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(Pocket-lint) - Amazon's line of Echo Dot speaker was one of the more settled and consistent in tech over the last few years - its puck-shaped design was clearly doing something right as the Alexa speaker sold in its multitudes.

However, few things in tech last forever and Amazon now has an entirely new look for the Echo Dot, very much a shrunken-down version of the new mainline Echo. It's a radical departure, and with the 3rd Generation Echo Dot still very much on sale, you might be wondering which of the two you should pick up. We've compared them in detail across a few categories, to help you decide. 

The best prices are often found around Prime Day or Black Friday, but there are regular sales throughout the year.

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Design

  • 4th gen: 100 x 100 x 89mm
  • 3rd gen: 43 x 99 x 99mm

There's no getting around it - Amazon has changed the Echo Dot's design pretty radically when it comes to looks, going from that distinctive puck shape to a globe of a smart speaker in the new version. That has also had an inescapable impact on the Dot's size - it's got a lot taller, effectively. The actual footprint of the speaker is very similar to the previous version, but with a lot more height. 

While that's given Amazon a bunch of space to fit in more tech, as we'll show later, it does mean that the new Echo Dot won't necessarily fit in as many nooks and crannies as its predecessor. The new version is also a little heavier, too, as a result of its increased size but also because of the aluminium used in its construction, compared to the more plastic feel of the older speaker. 

Otherwise, both speakers share the Alexa light-strip to let you know when the voice assistant is listening, or turned off, as well as four buttons on the top to let you adjust the volume, mute the speaker or confirm a range actions. 

You can get both generations in black, grey and light blue colours, but a pink option is reserved for the older speaker at present. Both generations are also available with an embedded clock display for at-a-glance timing information, for a small bump in the price. 

Finally, the new Echo Dot also has two variant designs aimed at children, which are perfect if you're looking for a smart speaker to put in a little one's bedroom or playroom. 

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Sound quality

  • Both generations: 1.6-inch speaker

Interestingly, Amazon hasn't made a particular reinvention of the sound design behind the fabric shroud of the new Echo Dot - it's still got that 1.6-inch speaker to provide the volume. Now, going by the performance of the older Echo Dot, that's no issue - for a small speaker, the Dot line has been producing really impressive sound quality for some time, so no change isn't bad news.

That said, the increased size of the newer Dot does give you some improvement in the sound quality. There's less vibration through the body of the speaker and that means it performs better at higher volumes, better placed to fill the room with sound. It's not hugely different, but it is better.

On both models, there is also a 3.5mm port in case you want to pipe audio out via cable. 

Alexa and smart home connectivity

When it comes to Alexa, you'll get pretty similar experiences on both generations of Echo Dot speakers - as a lot of the assistant's processing is done in the cloud regardless.

However, the new AZ1 Neural Edge chip that's in the newer Echo Dot does mean that Alexa should be slightly faster and more responsive on the newer speaker, as you might expect.

Their smart home integration potential, meanwhile, is identical - anything you can do on an older Echo Dot will still work on the new spherical model, and the reverse should be true, too. 

Conclusions

As Amazon often does with its product refreshes, the new Echo Dot has debuted at the same price as the old one, so there's no change there. However, the older puck-shaped model has had a price cut to reflect the fact that it's older.

However, the margin isn't very big - and we think it's really the design that should sway most people. 

If you're a fan of the new spherical look, then the newer speaker is going to be right up your street, but if you look at it and can't get on board, the older Echo Dot might be more palatable. Ultimately, as with so many things, it comes down to taste!

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Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Editing by Chris Hall. Originally published on 25 September 2020.