Picture of the Amazon Alexa Dot 2nd Gen with adapter and USB cable.

Echo Dot 2nd Generation Review, Amazon Alexa Dot 2

In this Echo Dot 2nd Generation Review, we explore the Amazon Alexa Dot  speaker.  This is a WiFi and Bluetooth enabled smart assistant. It acts as the front end for Amazon’s Alexa voice service.

Echo Dot 2nd Generation Review Summary

The Echo Dot can “hear” your spoken questions and commands, and can speak the answers back to you.

The Echo Dot 2nd generation speaker is also an internet radio that can play thousands of internet radio stations from TuneIn and iHeart radio.  Echo devices like this one also give you access to music services as follows.

  • Amazon Prime Music.
  • Amazon Music Unlimited.
  • Pandora,
  • Spotify.
  • Apple Music.

You can also ask for local weather and traffic reports, and create a list of world, national, and local audio news sources. Then you may ask Alexa to play them in playlist fashion.

Control of popular smart home devices such as…

  • The Nest thermostat.
  • Honeywell’s Total Connect Comfort internet thermostats.
  • Philips Hue light bulbs withe the Philips Hue skill.

Program modules, called Skills, constantly come out.  These extend what Alexa can do.

Alexa also supports voice-activated shopping (order more tea and coffee just by asking).

Priced under fifty dollars, the Amazon Echo Dot 2nd generation speaker is a low cost smart assistant.

Picture of the Amazon Alexa Dot 2nd Gen with adapter and USB cable. Echo Dot 2nd generation review.
Amazon Alexa Dot 2nd Gen with adapter and USB cable. Echo Dot 2nd generation review.

Echo Dot 2nd Generation Review of Benefits, Pros, Features, and Advantages

Compact Size

Small foot print and lightweight.  Echo Dot 2 is less than half pound (5.7 ounces to be exact).  It is smaller than a cheeseburger (1.3 inches by 3.3 inches by 3.3 inches).  Yet with that modest size and weight, the Echo 2nd gen Dot packs a lot of function. With the cloud-based support, size these days is by no means hints of just how capable a speaker like this might be.

Includes USB Power Adapter and USB Cord

The micro USB to USB A cable looks just like the one we got with our 3rd Gen Kindle Fire HDX.  So Amazon spares no expense in the cords for the Dot 2.  The Dot needs less power than the Fire. Yet they give us the same power cable.   Very cool.

Bright Multi-Color Light Ring

This LED ring around the outer top edge of the Dot 2 lights up when you ask Alexa questions. It shows internet connection status, and processing going on.  It  even points out which direction it hears best your voice from.  This helps in figuring out where best to put your Dot where it will hear you well.

Case Color Options

Currently the Echo Dot 2nd generation comes in either a black or white case.  If neither of those suits though, choose from many “skins”.  These make the 2nd gen Dot into any color in the rainbow.

Top-Mounted Buttons for some Echo Dot Functions

With these buttons, you can…

  • Turn the volume up and down.
  • Mute the mic. Turn it OFF and ON.
  • Get Alexa’s attention with the Action button.

Gone is the volume control ring on the original Dot (Gen 1).

Picture of the Amazon Echo Dot 2nd Gen Speaker, Out of Box, with protective plastic removed. Ready for plugin. Echo Dot 2nd generation review.
Amazon Echo Dot 2nd Gen Speaker, Out of Box, with protective plastic removed. Ready for plugin. Echo Dot 2nd generation review.

Mic Off Feature

Disable the built-in microphone array by pressing the Mic Off button.  This mutes the mic so that Alexa stops listening.  The light ring glows red while the mic is off.  This reminds you that she will not answer until you turn the mic back on.

Far Field Mic System

They packed a lot into the hockey puck sized Echo Dot 2, including seven (count ’em, SEVEN) mics. These help her better hear your requests from further away.  They work much better than would a single mic.

The Closest Dot 2 is the One that Answers

The 2nd generation Echo Dot has Echo Spacial Perception (ESP). So if you have many Dots around your house, the system figures out which one is closest to you. Then that Dot is the one that answers you.  Though not perfect, ESP vastly cuts the wrong-Dot-responses.

Fast Alexa Response

She answers a question in a few seconds or less.  But delay times may increase with heavy internet traffic.

Two External Speaker Support Options

The Dot has a 3.5 mm stereo line-level output port. This allows you to plug it into a hi-fi audio system. Plus, this Dot also has Bluetooth.  This lets you pair many Bluetooth speaker models to it.  Thus, you can add smart speaker function to any set of powered speakers, including those in a high end stereo system.

Accessible

You access setup and control functions through the Amazon Alexa App. This you install on an iOS or Android tablet or phone.  Further, since Alexa reads text sources aloud, she’s a big help to blind and vision impaired users.

Picture of the Amazon Echo Dot Gen 2 in Setup Mode, showing Light Ring with orange blip circling. Echo Dot 2nd generation review.
Amazon Echo Dot Gen 2 in Setup Mode, showing Light Ring with orange blip circling. Echo Dot 2nd generation review.

Lots of Online Help

Amazon offers many help files that show how to set up and run this device in detail.

Alexa can Answer Many Questions

Ask Alexa for the current time, sing Happy Birthday, tell you a joke, or engage simple yet fun talks.  We expect her conversing to get better as artificial intelligence and machine learning are added to her back end servers.

Alarm Clock and Timer

Your Echo Dot 2nd generation can act as a very smart alarm clock and kitchen timer that never gains or loses time.

Uber and Lyft Support

You can install skills to request rides from Uber and Lyft ride sharing services.

Getting Smarter Every Day

Thousands of free skills are online now, with many more in the works.

Chose Her Wake Word

To get Alexa’s attention, you say a this wake word before asking your question.  You may choose from four possible wake words (Amazon, Computer, Echo, and Alexa).

Picture of the Amazon Echo Dot 2nd Gen speaker, original package, with Items inside unpacked. Echo Dot 2nd generation review.
Amazon Echo Dot 2nd Gen speaker, original package, with Items inside unpacked. Echo Dot 2nd generation review.

Cloud Based

This Echo Dot 2nd generation works from the cloud. So each little speaker benefits from Amazon’s massive computer farms and software. Engineers update, enhance, and extend Alexa functions all the time. Sometimes, several improvements per week come out.

Voice Learning

The Alexa app keepsa history list of the questions and commands you speak to the Dot.  For many of these, you can give detailed feedback about whether Alexa understood it.  This helps the system learn the “correct” answers.

A voice training feature allows Alexa to learn the particulars of your own voice. t do that, she has you read a series of small phrases aloud. With those recordings, she learns how you speak those phrases So Alexa can better understand your speech patterns. This reduces error answers.

Connects with your Amazon Account

Alexa can link to the many services in your Amazon account, such as Prime Music and Music Unlimited.  Alexa can also place orders for millions of items from Amazon by just asking her.

Plays Many Internet Radio Stations

Alexa can play thousands of internet broadcast streams from iHeart and TuneIn radio services.

Supports Many Content Providers

The Echo Dot 2nd generatio speaker can play…

  • Audible books,
  • Podcasts.
  • Songs from your Amazon music library.
  • Hourly news broadcasts.
  • News briefs, by thousands of radio and TV stations from all around the world.

Thousands of Skills

Skills teach Alexa how to answer more requests for…

  • Food recipes and cooking tips.
  • Smart home device control.
  • Playing music.
  • Banking voice apps.
  • Fact checking skills.

These are just a few among Alexa’s huge library of skills.  These voice apps come from both Amazon and third party makers.  Lots of people are writing interesting skills into Alexa thus.

Picture of the Amazon Echo Dot 2nd Gen speaker in original package, front view. Echo Dot 2nd generation review.
Amazon Echo Dot 2nd Gen speaker in original package, front view. Echo Dot 2nd generation review.

Smart Home Enabled

Through the Alexa smart assistant voice service, the Echo Dot 2nd generation can control popular smart home devices like thermostats, smart light bulbs, power switches, and wall outlets.

Room Filling Sound in a Very Small Package

Though little bigger than an old transistor radio, the Echo Dot 2 offers louder, higher fidelity sound.  It has plenty of volume for bedrooms, small living rooms, and other quieter spaces.

Can Act as a WiFi Hotspot

Bluetooth Enabled

The Echo Dot 2 can pairing with more powerful Bluetooth speakers. This gives an even fuller sound. Also, This Echo Dot 2nd generation can act as a Bluetooth speaker itself, that plays content from your phone.

Multi Room Audio Support 

Many Dots and other Echo speakers can work as a group.  E,g, They sync together, playing the same thing at the same time. This lets you hear synced music all over your home.

Easy to Buy

Get the Echo Dot 2nd generation on the Amazon website as well as the Home Shopping Network et al.

Cheapest Device in the Amazon Echo Line

At around $30, the Echo Dot offers the most function for the least cost.  It’s the best value overall, of its siblings (Echo and Tap). Note though that this Dot has been replaced with a newer version, that sounds louder and fuller.

Picture of the Amazon Alexa Echo Dot Gen 2 Speaker measurements, perspective. Echo Dot 2nd generation review.
Amazon Alexa Echo Dot Gen 2 speaker measurements, perspective. Echo Dot 2nd generation review.

Problems, Cons, Limitations, and Disadvantages

Useful but Not Great Sound

Not that we expected ultra high def sound from the Dot 2.  But still, some improvement would be a welcome product update. They seemed to do that in the gen 3 version of this product.

Skills Need More Work

Some skills currently offer sketchy documentation on how to use all of their features. But we think that this problem will shrink, as Akexa matures.

Alexa App can be Slow

As with all tablet apps, program crashes are not unheard of in the Alexa app.  And since this app relies on the speed and quality of the internet, the app can at times run slowly. E.g.  It can take a long time to respond to menu and button taps.

More Wake Words Needed

Currently, you can only use Alexa, Computer, Amazon, or Echo wake words with the 2nd generation Echo Dot.  But it would be nice to choose from any of thousands more words. E.g. Like using another lady’s name or a place name.  We hope they’ll add more wake phrases in the future. Better yet, we’d like to be able to use any word in the dictionary, or record our own phrase.

Bluetooth Pairing can be Tricky

The first time we paired the Dot 2 with our iPad, the pairing scan did not see our Dot.  So, we had to start the pairing from the iPad, rather than from the Dot via the Alexa app.

But once paired for the first time, the Alexa app retains that device (in this case, our iPad). From then on, you can pair either by voice command to the Dot 2, or from within the Bluetooth section of the Alexa app.

No Battery Power

Unlike the Echo Tap, the Echo Dot 2nd generation has no battery.  So you must plug the Dot into a USB power source for it to work.  But they do have docs now for these speakers that have rechargeable batteries, and they cost little besides.

Picture of the Amazon Echo Dot 2nd generation smart speaker, top view. Echo Dot 2nd generation review.
Amazon Echo Dot 2nd generation smart speaker top view. Echo Dot 2nd generation review.

False Triggering

Sometimes, Alexa will think that you’re calling her when you’re playing a radio or talking to someone on the phone.  No biggie though.   But be careful that she does not buy something on your behalf by mistake, because she thought you wanted to buy it when she heard voices (not yours).

Multiple Echo Dots may Still Respond

Even with ESP tech, sometimes two or more Dots in earshot of your voice, will respond to a question.  Ongoing improvement will fix this issue though.  In the meantime, careful placement of your Dots solves this problem.  If they added a mic gain control, this  could help reduce this problem.

Does not Work without an Internet Connection

The Dot must be able to access Amazon servers to work correctly.

More Internet Radio Options Needed

Currently, Alexa only offers direct access to TuneIn and iHeart Radio stations.  But we’d like to see them add services like OOTunes, StreamTheWorld, CBS, Radio.com, and other large scale streaming services.

Picture of the Amazon Alexa Echo Dot Gen 2, showing underside and the speaker openings. Echo Dot 2nd generation review.
Amazon Alexa Echo Dot Gen 2, showing underside and the speaker openings. Echo Dot 2nd generation review.

Our Rating

We find the Amazon Echo Dot virtual voice assistant, particularly this second generation version, to be an excellent value.  It’s a highly advanced yet still growing product.  Plus, it evolves and improves over time without any action by its owner.  As new content sources come online, Alexa will likely offer them.  Though the cheapest of all the current Alexa Echo devices, the 2nd generation Dot offers practically all of the same functions as its higher priced siblings. Further, it has some features that its do not.

So to wrap up this Echo Dot 2nd generation review, over all, we like the workmanship and thoughtful design that went into this product. So, we rate it at 99 out of 100.  With an Alexa portal like this speaker, it’s hard to spend $50 more for the larger Amazon Echo.  Why?  Because the only better trait you get is a fuller sounding, louder Echo device.  We’re not convinced though, that that bit of sound improvement is worth the extra cost.  The Echo Dot is the best buy of the entire Echo line currently.

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Suggested Reading

References for this Echo Dot 2nd Generation Review

Revision History

  • 2019-05-04: Removed ad scripts. Added targeting for ‘Echo Dot 2nd Generation’.  Then added more pics and talk about multi-room music.
  • 2016-12-04: Originally published.