Dec 18th, 2020

It’s been more than six years since the original Amazon Echo made its debut in 2014.  At the time, it was the very first ever always-listening smart speaker.  The design itself was different from most gadgets, ditching the familiar boxy or rectangular shape that people had grown accustomed to by cramming the smart speaker’s components into a cylinder. While the device had its benefits, many of Amazon’s critics mocked it with some believing it was a useless gimmick that would never become mainstream.

By now, I think we can all agree that those critics were wrong.  Shortly after the Echo’s debut, other companies saw the potential and followed suit, developing their own smart speakers to compete with Amazon.  Since then, Amazon has sold millions of Echos and to keep the momentum, Amazon has launched a redesigned Echo lineup this year, giving their smart speakers a fresh new look.

Design

The fourth-generation Amazon Echo Dot launched earlier this year on October 22nd.  The one I’ll be reviewing today is the charcoal one but it also comes in Glacier White and Twilight Blue.  Compared to the previous three generations, Amazon has significantly changed the look of this device.  Whereas the previous ones looked similar to a hockey puck, this new version looks more spherical.  When I asked my wife about it, she said it reminds her of the Death Star.

Along with the new spherical shape, this device is also taller at 3.5 inches and a tad heavier at 12 oz.  Comparatively, the third generation is 1.7 inches tall and weighs 10.6 oz.  Although it is larger than previous iterations, Amazon has done a good job in maintaining a sleek and compact design.  It should still fit in most small places but I could also imagine other people finding it too big if they place their Echo Dot on a small bookcase or something similar.  Since it’s also larger, it’s harder to mount on a wall or other similar surfaces if you did that previously with the other Echo Dots.

The top has four buttons: action button, volume up, volume down, and mic off button.  The back of the device has a 3.55 mm line out that allows it to be connected to larger speakers if you want a richer audio experience.  The only accessory that comes with the Echo Dot is a 15w glacial white power adapter which plugs into the back of the speaker.  In terms of design, the included glacial white adapter is my biggest gripe about this device.  The cord sticks out like a sore thumb and looks awful with the charcoal color.  It’s not a deal-breaker for me, but others might find this to be off-putting.  It probably won’t matter to you if you can hide the cord but for those of you who care about aesthetics, you should probably opt for the glacial white version.

If you are environmentally conscious, Amazon has created this Echo Dot to be more sustainable.  The materials used to create the speaker are 50% post-consumer recycled plastics, 100% post-consumer recycled fabric, and 100% recycled die-cast aluminum including the device, cable, and adapter.  The packaging is made of 99% wood-fiber materials from responsibly managed forests or recycled sources.  Lastly, this device also reduces energy consumption by going into low power when idle.  Please be aware that there are certain situations when this mode is unavailable.

Connectivity

The Echo Dot has Dual-band Wi-Fi that supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5 GHz) networks.  However, it does not support connecting to ad-hoc (or peer-to-peer) Wi-Fi networks.  For Bluetooth connectivity, it has Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) support for audio streaming from your mobile device to Echo Dot or from Echo Dot to your Bluetooth speaker.   It also has Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP) for voice control of connected mobile devices but Hands-free voice control is not supported for Mac OS X devices. Lastly, Bluetooth speakers requiring PIN codes are not supported.

Setup

The setup took me less than 1 minute to complete and was very easy to complete.  I already own several Amazon devices, so I already had the Amazon Alexa app installed on my mobile phone.  If this is your first Amazon Alexa device, you will need to download the app on either your mobile device or tablet.

After installing the app, you will need to sign in or create an account if you don’t have one.  Shortly after signing in, the app should be able to detect the device and a prompt to set it up.  If it does not do this, you will have to add the device manually.  Next, you just need to follow the instructions in the Alexa app to set up your device.  You can skip some of these steps but the app will help you set up calling, messaging, managing music, lists, settings, and news.  Once the app has confirmed that the device is ready, you can immediately start using it.

Usage

As a smart speaker, the Echo Dot is always on and listening.  The device is activated by simply saying “Alexa” and you can verify that it’s listening by looking to see if the blue LED light is on at the bottom of the device.  This light is also different from previous generations since the ones before it had the blue light on the top.  Despite the difference, it doesn’t really seem to matter much in practice.  The only thing I could think of this being somewhat relevant is if you keep your device on the floor where it might be harder to see the blue LED light.

When using the hot word “Alexa”, you can ask the device to do several things.  Some of these things you can do is ask a question, ask it to play music, set timers, add items to lists, and create calendar events and reminders.  You can even ask the Echo Dot to check the traffic and weather or play the news.  Lastly, you can use your voice to access the tens of thousands of skills that Alexa has. 

Shortly after setting up the Amazon Echo Dot, I was immediately impressed with it.  The first notification was from my Ring Doorbell, notifying me that there was motion detected at my front door and then proceeded to tell me that someone was at my front door after the UPS guy rang my Ring Doorbell.  I’ve only had the Ring Doorbell for a couple of months and this was certainly a nice surprise.  Although I already get notifications on my mobile phone, it’s a nice touch since I don’t always have my phone with me.

Since this device is taller, Amazon was able to put in a 1.6″ front-firing speaker.  This is a great change since this means that audio is pushed towards you which results in better sound.  If you are an avid listener of podcasts or talk radio, the voices are definitely clearer.  Of course, this also means that Alexa sounds better overall as well.  As far as listening to music, this device gets pretty loud for its size and the sound is pretty good.  It will never replace your go-to listening devices for music but it’s great for listening to the occasional music.  In fact, my family and I were enjoying listening to some Christmas music as I was testing the sound on this device.

Final Thoughts

Is the fourth-generation Echo Dot worth purchasing?  The answer is both yes and no.  I personally like the new spherical design but others might disagree.  The previous generations are more compact and can be mounted on the wall.  This device is also a boon for environmentally conscious individuals due to its sustainable materials and low power mode.  Currently, the new Echo Dot on sale on Amazon for $29.99 versus the list price of $49.99.  If you’re among the few who don’t yet own a smart speaker, the new Echo Dot is an affordable entry point to start building out your smart home ecosystem. If you’re still using the first or second-generation Echo speakers, this would make a great upgrade, but if you are a 3rd gen owner, you might find that the upgrade is not worth it.

All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen) | Smart speaker with Alexa | Twilight Blue
  • Meet the all-new Echo Dot - Our most popular smart speaker with Alexa. The sleek, compact design delivers crisp vocals and balanced bass for full sound.
  • Voice control your entertainment - Stream songs from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, SiriusXM, and others. Play music, audiobooks, and podcasts throughout your home with multi-room music.
  • Ready to help - Ask Alexa to tell a joke, play music, answer questions, play the news, check the weather, set alarms, and more.

 

local_offer    Alexa   Amazon   Amazon Echo Dot   echo dot  

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