Not quite the HomePod Mini, Amazon’s compact and affordable Echo Dot 5th-gen is an affordable take on its bigger Echo brother, but is it worth the sub-$100 price?
Speakers are seemingly a dime a dozen these days, and everyone has them. Whether you have one to take with you or maybe just one sitting somewhere in the home, having a compact bit of sound isn’t exactly a foreign concept, especially if you have your speaker listen to your words and act on them.
We are, of course, talking about smart speakers, and several years into their introduction, these things can be found everywhere.
Smart speakers are often the first stage of trying out gadgets in the “smart home”, and provide a way for you to voice commands to play music, get recipes, listen to the news, hear the weather, ask for the answer to questions, or generally just search the web. You might even use them to control your home, with smart appliances and smart lighting easily triggered from these devices.
But not everyone has them yet, and price might be one of the reasons why. However it’s something Amazon is hoping it can fix, and with the Echo Dot 5th-gen, it could well have a solid blend for the beginning smart home audience, or at the very least, the folks keen to have a modern and compact bedside alarm clock.
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Design and features
Almost like the HomePod Mini, the 2022 Echo Dot is another of Amazon’s spherical speakers, complete with a flat bottom so it doesn’t roll away.
There’s only one port to plug in the power, so no 3.5mm line-out on the 2022 variation, even if it was there in the last model, though other things have changed.
The 1.6 inch speaker in the 4th-gen Echo Dot is now a bigger 1.73 inch speaker in the 5th-gen, supporting microphones, WiFi 5 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth LE, and depending if you opt for the “clock” variation, an LED display.
Compact in design, Amazon’s 2022 Echo Dot is also compact in controls, with the regular smattering of physically printed volume buttons up top, plus a listen action and a do-not-disturb button, and then some touch controls.
Yes, just like how you can touch your phone to make things happen, and how more headphones are supporting touch controls, so too does the Echo Dot: touch it twice and you’ll have it pause things, or start them back up again.
Of course, touching the Dot isn’t the only way to use it: there’s also your voice.
Clearly one of the most important ways to use a smart speaker, Amazon’s Echo Dot includes microphones to let you talk to it, calling on the speaker with the regular “Alexa”, though you’re able to change it one of a few names the speaker can pick you up on.
And pick you up it does, with our voice typically firing the speaker up with no problems, and playing the news, the weather, music, and answering our questions.
The Dot Clock variation also has another use case, with a small LED screen that can be used for more than just what its name suggests.
While “clock” might be the obvious part, Amazon’s Echo Dot with Clock can also display the weather when you ask it, or even the listing of a track name when you request music. It’s not quite the screen of the Echo Show 10, or any of the other Echo Show variation, but it’s a small screen that can give you the glimpse of the clock, plus some of the responses you might be looking for on the tiny speaker.
Both models feature a colour ring at the bottom to give you an idea of whether the speaker is listening — blue because it is, red for do not disturb, and yellow for notifications from Amazon, to name a few, and they also all support some extra bits.
Either model also features some motion sensing able to be configured and mapped to other smart home features, plus a built-in temperature sensor that can also be used to map high and low temperatures to Amazon’s skills.
Both speakers also have the same speaker, using a 1.73 inch front firing speaker, distinct to the 1.6 inch in the older 4th-gen model.
The speaker in the Echo Dot 5th-gen is a little bigger and a little better, and even technically supports lossless high-res if you have a service capable of playing it, but it probably won’t matter, because the sound from this driver isn’t amazing.
Tested with the Pickr Sound Test, regardless of which track we ran through the 2022 Echo Dot, we found the bass shallow, the sub-bass bordering on nonexistent, and the mids largely missing.
In the electronic sounds of Daft Punk, the sound wasn’t overly full. You could hear the bass and mids, and while present, it was anything other than fantastic.
It’s a similar feeling with the pop sounds of Carly Rae Jepsen and the R&B of Ariana Grande, with shallow sounds and nearly invisible bass.
Overall, the feeling we had was kids should be fine with the sound, as would someone who just wanted light background tunes, but the Echo Dot is not a great speaker by any stretch of the imagination.
But it’s certainly inexpensive.
An area Amazon just nails is the price, which rocks up in stores for $79 without an LED clock, or an extra $20 for the $99 Amazon Echo Dot with Clock.
The smallest of Amazon’s speakers is very cost effective, making for a great entrance into the world of the smart home without needing to spend too much at all. We dig the clock edition because it gives you that little bit extra, and you can turn it off if you don’t like it.
What needs work?
While the price and features are both right, the sound quality isn’t quite on par.
It’s acceptable for small rooms, for kids, and for people who don’t need a whole lot, but the quality isn’t really up there, and you’re getting what you pay for.
It’s not really a size thing, either; the 2022 Amazon Echo Dot is almost identically sized to the HomePod Mini.
They’re so close, good luck being able to work the difference if you don’t know what you’re looking for (the HomePod Mini is a cup with a screen on top, while the Echo Dot flips the design upside down with no screen on top).
But the HomePod Mini sounds so much better, even if it’s roughly twice the price, and so does the larger Amazon Echo, which is twice the price, but sounds so much better overall. You won’t get the LED clock or weather checking variation, but the big Echo from 2020 sounds a whole heap better.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
While the sound isn’t Amazon’s best, the price is right for people keen to jump into the smart home without spending much.
It’s true that both Amazon and Google have models that fit this bill, but it’s been so long since Google has updated its Nest Mini, and that helps to make the 5th-gen Echo Dot stand out in the right ways. Neither has breathtaking sound, but only this year’s Echo Dot has seen an upgrade in ages, getting a bigger speaker, a temperature sensor, and the aforementioned clock, which also can turn the speaker into a rather small bedside alarm clock.
It’s good for bedsides, kids, and folks who don’t want to spend a whole lot.
Ultimately, if you need a modern alarm clock and like the Amazon system — or have an aversion to Google — the $99 Echo Dot with Clock makes sense. There are better options for $50 north, and both the standard Echo 4th-gen and the Apple HomePod Mini fit that bill, but there is something good and compact here.