The Vobot Smart Alarm clock adds to the growing number of devices integrating Amazon Alexa to add smart features to an otherwise standard device.
Rather than taking on the high end market and going up against the likes of the Amazon Echo or Sonos One the Vobot is aiming to win over those interested in the Amazon Dot, the smaller, cheaper, alternative to the Echo.
To offer a proper alternative the Vobot needs to do something different to the Dot, and it does that by adding a small screen. This screen means the Vobot is a clock most of the time, displaying a range of information on it’s little screen.
The screen is really good, clear enough to see during the day, at night it doesn’t light up the room and cause disruption to sleep. You can have a range of information displayed on the screen, for example time, day, date, or battery level, and it’ll cycle through the information (how quick it does this is up to you).
You’ll have noticed it shows battery information, that’s because, unlike the Dot, this has a rechargeable battery built in allowing you to take the Vobot away from the bedside, for example you could take it in the garden. Providing it’s got a WiFi connection all the functionality continues to work.
A nice little easter egg to try is to hold the volume down button for 7 seconds, this activates a game of breakout on the screen. It’s not something you’ll play a lot but it’s good fun to have a go and see if you can beat the game.
As with the Dot it has a line out connection allowing you to connect this to your existing speakers.
Being an alarm clock it has the ability to set an alarm, when it goes off it’s a very pleasant noise that increases in volume until you either turn it off or snooze it.
So far this all sounds a lot better than the Amazon Dot, but there are some issues to be aware of. For a start it doesn’t have the active listening ability of the Dot, you have to tap the top of the unit to make it listen to your voice. Some may see this as a positive, disliking the always listening nature of Alexa products, however as the activation button can be tricky to tap it proved to be fairly annoying to use.
When you do manage to hit the button you can use the same commands you would on a Dot, for example to control the Lifx smart bulbs.
Unfortunately there is one common in particular that doesn’t work and shows there to be a a major service missing from the Vobot: Spotify. Ask Vobot to play a song from Spotify and you’ll be told that’s not possible. It’s fine to play from Amazon music, but if you’re use to being able to listen to Spotify this is very disappointing and hopefully something that can be updated in a future software update.
Overall the Vobot offers an interesting alternative to the Dot. The lack of voice control would be fine if the activation button was easier to hit (for example just tap anywhere on top), however the real benefit of the Vobot is the screen, it makes this a great bedside companion and is a really good bedside clock that benefits from having Alexa functionality built in.
The Vobot is available from: