The iHome iAV2 Spot for your Dot improves the Echo Dot across the board and offers good value for money.
The second-generation Amazon Echo Dot is already a very popular device for smart home environments but iHome has another ‘Spot for your Dot’ accessory to make the experience even better. Alexa is already a very capable alarm clock but one complaint from some who use it that way is that there’s no way to tell the time on Echo-branded without asking aloud. iHome’s iAV2 changes that by adding an LED digital clock and bumping up the speaker size in use by Alexa by more than double. Those are embedded in specially designed resonance chambers with added bass boosting for optimal sound at the price. That means that those who happen to own a second-generation Echo Dot and a digital alarm clock can finally toss the desk accessory out for a single device. For those who opt to use a smartphone alarm instead, there’s now a more practical solution to save some longevity of their devices’ battery without losing functionality.
The iHome iAV2 is a 135.13mm x 116.01mm x 132.08mm cube weighing in at 453.6 grams made mostly of plastics, cloth coverings its speakers, and driven by a second-generation Echo Dot. Its primary function is as a bedside or desktop digital clock embedded behind the speaker cloth, lit by LED in a 12-hour format with an indicator light to differentiate between morning and afternoon. No brightness specifications are listed for this product but it's bright enough to see in most lighting thanks to 5 dimmable levels or can be turned completely off via the same controls. The sound is pushed through the nearly 360-degree-oriented speakers residing in the company’s Reson8 speaker chambers. The company doesn't list a watt rating or other output aspects for the speakers either, but it is comparable in volume to Google's Home or Amazon's Echo. Volume is controlled by the Echo Dot buttons.
A connection is established with the Dot via a hardwired 3.5mm headphone port and that’s powered by a one amp output from the speaker to the dot, while the speaker is powered by a DC input at 12V/1.5A. A USB output is built in for charging up the Dot itself, as well as a cable for that, with each output clearly marked with a symbol. The Dot output symbol is round while another output with a rectangular symbol denotes a second smartphone charging port, which is also standard USB. Both outputs are rated at one amp. A 3V CR2450 watch-style battery is provided to keep the time accurate when it's unplugged or during a power outage, although that doesn't power the alarm and will need to be replaced from time to time. All of that costs just $69.99 direct from iHome’s site or as low as $50 from secondary sellers.
In the Box
As is often the case with mobile accessories, opening up the package that the iHome iAV2 ships in is a relatively short affair. Users definitely shouldn't expect an Echo Dot in the box but, aside from the main hardware itself, there is a DC charging adapter designed to work 'universally' with either 100-240V AC plugs. There is also a short cable for powering the second-generation dot via the outputs listed above and an envelope. The latter item contains a quick start guide that makes getting up and running easy and only takes a few minutes to read. It also contains a pamphlet outlining other iHome-branded products.
Hardware and Design
There isn’t much to complain about from a design perspective with iHome’s iAV2 Echo Dot speaker dock and clock. It’s similar in size to, if slightly more boxy than, to a traditional alarm clock. That makes it an easy to place accessory on most any surface and despite being made of polycarbonates, it’s high-quality enough to not look out of place in almost any setting. As mentioned above, the clock is easy to read and the large, easy-to-read round buttons on the bottom make setting the time a snap. Those are also engineered with attention to detail and have a solid ‘clicky’ feel to them while volume is made simple since its controlled by the Dot itself. With that said, that the cable is hardwired could become an area of concern. Although it feels at least as well-built as the rest of the iAV2 if it does become damaged that will effectively be the end of this clock-speaker unless the buyer happens to have experience with those kinds of repairs.
A limited one-year warranty is included once the product is registered but that’s not necessarily an ideal solution for a nearly $70 desk clock and speaker system. That's particularly true since it might get knocked around a bit by tired users before they remember to use voice commands to turn it off. On the other hand, the lack of built-in alarm support does mean that an alarm has to be set through the Dot itself either via app or voice commands. That means a power outage or accidental unplugging will stop the alarm from going off, too. Moreover, there’s no Bluetooth here and the input cable is short, to keep everything sleek and organized. Although charging a smartphone via the output port is easy enough, that means only Amazon's Alexa can provide audio. That does give a substantial variety to the type of alarm sounds that can be used and adds some functionality of its own but limits music playback. Bearing that in mind, the iHome iAV2 still feels like a very solid accessory for the Echo Dot and worth the money.
In terms of sound, the iAV2 delivers volume, going above and beyond what’s included inside the Echo Dot by itself. The same could also be said of the audio quality of the devices’ speaker, although those don’t begin to approach what could be dubbed ‘audiophile.’ Amazon’s A.I. digital assistant, Alexa, can be used to wake up in the morning to music, basic alarm sounds, or a podcast or news and any of those is going to sound much better with this speaker than with a standalone Echo Dot. Lows have as much deep punch as can be expected in a package this small without drowning out or becoming muddied by the mids or highs.
At the same time, the volume levels experienced with the iAV2 appear to be capped below where any unwanted distortion or other anomalies would occur. So the sound quality isn’t going to fall off simply because it’s turned up to the maximum. That’s going to be useful for potential buyers who need audio to be loud in order to wake up but who don’t want to deal with fuzzy or static-filled audio. It should also prevent the speakers from wearing out too quickly.
Connectivity and Battery Life
There is, of course, no battery real life to speak of and iHome doesn’t offer any insight into how long users can rely on the standby watch battery to keep the clock accurate. That also won’t be nearly enough power to keep the Dot running, so alarms and similar features won’t work at all if the adapter is pulled out of a wall socket or the power fails. As mentioned above, that’s not ideal. But plugging into an uninterruptable power supply, if one is available, will prevent that from happening and that is a flaw that is suffered by most alarm clocks anyway. It is something we would have liked to have seen addressed here and an issue which would likely have been relatively easy to solve. However, at very least it isn’t a dealbreaker.
In the meantime, connectivity is only achieved via the included hardwired 3.5mm plug, which fits directly into the output port found on the second-generation Echo Dot. The Dot connects via Wi-Fi as normal and is powered via an included standard USB to micro-USB cable, so there isn’t much to get accustomed to on that front. At the same time, that 3.5mm cable can be used with a smartphone or other electronics as long as they have a compatible output. What's more, the included cable is only a few inches long, so the source device will also need to be well-suited to that or buyers will need to spend a few extra dollars on an extender cable. Charging up a smartphone is equally easy to do, although consumers need to supply their own USB to micro USB, lightning, or USB Type-C cable in order to take advantage of that port.
Whether or not the iHome iAV2 is a worthwhile purchase is going to depend on the needs of each individual buyer. Although the Amazon Echo Dot can already function as an alarm clock, the addition of a visual time reference can be extremely useful. Moreover, because its speakers add so much in terms of both quality and volume level, it wouldn't be difficult to justify for those reasons either. 'Spot for your Dot' docks don't really seem intended for users who don't already own an Echo Dot, on the other hand. So those in that audience may not be in an optimal position to buy one. Having said that, its price tag at between $35 and $50 may also seem a bit steep for some uses, though the overall package packs a punch and can still be considered as offering good value for money.