Faster Alexa + energy efficiency

Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)

Compact + wall-mountable

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)

The Echo Dot 4th Gen doesn't make major strides from the previous model, but improves where it counts. Alexa commands are twice as fast thanks to an improved chip, the speaker is now front-facing for directed sound, and the speaker design is both more stylish and more energy-efficient.

$50 at Amazon

Pros

  • Striking new design
  • Improved processor chip for Alexa commands
  • Low power mode
  • Made from recycled plastics and fabrics
  • Front-facing speaker

Cons

  • Cannot be wall-mounted
  • Has the same size of speaker as last year's Dot

The Echo Dot 3rd Gen is the only Dot model that can be wall-mounted, which many users prefer. Plus, Amazon will continue to update the Echo Dot 3rd Gen with the latest Echo and Alexa tech, including the Sidewalk Bridge program and Guard Plus security features for smart homes.

$40 at Amazon

Pros

  • More compact
  • Selling at a discount with similar specs
  • Can be mounted on the wall
  • Works with Sidewalk and Guard Plus

Cons

  • Speaker isn't forward-facing
  • Uses older processing chip for Alexa commands
  • Muddy sound mixing at higher volumes

With the new Echo Dot arriving in late October, many Amazon speaker fans are wondering how the Echo Dot 4th Gen vs 3rd Gen stack up to one another, and if it's worth upgrading from the current Dot. The two miniature speakers aren't that different from one another — unsurprising given the 3rd Generation model only came out a year ago — but the 4th Generation Dot makes significant improvements in Alexa commands, environmental impact and sound design.

Echo Dot 4th Gen vs 3rd Gen: A minor specs upgrade

Echo Dot 4th Gen LifestyleSource: Amazon

The Echo Dot 4th Generation model essentially has the same services and connectivity as its predecessor: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi protocols haven't changed, nor have the smart home devices or streaming services to which you can connect the Dot. Amazon also generally keeps its old Echo devices compatible with the newest Amazon initiatives and programs like Amazon Sidewalk and Amazon Guard Plus.

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The primary differences between the Echo Dot 4th Gen vs 3rd Gen are physical changes made to the external design and internal components. We break down the differences (and similarities) below:

Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)
Size 3.9" x 3.9" x 3.5" 3.9" x 3.9" x 1.7"
Weight 12 oz 10.5 oz
Colors Charcoal, Glacier White, Twilight Blue Charcoal, Heather Grey, Plum, Sandstone
Processor AZ1 Neural Edge MediaTek MT516
Speaker 1.6" speaker 1.6" front-firing speaker
3.5mm port 3.5 mm line out 3.5 mm line out
Bluetooth Yes Yes
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz / 5GHz) 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz / 5GHz)
Buttons Volume up and down, Mic off, Action button Volume up and down, Mic off, Action button
Pair Multiple Dots for Stereo Sound Yes Yes
Free Audio Calls in North America Yes Yes
Light ring Runs along base of speaker Runs along top of speaker
Wall-mountable Yes (technically) Yes
Alexa Guard Plus Yes Yes
Amazon Sidewalk Bridge Yes Yes

First and foremost, upgrading to the 4th Generation model gets you the AZ1 Neural Edge chip. Amazon alleges that it processes Alexa commands twice as fast as its 3rd Generation Echos. Considering the Echo Dot is more useful as an Alexa speaker than as a dedicated music player, that's a fairly significant reason to upgrade.

The AZ1 Neural Chip makes your Alexa commands faster than ever before, and the Echo Dot gives you access to this upgrade at a fair price.

The second change is more subtle: both devices have a 1.6-inch speaker, but the 4th Generation model makes it a front-facing model. Our Echo Dot 3rd Generation review found that the tiny speaker had strong volume and decent bass considering its size, but that it does get muddier at the higher volumes. Ideally, the new front-facing speaker will help the sound mixtures remain distinct at higher volumes; however, until we can review it for ourselves, it's possible that this problem will persist in the newer model.

Both devices have the trademark LED array that indicates when the device is listening to you, but the newer model moves the ring to the bass of the speaker, which makes sense given the new Dot no longer has the old model's flat plastic top. Instead, the fabric extends all the way to the top of the sphere, and the control buttons are slightly elevated above the fabric on the top of the device.

Our 3rd-generation Echo Dot reviewer felt that the old LED array was "segmented" and "not quite as smooth" as other Echo devices, so we're hoping that's an area of improvement for this model. On the other hand, he praised the control buttons for their "tactile and satisfying click", and we hope that the new button model doesn't make them more spongy.

The final change to the Echo Dot's design is a new focus on responsible environmental design and energy use. Amazon reportedly used "50% post-consumer recycled plastics, 100% post-consumer recycled fabric and 100% recycled die-cast aluminum" to build the 2020 Echo Dot. Moreover, all the 4th Generation Echos now feature a "Low Power Mode" that activates whenever the Dot is idle, so it will drain less electricity over time.

Echo Dot 4th Gen vs 3rd Gen: Keep the 3rd Gen if you mount it

Echo Dot speaker lifestyle imageSource: Amazon

Both Echo Dot models are 3.9" wide and deep, so if you buy the 4th Gen Dot you can place it exactly where your 3rd Gen Dot sits now. Except, of course, if you mount the 2019 Echo Dot on your wall. The 2020 Echo Dot is nearly twice as thick as the 2019 Echo Dot, protruding further from the wall and making it more of a potential hindrance; and, the front-facing internal speaker means it isn't exactly built to spread from the wall throughout the room.

The 3rd Generation Echo Dot can be mounted on an outlet, the wall, the ceiling or even on a desk stand.

Amazon told The Verge that it would continue to sell the 3rd Generation model for customers that want to wall-mount an Echo speaker, making it clear that the 4th Generation model is not built for it. And while there is already a 4th Gen wall mount available for sale on Amazon, there is a much better selection of excellent Echo Dot wall mounts for the 2019 Dot that really showcase the older model's versatility.

Echo Dot 4th Gen vs 3rd Gen: Time for an upgrade

Echo Dot 4th Gen LifestyleSource: Amazon

Wall mounting aside, the 4th Generation model improves on the old Echo Dot in all the areas that count. Improved Alexa response time will make voice commands more appealing and easy to use; the front-firing speaker should make the Dot's volume more effective and clear across a room; and the low power mode and recyclable materials will make you feel greener when you use it (just make sure to recycle or donate your old Echo Dot!).

On the other hand, the Echo Dot 3rd Generation is still perfectly effective as an Alexa speaker. And considering Amazon still adds new software features like Sidewalk and Guard to even its 1st Generation Echos, you can rest assured that your device won't become obsolete anytime soon.

Still, considering the affordable $50 list price of the 2020 Echo Dot, it's an upgrade purchase that your budget can easily afford. It doesn't make substantial improvements in speaker quality, but a device that small really can't; instead, you can rely on it for lightning-fast Alexa commands and pair it with one of these excellent speakers to improve the audible experience down the line.

Faster Alexa + energy efficiency

Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)

Round sound

The Echo Dot 4th Generation makes more of a statement thanks to its new spherical design, but thankfully remains just as affordable as ever. A new processor chip means that Alexa has become faster than ever, and the low power mode will do wonders for your electric bill.

Compact + wall-mountable

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)

A more vertatile, compact design

The Echo Dot 3rd Generation remains a viable device to consider buying today, thanks to a variety of mounting options. It can be held in place magnetically, mounted directly to an outlet, or even placed on a desk stand. While not as fast or green as the new model, it's a cheap and effective device for Alexa access.

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