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Don't buy an Amazon Echo Dot — get the Zolo Halo instead*

The is the Zolo Halo (opens in new tab). It's mostly like an Amazon Echo Dot. It's a connected speaker. It's got a microphone. It has Amazon Alexa built into it. So it can answer questions and control things and do most everything the Echo can do.

And at $391, it's priced about the same as the Echo Dot (which officially is $49 but had been on sale for $39 for a while; your mileage may vary) — but it sounds a lot better. So much so that I'll say this: If you're considering an Amazon Echo Dot, give this a long, hard look first.

It's not that the Zolo Halo sounds great. It's a small, OK speaker for the price. You're not going to be blow away by sound quality by anything this small, and certainly not this small and this inexpensive. But for $40, it sounds just fine, and it sounds that much better than the Echo Dot.

Amazon Echo Dot and Zolo Halo

I'm admittedly tired of the Echo Dot's tired design. So the Halo (much like the similar Eufy Genie, a third competitor) is a small breath of fresh air. OK, maybe it's got a bit of a pencil sharpener thing going on (now there'd be a cool trick), but it's definitely a step up from the oversized hockey puck Amazon's been selling for a few years now.

I'm digging the mute button on the front. There's no mistaking what you need to do if you don't want this thing listening in on you all day, every day. Hit the button, and it goes dumb. No more listening for you to say "Alexa."

I'm digging the rubberized buttons up top, done in sort of an inner ring/outer ring thing. Each is under a single sheet or rubber — a small but welcome detail. Looking down on the Halo, North is a button for Bluetooth control. South is play/pause. East and West are volume buttons. The inner ring is separated by the telltale blue LED light. There are a couple pinhole microphones up here, too.

Round back is an LED power light, 3.5mm aux-out port, and the power port. (Proprietary, at that. No Micro-USB nonsense going on here.)

So it's a better-looking, better-sounding Alexa device. What's the catch?

It's not an Echo. That means you'll not be able to do any of the Alexa Calling stuff that Alexa can do now. It also means that you can't do multi-room audio with other Alexa devices. You can, however, do multi-room audio with other Halo speakers.

So the decision is easy and obvious. If you just want an Alexa device that does the basics, get the Zolo Halo. If you have to have Alexa Calling, get an Echo Dot.

See at Amazon (opens in new tab)

  1. The $39 price point is listed as a sale price, with the retail price a ridiculous $109 — even more than the actual Amazon Echo. Do not pay $109 for this speaker. It's worth $39, not $109. I might go to $59, but that'd be it.) 
14 Comments
  • Would it also come on if you have other echos in the house? I forget what that feature is called but I know the Ecobee doesn't have that feature where the nearest alexa will work instead of multiple ones turning on at the same time.
  • Echo may not win in style, but that Halo isn't an improvement. And it's way too bulky looking. Seems silly to invest in some other company vs. Amazon's product for long haul. I'd rather put my $$ into what Amazon is selling for ongoing support and updates. Losing ability to connect all my Alexis/Echo devices together is also not a step in right direction.
  • So what's with the dig at MicroUSB power? I'm assuming it's not that it isn't USB-C, since that's not nearly so much of an issue with things that stay plugged in (you just get the right cable once and leave it there). Yes, it's a bit of nuisance if you haven't got a spare USB adaptor around (anyone?) but it means you can easily run things off power banks if you want to. You can get multi-way transformers so you can power several things from one socket. You can replace broken transformers pretty much anywhere -- again, you've probably got spare ones knocking about at home. And it pretty much kills off the problem of transformers blocking adjacent sockets.
  • I have the Echo Dot and think the design is great. It is practical and if it gets dirty can be wiped down easily. I much prefer it over the Google Home mini.
  • I think the Home Mini looks nicer than the Echo Dot, but both of them are leagues better-looking than this Zolo hunk of plastic.
  • (Proprietary, at that. No Micro-USB nonsense going on here.) ^^ So proprietary is now better than an old standard? How about "It's proprietary, but we would prefer USB-C or even microUSB instead"?
  • Without the near field microphones and working with other Dots to figure out which one should answer this is a complete non starter for me. Both my ecobee thermostat and my GE Sol light have Alexa built in but I have it disabled. When combined with the the 4 Dots it was a mess. The 4 Dots work great together.
  • Who took home a check for this?
  • So...buy the thing that's not as good as the other thing? Pass.
  • I see no worthwhile reason to get this over Alexa
  • Please let the creators read these comments. I will *NEVER* get one of these because you clickbaited the title with "get this instead" not telling me what it is. They could pay me now, and it would go in the trash.
  • Buy an echo Dot, and then buy a speaker dock that it sits in that includes a good speaker and a rechargable battery. You now have something better than an Echo Dot and an Echo tap, for an in-between price of around $50. And with all the functionality of an Echo Dot. Better than what's in this article by far. This is what I got, and I already owned a Dot.. major improvement. Loud and clear, and portable.
    MOKCAO POWER+ Cordless Speaker with Battery Base for Amazon Echo Dot 2nd Generation, 20W Powerful Stereo Sound, Portable Powered Speaker with 5000mAh Power Bank (Dot sold separately)-Black https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074FHLC2F/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_ISKzAbQYNFTXV?ta...
  • I just bought one after trying (and really liking) an Echo Dot (with prime discount). The sound is better than Dot, but the far field voice recognition isn't as good. Mine will only respond to Alexa as wake word. I like the push button top. My use will be as desktop speaker with push for Alexa. As said in another post, the far field voice recognition of the Dot is much better.
  • There is a new unique stand/holder for Echo Dot. It's called Znewtech LED Clock Stand. This clock stand is custom designed to work with Amazon Echo Dot 2nd Generation. It holds Echo Dot well and allows customers to see the time at a glance at any time, especially when talking to Alexa just isn't possible or convenient. It's on Amazon now.