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Staff Picks: DT’s favorite smart home tech of 2020

Smart Home Top Tech 2020: Amazon Echo
Digital Trends/Chris DeGraw

At this point, smart speakers aren’t particularly new. In fact, we’ve seen countless speakers since they rose in popularity a few years ago. Amazon’s own line of Echo smart speakers helped usher in the age of the smart home, but this year’s model isn’t just an incremental update. It’s such a big leap that we think it’s not only the best smart speaker you can currently buy, but also the best smart home product of 2020 as a whole.

Why? Well, first and foremost, the fourth-generation model Echo introduces a brand-new design that’s a refreshing change that features a spherical shape. Some folks were skeptical about the switch (including us), but the orb-shaped look of the Echo (4th Gen) was a necessary one over the cylindrical designs of its predecessors. Other speakers look blah with their predictable designs, which is why the Echo (4th Gen) particularly stands out for its odd design choice. Add to that its dazzling LED light ring, you’ll be entranced each and every time Alexa is activated.

Audio quality also continues to be a key area focused by the Echo (4th Gen). It’s no slouch, packing in a 3.0-inch woofer accompanied by dual front-firing 0.8-inch tweeters. The result is a sound performance that’s not sky about its boisterous performance. You can even connect two Echos with a compatible Fire TV device to experience home theater audio. Who doesn’t love a speaker that can fill large rooms?

Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) with Clock LED light
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Another aspect that’s often underappreciated is that the Echo (4th Gen) acts as a home hub for Zigbee-compatible devices. This effectively allows users to connect Zigbee devices without the need for setting up yet another bridge in your home to gain remote access to them. For example, you can set up a Zigbee smart LED light bulb all through the Alexa app using nothing more than the Echo (4th Gen). It beats having to set up another physical bridge and installing an app just to get that Zigbee device to work.

And finally, there’s Alexa, which is constantly being improved thanks to the many skills that are available to expand her functions. Things certainly got spicy with the introduction of Samuel L. Jackson as one of the celebrity voices that could be used. We’ll attest that he’s by far the funniest and most amusing voice assistant out there, which makes the Echo (4th Gen) a sweeter package over its rivals.

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