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(Pocket-lint) - The Echo Dot is one of Amazon's most popular devices and it's easy to see why. The cute little speaker gives you all the skills of Alexa, while being compact enough and affordable enough to place in just about any room of the house. 

Launched originally in 2020, the spherical Echo Dot was updated in 2022, taking it from 4-gen to 5-gen. Interestingly, the Echo Dot is now a generation ahead of the larger Echo, which suggests to us that there's greater demand for the smaller speaker. 

But with what looks like a superficial update, there's more that you need to know about, so we're running a full comparison so you can see exactly what the differences are and help you decide whether to grab that Echo Dot 4-gen, or gun for the 5-gen Echo Dot instead - both of which are discounted for Black Friday.

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Design and build

  • Dot 5-gen: 100 x 100 x 89mm, 340g
  • Dot 4-gen: 100 x 100 x 89mm, 328g

The design of these speakers is pretty much the same, with identical dimensions, but you'll notice that the Echo Dot 5-gen is heavier, no doubt because it's got more tech inside. That weight doesn't make a difference, as it will just be sitting on a shelf in your home. 

While both are fabric-covered spheres with the Alexa light ring around the base of the device and four buttons for control on the top, there's actually a difference around the back of the device. Yes, there is a back and front to these speakers, with the plastic of the base raising up the back half. Here you'll find that the new model only has a power connection, while the 4-gen has a 3.5mm audio output as well.

Otherwise, both speakers are available in Charcoal and Glacier White colours, but the Echo Dot 5-gen adds a new Deep Sea Blue option. Both are also available as the Echo Dot with Clock too, with the newer device offering a more detailed display.

So visually, there's not a lot of difference.

Sound quality

  • Dot 5-gen: 1.73in speaker
  • Dot 4-gen: 1.6in speaker

The big change is in the audio quality that it will produce. The speaker inside is actually different, with the 5-gen Echo Dot having a slightly larger driver. This is a single-speaker system and it has always sounded good with that 1.6in driver, but now Amazon is promising a lot more.

It's claimed that the new, larger, driver will deliver double the bass, so you'll get a more robust sound from it, but there's also a big reduction in distortion which can happen at higher volumes. The result should be that the newer Echo Dot just sounds better than the older model.

Features and hardware

  • Dot 5-gen: Alexa, temp sensor, accelerometer
  • Dot 4-gen: Alexa

Both of these devices are hooked into Alexa, Amazon's smart assistant. That service is universal, so you'll be able to access the same services and information, or get it to interact with your smart home in the same ways. In both cases, this is controlled by the Alexa app on your phone. 

But the 5-gen Echo Dot has additional sensors. This includes a temperature sensor, which will be able to give you the temperature for the room the Echo Dot is in - mirroring the feature on some of the larger Echo devices. But that temperature sensor can also be hooked up to Alexa Routines, so it can act autonomously, for example turning on the fan if the room gets to a certain temperature, or turning off the heating, for example. 

The other addition is the accelerometer. This allows tap interactions beyond the buttons on the top of the device. You'll be able to tap to snooze an alarm or tap to pause music for example. 

The Echo Dot 4-gen lacks these additional sensors, so lacks those functions. Both can be stereo paired, added to groups and offer all the other features of Alexa, such as Alexa Calling

There's an additional feature: the 5-gen Echo Dot will also become part of an Eero network (if you have one in your home) extending that network for better connectivity. This is launching on the Echo Dot 5-gen, but will also be coming to the Echo Dot 4-gen in the future.

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Conclusions

The differences between these two speakers is minor - but the 5-gen Echo Dot opens up a range of possibilities through those new sensors that the 4-gen Echo Dot doesn't offer. Those things are nice to have, but most people buy the Echo Dot to use as a smart speaker - and aside from a slight lift in sound, the experience here is going to be very similar. 

The thing is that the Echo Dot 4-gen is likely to see out the rest of its days as a heavily-discounted device, while the 5-gen Echo Dot will arrive at full price. So, if you wanted more Dots, then there's a good chance you'll be able to snap up the older stock for less - although the Echo Dot 5-gen is getting discounts for Prime Day and Black Friday.

Writing by Chris Hall.
Sections Amazon Smart Home