Possibly the most widely used smart speaker for multiple uses, if not just audio, the Alexa ecosystem is trusted by integrators and home-automation experts over the competition because of its fondness for the Indian accent and languages. It now can converse in Hindi, hugely increasing its appeal to beyond the English-speaking parts of the country.
The 4th-gen Echo is a big departure from the previous one in terms of aesthetic, but not so much in functionality. It still carries a full-range 1.6in driver inside the orb and around the back, a 3.5mm line-out along with a power adapter port complete the technical bits.
Amazon uses the AZ1 Neural Edge processor to enhance the Echo Dot’s machine learning skills and with hundreds or thousands of skills already being supported for, it’s hard to tell the difference from the previous-gen but it still works just as well. The LED display shows the time, outside temperature or timers if you’ve set any. It even features an ambient light sensor to control the brightness automatically. With the widest choice of third-party music streaming services besides Amazon Music itself, it’s easy to find the song you’re looking for, whether it’s in English, Hindi or a host of regional languages too.
Sonically, there is a slight improvement over the flatter 3rd gen model, but nothing that will make you notice immediately. Voices and high frequencies still sound less than pristine and overall, there is a lack of openness to the sound that the HomePod Mini displays so effortlessly. Mind you, the Echo Dot w/Clock is also less than half the price of the HomePod Mini and its true worth will be by your bedside or kitchen, with a tap-to-snooze surface at the top that makes it a perfect alarm companion. Just don’t expect sonic fireworks from it.
Xiaomi’s smart speaker is also in the same price range with Google Home smarts. Although both speakers are not meant to blow you away with their audio, you can expect the Echo to have more uses than one. For instance, the line-out headphone jack might breathe smarts into your dumb speakers and if you’re using Apple Music, Alexa will scoop up a playlist from there too. Something that is not possible on the Xiaomi smart speaker.
The choice is there, and depending on your needs, the budget segment is not a disappointing place to be in.