July 18, 2024

Tyna Woods

Technology does the job

The only smart speaker you need?

aa2020 editors choice

The Amazon Echo Dot (5th gen) is both the cheapest entry point into the Alexa ecosystem and perhaps the only smart speaker that a lot of people will need to buy.

Amazon, like Apple and Google, has been unusually slow about updating its smart speakers and displays during the past few years. So what makes the Dot so worthy of attention? And more importantly, is it a good entry point into the world of smart speakers in general? Find out in Android Authority‘s Amazon Echo Dot (5th gen) review.

About this Amazon Echo Dot (5th gen) review: I tested the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock over a period of seven days, and updated it to use the latest software available at the time. A unit was provided by Amazon for this review.

What you need to know about the Amazon Echo Dot (5th gen)

A 5th gen Echo Dot with Clock

Roger Fingas / Android Authority

  • Amazon Echo Dot (5th gen): $49.99 / £54.99 / €59.99
  • Amazon Echo Dot (5th gen) with Clock: $59.99 / £64.99 / €69.99
  • Amazon Echo Dot (5th gen) Kids: $59.99 / £64.99 / €69.99

The Echo Dot is Amazon’s “budget” smart speaker, intended as a gateway into the Alexa voice assistant and smart home ecosystems. The emphasis isn’t on audio fidelity, in other words. Rather it’s meant to sound good enough for casual music and podcast listening, while introducing voice commands and integration with the many, many Alexa-ready accessories on the market. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a smart service the Dot doesn’t support, the most notable exception being YouTube Music.

The fifth-generation Echo Dot model retains the same spherical design as its predecessor and the standard Echo, including a bottom-facing light ring, and top-mounted buttons for volume, pairing, and muting its microphones. Notably, though, the 3.5mm stereo jack has been removed for this generation, so the only way to pair with other speakers is via Alexa or Bluetooth. If you have a Fire TV device, Alexa lets you use a Dot as part of an Echo-based, 2.1-channel home theater system.

Head on view of the buttons on the 5th gen Echo Dot

Roger Fingas / Android Authority

We specifically tested the Echo Dot with Clock, a $10 upgrade that features an embedded LED display. It’s functionally similar to the standard Dot, except that you can check the time at a glance, and you’ll see scrolling text messages during certain actions. If you ask for tomorrow’s weather, for instance, you’ll get a temperature range, and playing a song will briefly show track ID. It’s better than the regular Dot, but not necessary unless you’re planning to use it as a bedside device.

One handy upgrade is an expansion of tap gesture support. While previous models could stop alarms with a tap, you can now use further gestures on the top of the speaker to play or pause media, stop timers, and end calls. This can be disabled if you’re worried about accidental touches.

The Clock version is a nice upgrade, but not essential unless you’re using it to wake up in the morning.

While it’s available on some other Echo devices via a software update, another notable feature is Eero Built-In, which lets the Echo Dot (5th gen) double as a Wi-Fi extender if you have an Eero mesh router. Despite having three Eero Pro 6Es, I was unable to test this as it was automatically disabled due to the proximity to a Pro 6E node that would offer better signal quality. Given how good the coverage of an Eero mesh is by default, it seems like Eero Built-In is only going to be useful in a handful of edge cases, like extending Wi-Fi outdoors if you place a Dot in a shed or near a window, or if you only have a single router and want an affordable way of extending your network. Just don’t expect similar performance to the real thing; many users report speeds dropping by half when connecting to the mesh via the Dot (5th gen).

It should also be noted that Amazon will enable the Dot as a Matter controller in December 2022. This will let Android owners pair any Matter-branded accessory with Alexa (iPhone/iPad support is coming later). There’s no word yet when (or even if) it will support Thread networking. Matter over Thread would be an exciting prospect, especially since the Dot now has integrated motion and temperature sensors, like the 4th gen Echo.

The Amazon Echo Dot (5th gen) is available to buy from Amazon and other major retailers in North America, Europe, and other major markets. It comes in Charcoal (non-Clock version only), Deep Blue Sea, and Glacier White (pictured) colorways. There is also a Amazon Echo Dot (5th gen) Kids version with further parental controls and child-friendly features that comes in a Dragon or Owl design.

What’s good?

A yellow ring on the 5th gen Echo Dot with Clock

Roger Fingas / Android Authority

Audio quality has improved once again. The 4th gen Echo Dot was already decent-sounding for a budget speaker, but the Echo Dot 5th gen has superior audio thanks to extra bass as well as reduced distortion in its highs and vocals. Let’s be clear — it still isn’t going to compete with an Echo Studio or even the 4th gen Echo, but Amazon has improved the Dot to the point that some people might be legitimately happy using one as their only smart speaker.

As you might expect, the Dot slots neatly into an existing Alexa smart home. It’s extremely easy to set up — once you plug it in, all you have to do is open the Alexa app to the Devices tab and you’ll be guided through essential steps. You may want to change your speaker’s name and/or group associations. If you’re new to Alexa, the process will take a little longer, since you’re going to be setting up preferences and linked services, but you might not have to touch the Alexa app again for weeks or months.

The audio quality has improved to the point that many may be legitimately happy using the Echo Dot (5th gen) as their only smart speaker.

Integrated motion and temperature sensors could be a game-changer for some people, since the Dot costs as much as some sensors do solo, and you can work them into Alexa routines. In my own home, I had the Dot’s motion sensor trigger living room lighting any time it sensed occupancy between 4 and 10 PM. You can use temperature data to trigger Alexa-connected fans and heaters, or, if you want, find out how warm a room is by asking. That said, I do wish the Dot with Clock had the option of cycling indoor temperature on its display.

As a minor point, I’ll add that the Dot is easily one of the best-looking smart speakers on the market. It’s futuristic, yet unassuming enough to blend in with just about any home or decor, particularly given the variaety of color options. I’m annoyed that muting the mic forces you to deal with a constant red light ring, but that’s par for the course for many smart home devices.

What’s not so good?

A close up on an orange ring on the 5th gen Echo Dot

Roger Fingas / Android Authority

The Dot’s roundness guarantees an outsized footprint wherever you place it. It’s certainly more compact than the Echo (4th gen), but it still “pushes” plenty in the vertical axis, which might make it harder to fit on a nightstand or office desk than something like the Nest Mini or Echo Dot (3rd gen). That said, it sounds better than either of those, so perhaps the bigger dimensions are warranted.

The absence of Matter or Thread out of the box is frustrating. The Matter situation is understandable, since the Matter 1.0 spec was only released in October 2022, but Apple has had Thread in HomeKit devices since 2020’s HomePod Mini. Even Google devices like the Nest Hub (second generation) and Nest Wifi Pro are just waiting for a software switch to flip.

For a compact speaker, the Echo Dot (5th gen) can take up a lot of room.

Amazon has explained that it’s waiting to deliver Matter and Thread simultaneously. However, there’s no word on if or when Thread is coming to the Dot. If you’re building a smart home for the first time, you might be better off choosing an option from Apple or Google (depending on if you’re an Android or Apple user) or Amazon’s own 4th gen Echo so you can use Thread accessories right away. It’s a tougher call for iPhone or iPad owners as Siri is an inferior voice assistant to Alexa, but Thread is just that much better than Wi-Fi for a smart home’s speed and reliability. Of course, if you don’t play on dabbling with Thread and are happy with a cheaper alternative, the Echo Dot (5th gen) will work just fine over Wi-Fi.

In fact, there’s really little else to complain about for a budget price tag, but it’s worth pointing out some of Alexa’s flaws. For some people, the omission of YouTube Music may be a deal-killer, as might the automatic collection of anonymous voice command history (you can turn this off). Also, Alexa still doesn’t support multiple commands in the same sentence like Google Assistant, or do as good a job at interpreting context.

Amazon Echo Dot (5th gen) review: The verdict

An angle on the 5th gen Echo Dot with Clock

Roger Fingas / Android Authority

If you’re new to smart speakers and smart homes, you can hardly go wrong with the Echo Dot (5th gen), as long as you’re interested in the Alexa ecosystem and aren’t prioritizing sound quality. For the latter, you might want an Echo (4th gen) ($99.99 at Amazon) or Echo Studio ($284.98 at Amazon), or another premium-tier smart speaker like the Nest Audio ().

Simply put, the Echo Dot (5th gen) is pleasantly affordable, easy to set up and use, and has just enough fidelity to rock or chill out with. Built-in motion and temperature sensors open up new automation possibilities and the new tap controls are handy if you’re standing nearby. Meanwhile, if you own an Eero router it can fill in Wi-Fi dead zones, albeit with some speed caveats.

The Echo Dot (5th gen) is pleasantly affordable, easy to set up and use, and has just enough fidelity to rock or chill out with.

This all makes the Echo Dot (5th gen) something of a Swiss Army knife. Really, the only people we’d actively steer away are audiophiles, most owners of the still-great Dot (4th gen), or those already invested in Apple or Google smart home ecosystems — for those, the HomePod Mini () or Nest Mini ($29.99 at Best Buy) would make more sense. As nice as the Echo Dot (5th gen) may be, it’s not such a dramatic leap that you should worry about holding on to the previous model for another year. For everyone else, it’s an easy recommendation.

Amazon Echo Dot (5th gen) with clockAmazon Echo Dot (5th gen) with clock

Alexa assistance • Easy to set up • Motion and light sensors

An affordable smart home speaker with motion and temperature sensors

The Echo Dot (5th gen) is easy to set up, and the motion and temperature sensors give useful smart home possibilities.

Top Amazon Echo Dot 5th gen questions and answers

Eero says it extends range up to 1,000 square feet (about 93 square meters). Speed is limited to 100Mbps, however, and each Dot can only handle 10 simultaneous connections.

No. The Amazon Echo Dot with Clock will only show the time and simple contextual notifications.

No. The only Echo with Atmos support is the Studio.

The Kids model comes decorated as an owl or a dragon, and is bundled with a year of Amazon Kids Plus content such as books and Alexa skills. Parental controls are also on by default, but it’s entirely possible to remove these if you want to use it as a regular speaker.

Yes. Some mobile carriers support calling via your phone account. There is also Drop In for calling other Alexa users and Skype support.