Amazon became the name to beat with the Amazon Echo (3rd Gen) and simply put, it's done it again with the Amazon Echo (4th Gen). Easily one of the best smart speakers out there and at a fantastic price, it's a must-have purchase if you're keen to make your home smarter or you want to upgrade from an existing smart speaker.
That upgrade may feel less essential if you already have the 3rd generation speaker as not much has changed here, but for everyone else, it's an easy recommendation to make. The Amazon Echo (4th Gen) is a little bulkier than the previous version thanks to embracing a rounded design but it looks nicer than the previous one and if you have the shelf space, it'll look far more pleasing to the eyes than the increasingly dated look of the 3rd generation speaker.
Simply put, we can't complain much about the Amazon Echo (4th Gen). While the Alexa app continues to be less intuitive than we'd like it to be, the actual hardware is near flawless. With decent sound quality for the price and simple to use physical buttons, it's the kind of gadget that anyone can get to grips with within seconds.
Amazon Echo (4th Gen) review: Design
- Stylish rounded design
- Three color choices: Glacier White, Charcoal, or Twilight Blue
- Subtle lighting
This forth iteration of the Amazon Echo looks a fair bit different than the previous edition. That's because rather than looking like a rather drab but functional cylinder style smart speaker, it's a round orb. It looks great. It feels like you could play catch with it thanks to its smooth feeling fabric exterior that means it oozes class right from the start.
It's not quite fully spherical, of course, otherwise it'd fall over a lot. Instead, the base provides a flat surface so you can place it anywhere with it measuring 5.7" tall and 5.2" wide. The smart speaker light ring is placed at the bottom of the speaker so it glows nicely off your shelf when you speak to it.
On the top of the device are buttons for Alexa, volume, and muting the mic, while the back contains the power socket and 3.5mm audio output. It's all well designed so that it's intuitive and easy to find what you're looking for without also looking ugly in the slightest.
Underneath all the lovely sleek style is a 76mm woofer and dual 20mm front-firing tweets. It supports Dolby Stereo too. More on how that performs later.
Simply put, the Amazon Echo (4th Generation) looks nice. It won't be as easy to squeeze into a tight shelf or a cluttered kitchen but it's worth making the room for it as it looks so much nicer than most other smart speakers on the market.
Amazon Echo (4th Gen) review: Features
- New and faster processor
- Setup via Alexa
- Zigbee Hub built-in
The Amazon Echo (4th Gen) packs quite a lot into its near-spherical shell. Improving upon previous iterations, it has Amazon's AZ1 Neural Edge processor which basically means it runs better than previous Echoes. For you, that means it tends to respond to enquiries faster, meaning you can ask Alexa a complicated question and she'll get to it a bit quicker than before. In theory, she'll learn more about you too which simultaneously sounds terrifying and incredibly useful as is often the way with all things smart speaker-y.
Getting set up takes mere moments, especially if you already have the Alexa app installed on your smartphone. Linking streaming service accounts is similarly straightforward with the Amazon Echo (4th Generation) supporting Apple Music, Spotify, and Deezer over Wi-Fi, as well as Amazon Music which it defaults to. There's support for TuneIn radio as well.
All the setup is done solely through the Alexa app and that's where the Amazon Echo (4th Generation) falters a bit. It's a common issue for all things Echo but the Alexa app isn't the best. It's powerful allowing you to add multiple skills and third-party services but it's not the easiest of apps to figure out. Stick with it and you can pair up multiple smart home devices and use your voice to control your smart lighting, smart doorbell, smart locks and so forth. But again, some set up is required.
The app also allows you to tweak the Echo's EQ levels, as well as group it with other compatible Alexa speakers so there's plenty of functionality going on here.
New to this generation of Echo is a Zigbee hub that gives you the option of adding devices without needing to use additional hubs. For instance, you can use a Hue bulb without using the Hue bridge. It's not perfect as it can misreport names for the devices in question as well as only offer limited functionality (there are no Hue scenes, for example) and we suspect sticking with the hubs is the better option, but it's nice to have an alternative.
There's also a new Low Power mode which reduces how much energy the speaker soaks up while it's idle.
For many users, these are minor additions though so if you already have an Amazon Echo of some description, you may not notice the subtle improvements. Speediness is nice, though.
Amazon Echo (4th Gen) review: Performance
- 76mm woofer
- Two 20mm tweeters
- Dolby Stereo support
With an extra tweeter compared to the old Echo, the Amazon Echo (4th Gen) sounds a bit better too. Ok, it sounds pretty great for the price. We're not saying this will rival a dedicated Bluetooth speaker but for a speaker that's predominantly a smart speaker, we're very happy with the performance.
You can still hear each detail of the songs or podcasts you listen to and there's a good amount of bass that means a surprisingly expansive soundstage for the size of the speaker. It's not quite as all-encompassing as its style suggests it could be but again, for the price, it's a good mid-range option. There's always the option of pairing it with another device to boost the sound quality too.
High volumes is where the Amazon Echo (4th Generation) falters a little but we're hardly surprised. This is for your kitchen or living room rather than for a party atmosphere and something like the Sonos One or Marshall Stanmore 2 is a better bet if you're looking for a smart speaker with attitude.
Elsewhere, the Amazon Echo (4th Generation) is speedy when it comes to reacting to what you're asking of her. Compared to earlier models, she's on top of things in lightning fast time and it soon adds up throughout daily use. There's hardly a pause between your question and her answering it or doing whatever you need her to do. That new processor is clearly a winner.
Amazon Echo (4th Gen) review: Price
- Often discounted
The standard price for the Amazon Echo (4th Generation) is $50/£50, but as is often the way with Amazon products, it's on sale a lot. Keep an eye out for any sales event and it's likely to be a fair bit cheaper than that.
For the price, you get the Echo unit itself, a power cable, and usually some form of Audible subscription for free or at a heavily reduced price. There's a one year warranty as standard too.
Should I buy the Amazon Echo (4th Gen)?
The Amazon Echo (4th Gen) is the new best smart speaker out there at this price. It's possible to spend more and get better sound quality but if you simply want a dependable smart speaker that also happens to sound quite good, this is the one for you.
The only real downside is that it's a bit bulkier to squeeze onto your shelf than the previous Amazon Echo (3rd Generation) but it should only require some minimal rearranging. In exchange, you get speedier responses from Alexa and a bit more bass when listening to music. It's the new King of the all-rounder Alexa speaker world right now.