Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) with Clock review: A delightful time

Jan 25, 2023

Third verse, same as the first: Amazon’s latest Echo Dot with Clock is here. Technically an upgraded version of the fifth-gen Echo Dot, the third iteration of Dot with Clock brings a few noteworthy upgrades that make it well worth its often-discounted price. (Seriously: Amazon always seems to have these on sale.)


Its biggest flaw is that it sounds worse than the larger and more expensive Amazon Echo (4th gen), which is often on sale for roughly a bit more than the lowest price we’ve seen for this version of the Echo Dot.

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If music quality means a lot to you, and you’re not impatient, the bigger Echo is worth waiting for. Otherwise, if you’re planning to chat with Alexa more than you’re looking to rock out, the Dot with Clock is a delightful, capable smart speaker with a much-needed, simple LED display on the front.

The Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (5th gen) may not seem like a big upgrade over its predecessor. Still, it has a lot of new stuff under the hood and a lovely new display that’ll keep you from pestering Alexa about the time ever again. This version of Amazon’s smaller smart speaker comes with tap recognition, allowing you to pause and play music by patting it on the head.

There’s also a built-in temperature sensor that you can build smart home routines around. The Echo Dot can even extend the wireless capabilities of your existing Amazon Eero-driven network. Its sound quality is sufficient for everyday use, but it’s not going to be as boomy or robust as its larger, display-less sibling, the Amazon Echo (4th gen).

Specifications

  • Bluetooth Connectivity?: Yes (A2DP)
  • Dimensions: 3.9”W x 3.9”D x 3.5”H
  • Connectivity: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5 GHz)
  • Voice Assistant: Alexa
  • Colors: Glacier White, Cloud Blue
  • Others: LED Display
  • Speaker configuration: 1.73″ front-firing speaker
Pros

  • Lovely little display does just enough
  • Usually on sale for a great price, given its features and capabilities
  • Internal temperature sensor for those hot, summer days (and fan-automation routines)
  • Adequate sound that’s just a little better than its predecessors
Cons

  • Absolutely outclassed in audio quality by its larger sibling, the Echo
  • Not a 360-degree speaker, so careful how you angle it for optimal quality
  • Accompanying Alexa app can feel cluttered at times

Buy This Product

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (5th Gen)

Price and availability

Amazon’s Echo Dot (5th Gen) with Clock goes for $60 at Amazon, but it’s already seen some significant sales, so feel free to wait before buying one if you want that extra-big discount. The Echo Dot is also sold at many other online and in-person retailers.

Design, hardware, what’s in the box

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The fifth-generation Amazon Echo Dot with Clock is roughly 30 percent smaller than the fourth-generation Echo. Its spherical design is the same size as the previous version at 3.9 inches wide and 3.5 inches tall. It’s perfectly sized to fit on a typical, full IKEA bookshelf. Bump up to the Echo’s dimensions, and you’re trading a much better-sounding speaker for a more bulbous device.

Like most Echos, the top of the Dot features Amazon’s typical four-button pattern: two for volume control, one for the mic (adorning your smart speaker with a lovely red glow), and one for summoning Alexa if you don’t feel like speaking the trigger words out loud.

New to the fifth-generation Dot is a tap sensor, for lack of a better way to phrase it, that lets you perform tasks like snoozing your alarm, dismissing timers, or pausing your music by gently whacking the top of the sphere. You can also hit it to end calls and drop-ins, which is a reasonable mix of actions, but I still wish you could customize the tap gesture to do more within the companion Alexa app for iOS or Android.

Like the tap-sensing functionality, though, I wish it could do more (or be programmable).

The biggest change in this version of the Echo Dot is an improved LED display integrated directly into the sphere’s front. Now that it’s made out of a grid of LED dots, the Echo Dot can scroll text horizontally across its front, which looks muchbetter than the less-dynamic, fourth-generation Dot. Previous iterations of the Echo Dot with Clock could show you the time, timers, and temperature. The fifth-generation Dot can display weather conditions and the artist and track title of whatever you’re listening to. Plus, it looks awesome.

This integration isn’t as great as what you’d find on a full-fledged smart display, such as any of Amazon’s Echo Show devices. Still, it’s wonderful to glance at your small Amazon globe and see the time instead of continually asking Alexa. Like the tap-sensing functionality, though, I wish it could do more (or be programmable). But it’s useful to have some visual screen over the standard Echo Dot; I can’t see myself going back to the legacy design.

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Like fancier Echos before it — and a first for the Echo Dot line — this speaker has a built-in temperature sensor. That’s probably not going to wow most people, but I find it incredibly useful to get a quick read on how warm or cold my room happens to be. More importantly, it’s easy to set routines based on temperature readings. So, you can easily have your Echo Dot turn on the smart switch connected to your box fan whenever your room gets too warm in the summer (or whatever other setups you want to create). Convenient? Absolutely.

Interestingly, this iteration of the Echo Dot ditches the 3.5mm audio output on its rear. That means no connecting supplemental speakers to the smart speaker. But since you’re more likely to chain your Echo Dot to another Amazon speaker to create a stereo pair (or integrate a compatible subwoofer) via the Alexa app, it’s not a loss I felt very strongly about.

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This Echo Dot has a slightly larger front-facing speaker (1.73 inches) than its predecessor (1.6 inches). Still, the difference is irrelevant compared to the audio quality you get from a full-sized, fourth-generation Echo — the latest that was available at the time of our review. The Dot’s smaller size, in general, makes its LED ring at the bottom a little harder to see than the larger Echo if you’re looking down at it from an angle, but this isn’t a deal-breaker. You might even like the subdued look if you’re tired of staring at bright, glowing speakers throughout your home.

Though you can’t tell from the outside, the fifth-gen Echo Dot has one more big surprise up its sleeve; it doubles as a mesh node for an existing Eero Wi-Fi network. If you have an Eero router or mesh system, you can extend wireless connectivity wherever you’ve placed the Echo Dot in your house. Your speeds on a connected device are limited to 100 Mbps, and you can’t hardwire your Echo Dot into your network using Ethernet. The Echo Dot-turned-extender should be more than sufficient for streaming and browsing.

Audio

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The Echo Dot with Clock doesn’t sound amazing, and that’s especially true if you’ve got a larger Echo. It’ll do just fine for spoken-word content and won’t be a bother if you like having some background music. However, it’s not the smart speaker I’d buy if I wanted to sit and enjoy a lush, clear sound with fuller bass.

The Echo, which is only a bit more if you catch a good sale, does a much better job as an all-in-one device. We’d expect nothing less, given that it has a built-in three-inch woofer and two 0.8-inch tweeters. On the other hand, the Echo Dot has a more meager 1.73-inch front-facing speaker, and the differences in audio quality couldn’t be any more apparent. When I swapped between the Echo and the Echo Dot, comparing the same songs across various genres, there was nothing the Echo Dot could do that the Echo couldn’t do much, much better.

You should absolutely choose the Echo over the Echo Dot if you care about how music sounds and don’t mind the Echo’s larger form factor or price. But if music is an afterthought compared to all the other smart-home functionality that Amazon’s devices bring to the table, or if you really value its simple display, the Echo Dot with Clock’s auditory shortcomings won’t be a problem. Just make sure you angle it correctly in your room because the speaker’s front-facing sweet spot definitely muddies the more off-axis you are.

Software and features

Goodbye, Zigbee. Hello, Matter. It’s great to see Amazon’s Echo Dot support the latest and greatest smart home protocol. In theory, it’s supposed to reduce all the confusion that stems from the many competing standards devices use to talk to each other. You’re only getting Matter over Wi-Fi right now. However, Thread, a Zigbee-based wireless networking protocol designed for IoT devices, won’t arrive on Echo Dot devices until next year if this version of the Dot gets upgraded.

Other than that and the Echo Dot’s ability to function as a repeater for your Eero network, all the software-driven features of the Echo Dot should be pretty familiar to anyone who’s ever played around with Amazon’s Alexa app. If you haven’t, here’s a quick overview: the Echo Dot can connect to Wi-Fi networks on 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz when setting it up, a painless process within the Alexa app. And it’s just as easy to find Amazon and other compatible smart home devices your Echo Dot can control, as they’re all available in the (somewhat cluttered) app interface.

Even though the app feels a bit busy, I appreciate that Alexa always tells you about the new features or settings your devices can play with. That includes helpful reminders about the basics, like personalizing your Alexa’s voice or “dropping into” speakers to see what’s happening in the room. It’s effortless to assign your various smart home devices, including the Dot, to rooms throughout your house, making them easy to find. And you’re only a tap or two away from announcing something to your Dot, making phone calls, or streaming music from a compatible service to its speaker.

Specific to the Dot with Clock, you can adjust its display brightness manually or have the device do it based on however bright the room is that it’s in. You can also switch the clock from 12- to 24-hour mode. Unfortunately, you can’t have the display automatically show you anything else by default, which is a shortcoming if you’d rather see up-to-the-minute local weather conditions rather than the time.

The same is true for the Dot’s top-tapping feature; I wish you could customize it more than the Alexa app’s paltry options that you can mess with the ultrasonic sensitivity, a fun little feature it uses to discern movement in a room. This is useful because you can then have the Dot fire off an action — such as turning your smart lights on — whenever it detects you’re around. If it’s not getting it quite right, though, you can manually adjust it until this detection capability is perfect.

All the Dot with Clock’s other features, such as setting it up as a stereo pair, adjusting wake words, or using the built-in Guard functionality to alert you to potential problems, exist on other Echo speakers. And, yes, you should still turn off Amazon’s Sidewalk feature if you don’t want to let others leech onto your internet connection with their Amazon devices (whenever their Wi-Fi network goes down). But that’s just my opinion.

The competition

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If you’ve already bought into the company’s ecosystem, Amazon’s other smart devices are the biggest rivals to the Echo Dot. The fourth-generation Echo has no built-in display, a much larger footprint, and usually costs double the Dot, but it sounds a heck of a lot better.

Given the big improvements to the display, it doesn’t make sense to get an older Dot (with or without a clock), nor do I believe anyone eyeballing an Echo Dot is comparing it against something like the Echo Show 10 that costs five times as much. If you can’t decide between the Dot or the Echo, wait. Once its fifth-generation version launches, the latter will surely borrow the former’s display.

There are plenty of other smart speakers from different companies, and some of them support Alexa. Still, none are as fully integrated with Amazon’s bevy of features and options as a Dot. It’s one of the cheapest ways to invite Amazon into your house via a decently capable smart speaker — including my household’s favorite feature, Amazon delivery notifications. These notifications help keep incoming packages from unexpectedly departing our doorstep.

Should you buy it?

You’ll probably be able to nab an Echo Dot (5th Gen) with Clock for around $30 when it gets a mega-discount, and there’s not much you’d gain by going after a cheaper, older model. However, if you’ve already bought into Amazon’s smart-device family or want to get started, the Dot with Clock is an easy way to get all the basics in an inexpensive, capable smart speaker.

And this Dot’s display is so much better than previous versions that you won’t want to go back once you have it — a welcome improvement that’ll have you yelling at Alexa less without being as glaring as a conventional smart display. My only caveat with this Echo Dot is that its audio is one big meh compared to its larger sibling, the Echo (hopefully, the Echo will get its own built-in display soon).