The Nest Audio is a great little unit, but the new Echo Dot really puts the ‘smart’ in the smart speaker
When the Nest Audio came out in 2020, I gave it a glowing review. At the time, in the context of other smart speakers with an assistant on the market, I couldn’t find much to complain about: it was a better version of the Google Home speaker it replaced, with a modern looks and great sound for its size, and it was priced at a very reasonable $99 – $30 cheaper than its predecessor at launch. It’s one of our favorite smart speakers to date. But at its Devices & Services event today, Amazon announced new versions of its Echo Dot speakers – and updates to existing devices – that have me questioning my entire smart home setup. based on Google.
The new Echo Dot doesn’t look any different than the old version, but it packs some significant improvements under the hood. The $50 speaker can be used as a Wi-Fi range extender for compatible Eero setups — a big plus, considering the Eero 6 discrete extenders priced at $79 each. The Dot isn’t as efficient as a dedicated Eero extender – the speaker can supposedly cover 1,000 square feet on Wi-Fi, while an extender can handle 1,500 – but even so, the new functionality represents a huge added value for households with Eero routers. Additionally, this feature will soon be available on the fourth-generation Echo and Echo Dot speakers via a software update.
The fifth-generation Echo Dot with clock.
We’re expecting an updated Nest Wifi system from Google in the near future; leaks tell us it will start at $200 and come with Wi-Fi 6E support. As a smart home nerd with a lot of Google stuff around, I like this, but it’s not as exciting as if the Google speakers I already have too many could act as Wi-Fi hotspots. in the Nest mesh network. If my Nest speakers were late-model Echo speakers, adding a single $75 Eero router could bathe my home in glorious, all-around Wi-Fi reception. If early reports are to be believed, getting this kind of coverage from the new Nest routers — buying a three-pack — would cost me $400. For that kind of money, I can get by with uneven coverage on the second floor.
The fifth-generation Dot also incorporates a thermometer, which can be used to trigger Alexa routines when the indoor temperature reaches a certain threshold. Amazon used the example of automatically turning on a fan when it gets too hot, but the company’s $60 smart thermostat can also be built into routines – meaning that unless Amazon isn’t blocking the feature, Echo Dot speakers around your home could work as temperature sensors to help control your HVAC with more granularity. Nest speakers, unable to detect temperature, obviously don’t offer a similar experience. Google sells remote temperature sensors for its Nest thermostats, but they’re not even compatible with the latest model.
The latest Nest Thermostat.
With the Nest Mini approaching its third birthday and the long-discontinued Google Home Max, we’re probably about to get some new smart speakers from Google – the company has a hardware event coming up, although it doesn’t. Didn’t say it would feature all the smart speaker updates. With Amazon leaning so heavily on the Echo Dot’s place in the big connected home, I really hope Google has similar surprises in store for us. Otherwise, I may have to upgrade the Big Switch from an assistant-based smart home to a more Alexa-centric setup – and I doubt I’m alone in that feeling.
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