The first product
ever released was an iPod clock radio dock back in 2005. It was a huge hit, and iHome’s been making bedside docks for popular gadgets ever since. Their latest, the iAVS1, is built to house an Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker, amplify its sound a little bit, and fully transform it into a voice-activated alarm clock.

On paper, it’s as much of a no-brainer as that original iPod dock. After all, plenty of people — myself included — already keep an Echo Dot on their nightstand and use it to wake up in the morning. Why not commit to the bit and dock that Dot in a clock, complete with better sound quality?

In my case, the price tag gives me pause. This thing costs $70 ($20 more than Echo Dot costs by itself), and it really offers nothing beyond a clockface, a modest bump in sound quality and a pair of USB ports to charge your devices. And while it looks nice enough, the design feels bigger than it needs to be, and it forces you to eat up two outlets in order to power both the dock and your Dot. The iAVS1 might be a tempting upgrade if you catch it on sale, but at full price, I’m not sure it’s worth the splurge.

Let’s start with that design. Available in both white and black, the dock itself is fairly large as alarm clocks go, with an upward-facing speaker spanning its top face. iHome pitches it as a stereo speaker system, and it definitely offers fuller sound than what you’ll get from an Echo Dot on its own. To my ear, though, it’s a fairly modest improvement — I wonder if the addition of forward-facing speakers on the front of the dock would have helped.

Thread the Echo Dot’s power cable through the back of the dock, plug in the audio cable, and pop Alexa into place.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Using the dock is a cinch. Just thread your Echo Dot’s power cable through the back before plugging it in, connect the dock’s built-in audio-out cable and pop Alexa into place. The top half-inch or so of your Dot will stick out of the device — that’s because iHome wanted to make sure that people with first-gen Echo Dots could still access the ring around the top of the speaker that controls the volume. The reason that’s important? The iAVS1 doesn’t have volume controls of its own, and instead relies entirely on the Echo Dot.

In fact, the iAVS1 hardly has any controls of its own. There’s a button on top to adjust the brightness of the clock and a set of buttons on the bottom of the dock that you’ll use to set the time, but that’s it. No volume controls, no radio and no snooze button: All of it gets outsourced to Alexa.

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