Dot 1 vs. Dot 2

I got one of the new Dots (UK visitors, click here) and already own one of the first gens, so if you’re wondering whether it’s worth the upgrade or buying one for the first time, you’ve come to the right place because today I’m providing the rundown on Dot 1 vs. Dot 2.

 

 

The Differences
Since the Dot 2’s first software version was 4008, which was also rolled out to first-gen Dots, the main differences between the two Dots are physical.

The Dot 2 is a little shorter.

 

Dot 2 Height

 

As the image above shows, the height difference is roughly equal to half the height of the Dot 1’s volume ring. Speaking of which…

The Dot 2 doesn’t have a volume ring. Instead, in addition to voice commands, you can use two new push buttons on top to control volume:

 

Dot 2 Top

 

You’ll also notice that the Dot 1 has a perforated border all around the rim, where the multi-directional microphones are inside the chassis, and the Dot 2 has slots. It’s unclear to me if this was primarily an esthetic change, or if the mics really do hear better with the slots than the perforated border.

The light ring is slightly narrower in the Dot 2, and while the new plastic casing looks thinner and more sleek, a close look at those slots around the rim reveals the casing of the Dot 2 is no thinner than that of the Dot 1. But the Dot 2 is most definitely, noticeably, lighter.

On the Dot 2, the rear indicator light from the Dot 1 has been eliminated (see red circle in image below). I’m generally down on removal of features, but when I think about it I have to admit the rear indicator light isn’t something I ever actually used on the Dot 1. If eliminating it contributed to the lower price and lighter weight of Dot 2, it’s a fair trade off.

Dot 2’s underside reveals a more curved edge, resulting in a slightly smaller grip pad. The bottom slots are where sound comes out of the Dot, and as you can see there hasn’t been any change in the slot design. However, where Dot 1’s slots are angled slightly more downward because they’re cut into a flat plane, Dot 2’s curved bottom may contribute to better sound quality by directing the sound slightly more outward than Dot 1.

Of course the sound quality is still fairly tinny, like a transistor radio, but that’s because the Dot is designed to stream to a separate, external, higher quality speaker via Bluetooth or audio line out.

 

Dot 2 Bottom

 

One thing I can’t show in a photo is that the Dot 2 runs MUCH cooler than the original. Like many Dot 1 owners, I kept mine elevated on little tumble trivets to allow for more air circulation because the bottom would otherwise get hot enough for me to worry about it damaging the IKEA headboard shelf where it sat. My Dot 1 was definitely uncomfortable to hold in the hand, whether it was actually in use or not. Dot 2 stays totally cool. It doesn’t even feel warm on my hand.

Dot 2 has much finer granularity in volume control. With the Echo and Dot 1, you’re pretty much limited to ten volume level settings. With Dot 2, when you use voice commands or the top buttons to turn volume up or down, the individual steps up or down are much smaller. Starting with the volume all the way down, 10 presses of the volume button will not max out volume on the Dot 2. This level of control more closely mimics what you’re used to with an on-screen slider control for volume.

 

Where The Alexa Hits The Road: Is The New Software Buggy?
The ESP functionality included in the 4008 update works incredibly well. I tested with the new Dot and an Echo (also with software version 4008) in the same room, about 8 feet apart. Whichever device I leaned toward when speaking responded, and the other did not.

Some consumers are saying the Dot 2 seems to have more problems comprehending their requests, but others are saying it’s the new software because their existing Alexa devices are sometimes failing to respond correctly to commands that used to work. As I’ve said here before, and recently responded to an LME reader via email, when a command that used to work stops working, that means either:

1. There’s been a software change and the old command—or some of the words in it—are now reassigned to other, new or improved functionality.

– OR –

2. There’s been a software change that attempts to improve the natural speech engine’s comprehension and response.

For example, I used to request my personal playlists (as opposed to Prime playlists) by saying, “Alexa, shuffle the playlist {playlist name}.” That command doesn’t work anymore. Now I have to say, “Alexa, shuffle my {playlist name} playlist.” Apparently a decision was made that the second phrasing rolls more naturally off the tongue than the first, and maybe that “my” is an important keyword Alexa needs to hear in order to distinguish between personal playlists and other types of playlists. This change may have to do with the new Amazon Music streaming service; I can’t say, because I don’t use it.

I’ll admit some of the original interactions with Alexa can/could feel stilted or unnatural, so I understand why Amazon’s team keeps tinkering with the interaction model. But it also means us Alexa old timers will have to experiment with new phrasing from time to time. If you’re experiencing problems of this nature, that’s my advice to you: experiment with your phrasing until you hit on the command that works. Also be sure to check the Alexa app when troubleshooting, so you can see what Alexa thought you said.

Some are complaining about problems with frequent Dot 2 disconnects, but I haven’t experienced this at all.

I can’t troubleshoot every individual scenario, but Amazon can:

Amazon Echo Tech Support phone number:
1-877-375-9365 – 3am to 10pm PST, 7 days

Amazon Echo/Alexa Tech Support email address:
alexa-support@amazon.com

 

And there you have it.
To my mind and based on my experience with both Dots, I’d say the Dot 2 is an improvement in a number of form factor areas, and the finer volume control and elimination of excessive heat are both pretty significant upgrades.

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