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Amazon Echo Dot 4th Gen Smart Speaker Review: Better Audio And Improved Design
Smart speakers have slowly climbed up the ladder and reached many Indian households in the last one year. With the COVID-19 forcing 'work from home' as the new normal, more and more consumers are investing in voice-based novelty devices to create smart home setups. Another major reason for the wide adoption of voice-based audio devices is price drop with generational technology upgrades. Amazon, Google, and Apple have now moved towards third or fourth-gen. smart speakers and even brands like Xiaomi has also started creating an ecosystem of smart speakers.
- Better Sound signature
- Refreshed Spherical Design
- Light Ring Looks Brilliant
- Affordable Price
- 3.5mm Audio Jack
- Limited Audio Casting Options
- Stiff Competition From Previous Echo Dots & Other Brands
What we have today is Amazon's latest entry-level smart speaker- Echo Dot 4th Gen. With a refreshed design and audio improvements, the new Echo Dot competes with Google Assistant-backed Xiaomi Mi Smart Speaker and Google's very own Home-speakers line-up. We used the Echo Dot 4th Gen. for over a week to test its audio signature and performance as a voice-assistant. Here's how it performed.
Amazon Echo Dot 4th Gen. Design
The Echo Dot 4th Gen. smart speaker brings a new spherical design that looks more premium and visually aesthetic. The sphere's lower half has a soft satin finish while the upper portion has a mesh fabric coating. Available in Blue, White, and Black colors, the Echo Dot 4th gen. does not occupy much space and easily blends with interiors. The spherical ball has dimensions of 100 x 100 x 89 mm and weighs 341.3 g. The top of the sphere has volume buttons, a microphone on/off button, and an action button. The light ring is now positioned at the bottom of the sphere and looks futuristic when it glows in dark. The rear side of the speaker has the power port and the 3.5mm audio jack.
Overall, I liked the new visual identity of the new Echo Dot. The new orb-shaped design is subtle and seamless; however, the brand can show some creativity with color combinations and material finish to make it more visually appealing. A custom design program to modify the look and feel of the new Echo Dot as per your home decors would be a good initiative.
Affordable smart speakers can sell in huge numbers and significantly spike electronic waste with generational upgrades. I am glad Amazon is concerned about the environment and is doing its bit by building the entire new Echo lineup of smart speakers using sustainable material which is environment friendly. The company mentions that 50% of the plastics used in constructing these speakers are post-consumer recycled plastics and 100% of the fabric used is post-consumer recycled fabric. Also, 100% of the aluminum used is touted to be recycled die-cast aluminum. Importantly, the new Echo devices have ‘Low Power Mode' that can sense periods of inactivity to intelligently conserve energy for energy savings over the lifetime of the device.
Amazon Echo Dot 4th Gen. Specifications And Setup
Under the new orb-shaped shell resides a slightly bigger 1.6-inch front-firing speaker. As far as connectivity is concerned, the Echo Doth 4th gen supports dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5 GHz) networks. It also offers A2DP support for audio streaming from your mobile device to Echo Dot or from Echo Dot smart speaker to your Bluetooth speaker. You can also connect your dumb but powerful external speakers to Echo Dot via the 3.5 mm audio jack. It is worth mentioning that Hands-free voice control is not supported for Mac OS X devices and Bluetooth speakers that require PIN codes to establish connections are also not supported.
Setting up the speaker takes hardly five minutes. All you need is the Amazon Alexa app and a stable Wi-Fi connection. The mobile app is compatible with Android, iOS devices, Fire OS, and is also accessible via web browsers.
Having used both Google and Amazon smart speakers, I found the speakers' audio casting capabilities a bit limited. The Echo Dot 4th Gen. can cast audio from Amazon's in-house Music app and Spotify but does not give you an option to stream music from your YouTube Music library. On the other hand, you can cast audio from YouTube Music, Spotify, and even from Amazon's Music app to a Google Assistant backed smart speaker which just adds more value to your music listening experience.
Amazon Echo Dot 4th Gen. Audio Performance And Microphone Response
The Echo Dot 4th Gen. sounds marginally better as compared to its predecessor. The sound signature is slightly fuller and crisper despite no major change in the overall size of the driver. The 1.6-inch (40mm driver) upward-firing speaker produces louder overall audio with punchier mids and relatively crisper highs. Most importantly, the bass now feels slightly deeper than the previous Echo Dots I have tested. It still won't beat similarly priced non-smart speakers in terms of bass response and soundstage but for the price, it sounds good. After all, it's a single driver audio unit and can only deliver a certain degree of sound.
Despite the compact size, the smart speaker is sufficient for a mid-size living room and a large bedroom. The sound produced is loud and free of any unwanted distortion. Overall, the Echo Dot 4th gen. sounds richer and fuller than Google Home Mini for most of the music genres and even for podcasts.
As far as the microphone response is concerned, it is very tough to get it right on low-cost smart speakers but Amazon has made some improvements with the new speaker. The Echo Dot 4th Gen. is more sensitive to voice commands than its predecessors and even some competitors priced higher. The voice assistant could hear and respond to questions even when the audio is blasting at 80 to 100% level.
The Echo Dot 4th Gen. is an amazing entry-level smart speaker if you don't have its immediate predecessor. It brings a better design and a fuller and warmer sound signature with better microphone response. If you have already invested in Amazon ecosystem and wants a low-cost addition, it's a great buy. The launch price is slightly higher when you consider the bigger Mi Smart Speaker selling at the almost similar price. But it is the discounted price of Rs. 3,249 which makes the Echo Dot 4th Gen. a no-brainer deal.