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2nd-gen vs. 3rd-gen Echo Dot: What’s the difference?

Amazon’s Alexa-powered third-gen Echo Dot has been out for some time now. So long, in fact, that many of us are probably scratching our heads in an attempt to remember what the previous generation looked or sounded like.

Further reading

The original Dot helped revolutionize the smart home by making virtual assistants more approachable (and affordable), ushering in the era of the voice-controlled smart home. The new third-generation Echo Dot sports many of the same features as its predecessors, yet with a few much-needed improvements. The latest iteration is more powerful than previous models and retains its line-out and Bluetooth connectivity for both physical and wireless connections. Alexa has also received a commendable overhaul, and it features fitness tracking, additional games, and a host of new skills.

Design

echo dot 2018 3rd generation
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Unlike the plastic exterior found on the first- and second-gen Dots, Amazon’s latest model uses a softer, more attractive design.

The third-gen Dot will probably fit better with any home decor than the second-gen. It’s far less noticeable than the second-gen Dot given its softer edges and surface. It has a sleeker and more futuristic appearance than its predecessor, and it tends to blend in well with its surroundings when placed on a table or desk. Fabric covers the outside of the device, which now features a rounded top void of sharp edges. Aesthetically, it’s more akin to the Google Home Mini and is available in three new colors: Charcoal, heather gray, and sandstone. The second-gen Dot, on the other hand, is available in either a white or black finish and is smaller, with a hockey-puck look.

Sound

echo dot 2018 3rd generation
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

This is the single biggest difference between the two devices, as the third generation sounds significantly better than the second generation.

The new 3rd-gen Echo Dot has a single 1.6-inch speaker sending out 360-degree sound. The second-generation Dot had one smaller speaker (1.1 inches) that leaked sound out of multiple port holes. Because the driver is significantly bigger on the third-generation Echo Dot, this helps the puck-like device deliver more robust sound with lower distortion. Amazon asserts that the third-gen Dot is 70% louder than its second-gen counterpart. In fact, our reviewer gave the device an Editors’ Choice award for the improvements Amazon made in the sound department.

The new device sports a new microphone arrangement. Rather than the seven-microphone array found on earlier generations of the Echo and Echo Dot, the latest Dot only utilizes four far-field mics to hear you from across the room. Our reviewers found the new Echo Dot could still hear the wake word from across the room with loud music blaring. The new Dot still retains the 3.5-millimeter port for connecting to an external speaker. You can also connect it wirelessly to an external speaker via Bluetooth. This means you can easily add your own more powerful speakers to your setup without having to buy the larger, more capable Echo. Since Amazon also came out with the Echo Sub, a powerful subwoofer that’s designed to pair with your already-existing devices, you can really turn up the bass.

Alexa voice assistant

The Alexa voice assistant technology is exactly the same in both the second- and third-generation Echo Dots. Updates to Alexa capabilities like voice matching and smart home connectivity is issued through firmware updates that have nothing to do with the speakers in which the voice comes out. So this should not be a significant factor when choosing between the two devices.

Pricing and availability

echo dot 2018 3rd generation
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

The third-gen Echo Dot is available for $50. However, it’s often on sale, and you can bundle the Dot with other smart home devices like smart lights and smart plugs to save more money. The second-gen Dot is no longer available to purchase new, but you can find a refurbished model, or you can find a 2nd gen Dot on auction sites for around $20. This means that if you’re planning to buy new, there’s only one option. But, when you consider its many upgrades, frequent sales, and promotional bundles, the third-gen Dot is certainly a worthy addition to your ever-growing pantheon of smart home products.

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