Things are getting pretty heated in the world of smart home speakers right now. The all-new Echo 4th gen speaker fresh out for 2020, sits between the fun-sized Echo Dot speaker and the gigantic creature that is the Echo studio. It’s still quite compact but it is designed to put out some great sound and audio if you want to blast some tracks.
The setup is so simple that even a child can assemble it after knocking off a few drinks (for any kids reading this, I do not recommend doing this). First things first: download the Alexa app which you can grab from the Play Store or the Apple Store. Once it’s downloaded, you can use your voice to set up the speaker. Amazon’s hip spherical design definitely seems to be a hit or a miss depending on who you ask (personally, I think it looks quite futuristic and snazzy). Basically, it stands out from the crowd, though this means that it’s less compact than its older models, so it’ll need more room on your desk or wherever you plan to place it.
The build is pretty basic, composed of plastic and aluminum, but you do get a lovely fabric coating around the surface. This actually makes it look more like a speaker and less like a mini bowling ball. According to Amazon, a majority of those materials are recycled which warrants a thumbs up. The bottom part of the Dot has a charming light ring which is great when using the Echo speaker in the evenings as it adds a bit of atmosphere, while also revealing when Alexa is actually listening in. For a smarter experience, the Bluetooth has upgraded to 5.0, the Wi-Fi connectivity to 5 and all of it works beautifully with the new MediaTek chip which makes voice recognition better in terms of accuracy and responsiveness. This is paired with the AZ1 Neural Edge processor which is fully integrated with the Dual-core MediaTek MT8515 silicon chip. The combined processor enables quick machine learning. It makes Axela even more responsive and ‘understands’ more of you and your preferences over time.
When it comes to physical selection, you have limited control on the top of the speaker — basically you can change the volume, tap the wake button and also mute the the mic when you want a bit of privacy. But of course, the principal method of communication is of course your voice — just use your voice and Alexa will jump to life and you can get her to do your tasks even when the speaker is belting out loud music at the top of its voice. Talk about multitasking. You can quickly set up your music subscription via the Alexa app be it Apple music, Spotify, YouTube or whatever. With a quick command you can listen to your favourite albums or playlists (relaxing psychedelic space rock, anyone?).
Like the nifty little device it is, it’ll burn very little energy when on the low-power mode which gets automatically activated. You can use the Dot to connect your other smart home devices as Alexa supports pretty much everything out there (it’s best to do your research beforehand though). Though the previous models had 360 audio, the new Echo has two additional 0.8-inch tweeters which is meant to provide audio separation without having to pair up a second device with it. You don’t get full-on Dolby Atmos support in the new Echo speaker — you’ll have to upgrade to the Echo Studio for that. But, you do have Dolby fine-tuned audio and it sounds marvellous.
Like I mentioned earlier, the all-new 4th gen speaker definitely does not disappoint when it comes to quality, offering punchy volume levels. You can really hear the rumble of baritone voices and at the same time pick up on the finer instruments which are often lost in the background.
It’s hard to argue against such great sound quality, and compared to Google’s Nest Audio, I would go for the 4th gen Echo Dot in a heartbeat. Plus the new spherical design looks both adorable and futuristic (maybe if I stare hard enough at the dome-shaped ball, it’ll tell me my future?). So, if you’re looking for a smart speaker that can play great sound and music but you don’t want to spend a bomb on expensive speakers, this is a great option.