includes LED lights and a wall mount but no clock).

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