With a stylish makeover and improved sound, is the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) the tiny smart speaker we've been waiting for?
The Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Generation) is a surprising product. It's small, but it offers a gatewayinto the world of the smart home and improved sound over its previous models, as well as the Google Home Mini.
What is the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)?
For smart home control and filling your home with Alexa devices, the Echo Dot has always been a popular choice. The old versions had two main problems: they were a little ugly, and a little quiet. With the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen), Amazon deals with both issues, delivering an improved smart speaker that’s ideal for home control and a little bit of light music or radio.
Design: Much improved
Gone is the plain plastic case of the old version, and the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) has a textured material case, which makes it closer in appearance to the Google Home Mini. It's a huge improvement over the original, letting the new Dot blend in with your decor, rather than stickingout as an obvious bit of tech. Available in charcoal, grey and sandstone, there are now three choices of finish to further extend the options.
On top, you get the same control as on the previous Echo Dot: there are volume buttons, a mic silent button to stop Alexa listening in, and an activation button, just in case the Dot doesn't want to pick up your voice. While physical controls are usefulto have, most of the time you won't need them.
Amazon has changed the power adaptor for the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen), and it's no-longerUSB-powered. This is because the new model needs a little more power. The disadvantage is that you can't power the speaker via a useful USBport on the back of your TV or set-top box.
There's a 3.5mm sound output on the rear, so you can hook the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) upto a stereo for more powerful sound (or you can use Bluetooth for this). To be honest, if youwant to do this, the cheaper Echo Dot (2nd Gen) would be a better choice.
Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) – Features
As Alexa works in the cloud, the 3rd Gen Echo Dot has the same range of features as the other Amazon-powered smart speakers. I’ve covered this in more detail in my Amazon Alexa Guide, but I’ll tackle the basics here.
As a general smart assistant, the new Echo Dot is a handy tool. Alexa can tell you about the upcoming weather or give you IMDB scores for TV shows and films. You can get details on upcoming appointments, or find out the results for sums or spellings. As far as the basics go, Alexa has you well covered. Additional features are added through Amazon Alexa Skills, with a huge number available through the Alexa app. The range is rather varied, with some excellent additions and some very poor ones; experimenting and finding the Skills you want is part of the fun.
Smart home control is where Alexa really shines, with the range of supported products huge, ranging from the Dyson 360 Eye robot vacuum cleaner to Philips Huebulbs and beyond. You can create routines to control multiple devices together.
For smart home control, the Echo Dot makes a lot of sense, as it’s cheap enough and discreet enough to place almost anywhere in your home where you want voice control. Amazon now uses four far-field microphones in the Echo Dot (3rd Gen) compared to the seven in the previous generation (one by each physical control). That sounds like a step backwards, but it isn’t.
At 1.1 inches, the speaker in the third-generation Dot is a full half-inch larger than its predecessor, and the extra size shows. Playing songs on the second-gen Dot was a torturous experience, like listening to music on a third-rate transistor radio.
From the opening bars of Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road," it was immediately apparent that the new Dot is far superior. The opening drumroll sounded like static on the gen-2 Dot, but on the gen-3 Dot, Max Weinberg's sticks finally received their due.
But how does the new Echo Dot compare to that other budget smart speaker, the Google Home Mini? As it turns out, it's better in most respects. When playing Prince's "Raspberry Beret," the Dot had much fuller bass and was louder overall. Vocals were a bit muted at the default equalizer settings, though increasing the treble to max helped a little.
There’s one very handy audio feature rolling out to all Echos. You can ask Alexa to adjust the equalizer settings of the Dot; for example, you can say, "Alexa, set the bass to maximum," or, "Alexa, reset the equalizer." (You can increase treble and bass from a scale of -6 to 6.)
While you won't see a huge difference on the Dot, the effect should be more pronounced on other devices.
If you’re in the market for a cheap wireless speaker that can make calls, control your smart home and play the occasional song or two, the Amazon Echo Dot is easily one of the best smart speakers on the market for you - even better than the Google Home Mini in terms of call quality and music playback.
That said, if you plan on sitting down for a longer listening session, we recommend connecting to an external speaker (remember to pick up a 3.5mm auxiliary cord!) or opting for one of the more audio-adept Amazon speakers like the Amazon Echo (2nd Generation) or new Amazon Echo Plus with an Amazon Echo Sub. Your music will thank you.
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