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Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) review

The Echo Dot is Amazon's most popular smart speaker and it's easy to see why.

Amazon Echo Dot review
4.0 out of 5 star rating

The Amazon Echo Dot is the retailer’s most popular smart speaker, and it’s also the cheapest. Since its original launch in 2016, Amazon has dominated the world of smart speakers with the Echo range with Alexa being one the best-known and sophisticated intelligent personal assistants available for everyday households.

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The Echo Dot has since been upgraded a number of times and in October 2020, Amazon gave the Echo Dot its biggest upgrade yet with a whole new look.

For the Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen), the retailer has replaced the flat disc design with a spherical one. The new Echo Dot has a bright LED light ring at the base of the sphere and a fabric finish.

This makeover, combined with a small, but powerful, 1.6-inch front-firing speaker, along with all the smart speech recognition technology we’ve come to expect, makes the Echo Dot appealing to first-timers and smart homeowners alike.

Plus, there’s the price tag. With a RRP of £49.99, the Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) is almost half the price of its bigger brother, the Amazon Echo. For that price, the Amazon Echo Dot offers the ability to play music, set timers and reminders, get regular weather, news and traffic updates, and answer all the questions you could possibly ask.

The Echo Dot is easily one of the best smart speakers on the market; it is small, cheap, gives you hands-free control and is packed full of practical features. Whether you’re new to smart home technology, or want to build on your smart speaker collection, the Echo Dot would be a brilliant addition to your home.

For more in-depth analysis on how the Echo Dot compares to Amazon’s original, read our Amazon Echo review. And for more smart home guides, take a look at our Amazon Fire TV Stick review.

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Echo Dot (4th Gen) review: summary

The new Echo Dot is the fourth incarnation of Amazon’s most popular smart speaker. With its new spherical look, the Echo Dot (4th Gen) has a sleek, if not somewhat futuristic design. At just under 9cm tall, the device is small but the 1.6-inch front firing speaker is surprisingly punchy. For anyone looking to dabble in smart home technology for the first time, the Amazon Echo Dot is a smart choice.

Price: The Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) is available for £39.99 at Amazon.

Key features: 

  • Voice control your home including lights, the thermostat, plugs and other speakers
  • Quick, hands-free access to appointments, timers, reminders, calendars, and weather, traffic and news updates
  • Play songs from Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music and Deezer.
  • Connect to other Echo speakers and smart displays to make a multi-room system
  • Use the multi-room system as an intercom to speak to family members in other rooms

Pros:

  • Compact, sleek design available in three colours
  • Excellent value for money
  • Good speech recognition
  • Practical features such as Routines
  • Improved privacy settings
  • Uses easy-to-navigate Amazon Alexa app

Cons:

  • Sound quality is good for the price, but serious music lovers may prefer a more powerful and expensive speaker.

What is the Echo Dot (4th Gen)?

Amazon Echo Dot review

The Echo Dot (4th Gen) is the newest edition of Amazon’s smallest, cheapest, and most popular, smart speaker. With the help of Amazon’s intelligent personal assistant called Alexa, the Echo allows you to voice control Alexa compatible devices around your home including the thermostat, TV, lights and plugs. The smart speaker will also give you weather, news and traffic updates, keep track of your appointments and play music from your Spotify playlist hands-free.

What does the Echo Dot (4th Gen) do?

The Echo Dot uses voice recognition to complete any tasks you ask of it including setting timers, adding appointments to calendars, playing music and controlling other smart devices.

  • Voice control thanks to Alexa intelligent voice assistant
  • Voice control your home including lights, the thermostat, plugs and other speakers
  • Quick, hands-free access to appointments, timers, reminders, calendars, and weather, traffic and news updates
  • Play songs from Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music and Deezer.
  • Access tens of thousands of Alexa skills, such as TV Guide or Fitbit
  • Connect to other Echo speakers and smart displays to make a multi-room system
  • Use the multi-room system as an intercom to speak to family members in other rooms

How much is the Echo Dot (4th Gen)?

The Echo Dot (4th Gen) is priced at £49.99, though it is currently on sale at numerous retailers for £29.99. These retailers include Amazon, AO and Very.

Is the Echo Dot (4th Gen) good value for money?

In our opinion, the Echo Dot is excellent value for money. It is a fantastic all-rounder smart speaker that costs less than £50 full price. The sound quality is good for the size of the speaker, it gives you the ability to control a variety of apps hands-free and the device is well-built with a sleek design.

The price of smart speakers has continued to become a lot more competitive, with competitors also releasing smaller and cheaper devices such as the Google Nest Mini (RRP £49) and the new 2020 release of the Apple HomePod Mini (RRP £99). Read our Echo Dot vs HomePod Mini guide for more in-depth analysis as to how the devices compare.

What’s more is that smart speakers are often targeted with discounts by Amazon and other retailers during sale events such as Prime Day and Black Friday. Amazon is especially fond of slashing the prices of its own smart speakers, shown by the fact that, despite only being released in October 2020, the Echo Dot is currently on sale with £20 off.

Echo Dot (4th Gen) design

Amazon Echo Dot

The newly redesigned Echo Dot (4th Gen) is sleek, simple and would slot neatly into any home aesthetic. Available in three colours – Charcoal, Glacier White and Twilight Blue – the Echo Dot’s spherical design has a futuristic feel.

  • Style: The Echo Dot is a small, rounded device with a fabric finish. The bright LED right ring around the bottom of the device is a nice touch and makes it easily identifiable as to when the smart speaker is listening to your commands or queries.
  • Size: The Echo Dot is the smallest of Amazon’s smart speaker range so it will easily fit on any surface, bedside table or shelf around the house. At 9cm tall, the device is unassuming and will blend into any home decor.
  • Robustness: Despite its size, the Echo Dot feels solid and well built. For less than £50, it is impressive how sturdy the smart speaker feels.

Echo Dot (4th Gen) sound quality

As the smallest, and cheapest, Echo device from Amazon, the Echo Dot has been previously criticised for its sound quality. However, as with predecessors, Amazon has worked hard to make improvements for those who would primarily like to use the Echo Dot to play music.

As voice control is such a fundamental feature of the Echo Dot, we would still say that the sound quality is set up to perform best for speech. So, if you’re a big fan of audiobooks, podcasts or talk radio, we reckon you’ll be hard pressed to find a flaw in the sound quality. The same goes for when setting up reminders, or getting news, traffic and weather updates.

However, we enjoyed the experience of listening to music on the Echo Dot, too. For the size and price of the Echo Dot, the 1.6-inch front firing speaker delivers. There is a good volume range, which can be controlled either via voice commands or with buttons on the top of the device, so it would have no difficult being heard over a group of people or in an outdoor setting.

And, there are a range of music services on offer, too. Beyond DAB radio, the Echo Dot can also be used to stream music from subscription services such as Amazon Music and Spotify. These are easy to set-up, and while they don’t provide the same sound quality as on CD or vinyl, are plenty good enough for most of us who simply want to enjoy our favourite songs with minimal effort.

Echo Dot (4th Gen) set-up: how easy is it to use?

Amazon Alexa App

Taking five minutes in total, set-up for the Echo Dot was quick, straightforward and largely guided by the Amazon Alexa app.

Once you have emptied the box, you are asked to download the Amazon Alexa app and plug in the smart speaker.

If this is your first smart speaker from Amazon, you will be required to make or sign into an Amazon account. For those who already have an Echo smart speaker, the process will be even faster.

Throughout the rest of the set-up, the app will simply prompt you through the process that includes syncing up the Echo Dot and Wi-Fi.

Now the device itself is set-up, you will want to connect your various accounts via the app. For example, without you configuring the settings, the Echo Dot will automatically play music from Amazon Music. However, if you don’t have an Amazon Music Unlimited account, the song choices will be limited.

This can be rectified by connecting your Spotify, Apple Music or Deezer account via the app. You will then be able to choose a default music service and get all your favourite songs and playlists immediately through the smart speaker.

Other apps available through the Amazon Echo range include Audible, Headspace, Fitbit, Just Eat and BBC News. Most of these can be found in the Alexa ‘skills’ feature.

What is the difference between the Echo Dot (4th Gen) and Amazon Echo?

The year of 2020 saw Amazon release its fourth generation of its extremely popular Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers. Both are in a new spherical design with the bright LED light ring now running along the bottom of the device.

The obvious differences between the new Echo Dot and Echo are their size and price. The Amazon Echo has a RPP of £89.99, while the Echo Dot is just £49.99. And while both Echo devices come in the same design and colours, the Amazon Echo is both wider and taller. It is 14cm wide and 13cm tall, compared to the Dot’s 10cm wide and 9cm tall. This may not seem like a lot but may make a lot of difference if you have limited counter or shelving space to begin with.

There are also a few extra features that the Echo has that the Echo Dot does not. First, the larger device has an in-built smart home hub, with support for Zigbee, so that you can control and manage your smart home devices from the Echo. With the Echo Dot, you will need a separate smart home hub to manage Zigbee-compatible devices.

The Echo also has an temperature sensor and a better sound quality thanks to a 3-inch woofer, dual-firing tweeters, and Dolby processing. However, both have a 3.5mm audio line in/out to connect an external speaker, if you do want a more powerful set-up.

If you already have an Echo device, you may also want to know how the new Echo Dot compares to the previous generation of Echo. We have previously reviewed the Amazon Echo (3rd Gen), which should give you a good idea of whether upgrading is worth it.

And if you’re considering other smart home speakers, then the Google Nest Mini is likely up for contention. Read our Google Nest Mini review and breakdown of Echo Dot vs Google Nest Mini to see how they compare.

Our verdict: should you buy the Echo Dot (4th Gen)?

Amazon Echo Dot review

If you’re looking to dip your toes into the smart speaker world, there is no better option than the new Echo Dot. It is small, unassuming and has all features you’d expect for less than £50.

Additional features, such as setting routines and being able to use it as an intercom to talk to family members through compatible speakers in other rooms, make it even more useful and enjoyable to use.

And while the sound quality is not the same as what you’d find in a premium smart speaker like the Bose Home Speaker 500 or Sonos Move, it is more than good enough for daily use, especially when you consider the price difference. If you do want to give it more oomph, an external speaker can be attached via the 3.5mm audio line or Bluetooth.

We would even recommend the Echo Dot to those who already have smart speakers and want to expand their collection. The ability to connect it to other speakers to make a multi-room speaker means that it is a good accompaniment to any other Amazon speakers, smart displays or Amazon Echo accessories.

Design: 4/5

Sound quality: 4/5

Value for Money: 5/5

Ease of Set-up: 4/5

Overall rating: 4/5

Where to buy the Echo Dot (4th Gen)

The Echo Dot is available at a number of retailers.

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