It's the impulse buy of the year, and so very worth it.

Choosing between Amazon's Echo and the new Google Home isn't an easy choice, especially if you're a big fan of Google's services and already have a Chromecast kicking around. Right now, Amazon has a lot more features to explore, but that feature list is never going to include summoning your next Netflix binge session with nothing but your voice. There's a lot to consider, and a lot of people are trying to figure out which is best for their needs while surrounded by deals and sales and new features being added every day.

I say don't worry with either of the big expensive speaker assistants, and start out with Amazon's Echo Dot instead.

Better than the full-sized Echo

Echo Dot

Echo Dot does everything Echo does, with one significant difference: Amazon Echo comes with a specially designed speaker so you can enjoy listening to streaming music, and Echo Dot does not. There's a little speaker in Dot that allows Alexa to respond to you when you give a command, but it's nowhere near good enough to enjoy listening to music. Echo Dot doesn't need a speaker, though. It has something much more important — an audio out port.

Amazon is doing to home automation what Google did to streaming video, and that's great.

That 3.5mm jack in the back of Echo Dot, which doesn't exist on the Echo, allows you to connect whatever speaker you want to your Echo Dot. This level of flexibility means you can connect to a big expensive stereo system if you happen to have one of those, or a tiny portable speaker that can travel with you throughout the house. Echo Dot is also powered by a Micro-USB port, which means you can buy a Bluetooth speaker with a big battery and take your Echo Dot poolside or out into the garage with you if you don't want to buy more than one.

The speaker built into the full-sized Echo is decent, but it's not as good as being able to connect to whatever speaker you want. It's also not as capable a speaker as the one built into Google Home, so if music streaming is your priority the full-sized Echo just plain isn't worth the price tag.

Cheap enough to be an impulse buy

Echo Dot

Much in the same way that Google's Chromecast was the big impulse buy and stocking stuffer last year, Amazon's Echo Dot is cheap enough that you really don't lose anything by giving it a shot.

What if you prefer Assistant to Alexa? There's nothing wrong with preferring Google services, especially if you're an Android user. The truth is, it's going to be a couple of months before Google Home is able to compete feature for feature with Amazon Echo. You can grab Google Home now and wait for each feature you want to be added, or you can grab an Echo Dot now and figure out how you want to use a household assistant while the competition builds up.

That sounds silly, but consider the price. If you catch them on sale, you can buy three Echo Dots for the price of a single Google Home. If you buy a single Dot now and learn how you want to use a home assistant, but later decide you really need Google in that mix, you aren't out much. If you decide Echo Dot really is what you want, you can start thinking about expanding Echo Dot into multiple rooms in your home.

What are you waiting for?

Amazon is doing to home automation what Google did to streaming video, and that's great. By making it so cheap it's easy to try for a while and see if you want something better later, or make it super easy to expand and fill your house with Alexa, there's little reason to not give an Echo Dot a try.

What do you think, are you ready to give it a shot? Tell us about it in the comments!

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