Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker test: a 4th generation finally bringing real evolutions

Now is the time for the 4th test for the Echo Dot, the smallest of the Amazon-branded Alexa smart speakers. After three rather wobbly first generations, this new iteration brings forward serious arguments.

Presentation

The fourth generation of the Echo Dot also inaugurates a third "form factor" for the smallest of Amazon's Alexa speakers. After the tube of the first generation, then the small roller of the second and third iterations, this new model now adopts an almost spherical shape - like the 2020 version of the "standard" Echo.



Within it is still housed a single 4,1 cm wideband loudspeaker, as well as of course a set of several spatially filtered microphones for the detection of voice commands.

The 4th generation Echo Dot has been available since October 2020 at the indicative price of € 59,99. There is also a version with an LED clock on the front, for € 10 more.

Amazon New Echo Dot (4th generation) with clock Introductory price 69.99 €


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Ergonomics

While the design of the speakers in the Echo range never really appealed to us, the Echo Dot 4 easily stands out. Difficult to contain a small smile of satisfaction unpacking by taking in hand this very cute little ball, and even ultimately quite elegant.



Without breathing luxury, the acoustic fabric that covers the speaker is beautifully crafted, and inspires confidence in its longevity - as well as the overall build quality of the object. There is just one small missed opportunity: the lack of IP certification or any other assurance of protection against humidity. However, it would have been very welcome on this speaker which could then have perfectly found its place in a kitchen or even a bathroom.

Like almost all speakers of its kind, the Echo Dot 4 does not bother with an abundant connection, on the contrary. In addition to the network connection (Wi-Fi only, no Ethernet port available), the one and only audio input available is a Bluetooth interface. Do not be fooled by the mini-jack connector on the back of the speaker: like on all previous Echo, this is not an input, but a line output, allowing you to use an external audio installation as an Alexa speaker. In terms of multimedia compatibility, the Echo Dot obviously fits into the Alexa Cast ecosystem, with native support for Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer streaming services.


Application Alexa sur iOS

The top of the speaker houses the controls typical of Echo devices: volume control, Alexa call, and mic on / off. It is obviously succinct, but we do not really dare to take offense, the speaker being of course designed to be above all controlled by voice.




The red light means the microphone is muted.

Speech Recognition

Voice pickup is the only element that has not seen any real evolution since the Echo Dot 3. It works well overall, with speech recognition unresponsive to the timbre of the user's voice - it also works well with voices. women than men - and the effectiveness of which varies only slightly depending on the direction or distance from which one addresses the enclosure.

Despite this, the reliability of recognition remains significantly lower than what is done with competitors, including Google's Nest speakers. Thus, it sometimes happens, for reasons which escape us, that the detection of "Alexa" calls stalls for a few moments, and becomes ineffective even when one is near the speaker, in a calm environment, and that the we speak as distinctly as possible. The problem is by no means insurmountable, with the speaker usually recovering after just a few seconds. However, this small anomaly - common to all the Alexa devices that we have tested so far - can be a little irritating at times.


Regarding the management of sound disturbances, the detection of voice commands is not very sensitive to external noise. On the other hand, the speaker tends to mute itself when it emits sound at high volume (sound level set at 75% or more); it is then necessary to push the voice a little so that it hears our calls.

Audio

Unlike speech recognition, audio reproduction is where the Echo Dot 4 is making the greatest progress over previous generations. Far from the gross problems of resonance and distortion that plagued its predecessors, this new iteration finally manages to offer a very correctly balanced sound, and a completely satisfactory clarity.


Measurement normalized to 79 dB SPL (at 1 m, 1 kHz) in black, at 65 dB SPL in dotted blue

Let's get along well: it does not accomplish any acoustic miracles for all that - so much so that there are many nomadic speakers of comparable size on the market offering superior audio performance. The Amazon speaker is satisfied with little in terms of rendering precision, and above all reserves unpleasant surprises for those who have their finger a little too heavy on the "Volume +" button - even though its power reserve is not is not very crazy.

To reach a level of 79 dB SPL at 1 m and 1 kHz (standardized level at which we usually carry out our acoustic measurements of portable speakers), it is necessary to increase the volume setting to around 85%; and at this level, the Echo Dot's single 4cm speaker is already beyond its capabilities. To keep up with the pace, he is forced to drastically reduce the presence of bass, and above all to apply a very unsightly dynamic compression to the signal, causing a flagrant pumping effect (we can clearly hear the oscillations of the sound volume near the peaks. signal strength, for example on snare hits). These problems disappear when the volume is reduced to about 50% of its maximum value, or a reduction of about fifteen decibels.


Measurement normalized to 79 dB SPL in red, to 65 dB SPL in dotted blue.

So don't count on this Echo Dot 4 to fill a living room with sound. But at least it does the trick for creating a little musical background in a bedroom, for example. This places the speaker at about the same level as Google's Nest Mini - and very noticeably above previous Echo Dots, which are only good at rendering Alexa's voice fairly intelligibly.

Highlights

Weak points

  • Just decent precision of sound reproduction.

  • Very limited power reserve, dynamics and bass collapse at maximum volume.

  • A few unexplained little moments of speech recognition failure.

  • No wired audio input.

Conclusion

Note globale

With the 4th generation of its Echo Dot, Amazon finally manages to give its smallest smart speaker performance comparable to that of its biggest competitors. It is certainly very limited in terms of sound power, but it is finally a highly recommendable choice for Alexa users who are looking for an efficient and space-saving way to speak to their favorite assistant.

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