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Lifewire / Erika Rawes
Attractive new look
Environmentally friendly materials
Still has 3.5mm jack
Few internal improvements over predecessor
No keyhole mount
The new Echo Dot (4th Gen) looks great, especially the “with clock” version, but it’s not all that much better under the hood than its predecessor.
We purchased the Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
Amazon’s Echo Dot has become a go-to option for those looking for a compact and affordable smart speaker. The brand has now released a 4th generation of its Echo Dot, and the new version has a totally different look than its predecessors. What else is new and different about the Echo Dot (4th Gen)? How does the new Dot perform? I tested the Echo Dot (4th Gen) to find out.
As time has passed and Amazon has released newer versions of its Echo Dot speaker, the company has shied away from sharp edges and hard plastic shells in favor of softer designs. You may remember the 2nd-gen model had more of a puck-shape, with a hard plastic shell and more defined edges. The earlier Dots looked more like networking equipment than home devices. However, this changed with the 3rd-Gen Dot, which had an airier feel, slightly rounded edges, and a fabric surround. This made the Dot feel more like a speaker made for the home and less like an office product.
The new Dot (4th Gen) is even softer and rounder, with a spherical shape and fabric covering most of the speaker, including the top portion. The 4th Gen Dot comes in three color options: charcoal, glacier white, and twilight blue. I tested the twilight blue color.
The new Dot measures 3.94 inches in diameter and 3.54 inches tall. The light ring sits on the bottom and the four main button controls sit on top of the speaker. The raised buttons make the Echo Dot look kind of like a small bowling ball from certain angles, but it’s nice to have the microphone off button right on top of the device for easy access.
The 4th Gen Dot still has a 3.5 mm output jack, which I was really pleased to see. Google’s Nest Mini (2nd Gen) lacks a 3.5 mm jack. However, unlike Google’s newest mini smart speaker, the Echo Dot does not have a keyhole mount for mounting on a wall. The speaker is meant for placement on a flat surface, as evidenced by the rubberized bottom that prevents slipping and helps the Echo Dot stay in place.
Overall, I really appreciate the design of the new Dot. Modern and elegant, it fits into my living room, kitchen, or bedroom, as it doesn’t have a cold feel that takes away from the space. The 4th-Gen Dot is made from environmentally conscious materials like post-consumer recycled plastics and fabrics, thus securing it a “Climate Pledge Friendly” tag on Amazon.
Setting up the Echo Dot is simple, especially if you already have the Alexa app downloaded. In the Alexa app, you just go to the devices menu, select on the “+” to add a device, and follow the prompts to add the Echo Dot 4th Gen speaker. The process only takes a moment.
The new Echo Dot has good sound, it’s just not all that much better than the Echo Dot (3rd Gen). When testing speakers, I frequently use the song Titanium by David Guetta featuring Sia because it has a range of low, mid, and high tones. For testing bass, I often use the song Chains by Nick Jonas. The Echo Dot (4th Gen) sounds pretty clear on all volume levels. There is a very slight hiss on the highest volume, but it’s barely noticeable, and it doesn’t take too much away from the listening experience.
With a 1.6-inch front-firing speaker, the Echo Dot (4th Gen) is loud enough to play music throughout a large space. I can hear the music throughout the entire first floor of my home. The Dot doesn’t sound as rich as the regular Echo, but it still sounds good, especially considering its small size (and small price tag). If you want to, you can also connect an external speaker using the 3.5 mm jack or using a Bluetooth connection.
With a 1.6-inch front-firing speaker, the Echo Dot (4th Gen) is loud enough to play music throughout a large space.
Voice recognition is so important in smart speakers because they need to be able to hear your voice commands even when there’s background noise. The Echo Dot (4th Gen) has four far-field microphones for voice detection like its predecessor. It does a good job of detecting commands from across the room, even in the presence of household noises like a running dishwasher or light conversation. However, if you have a room full of people loudly talking, you might need to raise your voice slightly to get the mics to hear your commands.
The Echo Dot (4th Gen) is powered by Alexa. The Alexa voice assistant on the new Echo Dot is the same Alexa that you get on the Echo Dot (3rd Gen). You’ll be able to control your smart devices, listen to music, hear the news, set routines, shop, manage your schedule, and do all of the same things you could do before. Alexa is always learning new skills though. Amazon announced new Alexa features (coming soon) like Care Hub, which is a free feature that lets you check in on loved ones.
The Echo Dot (4th Gen) comes in two other iterations: The Echo Dot (4th Gen) with Clock and the Echo Dot (4th Gen) Kids Edition. I tested the “with clock” iteration as a part of this review, but I did not test the kids model.
I was blown away by the Echo Dot (4th Gen) With Clock. It’s the same device (internally) as the regular Echo Dot (4th Gen), but it has an LED display on the front of the speaker. Doesn’t sound like much, right?
It actually makes a huge difference in the looks of the Dot speaker. The addition of the clock improves the aesthetics big time, making the Dot look less like a speaker and more like a really cool smart clock. Because the Dot is round, it ends up having a large space on the front—almost like a face; it's a perfect home for the clock display.
The “with clock” version displays the time, and you can turn the display on or off, as well as adjust the brightness. The clock can also display the temperature or work as a stopwatch. In the previous generation, the clock felt like an afterthought. The clock on the new 4th Gen model feels so intentional—it truly improves the design and makes the “with clock” version a much more desirable model in the Echo lineup.
I like the Echo Dot (4th Gen) with Clock better than the regular Echo Dot (4th Gen), as the regular version feels like it’s missing something.
The Echo Dot (4th Gen) retails for $50, and for $10 more, you can pick up the “with clock” version. The clock is very much worth it simply because the device looks so much better with it (aside from the obvious added functionality), and for first-time buyers, the default model is definitely worth $50. It looks great, sounds good, and provides an affordable way to access Alexa and control your smart home.
Apple announced the release of its HomePod Mini speaker, and it’s available for sale in November. The Siri-powered HomePod Mini is 3.3 inches tall, and it has a somewhat similar spherical shape to the Echo Dot. The HomePod Mini has a three-mic array, compared to the Dot’s four-mic array. However, the HomePod Mini has Apple’s S5 chip, and it’s in a higher price category at $99.
Primarily a design upgrade.
The new Echo Dot is a great speaker at a great price, but it’s not worth an upgrade if you already have the 3rd-gen Dot unless you’re going with the clock version. For first time buyers, it's a no-brainer.