Amazon’s new Echo Dot, up close and hands-on

If the Echo Show was the Amazon device most desperately in need of a makeover (please and thank you), the Dot was certainly a close second. After all, while the cheapest (and best selling) Echo device has already been through a couple of iterations, the hardware wasn’t exactly the sort of thing you’d proudly display on the coffee table.

The thing that strikes you immediately upon seeing the redesigned version of what Amazon calls “the best selling speaker,” is how much the new generation of the product is influenced by Google’s Home Mini. In fact, Google’s influence was evident all over the place here.

That said, I actually prefer the design on this one. The new Dot has a similar form factor to its predecessor, keeping the rough dimensions and button layouts intact. The biggest difference from the design perspective, is the cloth speaker that surrounds the perimeter of the device. The product takes the whole “speaker” part of “Smart Speaker” a bit more seriously.

The new version tops out at about 70 percent louder than the original Dot. The company played a pair of the products in tandem for me (the Ed Sheeran, for the record, was not my choice), with each one splitting the left and right stereo channels. The effect was solid, though I’m not rushing out to replace the Google Home Max in my apartment at the moment. 

The most impressive bit in all of this is, naturally, the price. Amazon managed to improve the hardware without charging more. That would have been a mistake, of course. The $49 price tag is kind of the whole point of the Dot. This is the gateway drug into the Alexa ecosystem (Echosystem?).

At that level, you’ve got a low-cost entry into multiroom audio. It’s all part of the company’s approach to home audio. By circumventing high-ticket items like the HomePod or Google Home Max, Amazon is letting users build their home audio system piece by piece.

Check out our full coverage from the event here.