Now in its fourth generation, the Echo Dot is Amazon’s compact smart speaker priced at $ 50, but packs the same Alexa intelligence as all other members of the Echo family.
The low price of previous Echo Dots has put Alexa in many, many homes and in some cases in multiple rooms in the same home. At $ 50, the dot has always been in the impulse buying segment of the smart home market, picked up by smart home cases eager to invite Alexa in from the cold, and by automation professionals who want the assistant to be on the alert in every call. room.
But given the low price and small size, formerly Echo Dots has come up with the baked-in compromise of mediocre sound quality. They are usually best paired with a speaker you already own to get the most out of them.
However, things are different with the fourth generation Echo Dot. This is a speaker that promises improved sound and the ability to operate, at least in some cases, all on its own. We have been living with the new dot for a week to see if it is up to the task.
Amazon Echo Dot (4th generation) review: Design and hardware
The compact Echo Dot is the perfect companion on the desktopGearBrain
For the first time, the Echo Dot shares exactly the same design as its bigger sibling, the regular Echo. This means a spherical device slightly larger than a tennis ball, with a plastic base and textured fabric shield available in blue, charcoal and, as tested in this article, white.
That Echo Dot is undoubtedly a sweet thing. This is no doubt helped by the fact that it is identical but half as large as the regular echo, but there is something about the new dot that makes it completely disarming. This is a piece of technology that will be like at home on your desk or on the kitchen table, like on a shelf in the lounge or by your bed.
The dot borrowed from Amazon for this review found a home on my desktop. As I have written about for GearBrain before, it is a small desk and free space is for a prize. But while the regular echo is too large, the dot fits perfectly between the screen and the Mac Mini. Here, just inches from my keyboard, it blends nicely together, and its top-mounted volume buttons are just an outstretched hand away.
As with the full-size Echo, the plus and minus volume buttons are connected by a button to turn off Alexa’s microphone (and turn the light ring on the base of the dot red) and a button to call Alexa if you do not want the name loud. Also borrowed from the larger Echo is a 3.5mm audio input at the rear, making it easy to connect the dot to a larger speaker if you wish. There is also Bluetooth to stream music to Echo Dot or from Dot to another speaker.
The diminutive Dot measures 3.5 inches tall, 3.9 inches wide, and weighs 12 oz. Inside, there is a single 1.6-inch speaker. Unlike the regular Echo, there is no tripod-style screw hole on the base for mounting on a speaker stand. While a few echoes can be used as part of a home theater system, this is not Dot’s intended purpose.
Amazon Echo Dot (4th generation) review: Setup and software
If you already have an Amazon account and an Alexa-smart home, set it up Echo Dot is very easy. Simply plug the dot into an electrical outlet (there is no way to power it with USB), open the Alexa smartphone app, and tap Devices, then the plus icon. Now tap Add device and follow the instructions. It only takes a few taps to set up the dot, give it a name and assign it to a home and a room.
Then you are good to go and the Echo Dot works like any other Echo device you already have. It is always a good feeling to create a brand new device and realize that it is the same smart Alexa that you are used to on other products. Within a few minutes, I had gone from listening to the radio on the regular Echo to installing Dot and asking for the same station on it instead. Adding an echo to your Alexa home is really hassle-free.
Being the same Alexa as on all other Echo speakers, the assistant can be used to answer questions by searching the web, playing games, telling stories and jokes, managing a calendar and timers, reading news headlines and weather forecasts, playing music, and more besides.
Echo Dots’ small size and low price make it the perfect way to add Alexa to multiple rooms in your home. Doing so means being able to talk to Alexa in several places, but also unlocking extra features like being able to use your Echo speakers as an intercom system for households, which Amazon calls Drop-In.
You can also play music from all your Echo devices at once, create a stereo pair in a room or an entire home sound system if they are in different rooms. Of course, Alexa can also be used to control all kinds of smart home appliances, from lights and connectors to thermostats, garage doors, locks, robotic vacuum cleaners, and more.
There simply is not space here to address everything Alexa can do. For a detailed look at the assistant’s features, go to GearBrain’s complete guide.
The back of Echo Dot (4th generation)GearBrain
Amazon Echo Dot (4th generation) review: Sound quality
The first two generations of Echo Dot really struggled when it came to sound quality. Unless it was used solely as a means of talking to Alexa or as an alarm by the bed or a kitchen clock, dots for old simply did not have the sound capabilities to play music satisfactorily.
Third-generation Echo Dot improved this, and the latest model takes things even further. It is surprisingly good considering its size, it gets quite loud and can produce more bass than one might expect. As I sat at my desk and turned up about 75 percent, I could feel vibrations from the Dot as I type.
That said, the Echo Dot is most comfortable up to about 50 percent volume. Above this and the heights overhear the bass and cause a sound that is too light and thin. In short, the bass can not keep up with the volume, and you best never wait for more than 50 or 60 percent.
But that’s fine. Echo Dot is still not a speaker that can accommodate sound, nor is it designed to do so. But for quietly playing radio while working, or a podcast or playlist while cooking, it’s great.
I have the icing on the cake playing a low volume radio station while working and for that task, it’s really perfect. I can also ask Alexa to turn on the electric heater under my desk if I get cold and adjust the Hue lights in my room. In this sense, Dot transforms Alexa into a handy assistant who sits at my desk and takes up very little space but is ready to help when I ask.
Amazon Echo Dot (4th generation) in whiteGearBrain
The Echo Dot was already a thoroughly good smart speaker for the price, and for the fourth generation, Amazon has made it even better. I really like the new design – and actually think the ball shape fits the smaller Dot better than the full-size Echo. It also sounds surprisingly good for its size, as long as you don’t screw up too high.
For casual radio listening during the day or perhaps to play around with ambient noise to help you concentrate while working from home, the Echo Dot is perfect.
Then there is Alexa, which is just as smart and feature-packed here at $ 50 Dot as it is on all other Echo devices. The dot is simple, smart, attractive, and easy to use. If this is your second Echo device, it unlocks a host of new features, and the soft, friendly design and choice of three colors mean it’s likely to fit nicely into any room in any room in your home. For me, Alexa inside the 4th gen Echo Dot is the perfect companion for the desktop.
- Compact and attractive design
- Good sound quality and volume for the size
- Alexa is as smart as ever
- Sound suffers from lack of bass and clarity at high volume
- Not a huge upgrade on Echo Dot (Gen 3)
- Cannot be powered b
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