Tech reviews

Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) smart speaker with clock review


CHOICE verdict

The perfect clock radio for the smart home, the Amazon Echo Dot 4th Gen with clock provides soothing music to put you to sleep and rousing music to bounce you out of bed. It can also prepare you for the day with news, weather and calendar updates as well as sorting out your shopping list. The sound quality is surprisingly good for a speaker no larger than a grapefruit. If you already have smart devices throughout the home that are operated by Alexa commands, then the Echo Dot 4th Gen with clock should be at the top of your shopping list. Even if you’re in a Google-dominated smart home, it still works well as a standalone smart clock radio. 

Price: $99

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When you buy into a smart home environment, whether it be Amazon (Alexa), Google (Hey Google) or Apple (Siri), it’s difficult to introduce different products into the mix. 

Smart lights throughout the home, smart displays in the kitchen, security cameras outside and home entertainment products in the lounge room require a certain level of interoperability. 

Splitting your smart lights across Google and Alexa, for example, is just asking for trouble. However, the Amazon Echo Dot 4th Gen seems to be an exception to the rule.

Echo Dot front

The Echo Dot has a bright and clear display and packs surprisingly good sound into a tiny speaker.

As a standalone smart device, it makes a great replacement for a traditional clock radio in the bedroom and performs all the tasks you could want during the day. 

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It can play soothing music to send you off to sleep, then provide a quick weather report or read your daily schedule in the morning. 

In the kitchen it’s the perfect timer for cooking tasks and playing a podcast or your favourite radio station. It can even switch from clock mode to show you the outside temperature if you ask it.

The underlying AI doesn’t seem to be quite as accurate as Google in answering the many vague questions that you would put into a web search. For example, the response to “Alexa, how do I format a Mac drive” was a recipe for mac and cheese. Though delicious, it didn’t really help with our computer.

But it works very well for basic operations and queries such as “What’s the weather like next Tuesday?”, “How many litres are in a gallon?” or “Put Tim Tams on the shopping list.” The LED clock face display is shown very clearly on the cloth mesh surface even in the brightest daylight.

The Echo Dot’s sound quality is better than the Google Nest Mini with more punch and clarity. It shares the same ability to move music from one speaker to another or have the music played throughout the home to all available speakers, if the other units support Alexa. 

If you don’t need the visual clock feature and simply want a small smart speaker, you can get the Echo Dot for $20 less.

Looking for a smart speaker? Check out our smart speaker buying guide to find the best one for your needs.

Connections and controls

During testing, the Echo Dot was very accurate in recognising voice signatures when making a request and was able to quickly develop a voice profile for anyone in the family. 

For example, both John and Anne could say “Alexa, play my morning music” and it would recognise who was making the request and deliver the playlist linked to that person.

The Amazon Echo Dot isn’t just a Wi-Fi speaker – it also works with Bluetooth for a direct wireless connection with a mobile. But you can’t play music stored on your mobile directly to the speaker via Bluetooth as it only supports online streaming music. 

Echo Dot in bedroom

The compact speaker is perfectly suited for clock radio duties by the side of the bed.

The 3.5mm connection would’ve been a good option to simply connect an iPod or other music player to the speaker with a cable, but unfortunately the connection is audio out only.

As with Apple and Google, Amazon can’t help but push its own music service wherever possible. Asking for the song ‘Albatross’ by Fleetwood Mac (a song on my mobile) prompted an apology from Alexa that the song was only available on the full Amazon Music subscription service. 

Alexa then went on to suggest signing up for Amazon Music for $4.99 a month by simply saying “yes”. This would have started a free trial period and an automatic debit from the Amazon account that had all our credit card details.

This seemed both very user-friendly and sinister at the same time as it was so easy to say “yes”. But after saying “no”, Alexa accepted my answer in good grace and suggested another Fleetwood Mac song that we actually liked.

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