Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) Review: A small speaker with big sound
The Amazon Echo family is bigger today than ever. There really is something for everyone, from the tiny speaker to the massive display and everything in-between. It’s the former we’re looking at here, the smallest, most affordable member of the Amazon Echo family. Well strictly, that’s not quite true, the Echo Flex exists, but the Echo Dot is the smallest, most affordable smart speaker you would actually want to use from Amazon.
To look at it’s just a shrunken down version of its sibling, and in some regards that’s accurate. With the loss in size, there are naturally compromises to make, but it’s really not as bad as you might first think. The Echo Dot even has one feature on its side that the bigger one doesn’t have. The Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) has been out for a while. But with no sign of a replacement on the horizon, what is this little sphere like to live with in 2022?
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Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen): Pricing and Availability
The Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) is available to buy from Amazon and selected resellers such as Best Buy. It comes in three versions, with the base version having a regular retail price of $50.
For $10 more you can get either the Echo Dot with Clock, which adds an LED clock display, or the Kids Edition, which comes with content from Amazon Kids and a bulletproof two-year warranty.
The real magic about shopping for an Amazon Echo Dot is grabbing one at one of the regular discount events. The biggest ones are Prime Day and Black Friday every year, but there will also be sporadic sales throughout the year and Amazon isn’t shy about providing big price cuts on them.
Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen): Specifications
|Specification||Amazon Echo Dot 4th Generation|
About this review: This review was written after testing an Amazon Echo Dot with Clock, purchased by XDA, over a period of two weeks. Amazon did not have any input in this article.
Design and features: Close to the big Amazon Echo
The older Echo Dot looked like someone had cut a slice from the regular model. It was a little hockey puck next to a big(ish) old cylinder. With the 4th Gen, Amazon brought some family unity with its design. The regular model is a big sphere, the Echo Dot is a little sphere. The physical controls are in the same place on the top, and the power is joined on the rear by the 3.5mm jack. Though on the Echo Dot, it’s only an audio output, not an input. The LED ring lighting is around the base here, too.
The Echo Dot is even available in the same exact three colors as the bigger one; Charcoal, Blue, and White. And if you want a recommendation on which to get, grab the white one, it looks the best in most locations in the house I think. The blue is a little disappointing as it’s not as nice in reality as the renders would have you believe.
In terms of actual features, the Echo Dot is only lacking one major thing over the larger model. There’s no built-in Zigbee hub here, so all your connected smart home devices will need to run through Alexa. Is that a big deal, especially considering the size and price of the Echo Dot? Not really. Zigbee is one of those features that you’re more likely to be purposely looking for rather than using just because it’s there.
The Echo Dot does add in an overall more useful feature, though. If you spend an additional $10 you can get the Echo Dot with Clock, which is the one we have here. It’s exactly the same speaker but you get a neat LED display baked into the front that tells you the time. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve said “Alexa, what time is it?” With this, I don’t have to. This makes it a perfect addition to the nightstand, and if you have an alarm set you’ll see a period after the time. It’s a shame you can only tap the top of the Echo Dot to snooze an alarm rather than cancel it entirely, but an “Alexa, stop!” is enough to turn it off.
The third option is the Kids Edition, and this follows Amazon’s tradition of offering its first-party hardware in a child-friendly form. You can access the same content from Amazon Kids and other third-party skills on any Echo, but those don’t look like a tiger or a panda. More importantly for the parents, these versions come with a bulletproof warranty. If anything at all happens to the Echo Dot Kids Edition, Amazon will replace it.
It’s worth pointing out the ease of setup as well. Amazon has done some really great work here over the years and it’s almost Apple-esque in its simplicity. When you plug it in and open up the Alexa app on your smartphone and it will automatically see the new speaker and begin the setup process. It helps that you can have it pre-linked to your Amazon account if you buy from Amazon directly, and the whole process takes only a few moments and is an absolute breeze.
Audio: Better than you think
Despite its size, the Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) packs a punch in the sound department. It’s only a single driver in the Echo Dot, unlike the larger speaker, but it’s pretty powerful. The volume is incredible for something so small, there’s no distortion as you turn it up and it’s perfectly capable of filling smaller rooms with sound. Despite the speaker being the same size inside as the last generation Echo Dot, the added volume of the product overall has a positive effect on the sound delivery.
It is only front-firing sound on the Echo Dot, though, so you do need to be mindful of where you position it in the room.
Perspective is key, but the Echo Dot really does sound excellent all things considered. There’s a surprising amount of bass without being overpowering and a warm tone to the sound. It’s not necessarily the choice to pair with the Echo Sub, but you could. Likewise, you can get two and create a stereo pair which would create an affordable, but surprisingly powerful system. Especially when you can pair Echo speakers to a Fire TV to create a true multiroom audio setup.
The audio quality also makes the Echo Dot a superb alarm clock. All you have to do is tell Alexa to wake you up with music at your chosen time and you’ll be delivered a wake-up call you won’t be able to ignore.
Like all Echo devices, microphones are of utmost importance. The Echo Dot has four of them to locate the direction your voice is coming from and to help isolate it against background noise. And they work very well. Alexa can hear me above two under-8 aged children making the sort of noises children make, and the range is excellent. With the Echo Dot on my nightstand, I can still activate it from the bathroom about 20 feet and a thick wall away without needing to shout.
Should you buy the Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)?
There are a number of reasons to say yes to buying an Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen). The first is simply that it’s more affordable by a good amount than the regular model. If you like the idea of the Amazon Echo but you wish it were smaller or less expensive, here’s your solution. Apart from the Zigbee hub which you may have never even used, functionally the two are essentially identical.
But the Echo Dot is also arguably the best way to get into a hands-free smart home. Alexa is the real star of the show and, really, always has been. Amazon has done great work in making the smart speaker around it better and better over the years, but ultimately it’s the voice assistant that makes this as good as it is.
Alexa is compatible with a simply mind-boggling array of third-party services. Using the Echo Dot with your other devices either through your voice or through creating routines is simple, and extremely powerful. This little tiny speaker can wake you up in the morning then tap into Alexa to open your blinds, turn on your heating, play your favorite radio station and turn on your coffee maker. The only limit is your imagination.
If you’ve never had an Amazon Echo before, you’re not sure if it’s really for you or you want to start small with a smart home, then this is the device to get.