Amazon Echo Dot 2nd-Gen vs. Echo Dot 3rd-Gen

Amazon’s Alexa-powered third-gen Echo Dot has been out for some time now. So long, in fact, that many of us are probably scratching our heads in an attempt to remember what the previous generation looked or sounded like.

The original Dot helped revolutionize the smart home by making virtual assistants more approachable (and affordable), ushering in the era of the voice-controlled smart home. The new third-generation Echo Dot sports many of the same features as its predecessors, yet with a few much-needed improvements. The latest iteration is more powerful than previous models and retains its line-out and Bluetooth connectivity for both physical and wireless connections. Alexa has also received a commendable overhaul, and she boasts a host of new features and skills.

Design

echo dot 2018 3rd generation
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Unlike the plastic exterior found on the first- and second-gen Dots, Amazon’s latest model uses a softer, more attractive design.

The third-gen Dot will probably fit better with any home decor than the second-gen. It’s far less noticeable than the second-gen Dot given its softer edges and surface. It has a sleeker and more futuristic appearance than its predecessor, and it tends to blend in well with its surroundings when placed on a table or desk. Fabric covers the outside of the device, which now features a rounded top void of sharp edges. Aesthetically, it’s more akin to the Google Home Mini and is available in three new colors: Charcoal, heather gray, and sandstone. The second-gen Dot, on the other hand, is available in either a white or black finish and is smaller, with a hockey-puck look.

Sound

echo dot 2018 3rd generation
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

This is the single biggest difference between the two devices, as the third generation sounds significantly better than the second generation.

The new 3rd-gen Echo Dot has a single 1.6-inch speaker sending out 360-degree sound. The second-generation Dot had one smaller speaker (1.1 inches) that leaked sound out of multiple port holes. Because the driver is significantly bigger on the third-generation Echo Dot, this helps the puck-like device deliver more robust sound with lower distortion. Amazon asserts that the third-gen Dot is 70% louder than its second-gen counterpart. In fact, our reviewer gave the device an Editors’ Choice award for the improvements Amazon made in the sound department.

The latest device features a new microphone setup. This newest model only uses four far-field mics to pick up sounds from across the room rather than the standard seven-microphone arrangement seen on previous generations of the Echo and Echo Dot. We tested the latest Dot configuration for voice detection and are pleased to report that it picked up the wake word spoken without yelling from a significant distance to the device, all while blasting music. The latest Echo Dot still has the 3.5 mm port to connect the device with external speakers. However, you can also pair with speakers wirelessly through Bluetooth. Pick and choose your own speaker setup, which means you may not need to buy the larger, more capable Echo. After Amazon also released the Echo Sub, a powerful subwoofer that’s designed to link with your already-existing devices, you can turn up the bass without adding up a wild price.

Alexa voice assistant

The Alexa voice assistant technology is the same in the second and third-gen Echo Dots. You won’t find any differences between the two, thanks to updates in Alexa’s capabilities. Alexa’s software went ahead and included voice recognition and smart-home technology as part of a safety upgrade independent from your speakers. So, in a side-by-side comparison, the voice technology probably shouldn’t be a significant factor for your final decision.

Pricing and availability

echo dot 2018 3rd generation
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

The third-generation Echo Dot is available for $50. However, you can probably snag it for cheaper because it’s often on sale. You can also bundle it with other smart home devices like smart lights and smart plugs to save even more cash. Amazon no longer sells the second-gen Dot in brand new conditions, so if you’d prefer that option instead, you’ll need to search through third-party sellers for a refurbished or used model. We’ve found that costs, on average, about $20. With any refurbished or used product, there is a chance you could encounter defects. For more security, it may be better to buy the new third-gen Dot direct from Amazon. Amazon has plenty of deals and upgrades available at any given time for the third-generation Echo Dot, making it our top choice for your home sound system. 

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