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Reviewing Amazon Echo Spot: video-enabled digital assistant

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Erin L

Erin L

Amazon is absolutely ruling the smart home speaker-digital assistant market with another addition to its powerful Echo lineup. The Amazon Echo Spot turns the speaker thing on its ear, however by adding a small colour screen, and turning the device into a small round ball instead of a cylinder. I recently received a new-to-Canada Echo Spot to test and review in my home.

amazon echo spot review how to smart home assistant voice controlReview: Amazon Echo Spot

Amazon’s Echo spot is the newest device in the Echo line (read my review of the Echo and Dot here). These connected speakers house Amazon’s smart digital assistant, Alexa, who you can ask to perform myriad tasks, translations, smart home manoeuvres and calculations.

Echo Spot is a brand new look: it’s about the size of a grapefruit and has a flat front with a 2.5″ colour screen. The Spot is designed to blend into your home and be subtle, hence the small size and low profile. You can ask Alexa to play music of course, though the speaker is not quite as big or powerful as the Echo or the Echo Plus. Fortunately you can connect a different speaker if you wish, using the AUX jack.

The Echo Spot will handle the full array of other digital assistant tasks (read more below if you’re not familiar) but it’s where this speaker differs from the rest of the Echo lineup that sets it apart.

What sets Amazon Echo Spot apart?

There’s a camera built into Echo Spot and there’s that digital screen. The screen means you can use it as a clock, for starters, or to see info, like weather info and news headlines at a glance. Here’s what else it can do:

    • You can use it for video phone calls
    • See song titles or album covers while music is playing
    • View weather forecast
    • View the feed from security cameras and baby monitors
    • Use it as a home hub or alarm clock
    • video room-to-room intercom system

Setting up Amazon Echo Spot

amazon echo spot review how to smart home assistant voice controlYou’ll go through a few steps in the set up process, and making things a bit easier here is the fact you can use the touch screen to input your responses. You’ll choose your language then select a Wi-Fi network then connect to your Amazon account. You’ll select your time zone and then name your device. This process goes quickly, particularly if you already have another Echo device. Though you don’t need it for the set-up, you should download the Alexa app too, so you can take advantage of the other features of the device.

Using the Echo Spot

The Amazon Echo Spot is quite handy, and I found myself glancing at it to catch the time, or to see the temperature, and headlines. You can configure the headlines and tailor the sources they come from, including Canadian outlets like CBC and CTV.

Personalize your Echo Spot

What would in-home technology be if you couldn’t personalize it? You can choose from a variety of clock faces or backgrounds for the Spot, or you can use a photo of your own.

Once you get started you can customize what you see on the screen and how things will look.

How to Customize Amazon Echo Spot

Go to the help and feedback section of the Alexa app then then select the Echo Spot, then “Personalize your device”. You can also say, “Alexa, go to settings”.amazon echo spot review how to smart home assistant voice control

You can select the different ‘cards’ that will display on the home screen. Cards are info screens that can rotate among the few different things like time, weather, calendar appointments and more. You can also choose to view curated stories, or a list of who’s available to drop in on if you have multiple Echo devices and want to use them as an intercom. Upcoming events, notifications, and instant messages are also available to view.

You can also adjust things like adaptive brightness where the brightness level of the screen will adjust automatically depending on how dark or light it is in the room. You can change the sound volume and even restrict access.

You can customize the home screen and set photos as your background. To do this you’ll need to go into the Alexa app.

To change the clock face go to home and settings then select Clock then Themes.

How to change Fahrenheit to Celsius – Amazon Echo

To change the weather from Fahrenheit to Celsius go into the Alexa app, to Settings then select your device from the list. Once you’ve selected your device scroll down and you should see “temperature unit” and “distance unit“. In here you can also change the name of your device to be something simpler or give it a nickname.

If using a screen, why not a phone?

One of the things I struggled with was, if we’re moving to voice assistance, why make a smart digital assistant with a screen? Particularly one so small? The answer seems to be hands-free video calling and access to camera feeds.

Get camera feeds: Arlo & Echo Spot

amazon echo spot review how to smart home assistant voice controlOne of the interesting features of the Spot is the ability to instantly view a camera feed, either from something like a baby monitor or a security camera. This would be an excellent way to keep an eye on the dog or the kids in the backyard, or while they’re playing in the basement.

I have the Arlo Pro camera kit at home (read the review), so I enabled use of it with Spot by enabling the Arlo “skill” in the Alexa app. To do this, you’ll go to the “Skills” section of the Alexa app, and search for the name of your camera. When it comes up, select “Enable”, then you’ll need to sign into your account.

To access the feed, just say things like, Alexa Show (NAME OF CAMERA). I also connected my Ring Video Doorbell.

Control smart home devices with Echo Spot

Echo Spot works with smart home devices such as cameras, lights, TVs, fans, thermostats, and more. Learn more about compatible smart home connected devices from brands such as Ring, Arlo, WeMo, Philips Hue, SmartThings, ecobee, Logitech, and others.

You can also use it to make video calls between other camera-enabled Echo devices, or the Alexa app.

Echo Spot – Responsivenessamazon echo spot review how to smart home assistant voice control

The Amazon Echo devices, including the Spot, are super responsive. They can hear my requests from all over the main floor of my house, which is about 1100 square feet. The Echo answers quickly and, one of its best features I think, it gives you the answer or response you’re actually looking for, unlike some other digital assistants.

Overall review Amazon Echo Spot

I’ve said before how much I enjoy having the Amazon Echo devices in my home. I find Alexa to be a super responsive assistant, and the device has a lot of skills I want, including the ability to control all my smart home gadgets. I didn’t think adding the screen to this one was necessary, but it did grow on me pretty quickly. Though it’s small, it’s colourful and I liked the personalization options.

I really thought it was cool to be able to see my video feeds just by asking too.

The new Amazon Echo Spot sells for about $169 CAD and is available from Amazon.

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Erin L

Erin L

I'm a journalist, tech blogger, writer, TV producer, silversmith& jewelry designer, foodie and world traveler. I blog, write for publications, and supply freelance writing services to Calgary, and the world.

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