With better sound, more features and the ability to extend your home Wi-Fi, the Echo Dot 5 is the best Dot yet and the best smart speaker under $50 / £55.
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Amazon’s selection of Alexa speakers is so vast that it can be difficult to figure out which one to buy. The idea, of course, is that you don’t just have one, but fill your home with them, so you can listen to music anywhere, ask Alexa for things anywhere, and control the smart home devices – like lights – in every room.
However, the Echo Dot has always been a good starting point and lets you have a hands-free virtual assistant without breaking the bank.
With 5e-generation model, nothing has changed in this respect, although it is five times more expensive in the UK this time around.
But no matter where you live, the Echo Dot 5 will likely be the one to buy thanks to a selection of small but useful upgrades.
Unless, of course, you see a previous generation model on sale for a very low price. And since Amazon regularly cuts its devices by 50% in seasonal sales, it’s worth keeping in mind if you can wait.
Functions and design
Same design as 4e generation
New touch gestures
Improved display on model with clock
Jim Martin / Foundry
Besides the fact that it’s now available in the new Cloud Blue color pictured here, the 5e-gen Echo Dot is exactly the same as its predecessor to look at.
It’s the same size, has the same fabric covering the front and top, the same four buttons, and the same light ring around the bottom.
On the back is a single connector for the power cable and – as with 4e-gen Dot – there is no 3.5mm minijack.
Jim Martin / Foundry
If you spend the extra $10/£10 on the ‘with clock’ model, and I highly recommend you do, you get a useful matrix display.
With 24 points horizontally and five vertically, there are 120 in total – a significantly higher resolution than the fourth-generation seven-segment LED display, as shown below. (Also note that the Cloud Blue color is not too bright: it’s more of a gray-blue.)
Jim Martin / Foundry
This allows the new Echo Dot to display much more than the time. Artist and track names scroll while you play music, more detailed weather information appears when you ask for a forecast, and units or measurements appear when you ask Alexa to do so.
Like the 4e-gen Echo Dot with clock, it will also show volume (out of 10) and remaining time on a countdown.
The brightness of the screen is automatically adjusted according to the brightness of the room, but you can also adjust it manually.
Note that Cloud Blue is exclusive to Echo Dot with Clock (also available in Glacier White). If you go for the standard Echo Dot 5, you have a choice between Charcoal, Deep Sea Blue (a much darker blue) and Glacier White.
Whichever model you choose, it will have a built-in temperature sensor, just like the fourth-generation Echo. It’s the first time Amazon has put one in a dot, and it means you can automate smart heating/cooling systems based on room temperature. Plus, you can ask Alexa “what’s the temperature in the dining room” or what room you have your Dot in.
Perhaps Amazon intends to use the Echo Dot in a bedroom. Another novelty is a sensor that can register a pressure. This is used to pause and resume music, end calls, snooze alarms and ignore timers.
Another new feature is the Echo Dot 5’s ability to become an Eero range extender. If you have an Eero mesh Wi-Fi system and your Amazon account connected in the Eero app, it should automatically detect your new Echo Dot and use its Wi-Fi to add about 1,000 square feet of extra coverage.
It’s far from the coverage you’d get from buying an actual Eero node, it also doesn’t offer amazing speeds (you can expect up to 100Mbps) and can only handle 10 devices, but it’s great use of the Echo Dot and yet another reason to buy it if you already have Eero.
There is one limitation: if you use it as an extender, you can’t also use the Echo Dot 5 as part of a stereo pair. It’s one or the other.
This brings us to the sound quality. Amazon has upgraded the single speaker inside the Echo Dot 5 to a slightly larger one with higher oscillation. It just means that the cone can move more in and out, and this leads to better bass, among other things.
Overall, you’ll probably agree that the Dot 5 sounds pretty good for a small smart speaker. The Dot 5 almost fits in the palm of your hand, so hearing decent music with some bass is a commendable achievement.
Jim Martin / Foundry
You won’t notice much of a difference in quality between this and the Echo Dot 4, but there’s definitely more bass.
At higher volumes things start to distort, which is a shame, but up until about 5 or 6 volumes it doesn’t, and it’s loud enough to fill a reasonably large room.
There is even more bass if you go for a 4e-gen Echo, but it’s twice the price. And of course it’s not a patch on the Echo Studio, which still costs twice as much.
This may be a somewhat irrelevant comparison since you’re unlikely to have both Alexa and Google Assistant speakers in your home, but the Echo Dot 5 sounds noticeably better than the Nest Mini at a similar price.
With built-in Bluetooth, you can also use the Echo Dot 5 as a Bluetooth speaker to stream audio from your phone.
At the heart of every Amazon Echo is Alexa. The voice-controlled assistant is ready and will do everything from answering general questions and giving you weather forecasts to turning lights and smart plugs on and off.
Alexa can tell you when your local hardware store closes, remind you of meetings, keep a shopping and to-do list and play music and radio as needed.
The good thing is that Alexa is the same whether you buy a cheap Echo Dot or the flagship Echo Studio: there is no difference in capacity.
Jim Martin / Foundry
By using Skills, you can extend the usefulness of Alexa. In the Alexa app you’ll find a great library of skills, including interactive games and ambient sounds, which should have great appeal for very specific things like the UK DVLA vehicle inspection that lets you know when your car tax is due for renewal.
And if you have various Echo devices scattered around your home, Alexa becomes even more useful. For example, drop-in allows you to quickly chat with someone in another room without having to get up and walk over to them to ask, say, what they want for lunch.
With notifications, Alexa will send messages to all devices telling the household “Dinner’s ready,” “It’s time to go,” or whatever your message is.
Although Matter – the new smart home standard – is supported, the big advantage of using Amazon’s smart assistant over Google Assistant or Siri is that Alexa has the most third-party support. This means that almost all smart home gadgets work with Alexa so you can control them with your voice, and you can do this whether you’re at home talking to the Echo Dot 5 or using the Alexa app on your phone.
This means you can turn lights on and off, open and close blinds (or garage doors and sliding doors), lock doors, activate alarms, set thermostats and turn smart plugs on and off.
Price and availability
You can buy an Echo Dot 5 for $49.99 / £54.99 on Amazon.
This means that the price is unchanged in the US, but is now more expensive for those in the UK by £5.
However, it’s worth getting the Echo Dot 5 with watch for $59.99 / £64.99. That $10/£10 premium is easily justified. If you’re going for a stereo pair, get a regular Dot 5 and one with a clock: no need for screens on both.
Of course, before you pull the trigger on an Echo Dot 5, it’s worth checking out current deals on the Echo Dot 4 and even the third-generation Dot.
Amazon has discontinued the fourth generation, but you can grab refurbished models from Amazon for less than half the price of the Dot 5, or pay the same price for a brand new third-generation Echo Dot.
And a quick search online shows that other retailers are selling out of stock of the fourth-generation Echo Dot, so if you’re reading this close to the Echo Dot 5 launch in October 2022, now is a good time to buy the old model. to a good price
Remember though, as I said at the start, Amazon regularly offers discounts on its hardware, and even though it’s new, you might be able to grab the Echo Dot 5 on Black Friday for less than the full price.
Finally, there is a third version of the Echo Dot 5, aimed at children. Called the Echo Dot Kids, it costs $59.99 / £64.99 and comes in a custom or dragon design printed on the fabric. It’s the same hardware as the regular Dot 5, but has a kid-friendly version of Alexa and comes with a one-year Amazon Kids+ subscription that includes interactive games, educational Alexa skills, Audible books and more. And as with Amazon’s Kids Edition Fire tablets, this model has the same two-year warranty, so it’s worth paying extra if you’re buying for a child.
The design may not have changed, but behind the scenes there are a surprising number of improvements and additions that make it the best Echo Dot yet.
Temperature sensor, accelerometer (for pressure functions), improved sound and display are all worth having.
I didn’t mention it earlier, but the Echo Dot 5 uses the same AZ2 chip as the expensive Echo Show 15, which means Alexa responds quickly and can also allow for future updates.
In addition, Dot 5 is made from 55% recycled plastic and 95% recycled fabric. The box it comes in is also made from 99% recycled cardboard.
In the end, it’s a great value whether you buy it on sale or not. If you’re still unsure which Echo to buy, read our guide to the entire Echo range.
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