On one hand, it's good thing that so many accessories manufacturers are jumping onto the Echo Dot bandwagon. Amazon's budget Echo is a prime candidate for cheap accessories that make it do more than was originally intended. But that may be the undoing of the iHome iAVS1 clock.
iHome, of course, is a longtime maker of all sorts of smart-ish accessories. If you've been in a hotel room in the past decade there's a decent chance you've seen one of their alarm clock/speaker mash-ups. (And there's also a decent chance you've seen one with an old-school 30-pin iPhone connector, as your Micro USB-powered Android phone watched from the sidelines. But that's another story for another time.) The iAVS1 goes a slightly different direction and uses an Amazon Echo Dot (either first- or second-generation) to make an otherwise dumb clock a good bit smarter.
Setup of this sort of thing is as simple as it is obvious. You plop the Echo Dot into the hole in the top of the clock, and then plug in the USB and 3.5mm audio connections in the back. Then the whole thing plugs into a wall outlet. In return you get a dimmable clock and decent (but not great) speaker.
It's important to note that there's really not anything smart about the iAVS1 itself. It's a dumb clock in that you set it manually — it doesn't poll the time from the Echo Dot or anything. And the speaker uses the included audio cable to get sound from the Echo Dot. (That's better and easier than Bluetooth anyway.)
Everything else relies on the Echo Dot. Want to set an Alarm? You're doing it through the Echo Dot. Want to play some music? Ask Alexas to do it. So in that sense the iAVS1 is like any of those other accessory speakers we've looked at (be sure to check out the VAUX review) in that it takes a cheap Echo Dot and for double the price gets you something that sounds better but still isn't as good as a more expensive Echo.
And in the case of the iAVS1, it's doing so in an accessory that's a magnet for dust and fingerprints, and takes up a lot more room on my nightstand than I'd like. It's not that it doesn't do its job well — it does — or that it's prohibitively expensive (it lists at $70, but you can find it on Amazon for less at times).
There's just something sort of ... generic about this thing. It works fine. It looks decent. It sounds OK. And for $50 or so I guess that's good enough.
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