Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen): Great smart speaker

Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen): Great entry-level smart speaker with improved design

Amazon Echo Dot

Recently, Amazon launched the company's latest smart speaker Echo Dot (4th gen) for Rs 4,499 in India.

It has a completely new design and promises to offer crisp sound output compared to the predecessor. I have been using the new Echo Dot for a little over a week and here are my thoughts.

Design:
The Echo Dot (4th gen) flaunts a gorgeous gorgeous curvacious spherical design with a premium fabric finish. It has a bright LED light ring and is aptly placed at the base of the sphere and flashes up whenever Alexa digital assistant is invoked. 

It is 3.9-inch wide and 3.5-inch tall. With the all-new form factor and the right placement of the LED ring, the new Echo Dot adds great value to any room you place in the home. Our review unit is a Blue colour model. It also comes in black and white colours.  

On the back, the new Echo Dot features the usual four buttons we see in the predecessor. It has Volume Up and Down controls along with a physical mute button and Alexa wake button. At the base, you will find the 3.5mm audio jack port and a power port.


Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen). Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Also, Amazon's new Echo Dot is eco-friendly. 50% of the plastics used in device recycling. Metal hardware (including in charger and cable) particularly all aluminum-based components is also said to be 100% recycled die-cast aluminum. Even the fabric that covers the smart speaker is also said to be 100% recycled cloth-based materials. 

User-interface and performance:
Setting up Amazon Echo Dot is as easy as it gets. Users have to install the Alexa app on the phone and switch on the smart speaker. Just follow the instruction on the mobile to pair and connect it to the Wi-Fi. I was able to finish the procedure in under three minutes.

Once done, you can casually speak to the Echo Dot and there is no specific way to tell the commands. Just say the trigger phrase- 'Hey Alexa' and shoot questions. It will get the information to be it cricket scores, weather, short news bytes from popular TV media houses, podcasts.

With a built-in Zigbee hub, Alexa-powered Echo Dot supports thousands of Internet-of-Things (IoT) gadgets such as a smart plug, lights, and other home appliances. Users can just use voice commands or open the Alexa app on the mobile to control them.

If you have the Amazon e-commerce app, you can do the shopping for groceries and buy so many stuff with just voice commands. 

In early 2021, the company is bringing a full-fledged response feature with Amitabh Bachchan's voice. However, it will be a paid service.


Alexa to Amitabh Bachchan's voice in 2021. Credit: Amazon India

For now, you can try saying 'Hey Alexa, Say hello to Amitabh Bachchan'. The superstar will speak to you and interact with Alexa for a few minutes.

Must read | Alexa-powered Amazon Echo now offers Harsha Bhogle's post-Cricket match analysis

The new Echo Dot features a powerful 1.6-inch front-firing speaker, which promises clear vocals and balanced bass even when the volume is set to maximum.

Also, I liked the sensitivity of the microphones (four) of the new Echo Dot. It was able to listen to my words and respond even with noisy TV in the background. 

Recently, Amazon revealed that it tested a new algorithm on Alexa digital assistant that can understand the context of the conversation started by the owner and predict the next question to continue to the flow of interaction more naturally similar to two persons would have.

For instance, if a customer asks, 'How long does it take to steep tea?', the latent goal could be setting a timer for steeping a cup of tea on a smart kettle.

With the new capability, Alexa might answer that question, 'Five minutes is a good place to start', then follow up by asking, 'Would you like me to set a timer for five minutes?'

The new improvements to the Alexa digital assistant are expected to released through future updates. I am very much looking forward to it.

Final thoughts:
Amazon has done a wonderful job with the spherical design for the new Echo Dot, which resembles a Magic 8-ball fortune teller toy. It will get you the latest updates on the sports, real news, weather information, event or appointment schedules so that you can plan the day's routine accordingly.


Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen). Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Add to that, it can play clear music with less distortion and help you with step-by-step food preparation in the kitchen. Have to say, Amazon has improved the machine learning capability of the Alexa digital assistant feature. 

Over time, as said before, it will get better in terms of understanding the owner's request and be able to maintain the natural language conversation flow as we do with other humans.

Considering the price and the capabilities, the new Echo Dot is really a great entry-level smart speaker in India.

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