It was not too long ago when smart speakers stepped into the tech world, got into our homes and made themselves comfortable. And one of the first companies to have actually made them popular was Amazon. The e-commerce giant came up with a series of smart speakers called Echo with support for its virtual assistant, Alexa. There are three variants in the series: the Echo Dot, the Echo and the Echo Plus. The Echo Dot is the most popular of the lot, as it is the most compact and well, the most affordable as well. The company has now launched the third generation of the Echo series, with upgrades and improvements. And well, here’s what has changed in the most popular Echo of all – the Dot!
It looks different (thank god!)
In design terms, the Echo Dot 2 did not really set any new benchmarks — it resembled a hockey puck that had fancy LED lighting on its circumference, bundled with a few buttons on top. And we are so glad that its successor does not follow it blindly in that department. In fact, the new Echo Dot has taken a few pages off from the design books of its competitor, the Google Home Mini and we think, it is a good thing that it did. In the looks department, the new Echo Dot looks more like a distant cousin of Google Home Mini than that of the previous generation Echo Dot.
With the Echo Dot 3, the old school hockey puck has now become bigger and more rounded. The top of the second generation smart speaker was pretty flat and had speaker hinges on the circumference. This has changed in the new Echo Dot. The speaker’s top curves around the circumference and there are no speaker hinges on the top anymore. Both of these speakers have the same round LED lighting encasing the top. The top of the new Echo Dot carries the same four physical buttons (the Action Button, Mic off Button, Volume Up and Volume down buttons) as the older one but instead of just one microphone, the company has now added four to the top to improve the speakers’ sound “hearing” capabilities. The top of the speaker is pretty much plastic but it does not look cheap at all.
The middle of the new Echo Dot reminds us the most of the Google Home Mini, as it too is covered in grey mesh-like sturdy fabric. The fabric is where the speaker is present. The placement not only improves how the sound gets distributed but also gives a good texture to the device and gives it a more solid handfeel. The fabric also gives the new Echo Dot a more premium look as compared to the previous Echo Dot, which was downright plasticky. This middle portion also houses two ports, the 3.5 mm audio jack port which allows you to connect your device to other audio systems with AUX, and the power dot for charging. The latter is disappointing as the previous Dot had a micro USB port for charging which we think was more mainstream and also made the device more portable — you could actually charge and play it off a power bank.
The base of the speaker is the third tier which is made up of silicon. The silicon base saves the speaker and the surface it is being kept on from getting scratches. In terms of dimensions, the Echo 3 is slightly bigger than the previous model. The new speaker is 43 mm high and 99 mm wide as compared it to its predecessor which is 32 mm high and 83.5 mm wide. The new Echo Dot is also almost twice as heavy as the older Echo Dot weighing 300 grams while the older one weighed 163 grams only.
And it sounds better too!
If you thought that the new Echo Dot is only about a design overhaul, then we are happy to tell you that you are wrong. One of biggest problems many people had with previous generation Echo Dot was the not-so-loud sound of the speaker. The Echo Dot comes with improved sound to solve that problem – it is not only about 70 per cent louder than its predecessor, but the audio is richer, as well. With all improved sound, comes a need for more power: which is the reason why the Dot 3 consumes more power with a 15W rating as opposed to the Dot 2, which had a 6W rating. The Echo Dot can still be connected to other speakers via Bluetooth or 3.5 mm audio cable, if you wish. And if you are all about that bass and want to add some to your smart speaker mix, Amazon has introduced its own sub woofer, the Echo Sub, to help you with that.
And of course, the most vital component of the Echo Dot is Amazon’s assistant, Alexa. She is in fine form here and works absolutely fine – the speaker picked up our commands from across a normal sized room easily and let us do a whole lot of things from checking the weather, setting alarms and getting the news headlines to playing music (Amazon Prime, Saavn and TuneIn are supported) and even control the lighting (provided one had lights that supported it). It remains one of the best smart speakers around in our opinion, especially as new abilities keep getting added to it. And yes, we will be doing a piece on the best Alexa commands soon!
Worth a buy?
If you are new to the speaker world and want to invest in one, the Amazon Echo Dot 3 priced at Rs. 4,999 is definitely a great choice to get started. The speaker quality has improved, offers better sound quality and well, now looks good as well. Even for those who already own an Echo Dot, the new Dot is definitely an upgrade, especially if you use the speaker for playing a lot of music. If your main concern is Alexa, she is pretty much the same, but then she just sounds a whole lot louder on the new Dot and seems to hear us better too. Definitely a good introduction to the smart speaker world, we think.
Traveller’s Tip: Yes, the Echo Dot 3 is small enough to be carried around comfortably. Do remember, however, that it needs a power outlet and has no battery of its own. So take it along (one can get addicted to it) only if you know there’s a power outlet handy wherever you are heading!