Amazon Echo Dot (4th-gen) full review
According to Amazon, the Echo Dot is its best-selling speaker (not even smart speaker - all speakers) and the third-generation model currently sits at in first position with the new Echo Dot 4 already in second.
And it isn’t hard to see why: it’s inexpensive and Alexa can do exactly the same things she can on Amazon’s more expensive speakers.
For the third generation, the company introduced a new model: the Dot with clock. And the lineup hasn’t changed for 2020.
Because the two devices are identical apart from the display – and price – there’s really no reason to review them separately, so I’ll cover both models here.
Features & Design
Unlike in previous years, the Dot is identical in design to the regular Echo. It’s simply smaller – a 100mm diameter instead of 144mm.
Here's how the two sizes compare:
The Dot comes in the same three colours as the big Echo: Charcoal, Glacier White and Twilight Blue. Its plastic body is made from 50% recycled plastic, 100% recycled aluminium and 100% recycled fabric.
The usual four buttons are still on top for adjusting volume, muting the mic and stopping the alarm that goes off when a timer ends (among other things).
Just like the regular Echo, the light ring is at the base and reflects off your bedside table, or wherever you choose to place your Dot.
A couple of minor differences are that there’s no threaded hole in the base and the 3.5mm minijack socket is an output only: it can’t be configured to be an input in the Alexa app like the bigger Echo.
If you pay a very reasonable £10/$10 extra for the clock model you get an LED display which curves around the front and shines through the fabric. There’s no difference between the 4th-gen and 3rd-gen models in terms of what it can show: the time, timers, outdoor temperature, alarm times and display the volume and screen brightness levels – from 0 to 10.
Internally, there’s the new AZ1 processor which allows Alexa to respond faster as it can process some of what you say on the device itself, but with less available memory than the Echo and Echo Show 10, the Dot and Dot with clock don’t get the full range of new features which, as far as I know, means they won’t be able to handle the new, more natural-sounding voice of Alexa which was demonstrated at the launch event.
It’s worth noting that the Dot doesn’t have the smart hub of the big Echo, nor does it get the new temperature sensor. Alexa can report only the outside temperature, which she gets from weather services.
The new Dot and Dot with clock have a single 1.6in speaker which is the same size as the 3rd-gen Dot, but being inside a sphere means better bass.
And so the fourth-generation Echo Dot sounds exactly like the third, but lower frequencies are more noticeable. As with all Echo Dots, they’re not the best choice for listening to music if you care about sound quality, but they are great for listening to the radio, podcasts or simply Alexa’s voice.
If even the larger fourth-gen Echo, reviewed, isn’t going to satisfy you with its audio quality, then hooking up your own speaker(s) to a Dot could be a good way to save money if you can live without the Echo’s extra features such as that smart hub.
Remember, too, that the Echo Dot and clock version have built-in Bluetooth which works both ways. You can stream music from your phone or another Bluetooth device to it, but you can also pair a Bluetooth speaker to get better sound from the Dot, so long as the speaker doesn’t need a PIN to pair it.
Price & availability
The Echo Dot with clock goes on sale 5 November, a little later than the display-less Dot. This is £10/$10/$40 more expensive at £59.99/$59.99/AU$99.99.
If you’re in the US, you also have the choice of a third model, the Kids Edition. Amazon has come up with more fun designs this year: you can pick between a tiger or panda.
At the time of review, the tiger version wasn’t in stock until 22 November, and the panda option isn’t released until 9 December.
Those are both $59.99 and have a child-friendly version of Alexa along with a free year of Amazon Kids+ (previously called FreeTime Unlimited). That includes age-appropriate Audible books, interactive games and educational skills.
For an extra $10, you can buy an Echo Dot Kids Edition plus an Echo Glow, which is a smart, multicolour nightlight.
If you’re happy to go without the new processor and new design, it’s possible to find the third-generation Echo Dot for quite a lot less than £49.99/$49.99 but it’s also possible that Amazon will discount the fourth-generation model for Black Friday, as well as in other seasonal sales.
Don't forget to have a look at our roundup of the best smart speakers for alternatives to the Echo Dot.
The new Echo Dot may have a new design and faster, more power-efficient processor but to all intents and purposes isn’t really much different from the old one. It sounds largely the same and has the same capabilities. The same goes for the version with a clock.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy one of the new fourth-gen models, but there’s no reason to upgrade if you have a third-gen Echo Dot.
Amazon Echo Dot (4th-gen): Specs
- 100 x 100 x 83mm
- 1.6in woofer
- 3.5mm audio output
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- Far-field beamforming microphones
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