Like Google with its Nest products, Amazon has updated its range of Echo smart speakers. Without being radically different, the 2019 versions of the Echo and Echo Dot benefit from some interesting new features. What do they offer compared to previous generations? The answer is in our full review.
- Compact design
- Improved sound
- Possibility of pairing with a second speaker
- Alexa app
Price unchanged for the Echo and Echo Dot (2019)
In order to remain competitive in the fight between connected speakers, Amazon has sensibly decided to keep its prices the same. You can, therefore, buy the new Amazon Echo Dot (2019) for $49.99/£34.99. A clock version of the Echo Dot with a white LED display is available for £44.99/$59.99.
The Amazon Echo is still available for £89.99 and in four colors (Twilight Blue, Sandstone, Heather Grey and Charcoal).
Revised and improved sound
At first sight, it is difficult to see the differences with the previous generation. However, Amazon has slightly modified the design of its speaker with a more refined result. In particular, they now have more rounded edges and new colors.
Given the relatively compact size of the speaker, it is always difficult to significantly improve the sound quality of the device generation after generation. Amazon has nevertheless taken up the challenge by transforming the sound experience of the Amazon Echo. It was a wise decision as the American giant has been behind in this field, especially compared to Google, but even more so against the many third-party competitors that are compatible with Alexa.
In addition to its Dolby compatibility (like last year's generation), the Echo has a more immersive sound thanks to a 7.6-centimeter bass driver and new neodymium diaphragms, hardware already present on the Echo Plus. Above all, Amazon finally allows you to pair the speaker with other Alexa speakers for stereo sound. It is also possible to pair the speaker with an Amazon Echo Plus 2nd generation speaker too.
Amazon Echo Dot: a version with clock
The smallest of the Amazon speakers is also entitled to an update. This third-generation, a real hit in terms of sales, aims to compete with the new Google Nest Mini launched around the same time. Amazon has also improved the sound, but the difference in sound quality with its older brother is still significant, due to its very compact design. As with the main Echo, it is possible to pair the speaker with a second one for stereo sound.
The colors have also been revised but it is especially the appearance of a version with clock that is appreciable (and that is this model I tested). It's a kind of clock radio 2.0, the Echo Dot has a small white LED display hidden under the fabric of the device. The white light is very bright and the brightness automatically adapts to the room. At night, if you place the Echo Dot in your bedroom (which was my case), you are absolutely undisturbed. In addition to the time, the small display can also display the outdoor temperature, a timer and of course alarms.
Unlike the Nest Mini, Amazon does not offer any assistance for wall mounting. If this detail does not really matter for the model with a clock, whose use is primarily reserved for bedrooms, it would have been nice to have wall mounting possible on the classic Echo Dot.
How are the new features?
In terms of sound quality, there has definitely been an improvement in both models. Of course, the Echo offers a much richer and more powerful sound than the Echo Dot. The sound is also immersive with a 360-degree effect that is particularly enjoyable. Compared to the previous generation, the difference is significant, especially in terms of bass and the depth of the sound. The Echo is perfectly sufficient to deliver powerful sound capable of filling the rooms of a small home. The volume is high enough to bother your neighbors. Only the mid could do with a little more care.
Coupled with an Echo Dot, the experience is very pleasant thanks to the possibility of combining two speakers together. The result is a very pleasant stereo sound for a fair price (£135 for the whole package). For an apartment of about forty square meters, the association Echo (living room) + Echo Dot (bedroom) is a perfect combo to enjoy a good sound experience.
The Echo Dot alone provides a relatively good sound considering the size of the device but obviously remains weaker than that of the Echo. However, Amazon has really improved the sound quality of its small speaker to match the new Google Nest Mini. It's not the best small speaker but it's the best with Alexa. The model with the clock is more than enough to fill a small room. The time display is also very good and the Echo Dot is for me the perfect modern alarm clock radio.
On both models, the buttons are easily accessible and easy to use. It is always possible to turn off the microphone to avoid incessant triggering (or for your seven-year-old niece to ask Alexa for the sounds of the different animals for a whole afternoon).
Compared to Google's speakers, I must admit that Alexa is much easier to activate, even when you don't call her. I would like to be able to adjust the trigger sensitivity. Unfortunately, no such options are available. It should also be noted that, compared to Nest speakers, questions asked to the assistant are not processed on the device but on Amazon's servers.
The Alexa app could be improved
To set up and use your speakers, but also to pair Alexa speakers, you must use the Alexa app available for free on iOS and Android. It is quite simple to use but its interface could be improved for more clarity, especially for neophytes who are not always familiar with setting up this type of product, which is always popular during the Christmas and New Year holidays because of their affordability.
Thus, loading times can sometimes be quite long. Another concern is that if you have several Echo speakers, it becomes complicated to distinguish between the different devices. I therefore advise you to rename them and specify where the speakers are located in order to avoid any problems.
Fine verdict: is it worth buying it?
The Echo and Echo Dot (2019) are excellent. Without revolutionizing its speakers, Amazon has succeeded in significantly improving the sound quality of its devices whilst keeping prices as affordable as ever. The possibility of combining two or more speakers finally allows you to enjoy stereo sound and is an interesting advantage. Alexa is still as easy to use on both models as Google Assistant is.
If you want to enter the world of Alexa and equip your home with stereo sound, the Echo + Echo Dot combo is a perfect option. If you are looking for a good quality speaker without breaking the bank, the Echo one to consider. If you're looking for a modern clock radio, the Echo Dot is probably the best option at the moment too.