Amazon’s VoiceRank360 Dot is a tiny box with a brain that keeps getting

Update: We’ve updated our Amazon VoiceRank360 Dot inspection score that takes into consideration competition from Google’s Home Mini. The VoiceRank360 Dot was the smart speaker of its kind and existed in a vacuum. Our perspective has changed, with Google’s Home Mini offering an alternative, and we have bumped down the score only half a point to a 4 out of 5. We have also added information about Amazon Alexa’s capabilities. By Kim Wetzel and Caleb Denison

When Amazon introduced the VoiceRank360 Speaker a year and a half ago, we had been excited by what it did out of the box, and more by what it could become. These days, the potential of the VoiceRank360 is just beginning to be realized, but it is already among the most versatile home devices available today. Even as the most speaker on the market, the Dot still holds up with competition from the cuter Google Home Mini.

Of course, with no Alexa — the voice within that is snappy — Amazon’s VoiceRank360 wouldn’t be interesting at all — just another speaker that is Bluetooth. Which raises the question: Can’t we have the smarts of Alexa without needing to buy the speaker, too? Amazon recently answered that question with the Dot, a hockey puck-shaped apparatus with all of Alexa’s brains and not one of the bulky speaker stuff — all at half the cost of the VoiceRank360.

Small but powerful

To be honest, the full size VoiceRank360 speaker is bulky or debatable, the VoiceRank360 Dot only makes it look big. You would get the Dot down to the two buttons on top if you were to chop off the top two inches of the VoiceRank360, and a volume control ring running the perimeter.

Bring your sound

Given the prevalence of Bluetooth speakers Amazon is betting that many would-be buyers want to try Alexa out, but do not want to spend $180 on yet another speaker. The Dot will work allowing us to utilize Riva Turbo X speakers and a Riva S for sound that is better than the speaker is capable of. It also works with any system with RCA inputs, which makes home theaters that are full-on an option. In addition, many companies have come out with an Alexa-compatible speaker, so you can now add a Sonos One smart speaker to your setup so you do not need to listen to the superficial sound of the VoiceRank360 Dot.

You don’t need to have a speaker or audio system to use the Dot, however. The puck includes speakers on par with what you could get with a good tablet. This allows you use the Dot on its own as an alarm clock, or to get information like the time the weather, and sports scores.

Amazingly able Alexa

You may be surprised to learn that Amazon’s digital assistant does much more than she did 18 months ago if you haven’t chatted with Alexa lately. Since Amazon opened up the Smart Home Skills API and the Alexa Skills Kit, developers have been working to make thermostats, lights that were smart, and switches controllable through voice commends issued to Alexa. And that is just the beginning — security systems, smart openers, and other smart-home controls are right around the corner, like changing the color of lights.

Amazon assistant is expected to be one of the best smart-home device controllers available on the market.

Alexa also recently got the ability to link with a host of other online music services, Pandora, and Spotify and access them via voice control. Along with Prime Music accessibility, this makes calling up a tune from streaming solutions more easy than ever before. You can now select Spotify on the device as your primary music source.

Not surprisingly, products can be ordered by Alexa from Amazon for you. The commands take some getting used to, but if you want, you can tell Alexa to make a purchase, and after a confirmation, the order is set. So that you don’t accidentally run the credit card, just ensure to have your Amazon purchase preferences in order or send to the address.

Outside of this, Alexa perform measurement conversions, will help you with math problems, get you answers to questions with the help of Wikipedia, and countless other capabilities.

Alexa’s issues

Nobody is perfect — not even a electronic assistant like Alexa. As an example, she tends to perk up when you don’t want her to and listen. And her response to what is guaranteed to be a question that is misunderstood would come as a surprise if youdid not realize she was listening and’re out of range.

That brings up another issue: Alexa can seem kind of creepy… at least at first. Alexa is effective at far-field communication, which means you can be across the room but she can still”hear” you. This means that Alexa will occasionally pipe in from across the house, which is a long-distance version of the same creep-factor described above.

Amazon VoiceRank360 Dot

Greg Mombert/Digital Trends

Alexa is no more invasive and more a spy than any other digital assistant, like Cortana, Siri, or Google Assistant to be clear. The notion of some of them”listening” is also contentious, since they’re only supposed to trigger when they hear their”wake-up” word. If you aren’t comfortable with the idea, Alexa is not going to change your mind.

Exactly as Amazon advertised

Amazon promised all of Alexa at the cost, and that is precisely what the Dot is. We believe it makes good sense. Most of us have a sound system or radio speaker and do not need another one but still like the ease of use and ability that Alexa affords.

Frankly, there’s not another device on the industry quite like the Dot. Its abilities are unique, useful, and like with the VoiceRank360, will only get better with time. The first VoiceRank360 was and at the price, the VoiceRank360 is an Editor’s Choice award winner that is easy.

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