The Echo Dot has always been the best smart speaker for smart home control: it’s always been cheap and loud enough to put wherever you may need smart control. With the latest version now out, we’re putting the Amazon Echo Dot (4th Generation) vs Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Generation) to help you choose the right one for you.
Design and build – The new model wins hands-down
The Echo Dot has come a long way since it initially launched as a hard plastic hockey puck. Last year, the 3rd Generation product refined the design, with the material covered speaker looking much neater.
This year, the 4th Generation Dot is even better. Using a new spherical body, the new Dot looks as though it was actually designed to fit into a home. That new design is smart enough to blend into your home but cool enough that it sticks out in just the right way.
While both models have the same physical controls, the new Dot’s buttons blend into the design and are easier to reach.
Amazon has repositioned the light ring on the new model, too, so that it shines downward. This is a big improvement, as the new model doesn’t light up a room when the ring comes on. At the rear it’s business as usual: a power input and a 3.5mm audio output.
The new Echo Dot (89 x 100 x 100mm) is slightly taller than the old one (43 x 99 x 99 mm), but both take up a similar amount of desk space.
Features – Largely the same but the new model has a power-saving mode
As both speakers are powered by the cloud-based Alexa personal assistant, they have the same range of core features. You can read more about these in my Amazon Alexa Guide.
The main difference is that the new model has Amazon’s Low Power mode. When the speaker is idle, it drops power consumption and enters a low power state. Well, that’s the theory but there are several things that will stop this happening, including having Spotify linked to your account, having an active notification or using the 3.5mm audio output. For a lot of people, then, the new Dot won’t use power-saving mode.
You can also buy both models with a clock: the Echo Dot with Clock (3rd Generation) and Echo Dot with Clock (4th Generation). This adds an LCD display into the mix, which shows the time, current temperature when you ask for a weather update, and timers. Otherwise, the ‘with Clock’ versions have the same features as the regular Dot models.
Sound quality – Forward-firing speaker makes the new Dot better
Both speakers have a 1.5-inch tweeter. The difference is that the new model has its speaker forward-firing, whereas the old Echo Dot (3rd Generation) has its speaker firing upwards. The main difference is that the new Dot (4th Generation) is clearer and louder than the previous model.
This is particularly true when listening to voice responses and spoken word, such as in podcasts. Here, the sound is directed at you, so you can understand what’s being said that little bit easier.
With the new model, you can listen to the occasional music track, although both products lack the audio finesse to be used as the main music speaker.
Both products can be used to create a stereo pair if you buy two of the same, although you don’t really get better-quality audio, just proper stereo separation.
You can connect either speaker to a more powerful amplifier using the 3.5mm audio output, although the Amazon Echo Input is a better and cheaper choice if you want to do this; really, if you’re not using the internal speakers here, you’re overpaying.
Which smart speaker should I buy?
Currently, the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Generation) is £10 cheaper than the Amazon Echo Dot (4th Generation). While stocks last, that makes the older product something of a bargain. If you’re looking for something small and cheap to control your smart home and get voice replies, then the old model is still brilliant.
That said, if you want to have your speaker on display, then the new model’s fun new design makes the Echo Dot (4th Generation) a better choice. And, you get clearer audio thrown into the mix. If you’re not so worried about price, buy the new speaker; if you want to save some cash and looks don’t bother you, buy the old model.