I’d like to think that Amazon’s smart assistant Alexa is a key component of the smart home device ecosystem in the country. Alexa of course, can be found in various devices these days, but the Echo smart speaker is where it all started, and the latest member of the portfolio comes in the form of the Echo Dot 5th-generation. Replacing the previous-gen model, this baby comes in as the most affordable Echo speaker, and therefore, has big shoes to fill.
The Echo Dot 5th-gen retains the spherical design from before and comes in blue, white and black. Slightly bigger than a cricket ball, the device comes with volume controls on the top, along with a mic off button and a key to invoke Alexa. The speaker promises ‘bigger sound and smarter controls’, which is no mean feat consider how tiny it is. And having used it for a bit, I can certainly vouch for its audio capabilities. The speaker churns out rich, room-filling sound, and though the bass still feels a bit lacking, the audio is surprisingly good for a speaker this small. There’s no clock display on this device, and sadly, no 3.5mm audio out either, but you do get Bluetooth for pairing your phone or laptop, if you want to do that.
Alexa of course, is a breeze to use, and the smart assistant keeps getting better with time. You can utter the trigger word to wake her from slumber and get her to respond to voice commands, and as usual, she can handle most queries and respond with her peppy voice — from getting updates on weather and news, setting alarms and reminders, or responding with cheeky replies to dumb questions like “Alexa, will you marry me?”, she has an answer for everything. One of the main use cases is music playback, which she does quite well, and the improved audio quality adds to the experience.
The other main aspect of an Echo smart speaker is controlling compatible smart home devices, and there’s a healthy ecosystem of gadgets out there that can work with is. The Echo Dot 5th-gen brings with it a feature that I think is quite nifty and promises to add to your smart home setup significantly. I’m referring to its motion detection and temperature sensors, which, when combined with Alexa’s super-useful routines, can help automate a variety of things in the home, depending upon what you want to accomplish and the other Alexa-capable devices you have. Let me elaborate.
The Echo Dot 5th-gen features a motion detection sensor that can detect motion in close proximity, say when a person walks into the room where the device is placed. And since this motion detection can be used as a trigger in an Alexa routine, you can use it to perform certain actions — such as alerting you via a notification or turning on an Alexa-enabled smart bulb. So it can work as a home security device when you’re away, or turn on a light automatically when you walk into the room. Similarly, the Echo Dot 5th-gen also boasts a temperature sensor, and just like the way I mentioned above, you can set up custom routines in the Alexa app to accomplish different tasks. For example, you could set up a routine to turn on a smart air purifier or an Alexa-capable air conditioner when the room temperature touches 27 degrees. Some of this stuff, like the air conditioner I just mentioned, might sound quite fancy, but you should know that you need not necessarily buy a Alexa-equipped AC for this — your existing air conditioners can be made smart and compatible with Alexa in very simple and affordable ways. If you have an AC that plugs into a wall socket for example, you could just get a smart plug that works with Alexa. And if you have an AC with internal wiring, you could get smart switches that replace your existing ones. Or just do what I did — buy a universal smart remote that can control your AC using infrared. Again, let me emphasise that some of this sounds more complicated or expensive than it actually is.
Back to the topic at hand, these capabilities of the Echo Dot can be quite useful, and it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that the possibilities are endless. I tried out the routines I mentioned above with the Echo Dot 5th-gen myself, and I think they work reasonably well. One does need to keep a few things in mind — such as the fact that the Echo Dot can only detect significant motion (someone walking into the room for example), and not small movements like someone working on a laptop or reading a book. Also, the routines trigger once every 30 minutes, so you can’t expect alerts more frequently. Worth mentioning that the motion detection sensitivity can be customised and you can find this option under the Echo Dot device settings in the Alexa app, and you’d need to try them out yourself to figure out what works best for you.
So, a small smart speaker with big sound and some nifty capabilities is how I’d summarise the Amazon Echo Dot 5th-gen. It’s affordable too, carrying a sticker price of Rs 5,499… and could be a great starting point if you’ve just started exploring the world of smart speakers and adding voice capabilities to smart home devices such as smart bulbs and plugs. The motion detection and temperature sensors add an extra layer of smartness to the setup, provided you can make use of them, making it a device worth considering for your abode.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Good sound
- Compact design
- Useful motion & temperature sensors
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