Now nearly three years after Amazon introduced its first Echo speaker, the company has released a second connected speaker with a camera and screen, the Echo Spot.
Visually, the Echo Spot could also pass for a designer alarm clock from the 1970s, with a 2.5-inch screen built into the front of an almost spherical casing.
As with other devices in the Amazon Echo family, the Spot listens for key words like "Alexa", "Echo" or "Amazon" to then transmit voice commands to the Cloud. Alexa can order you a taxi, answer general knowledge questions, read out the latest headlines, even tell you a joke.
Customers of Amazon Music can also listen to sports games or hear live news reports on the Echo loudspeakers. Additional functions are available via apps, which Amazon calls "skills".
Users can transform the Echo into a small control centre for a smart home with these apps, for example, and use Alexa to open up the networked garage door or turn off the lights in the storage closet.
With a price tag of US$115 (RM447.90), the Echo Spot ranks in the midfield of Amazon's Echo product range. The Echo Spot's screen displays the time or the weather by default, and users can select from among 17 different clock faces, similar to a smart watch.
Unfortunately, the screen is surrounded by a thick border, which reduces the usable area of the screen. The Spot is controlled by finger swipes and primarily by voice command, which functioned seamlessly in tests.
The display automatically adjusts the brightness level to the surrounding lighting. In addition, the Echo Show contains a night mode where the screen is strongly dimmed. Still, the Spot's night mode can only be activated within fixed times (for example, daily from 10pm to 7am) and not spontaneously by voice command - something Amazon should improve.
With a resolution of 480 x 480 pixels, the Spot's screen is suitable for video conferences with other Echo Spots, the Echo Show or smartphones with the Alexa app. Video counterparts appear reasonably sharp on the round display screen and can be understood well via the built-in speakers.
Video quality could nevertheless have been better had Amazon not skimped on the quality of the webcam. With the Echo Spot, the camera only provides a VGA resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. The Echo Show, the Spot's big brother, was equipped with a webcam with a 5 megapixel resolution, however.
In addition to normal video calls, there is also a so-called "drop-in function" that connects directly to a receiver - provided all participants have given consent. With this function, the Echo Spot can also be turned into a baby monitor. Still, unfortunately only Amazon Chats are supported with this feature and not other services like Skype.
Given its round display screen, the Echo Spot is only partially suitable for viewing films. Images are brutally cut off on both the left and right sides in zoom mode, while a thick black border frames the screen from above and below in normal mode, making the actual picture image so small that it's barely recognizable.
The quality of the loudspeaker is fully sufficient for voice commands from Alexa and the alarm clock function. However, if users want to play music with the Echo Spot, they would do better to connect the device to a larger loudspeaker or audio system.
So far, so good, but what remains unclear from these tests is the primary purpose of the Echo Spot. On the one hand, Amazon is positioning the Spot as a modern radio alarm clock for the bedroom.
But important functions like the activation of night mode are far too laboriously configured for this. And on the other hand, data protection activists aren't the only ones who'll ask themselves whether putting a networked device with a built-in video camera in the bedroom is such a good idea.
The Spot cuts a better figure on desks, especially when users like to have frequent and simple video chats with the same contacts. But the Echo Spot could become more valuable in the future, namely when more apps from Amazon and third-party providers are better adapted for the Spot's round display screen.- dpa Get the Amazon Echo speaker right now at Lazada.
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