Amazon recently launched the Echo Spot in India, making it the first major smart speaker with a display in the country. While the company is surely hoping to drive up sales of its Alexa-powered smart speakers by offering customers a varied selection of speakers, the Echo Spot, at its ₹12,999 price tag is a rather expensive smart speaker. So, if you’re wondering whether it’s worth the money or not, this is our full review of the Echo Spot.
Echo Spot: Specifications
Before we get on with the review, let’s get the specifications out of the way. For some reason, Amazon doesn’t list a whole lot of specs about the Echo Spot, but thanks to a teardown of the Echo Spot by the awesome guys over at iFixit, I got some extra specs to tell you about.
|Size (in mm)||104x96x91|
|Processor||MediaTek Quad-core A53 @1.5GHz|
|Connectivity||WiFi b/g/n; Bluetooth|
With that out of the way, let’s dive into the circular, 2.5-inch touchscreen world of the Echo Spot.
What’s In The Echo Spot Box
The Echo Spot comes in a nice black cardboard box with a blue slide-over cover. Opening it, the box contains the usual suspects:
- The Echo Spot
- Power cable (attached to the adapter)
- Manuals, and leaflets
That’s pretty much everything you get inside the box, no useless extras here. Just plug in the Echo Spot and you’re ready to go.
Set-up: Easier than Ever, Thanks to the Touchscreen
Setting up the Echo Spot was a breeze, and that is not something I say about smart-speakers. I’ve had to set-up the Echo Plus, the Echo Dot, the Google Home, and the Google Home Mini countless times in the past, and the process is anything but easy. However, on the Echo Spot, well, the set-up is a breeze; all thanks to the touchscreen.
I can select the WiFi network directly from the Echo Spot, I can sign into my Amazon account directly from the Echo Spot, and it automatically gets added to the Alexa app on my phone (since they’re both signed in to my Amazon account). Basically, as long as you remember your own Amazon password, setting up the Echo Spot takes less than 2 minutes, which is a lot better than other smart speakers.
as long as you remember your own Amazon password, setting up the Echo Spot takes less than 2 minutes
Display: 2.5-inches of Circular Coolness
The display on the Echo Spot is a 2.5-inch touchscreen LCD panel that gets quite bright, and can become very very dim. I don’t really have any complaints from the display whatsoever, in fact I even like it, and while I was skeptical as to its usefulness (and for the most part I was right), the display does let the Echo Spot do some really cool stuff.
Here are the things the Echo Spot’s display allows it to do (along with explanations about how they’re not useful even though they are, undoubtedly, cool).
See The Time, All The Time
One of my personal favorite things about the Echo Spot is the fact that it makes great use of its display when sitting idle. It always shows the time, even when it switches from the main home screen to an information card, which is just incredibly useful.
After all, I don’t want to have to ask my smart speaker the time anytime I want to know it. With the Echo Spot, I can just look over and see the time, and that’s incredibly useful to me. It also fits into the way Amazon hopes the Echo Spot will be used — on your study table, or on your nightstand — which brings me to the issue I have.
The Echo Spot has a camera, and even though Amazon says you can press the button on top to disable the mic and the camera (plus there’s a software toggle as well), how much can you really trust companies these days? I may be coming off as paranoid here, but having a camera in my bedroom is definitely not something I’m comfortable with.
Another thing where the display makes the Echo Spot remarkably better than the Echo Dot, the Echo, or the Echo Plus, is online shopping. Voice shopping on the Echo smart speakers has always worked well enough, but for the most part, buying something based solely on auditory inputs from a smart speaker isn’t very smart, to be honest.
The Echo Spot fixes that by adding a visual element to the shopping experience. It displays the products it’s talking about, along with their price on Amazon, the number of reviews and ratings they have, and other important information to make the experience better than before.
Honestly, this is a good step forward from Amazon, but I don’t think I’ll really buy things this way. Sure, the first few days I have the Spot, I’ll definitely order stuff just for the heck of it, but honestly, Amazon means for the Spot to be something we use to quickly order household-y stuff like shampoos, soaps, and other everyday-type-of things.
However, for the most part, we Indians don’t usually buy that stuff online. Plus when we do buy stuff online (like a smartphone), we take our own sweet time with it. We check multiple websites, we check for deals, cashbacks, upcoming festivals where the prices may drop — all things that the Echo Spot can’t do.
Amazon’s speakers have long had the ability to make voice calls to people, but with the Echo Spot, and its camera, Amazon is bringing Alexa video calls to India. That really sounds cool, and honestly, it even looks cool the first few times it’s done. However, taking a video call on a 2.5-inch screen is just not worth it. More so when the screen in question is fixed on a desk.
Plus, the person you’re trying to call from your Echo Spot either needs to have an Echo Spot themselves (otherwise where will they see you, and how will you see them), or a smartphone with the Alexa app installed, and Alexa calling enabled. That’s a lot of hassle for no good reason. I’d rather stick with WhatsApp video calls I think… everyone already has WhatsApp.
The Name Is Skills… Visual Skills
One of the great things about Alexa is the massive ecosystem of Skills available for it. The Echo Spot can run all of those Skills, obviously, but it has a display, and I expect Skills to make use of that display. Naturally, I expected to see some really cool Skills for the Echo Spot including things like ‘Food Network’, and ‘Allrecipes’ to help out in the kitchen, along with Skills like ‘Jeopardy!’ for a fun game to play when I need a break.
However, none of the good visual skills are available in India, and the ones that are (like Logo Quiz), are simply not good enough.
With a screen on the Echo Dot, it’s obvious that Amazon integrated it to Prime Videos (and Vimeo as well) so we can watch any of the thousands upon thousands of TV shows and movies available on Prime Video on a tiny 2.5-inch screen. It’s not fun at all, you know?
playing a 16:9 video on a circular screen should be a punishable offense
First off, playing a 16:9 video on a circular screen should be a punishable offense. The Echo Spot does offer a way to crop the video so it fills the screen, but then obviously it ends up cropping almost everything out of the frame. Still, points for trying at least. I can see the display on the Echo Spot being passably useful for watching a short clip or something, but you know the largest catalog of videos? Yes, YouTube. Well, that’s not available on Echo Spot because Amazon and Google are fighting.
All the Alexa Stuff Is Obviously Still There
The Echo Spot is, at the end of the day, an Alexa-powered speaker. Which means it can do everything your regular, screen-less, Echo speakers can do. It can:
- check weather
- read the news
- control your smart home
- set alarms and reminders
- add items to your lists
- check traffic
Stuff that the Echo Dot, Echo, and Echo Plus can do. However, the Echo Spot does those things with a visual factor and some razzmatazz, so there’s that.
Audio Quality: Better Than Expected, But Not At Par
Now that we’re done talking about the display on the Echo Spot, and the cool things it is capable of doing (remember, cool is not the same as useful), let’s take a look at the audio quality on the Echo Spot; after all, it is a smart speaker.
I use an Echo Dot at home, and that thing sounds tinny, muted, and honestly terrible. So when I saw the Echo Spot, I expected that it’ll sound like a small, tinny speaker does. Thankfully though, the Echo Spot took me by surprise. There’s some depth to the sound that comes out of the Echo Spot, and it gets quite loud as well, neither of which I was expecting.
However, even though it’s deep, and it’s loud, it’s nowhere near as good as the sound quality from the Google Home Mini… and that speaker is just ₹4,499. Almost one third the price of the Echo Spot.
But if you’re already invested in the Amazon ecosystem of smart devices, you obviously don’t care if the Google Home Mini sounds better. In which case, yes, for the size, the Echo Dot has good sound quality. For the price however, I’d recommend you buy an Echo Dot, and a decent Bluetooth speaker, and connect the two. It’ll be much louder, much clearer, and will cost you a lot less. Also, it’ll be more portable, since it’s Bluetooth.
Miscellaneous: Some Other Things You Should Know
Before I start winding up the review, I had a few thoughts I wanted to share with whoever has come this far in this review. While using the Echo Spot over the last couple of days, I observed some of the cool things it can do, and some opportunities that Amazon missed out on.
You can Turn the Display Off
Yeah. You can simply say ‘Alexa, turn the display off,’ and that’s it.
Why no Selfies?
I’m not much of a selfie person, but this is a serious missed opportunity. From what I’ve read, the Echo Show and Spot do take pictures in other regions. However, that doesn’t seem to work in India. Maybe it’s because of the lack of Prime Photos here, but even so, I’m sure the Echo Spot could’ve directly sent the image to the Alexa app on my smartphone.
Visual Skills in India Look Like a Bad Alpha Test
The Visual Skills I tried out gave me a poor impression of how Alexa Skills are handling things. I tried the NDTV skill to check if it actually played the video, and every time I asked it to play anything it told me (and I’m paraphrasing) that NDTV has encountered an error. I tried Logo Quiz (since Jeopardy wasn’t available), and that Skill is a bug-filled mess.
None of that is Alexa’s fault, I’m just pointing out that a lot of Skills aren’t playing well with the Echo Spot in India.
It Tells Cricket Scores Really Well
The Echo Spot makes awesome use of its display if you ask it to tell you the latest scores for a sport (I tried it with cricket). It brings up the logos for the teams, along with the score. The information is the same as you’ll get from the Echo, or the Echo Plus, but that visual element adds a lot more class to the Echo Spot.
There’s a Developer Mode, Even Though It Doesn’t Have Anything
Under ‘Device Options’, if you tap multiple times on ‘Serial Number’ you’ll see ‘Developer Options’ pop up under it. However it only contains ‘Ship Mode,’ which powers off the Spot and brings it back to it’s Factory Reset stage. So you’ll have to set it up again if you do that.
It’s Apparently Running Some Sort of Android
According to the iFixit teardown I mentioned, the Echo Spot has a micro-USB port under the plastic casing that covers the power and AUX ports. Connecting that port to a computer shows it as some sort of an Android device. I’ve not personally checked this, so I’m not a 100% sure about it.
Pros and Cons
As it is with every single gadget I’ve ever reviewed, the Echo Spot does have it’s set of pros and cons.
- Touchscreen makes the Echo Spot more interactive
- Cutest Echo device you can get
- Sound quality is good for the size
- There’s a camera (video calling ahoy!)
- Lack of visual Skills.
- Sound quality is not good enough for the price.
- There’s a camera (privacy concerns ahoy!)
Amazon Echo Spot: Stylish, Compact, and Overpriced
Quite honestly, the Echo Spot could’ve been a great device. One that I’d even have recommended; after all it’s cute, and it’ll blend with your home more naturally than other Echo devices. However, as it stands right now, the Echo Spot doesn’t make a strong enough case to justify the whopping ₹12,999 price tag it’s trying to sell itself at.
Personally, I’d suggest you buy the regular Echo (₹9,999) which will get you much better speakers, a decent-ish design, and obviously, all of the Alexa functionality.