The Echo series of smart speakers from Amazon is arguably the best among the competition right now, and the varied sizes and prices also provide something for every budget. New Echo devices usually bring incremental changes over multiple generations, as is the case with the Echo smart speaker that I'm reviewing here. The Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) is the latest iteration of the company's compact and affordable smart speaker, meant for personal desktop or bed-side use.
Priced at Rs. 5,499 in India, the Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) looks just like the 4th-generation device, but comes with some useful additions under the hood which should add to its utility and capabilities. Of course, it's also powered by Alexa, Amazon's reliable and feature-filled smart voice assistant, and can slot into your existing smart home setup with ease. Is this the best affordable smart speaker you can buy right now? Find out in this review.
The Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) looks and feels almost the same as its predecessor, but is now available in a blue colour option
Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) design and specifications
Although the Echo Dot range has evolved and changed a lot over the generations, the aesthetic and visual differences between the Echo Dot (5th Gen) and Echo Dot (4th Gen) are barely noticeable. The newer smart speaker is the same size and dimensions, sticking to the rather neat-looking spherical shape of its predecessor. The 5th-gen speaker does weigh a bit more, but this won't matter too much since it's not meant to be portable.
The Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) is available in three colours — white and black like before — and a new blue colour option, which in my opinion is the best looking of the lot. The sales package includes a 15W power adapter with a fixed cable to power the smart speaker. Unlike the Echo Input Portable, the Echo Dot doesn't have a battery and will need to be plugged in at all times to work.
The top of the Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) has four physical buttons — two to adjust the volume, an action button for various functions, and a microphone mute button. Interestingly, there is also an accelerometer in the device which allows for detection of taps at the top; this can be used to snooze alarms, stop timers, and even play or pause music. That said, it usually needed a fairly firm whack at the top of the speaker for this to work, and sometimes didn't even respond immediately, so you might be better off using voice controls instead.
At the bottom of the speaker is the signature Echo light ring which illuminates in different colours when the speaker is listening for commands, muted or disconnected from the Internet. The underside has a grippy, rubber texture to keep the Echo Dot stable when placed on most surfaces. The back has the socket for power; notably, the 3.5mm audio-out socket (which was present on the previous-generation Echo Dot) isn't there on the 5th-gen device.
The Echo Dot (5th Gen) does away with the 3.5mm audio-out socket
For connectivity, the Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) works with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi connections. Connectivity was stable and reliable even with the speaker placed far away from my router and connected to a relatively slow 2.4GHz connection. The Echo Dot works with the Alexa app (iOS and Android) for setup, customisation, and other features. However, once set up, you might not need the app too often, since most functionality works on its own on the smart speaker.
Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) features and performance
The Echo Dot range from Amazon has largely been about getting the basics right, offering the full-fledged Alexa experience including calling, personalised responses, and IoT capabilities, along with acceptable sound quality at a convenient size and reasonable price. The 5th-generation Echo Dot steps things up a bit with the addition of motion-detection and temperature sensors, which can be put to use with Alexa Routines for better IoT capabilities.
Of particular note is the temperature sensor — a rather useful addition on an otherwise basic smart speaker — which gives it considerably more advanced smart home capabilities. You can view the indoor temperature of the room in the Alexa app or ask for it specifically through a voice command, but the true utility of it comes into play with Alexa Routines. For example, you can set up a smart fan or AC to turn on when the temperature goes above a certain threshold, if you have compatible devices that work with Alexa.
Another useful addition is motion detection, which can similarly be used with Alexa routines to activate smart home devices such as bulbs or fans when motion is detected in the room that the Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) is in. All of this makes the new Echo Dot a far more useful smart home controller than the previous device.
The Alexa app on iOS and Android lets you control and configure certain functions on the Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen)
Alexa on the Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) is as good as it has always been, and the microphone on the speaker is good enough to pick up the wake word and voice commands reliably in a small or medium-sized room. That said, performance in this regard is best if you're around three or four feet away at most.
The device has a slightly larger 1.73-inch speaker driver, despite being the same size as its predecessor. While it can get fairly loud for a speaker of its size, the Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) is best used as a desktop or bedside speaker. I found that keeping the volume low while I was around two feet away was the ideal way to use the device.
Listening to I Could Be The One by Avicii while working, The Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) is discreet and simple in its looks, but very capable in the way it sounds. Nicely tuned for music across genres, the device sounded good across the frequency range, but definitely favoured the bass a bit. The shape and size of the speaker makes it ideal for personal listening, but it's loud enough to be heard in different rooms, even at around the 50 percent volume mark.
I wouldn't use the Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) as my primary home speaker as it just doesn't sound that good, but it's impressive as a secondary desktop or bedside audio device, particularly if you're already used to the Alexa voice assistant and its features. Alexa also supports numerous music streaming services, along with support and understanding of complex instructions that make it work well with just about any service.
The Amazon Echo Dot has typically been an entry-level smart speaker meant for small rooms and personal listening, and the 5th-generation device is no different in this regard. Where it does see improvements is in the hardware, and the addition of a couple of sensors which increase its utility as a smart home controller. That said, any improvement is worth it as long as it doesn't bump up the price too much.
At Rs. 5,499, the Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) is a worthwhile purchase if you intend to put the new improvements to use in a smart home environment. Alexa itself continues to improve, so the Echo Dot (5th Gen) will only get better over time. If the IoT functions don't appeal to you too much, you might just find it more sensible to get the Echo Dot (4th Gen) instead; it's a fair bit more affordable, and almost identical when it comes to the core specifications and capabilities.
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