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Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) Review: Progress, but Not a Big Leap

Rating: 8/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $50
A 5th Generation Echo Dot
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek ReviewGeek

Amazon’s Echo Dot series is a smart home staple. An accessibly priced small smart speaker that can work via Bluetooth, connect directly to services like Spotify, and allow you to manage other smart devices through Alexa. This is the 5th generation of Echo Dots, and things have come a long way.

Before we start, a couple of notes. The Echo Dot 5th Gen retails for $59.99, but don’t expect to pay that. Like most Amazon devices, you can see the Echo Dot on deep discount several times a year. There could be up to 70% off, or you could pay as little as $1 and have it bundled with an Amazon Music subscription or something.

As this is the fifth generation of these devices, there is two ways of looking at things. You can look at it from the perspective of a first time smart speaker owner, or from the point of view of someone who has owned several of the devices. Given that this is the fifth generation of Echo Dots, it’s also worth comparing it to the previous generation or two of the smart speakers — both of which are still on sale. This also allows us to look at how far the speakers have come over the years. If you’re setting up a smart home, then we’ll work out if this could be the smart speaker for you. Equally, if Alexa is already a firm fixture in your home, is it worth the upgrade?

Here's What We Like

  • Pretty reasonably priced
  • Good quality speaker
  • Great home assistant

And What We Don't

  • Not very different from the previous generation

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There Are a Few New Features, and Some Similarities

The weather display on the Echo Dot 5th Gen
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek

Amazon has added a few new features to this generation of Echo Dot, the most visible of which relates to the display. The clock, which has been around for a couple of generations now, has been expanded. It now includes little animations for things like weather and song names being displayed when you’re listening to music. However, like previous generations, the model with a display costs a bit extra.

While this is nice, the clock is what you’ll see 99% of the time. It’s also by far the most useful feature, allowing you to simply glance at your echo instead of having to ask Alexa what the time is. If you’ve set a timer, and there’s less than an hour left, that’s what you’ll see on the display. Which is, again, useful. Pay the extra $10.

The Speakers Have Had an Upgrade

A rear view of the 5th Gen Echo Dot
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek

Amazon has given its newest dot a fairly significant speaker upgrade, promising: “clearer vocals, deeper bass and vibrant sound in any room.” The new speakers do sound pretty good, and the Echo Dot does a great job of playing music.

The thing is, there isn’t much of a discernable difference between the latest Dot and the previous generation. You’d need a really good ear to tell the two apart, and if you’re the kind of person who demands an ultra-high fidelity audio experience, the chances are you won’t be listening to your tunes on an Echo Dot anyway.

New Gestures are Available

A person holding a 5th Gen Echo Dot
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek

Amazon added an accelerometer to the Echo Dot, which means there are new gestures available to use. If you’re sick of having your sleep interrupted by your alarm, you can now give your Dot a firm slap, and the snooze feature will activate. You can also pause any music that’s playing this way.

While another input method is always welcome, the feature barely gets any use. Alexa is a voice assistant, and even leaning towards the bedside table takes a lot more effort than sleepily mumbling, “Alexa, snooze.” I used the gestures feature once or twice to test it out, and that’s all the use it saw in my house.

Alexa is Arguably the Best Smart Home Assistant

A muted echo dot showing a red light
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek

If you’re setting up a smart home, Alexa is a solid choice when selecting a home assistant to manage it all. There’s an argument that Alexa alone makes the Echo Dot worth getting, as you can set up an entire smart home around just one of these.

The version of Alexa you get with the Gen 5 Echo Dot is the same as you get on pretty much every other Amazon device. That’s all the other Echos, a Fire TV or TV stick, and even the version you get for free if you put the Alexa App on your smartphone.

But an Echo Dot is possibly the easiest way to access Alexa and use it to control all the other smart devices around your house. If you haven’t got one, a 5th Gen dot is something you should strongly consider.

You Don’t Really Need a Smart Home for This

A fifth Gen echo dot in its box
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek

If you haven’t got a smart home, and have no wish to activate your lights via voice control, a 5th Gen Echo Dot is still a good buy. The non-smart home features make life a lot simpler, even if you still insist on changing the TV channel with a remote.

The ability to play music, set alarms, and set timers just streamlines things an incredible amount. Voice control is just that much simpler than messing around with things like voice menus. So even if you’re resisting the smart home craze, it might be time to give a Dot a try.

It’s Worth a Buy, but Not Worth an Upgrade

The box from the 5th Gen Echo Dot
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek

If you’re putting together your first smart home, Alexa is arguably still the best of a bad bunch when it comes to home assistants. The Dot gets you Alexa, a bunch of other functionality, and is cheap most of the time. If you spot one of these on sale, grab it and a few smart bulbs. You won’t be making a mistake.

For people who have a dot from the previous generation, it’s a different story. If you throw your old one out and splash out on a Gen 5, you’re just wasting money. In terms of functionality, you’re not going to notice much of a difference in the device. Despite the speaker upgrade, the new Dot isn’t notably better than its older brother. You could argue it’s worth an upgrade if you have a Gen 2 or similar, but if you have a relatively new Echo just stick with what you have.

Rating: 8/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $50

Here’s What We Like

  • Pretty reasonably priced
  • Good quality speaker
  • Great home assistant

And What We Don't

  • Not very different from the previous generation

Dave McQuilling Dave McQuilling
Dave McQuilling has spent over 10 years writing about almost everything, but technology has always been one of his main interests. He has previously worked for newspapers, magazines, radio stations, websites, and television stations in both the US and Europe. Read Full Bio »