Tech Guide

The Amazon Echo Spot is my new favorite Echo

Key Points
  • The Amazon Echo Spot is a compact Echo with a 2.5-inch touchscreen display.
  • It can serve as an alarm clock, play music and show lyrics, display TV shows and control your smart home.
  • It's a fantastic Echo and my new favorite but probably shouldn't be your primary Echo.
CNBC Review: Amazon Echo Spot

The Amazon Echo Spot, which launches on Tuesday, is now my favorite Echo.

That's a tall order, since I'm fond of the new Echo and Echo Show. But, with its miniature display, camera and the same smarts as every other Echo, it's perfect for any room and especially convenient for travel.

At $129, it's also priced well below the $230 Echo Show — the only other such device with a display.

It isn't perfect, but it's darn near close.

Here's what you need to know.

The Echo Spot is compact

The Amazon Echo Spot shows the weather
Todd Haselton | CNBC

The Echo Spot reminds me of a grapefruit or a Magic 8 Ball sliced in half, with a 2.5-inch touchscreen display that shows, by default, a clock. It's meant to sit next to your bed, in your kitchen, or in other rooms where you might not already have a larger-sized Echo product.

Given its size, I've found it not only works well in my bedroom or on my desk without taking up too much space, it would also be perfect for carrying along to use in hotel rooms. Connecting to Wi-Fi during setup is a breeze — you just type in the Wi-Fi credentials right on the circular display.

The screen is a lot of fun

The Echo Spot shows me the upcoming Jets game
Todd Haselton | CNBC

The Echo Spot does everything the Echo Show can do, which is a lot. Since it has a screen, it's technically more powerful than a regular Echo. You can glance at it to see the weather, news headlines, alarms, timers and more. You can ask it to order something from Amazon — I bought chocolates — and it's easy to swipe among the suggestions and order the one you want.

You can use it for video chats

Calling an Echo Show from the Echo Dot
Todd Haselton | CNBC

It has a built-in front-facing camera that can be used to make video calls to other people with an Echo Show or Echo Spot. You can also make voice calls to regular phones or other Echos that don't have displays — you simply speak through the microphones and listen through the speakers.

The speakers are just OK

You can see lyrics for the music you're playing
Todd Haselton | CNBC

The speakers were surprisingly good for the size of the unit, but you'll need a larger Echo if you want to fill a good-sized room with music. The Spot is nice for light listening while reading, but not exactly something you'll throw a dance party with.

Bonus: Lyrics are displayed for most songs, too, and you can sing along as they scroll across the screen.

You can control your smart home

The Amazon Echo Spot
Todd Haselton | CNBC

You can use the Echo Spot to control your smart home. Commands such as "turn off the living room lights" work well if you already have them configured. Unlike the Echo Plus, it doesn't have its own smart-home hub built-in, so you'll need something like a Philips Hue Hub, Apple TV or Samsung SmartThings Hub.

It's a fantastic alarm clock

The Echo Spot serves as a great alarm clock
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Finally, it has a variety of clock faces. You can use your own photos as the background or choose among a variety of pre-installed digital and analog faces. You can set alarms to wake you up to music of your choice, and the face dims at night so it doesn't keep you awake.

Some weaknesses

Todd Haselton | CNBC

I really wish Amazon embedded small batteries into its Echos, which would make them much more portable. The Echo Spot, like all other Echos, has to be plugged in at all times. It seems silly, since a relatively small battery could provide a few hours of music playback, and would make this perfect for moving around the house on a whim.

Also, while the Echo Spot can play movies and TV shows from Amazon's Prime library, they're stamp-sized on the display, which means it's only really good for watching a quick trailer or finishing up a TV show in bed before turning off the lights. I loved watching news clips, including CNBC's highlights, when I asked Alexa to play my news briefing, however. Tiny snippets of video are perfect.

Should you buy it?

Amazon Echo Spot
Todd Haselton | CNBC

If you've never owned an Echo before, this probably isn't the one you want to start with. Instead, buy a regular Echo and then use this as a secondary device. The full-size Echo will give you better audio, and devices such as the Echo Plus can even get you started with a smart home, since it has a smart hub built inside.

But if you own an Echo Dot (the smallest Echo without a display), this is a great upgrade from that. And if you already own a couple Echos, as I do, then the Echo Spot is a must-have. It's perfect for bedrooms, home offices (or your desk at work) and is a delight to use. It's my new favorite Echo, and easily worth the $129 asking price.