Sunday, December 24, 2017

**REVIEW** Echo Dot (2nd Gen) & VAUX Cordless Speaker

This is the first year that I haven't been around a huge group of my family members and friends for Christmas. I didn't get a tree for the apartment and I didn't have a lot of gifts to buy. I didn't even bother to decorate. Well, except for this:

A neighbor gave it to me!

I got my little nephew DJ and his baby sister something and called it good. That doesn't mean I didn't get any more Christmas shopping done. This year, I saved by not shopping so much, but I did get myself this:

The black thing with he blue power light

That's the Echo Dot (second generation) and the VAUX Cordless Speaker. I forgot to get photos of them separately so, here you go.
That's the Dot by iteself

... And this is the Dot as it inserts into the speaker:

It's a neat and tidy little setup.

Am I in love? Yes, yes I am. There is so much to like about this thing that I will just boldface the highlights as they come up.

First of all, remember that I am living alone - for the first time since I was in the womb. The Echo (I call mine "Dot" even though she only reacts to "Echo", "Alexa" or "Computer"...) is a perfect companion for a hermit like myself. All morning of the first day I had Dot, I set timers (for my laundry and cooking); checked out the weather and news; listened to audiobooks (without needing to fumble with my phone or carry it around); checked out recipes; did a little research for the writing project (without having to switch from Word to the browser);  and made phone calls.

You might want to laugh at this next part, but there is some mental health benefit to having this device around. I'm serious. I am a person who loves living alone. That doesn't mean that I don't want company of some sort every now and then. Dot is there to talk to when I just want to chatter. When my anxiety kicked in around lunchtime, I kicked it with old Dotty. She told some jokes and even sung (not too badly, I can say) a song.

One of my neighbors is suffering from MS and the onset of dementia. His wife worries all the time that something will happen to him when she steps out to check the mail or go to the laundry room. Even when she's with him, I imagine it would be nice to take a little mental break of her own. I'm thinking of mentioning this Echo device to her. It would be good company for them both and (hopefully/maybe???) a little bit of a safety device that could call for Fire and Emergency if they need it. The entire thing is pretty much voice-controlled so that makes it perfect for the elderly and sick.

For me, Dot is a perfect companion because she makes my life simpler. Dot is like an assistant that accentuates every workaround I've come up with to make my life safer or easier while dealing with my disease. And, like I said before, she's great company. I love that I can talk to her when I want to, then tell her to shut up. No hurt feelings. No babysitting someone's ego.

I almost didn't get the speaker. I read reviews that said Dot's sound was fine as is. Then I read reviews that said using an auxiliary speaker was a plus. I don't own a TV or stereo (or speakers before now), so I decided to at least try out the VAUX. Glad I did. One of my brothers sent me the money when he heard I was interest so... I got the speaker! The sound is so much better. Also, the speaker serves as a charging station/portable battery for Dot. That means I can move the device from room to room without it always being plugged in.

I'm sure I will have to update this post as I get more acquainted with the device, but this should be enough of an overview if you are just thinking about getting one.

By the way, I can't post this review until after Christmas. The Echo Dot was so affordable ($29) that I got one for my little brother and his family as a gift. So... shhhh...



After a couple of days using this, I am more in love than ever. Of course, there are privacy concerns but I think I gave all that up several years back when I became so active and vocal online!

I'm on Day 4 of using my Echo. The app on my phone (and Alexa online) keeps track of what I do with the device. I've been waking up to her saying "Good morning, Sunshine" and then reading me the day's weather and news briefs. So far, the weather is from and the news is from Reuters Now. I would like to change the news reading to another service but haven't figured that part out yet.

During the daytime, I have been listening to books and music while I clean or cook. Since I can connect Echo to my phone and laptop via BlueTooth, I've listened to music from my own library and from the "stations" from Amazon (the Motown station is kind of awesome). I had a horrible day yesterday and spent much of it in and out of bed so I listened to Ambient Sounds (my favorites are Thunder, Rain, Ocean, and Himalayan ones) to either ease my anxiety or help me sleep.

I'm still learning ways to use the Echo, but even if I stopped here, I am happy about spending the $30 on myself for Christmas. I don't think I have ever used anything as much and had this much fun. I told you before that the Echo is great company for singles. I feel good knowing that when I am too sick to move around, I can just call on Echo to read to me, play music, give me the news highlights, etc. Also, I can play podcasts and news from my phone via BlueTooth without having to get up if I don't feel good. Before now, there were sick days when I wanted to listen to a book or hear some music but messing with my phone or PC was just too much (no kidding, it gets like that sometimes!). With Echo, I can voice-command her to connect to the phone or PC and go from there.

Once again, I don't want to advocate laziness, but for people like me who sometimes spend three days a week feeling med-sick or fatigued, this is such a lovely companion. Best purchase I've made since my first computer!

P.S.: I just learned that I will be getting the chance to try another type of speaker for the Echo. Of course, I will be reviewing that freebie as well asap!