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Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (3rd gen) review: It is what it is. And we can dig it

Amazon's latest talky-puck proves a little polish can make a big difference.

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David Priest
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David Priest

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David Priest is an award-winning writer and editor who covers home security for CNET. When he isn't waving his hands wildly in front of motion sensors or making faces at video doorbells, he spends his time playing board games and video games with his wife and family.

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4 min read

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 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.

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8.8

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (3rd gen)

The Good

The Echo Dot with Clock brings all the best elements of 2018's third-gen Dot and adds a smart quality-of-life upgrade in the form of an LED clock display.

The Bad

The $60 price tag edges the new Dot out of the super cheap range shared by the standard Dot and Google Nest Mini. Plus, the LED display can't adjust color or color temperature, which makes it a little annoying in a dark room.

The Bottom Line

Amazon has created another smart speaker that brings practical smarts to the kitchen counter or the bedside table. It's not as adventurous a device as other Echo products, but it's one of the most wallet-friendly and practical.

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. You can still buy that Dot, and it's still $50 (£50, AU$59). The big upgrade on this new model? An LED clock, for which you'll pay a premium -- it costs $60 (£60, AU$99).

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 or even $60 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 premium 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 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.

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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).

At the end of the day, every Echo is just a shell -- some are bigger, some are smaller -- for Amazon's digital assistant, Alexa. And even in a conservative piece of hardware like the Dot with Clock, Alexa still shines.

Alexa helps you keep up with the news, listen to music, control smart home devices, call other Echo users, set timers and alarms, shop, upgrade home security and much more. Alexa keeps getting better, and although the voice assistant gives rise to real privacy concerns, it represents a consistently top-of-class product.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Dot o'clock, rock!

The big selling point of the Echo Dot with Clock is obviously the clock. So let's dive in: The Echo's new LED clock has adjustable brightness and simple display commands. You can ask it to display the time, timers you've set and the temperature outside. Subtle indicators show whether a timer or alarm are active.

The clock is a great addition to the Echo Dot and genuinely gives you a reason to buy one more Echo for your bedside table. You can even hit the top of the device to snooze for 9 minutes, just like alarm clocks of yore. It's a nice touch, given that finding the right button in a sleep-addled state can easily turn to frustration.

While I would've liked to see a little more creativity in the clock's design -- for instance, offering adjustable colors or color temperature with the LEDs -- the clock makes a lot of sense. It's a solid idea to sharpen an already strong product, further positioning it as a practical tool for the modern household rather than as a niche product for an experimental audience. To be honest, I kind of hope the LED clock becomes standard fare for smart speakers.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Should you buy it?

I hate to admit it, but the Echo Dot with Clock won me over. Amazon isn't innovating with this device. It's not pushing itself to create the best product for a super-cheap price tag. But it is selling a solid device that many people will find useful. In fact, I sort of wish clocks came standard on Echo speakers now, which makes it a little disappointing that the Dot with Clock only comes in one color: sandstone (think gray-white).

I still don't like the price, but I have to admit that if you're looking for a bedside voice assistant, the Dot with Clock might be your best bet -- especially if you find it on sale.

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8.8

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (3rd gen)

Score Breakdown

Design 9.5Features 9.5Performance 8Sound quality 8.5