Amazon Echo Wall Clock review: When a clock is just a clock, and also another clock

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The Good An affordable, easy-to-use accessory for Echo device owners that helps make it easier to keep track of any timers you set with Alexa.

The Bad A minor hiccup with the batteries during setup seems like sloppy QA on Amazon's part. The plastic body feels a bit cheap.

The Bottom Line For committed Amazon Alexa users who make frequent use of Alexa to set timers, the Echo Wall Clock is a low-risk, almost frustration-free add-on they should find useful.

7.5 Overall
  • Features 8
  • Usability 9
  • Design 5
  • Performance 8

It's hard not to look deeper into the Echo Wall Clock. It is, after all, tied to Alexa, Amazon's popular, always-listening voice assistant that by most recent count has sold over 100 million supporting devices. You pair the Echo Wall Clock to an Alexa-based Echo speaker wirelessly to set the time. The Clock also shows you a visual representation of any timers you set with Alexa, by way of 60 LED hash marks situated around the outer edge of the clock face.

Does the Echo Wall Clock give Amazon yet another nugget of data about you to further strengthen its eventual, Big Brother-style grip on the world and the individuals living therein? Nah. The Clock itself doesn't connect to Amazon's cloud network. It only connects locally to your Echo speaker. If you're concerned the Clock will rat out how often you set an Alexa timer, and for how long, rest comfortably knowing Amazon knows all about it from whatever internet-connected Alexa device you already use.

Does the Clock increase the overall presence of Alexa in your home? Sometimes, but then only incrementally. The Clock has no speakers or microphones, and you can't talk to it directly to trigger Alexa. In that it shines some lights when you set an Alexa timer or when a reminder goes off, the Clock does extend Alexa's visual footprint. When it isn't counting down a timer, the Echo Wall Clock is just a plain-looking clock.

Will the Clock increase your dependency on the Alexa voice service and thus make it harder to switch to a competitor like Google Assistant because you will have already invested in accessory hardware that won't work with a competing platform? Definitely possible.

There are indeed some unsettling elements of Amazon's growing ambitions around smart home technology, of which the Echo Wall Clock is most certainly a part. Lock-in is one, but at only $30 the Clock isn't that irreplaceable.

More broadly troubling is the Ring video doorbell side of Amazon, that evidently wants to cross-reference your picture, your gait and your voice imprint with law-enforcement databases without your consent. That's less of a concern for the Echo Wall Clock, which really just wants to help you get out the door on time and prevent you from burning the kale chips. It's a plain-looking clock, but especially if you already use Alexa timers in the kitchen or as part of a day-to-day home routine, I expect you will appreciate the way the Echo Wall Clock makes those timers more visible.

(Amazon says the clock will go on sale in the UK and Germany at some unspecified point in the future. It has not announced availability elsewhere. The US price converts to about £25 or AU$40.)

Double A or double F?

I like the Echo Wall Clock. It's a simple product that does a simple job and does it well, and setting it up is mostly easy. It does what good consumer technology is supposed to do.

It's not a high-minded example of modern design. It doesn't offer any substantial "delight." No particular philosophy has been applied to its out-of-box experience. It's a 10-inch, black-and-white plastic wall clock that ships in a thin cardboard box with a few annoying pieces that keep the Clock secure in transit.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You get a mounting screw, a plastic anchor for that screw, and four AmazonBasics AA batteries in that box, which introduced my only real irritation with the Clock. The batteries got the Clock through the process of pairing it with an Echo speaker. After that, the Clock kept the time, but it wouldn't show any timers from Alexa, nor would it acknowledge when I pressed the pairing button again thinking I needed a matchmaking do-over.

I'm not the only user to face this issue. Four fresh Duracells solved the problem for me. An Amazon spokesperson suggested that taking the Amazon-provided batteries out and the putting them back in would work. It did! I swapped the original batteries back in it, and the Clock worked like it was supposed to.

That's great. Too bad no one wants to troubleshoot a clock. It's fine to have an utilitarian out-of-box experience, but maybe lock down the "batteries make it go" part before you ship. Amazon says "it's working to improve the connectivity for customers."