The Amazon Echo Dot is a pint-size, puck-shaped version of the original, full-size Amazon Echo smart speaker. It's a low-cost access point for the Alexa voice assistant that can connect with external speakers via Bluetooth or via line-in jack, but it doesn't have a built-in battery. That means that you'll need to keep it plugged in -- and that you can't take it with you for room-to-room listening on the go.
The Fremo Evo wants to help you change that. At $35, or £45 in the UK, it's a battery base for the second-gen Echo Dot that lets Alexa go unplugged for up to a stated six hours of battery-powered playback. Combine that with the $50/£50 you'll spend on an Echo Dot, and you're looking at a portable, voice-activated Alexa speaker for about 35 percent less than what you'd spend on Amazon's own battery-powered Alexa speaker, the Echo Tap.
That's a good deal (especially in the UK, where the Tap isn't even available), but keep in mind that the Dot has by far the weakest sound quality of Amazon's Alexa speakers -- barely much better than the speakers in your phone. And, though you can't activate it with your voice, Fabriq's third-party Alexa speaker offers the same portable approach complete with better sound and a better design -- all for just $50 flat.
Still, the Evo worked exceptionally well in my tests, with battery life that far exceeds the stated six hours of promised playback. It isn't quite as convenient as the Tap, but people who already own an Echo Dot and just want to take Alexa out on the porch with them every now and then should love this thing.
The Evo keeps it simple -- just set the Echo Dot on top of it and connect the two using a dual-pronged adapter. You'll power it using your existing Echo Dot cable, then unplug whenever you want to take your speaker somewhere else.
The Evo comes in both white and black to match the color of your device, but it still compromises the Dot's clean, uniform design somewhat. Rigid teeth around the top of the battery form a sort of crown that the Dot sits in -- they're designed to prevent the battery from blocking off the speakers around the Dot's bottom rim. They work as promised, ensuring that the sound still gets out, but they also look a little janky compared with a plain Dot.
The front of the battery features four white LEDs that serve as battery indicators. The battery is fully charged when all four are lit -- from there, they'll drop out one by one as the juice runs out. Again, Fremo claims that'll take at least six hours of continuous playback.
My tests bear that claim out -- and then some, to put it mildly. After giving the base a full charge, I attached an Echo Dot, then unplugged it and left it playing at full volume. Six hours later, it was still going strong, with three of those four battery indicators still lit up.
I ended up taking the speaker home with me to continue my tests. It kept on streaming my Spotify tunes for another several hours, finally running dry at three in the morning after roughly 13 hours of continuous use (save for about 30 minutes on standby as I drove home from the office with it). Afterward, it recharged in about four and a half hours.
Both of those are terrific results, and as I tested the Evo out, taking my Echo Dot around the house to listen to podcasts while in the shower or some music while I cooked dinner, I could absolutely see the product's appeal.
That said, it's not as elegant an option as the Amazon Tap, which sits in a base to recharge. When you want to take it with you, you just pick it up and go, and when you're done, you just set it back in the base. You don't need to worry about the cable at all.
To that end, a higher-end version of the Evo or something similar with a separate charging base might be a product worth waiting for. You might also consider spending a little extra on a battery base that doubles as an enhanced speaker, given the Dot's relatively limited sound output. The Evo doesn't do anything to improve the Dot's volume or sound quality.
Still, I like the Evo, and with its impressive battery life and relatively low price, I think it merits a look from Echo Dot owners who are happy with their speaker's native sound output but who wish they could take it with them around the house.