Alexa integration has been the hottest trend in speakers this year, but despite Amazon’s willingness to open up Alexa to third-parties, it seems that the company’s own Echo line of speakers still have the home-field advantage, so it’s understandable why many Alexa users might prefer to stick with the first-party options. To this end, we’ve seen a couple of companies taking the more blunt approach to Alexa integration — providing a basic speaker that simply acts as a dock for Amazon’s own Echo Dot, essentially leaving the brains of the device to Amazon and focusing on the core audio experience. Earlier this year we took a look at Divoom’s ADOT, and now prolific speaker maker iADHome has joined the club with its own line of Echo Dot extending speakers.
Cutely dubbed as a “Spot for your Dot,” the iAV5 is designed with that single purpose in mind. In the box, you’ll find nothing but the speaker itself; there’s not even a USB cable included, since iHome reasonably expects that you can simply use the cable and power adapter that Amazon bundles with the Echo Dot, which is a fair assumption considering that the speaker isn’t designed to be used without the Echo Dot. On the rear of the speaker you’ll find a micro USB port for powering and charging the speaker and docked Echo Dot, along with three buttons for power, Bluetooth pairing, and color mode settings. Now that Amazon has released a third-generation of the Echo Dot, it’s also worth mentioning that the iAV5 is specifically designed to house the second-generation Echo Dot.
A flap above the power buttons conceals a micro USB connector that’s used to attach to the Echo Dot, which inserts into a concave section on the top of the speaker, essentially becoming the top speaker controls. Unlike Divoom’s ADOT, there’s no 3.5mm audio connection here as the iAV5 takes a different approach, connecting with the Echo Dot via Bluetooth instead of a direct wired connection. This means you’ll have to go through the extra step of pairing the Echo Dot to the iAV5 using the Amazon Alexa app (or simply asking Alexa to pair a Bluetooth device), but you should only need to do that once. It’s also worth noting that you can use the iAV5 as a standard Bluetooth speaker even without inserting an Echo Dot, which makes it a bit more versatile, although it doesn’t support multi-device pairing, so you’ll have to go through the process of disconnecting the Bluetooth connection from one device before switching to the other.
As a speaker, the iAV5 is pretty much what we would expect from iHome, providing strong, clear, and reasonably balanced sound for a speaker in its price range, with six watts of output power and a passive subwoofer. The iAV5’s marquee feature, however, is its color-changing exterior shell, which can be set to one of five color modes using the button on the rear — slow fade, fast change, single favourite color, pulse to music, or a preset pulsing mode. The speaker provides a nice light show, whether you’re listening to music or not, and somewhat complements Echo Dot’s own LED ring. In addition, the iAV5 sports an internal rechargeable battery that promises to provide up to eight hours of power on a single charge, turning your Echo Dot into a speaker that you can easily move around, although since you won’t be able to access Alexa when away from your Wi-Fi connection, this is more designed to allow you to move the speaker around your house or back yard rather than taking it on the road with you. However, this is the one area where we question iHome’s choice to use Bluetooth for connecting two devices that are physically joined to each other, a choice that undoubtedly had a measurable cost in battery life. Still, we don’t think this is a serious issue considering that most users will likely simply keep the iAV5 plugged in most of the time anyway, and eight hours should be more than enough for an afternoon out on the patio.
While iHome provides its own unique take on extending the Echo Dot here, in the end we find ourselves coming to the same conclusions as we did with Divoom’s ADOT. If you’ve already got an Echo Dot, there’s no question in our mind that the iAV5 is well worth the money to turn it into a real speaker. On the other hand, now that Amazon has dropped the price of the second-gen Echo Dot to $40, you can pick up both the iAV5 and the necessary Echo Dot for the same price as Amazon’s own Echo speaker, the latter of which doesn’t provide a built-in battery, or the fun color-changing LED design. To us, this makes the iAV5 a pretty easy choice if you’re somebody who is a serious fan of Amazon’s Alexa ecosystem and want a speaker that provides good sound, fun features, and all of the benefits and features of a first-party Amazon speaker.
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