(Pocket-lint) - Amazon has a new smart speaker, taking the beloved Echo Dot and changing it into more of an Echo Mini, with a new fourth-gen design and boosted audio performance, but still sticking to the same footprint.

But how does this compare to its big rival from Google? This is the Amazon Echo Dot fourth-gen against the Google Nest Mini.

Design and dimensions

  • Echo Dot (fourth gen): 100 x 100 x 89mm, 328g
  • Nest Mini: 98 x 98 x 42mm, 173g

The Echo Dot and the Nest Mini look like siblings, both offering a similar finish as both are covered in mesh, both using recycled plastic in their construction and both having a similar footprint.

The big difference is that height - with the Echo Dot having a spherical design, it's a lot bigger overall. That means that the Echo Dot makes more of a statement on the surface you put it on, while the Nest Mini is a lot more discreet.

The Echo Dot is about double the weight, so it's more substantial overall and that also means it vibrates less when you turn the volume up. The Nest Mini, on the other hand, can be wall-mounted for convenience, whereas the Echo Dot fourth-gen really needs to be sat on a surface.

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Controls and connections

  • Echo Dot: Bluetooth, 3.5mm, control buttons, Alexa
  • Home Mini: Bluetooth, tap to control, Google Assistant

The Echo Dot has raised controls on the top with a light ring around the base, while the Nest Mini relies on taps to control it. It's a minor thing, but the Echo Dot is immediately easier to control for a person not familiar with it - although both are designed primarily to be controlled via voice - with Alexa or Google Assistant respectively.

The Nest Mini has a physical switch for muting the microphone, which is a lot more deliberate than the button press of the Echo Dot, however.

The Echo Dot has an advantage in offering a 3.5mm connection, should you ever want to hard wire it to another device. Both, however, have Bluetooth, which will mean you can connect to other speakers wirelessly if you wish.

Sound quality

  • Echo Dot: 40mm speaker
  • Nest Mini: 40mm speaker

Both these devices have a 40mm speaker and as you might expect, the sound performance is similar. With both these devices being compact, the aim it to get that small format. However, both speakers fire upwards, while the Echo Dot has an advantage with a larger housing.

The larger housing and the increased weight mean the speaker itself has more space and the result is sound that's better, especially as you turn the volume up. There's less vibration and distortion and greater clarity, although, ultimately, these devices are limited by the small speaker size overall.

Both speakers can also be stereo paired if you have two Echo Dots or two Nest Mini, and can also be grouped with other devices in the same room or around your home.

Both are good a voice detection too and we'd say they are more or less on a par - we've found both to be better than the third-gen Echo Dot.

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Voice assistant and functions

  • Echo Dot: Alexa
  • Nest Mini: Google Assistant

Of course both these devices are just vessels for the smart assistant that they carry, Alexa for Amazon and Google Assistant for the Nest Mini. Of the two, Alexa feels like the more natural assistant to talk to, while also offering the better audio quality - Google Assistant is often accompanied by a hiss when replying.

But Google Assistant is smarter, often able to answer questions that Alexa just can't figure out, no doubt driven by the mine of information that Google has at its disposal.

Alexa is a gateway to Amazon shopping, if that's what you want, while interfacing with other Amazon properties - like Fire TV, while Nest Mini will work with Chromecast.

Ultimately, the smart skills they offer are similar: once you've paired up smart services in their respective apps, both will control a wide range of connected devices like plugs, lights and heating and there's very little difference overall. 

Google has a slight advantage being a native service for Android devices (so anything you can do on Home Mini you can do via voice on your Android phone), but Amazon makes up for most of that deficiency via the Alexa app.

Conclusions

Ultimately, the big deciding factor here is which smart assistant you get on with the best, because that's what will build your system in the future. Alexa on the Echo devices offers a wide range of options, with a lot more hardware devices than Google has to offer - Echo Auto, Echo Flex, for example.

Google offers that phone integration better, and is a smarter service, but is less natural to talk to and there are fewer Google hardware choices overall.

When it comes to sound quality, the Echo Dot fourth-gen has the edge and it is better as an independent speaker, while the Home Mini is more compact and can be discreetly accommodated in ways you can't do with the new Echo Dot.

As for the price - there's nothing in it. Both are the same price, although both are likely to be regularly discounted and the Nest Mini is currently much cheaper.

Writing by Chris Hall.