The Amazon Echo Dot smart speakers have carved out a niche for themselves in the world of smart speakers. Of which there are plenty now. They have, because of the physical limitations of size, never been the first choice when it came to music playback. Yet, these puck-like speakers could be placed with equal ease below your TV or on your bedside table. Get the news and sports scores, control smart devices at home, listen to podcasts and set up wake and sleep routines, more conveniently than you may have expected. Now we have the Amazon Echo Dot (2020), the fourth generation to be precise, replacing the third-generation Echo Dot from 2018. In many ways, it is the end of one era and the beginning of another.
The new Amazon Echo Dot is priced at Rs 4,499 but you can keep landing on these steal deals on Amazon.in, even more so with the Great Indian Festival Sale bringing some rather cool deals for you to snare. The new Amazon Echo Dot lands at the same price as the predecessor—and these aren’t to be confused by the “with clock” variants that both generations have. The functionality remains pretty much the same, which means it is still as useful as before.
The Amazon Echo Dot now most certainly has a more attractive design. The Amazon Echo Dot (2020) trades the puck-like design that had become iconic over time. It had its advantages, such as the ability to slide this under the TV, under your Apple iMac or desktop PC and also took very little space (albeit vertically) in an entertainment cabinet, for instance. But things must change, and what we now have the sphere that sits majestically on the workstation table, bedside table and next to the TV. It will not slide beneath the TV, I’ll have to break the bad news to you. But get over it. What the new sphere design does is it gives the Amazon Echo Dot (2020) much more of a presence. And the light ring now sits at the very bottom of this slightly chopped off orb (physics, my friends, to prevent it rolling off the table) which reflects very nicely off the tabletop. Particularly lighter wood finishes. Every time you call out to Alexa, the run gives the Amazon Echo Dot (2020) a sort of an illuminated base.
Even though there is a new design language, the Amazon Echo Dot (2020) still has the same footprint as the predecessor. Neat the curve at the top are the controls, including for volume and the mic mute button. In fact, this is just the smaller sized iteration of the upcoming and larger Amazon Echo (2020). The hard-plastic shell has also been traded for a very classy fabric exterior. That’s becoming a trend, isn’t it? Amazon had it with the previous generation Echo Plus, Apple has a very nice fabric mesh finish for the HomePod, and the new Google Nest Audio also uses a mesh exterior. In fact, you can get the Amazon Echo Dot (2020) in three colours. My favorite has to be the blue, but you also have the choice of black and white. I have to say that while the predecessor’s puck-like design has its own advantages and there are many fans of that, I really like the new style. It is just the sort of refresh you need from time to time.
As far as the audio prowess is concerned, you really shouldn’t expect a significant change in terms of how it stacks up against the Echo Dot it succeeds. This also has a 1.6-inch speaker, which while versatile, will never really be your primary music driver. Yet, a lot also has to do with the way a speaker is placed and the enclosure it is in, and with the Amazon Echo Dot (2020), the same things sound a bit more vibrant. A bit happier. And a tad more bass. Just a trifle more. But its still more. At least to my ears. The ball-shaped design does seem to push audio out better, and the fact that it isn’t hitting hard plastic on the way out and instead caresses its way through a soft fabric mesh seems to have had its positive impact too.
For music playback, your choices are between Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Jio Saavn, Hungama and Gaana services. Interestingly enough, you can pair two of these together into a sort of a stereo speaker system mode. I haven’t tried that, to be fair, but that is the sort of treatment that the larger Echo speakers should deserve, I’d imagine.
Amazon had shown off the newfound capabilities for the Alexa virtual assistant at the time of launching the Amazon Echo Dot (2020). That update has already rolled out for all Echo devices globally. Basically, Amazon’s focus is on trying to make Alexa converse more like a human—we may not always take each other’s name and will always ask if there is something that we don’t understand. As part of the conversational AI push, Alexa will now get a better grasp of context, and will ask when there is a gap in understanding. The advances in the neural text to speech tech that is the foundation that Alexa builds on gets new abilities to reason, as well as speaking style adaptation for more human-esque conversations. There is also Alexa’s conversation mode which allows the assistant to be part of a conversation between humans using multi-sensory artificial intelligence as well as picking on visual and linguistic cues to understand if a query is directed towards it—instead of you having to call out to Alexa by name all the time.
You will notice these changes the more you use the Amazon Echo Dot (2020), as it learns and understands your conversation style, usage patterns and more.
Smart home controls have always been the party piece of any Amazon Echo speaker or smart display, and the Amazon Echo Dot (2020) is no different. You can control smart lights, smart plugs, smart appliances and more, either via voice command on demand or even set time-based routines in the Alexa app. For instance, I have the Amazon Smart Plug set on a time-based routine to switch on the floor lamp at a certain time in the evening and switch it off just before bedtime. With the new Echo Dot, I can additionally call out to the smart plug, or indeed any smart light, smart air purifier or more to switch them on or off at any time.
Skills, as always, remain a very critical fixture in the Amazon Echo smart speaker environment. This is basically where third-party apps can plug into your Amazon account, and you can simply use voice commands via the Echo speaker to get stuff done. Book a cab, order food, get the latest sports scores, catch up on the news and weather, check out a new recipe, listen to a podcast and more.
I have noticed this, particularly during the previous few months working from home, that smart speakers are incredibly convenient things for setting reminders. It is easy to forget important tasks—Alexa, remind me to clean the AC filter, Alexa, remind me to call XYZ and more.
The Last Word: Still As Brilliant As Before, And Better Dressed Too
The thing with the Amazon Echo Dot (2020) is that it still does everything that it is supposed to do. Without making a fuss about it. And looks much more stylish too, now. It sounds better too. And the new design means it now demands more of a space in your life, than just be slid beneath a TV or a desktop monitor or inside a bookshelf. This remains a great new smart speaker if you need something on your kitchen counter, for your kids’ room, for the study room where podcasts can be the soundtrack to your workday or even the alarm on your bedside. This does everything so effortlessly. While looking absolutely gorgeous. And now I wonder, how amazing will the larger Amazon Echo (2020) actually look, with the same design language.