Setting up the Echo Dot is only slightly more involved than configuring its larger sibling, mainly because you have to plug in an auxiliary cable in addition to a power cord. You'll have to use Amazon's Alexa iOS or Android app to get the Echo Dot connected to WiFi, which typically takes only a few minutes. The Alexa app is also where you can manage the Echo Dot's settings, as well as its "skills," or connections to third-party services. You can also go through voice training with the app to help your Echo Dot understand you better.
The Dot feels like a large hockey puck: It's basically the top part of the original Echo sitting on its own. There are two buttons on top for disabling the microphone and enabling Bluetooth pairing. To control the volume, you just need to turn the top portion of the device, which also lights up with LEDs to show you the sound levels. While it has a small built-in speaker, the entire appeal of the Echo Dot is its ability to connect to a beefier system. Once it's plugged in, it'll turn anything -- even a decades-old amplifier setup -- into a smart speaker. It's also a useful accessory if you've already invested in modern speaker systems like Sonos. The Echo Dot has the same beam-forming seven-microphone array that sits atop the original Echo, so it's just as accurate when it comes to hearing your commands, even in moderately noisy rooms.
I have a large Echo set up in my living room and the Echo Dot about 30 feet away in my bedroom. When standing between them, they're equally fast at determining my voice commands and bringing back responses. (It's truly weird occasionally hearing a symphony of Alexa responses in my apartment.) Since they're plugged into power continuously, the Echo devices are better about listening for potential voice commands than phone virtual assistants such as Siri and Google Now. Alexa doesn't have to worry about conserving battery life, after all.
With the Echo Dot connected to an older Logitech speaker on my nightstand, it worked like a charm. Audio quality was solid, and being able to shout Alexa commands from under the comfort of my duvet felt downright luxurious. The only potential issue? Your speakers, naturally, need to be turned on for the Echo Dot to work. In the interest of energy conservation, that's not something I'm willing to do 24/7. So I've taken to disconnecting the Echo Dot from my bedroom speaker most of the day, and instead rely on its embedded speaker for simple commands. When I want to listen to music or online radio, I just plug the speaker in. It would be nice if future versions of the Echo Dot gave you an easy way to automatically switch between its speaker options (or better yet, do it automatically).