Amazon’s original smart speaker is back with a brand-new look and a bit more power. The fourth-generation Echo finds Amazon ditching the speaker’s cylindrical origins for a more whimsical spherical design. More importantly, it’s phasing out the Echo Plus by putting all of its audio power and additional features, like a built-in smart home hub, into the new Echo. The fourth-generation Echo offers better audio performance than ever, the ability to control Zigbee devices, and, of course, Alexa voice assistance.
The Echo measures 13cm tall, 14cm wide and is near-spherical, making it roughly the height and width of a CD. It’s available in black, dusky blue or white. Amazon’s trademark smart speaker light ring has been relocated from the crown of the speaker to the base, providing a glow that now reflects nicely off surfaces. It lights up blue when you utter your chosen Alexa wake-word, yellow when grouped with another Amazon speaker, and orange in set-up mode.
On the top panel are buttons for Alexa, volume and mic mute. Around the back is where you’ll find the power socket and 3.5mm audio output. Perhaps one small mark against the new design is a rising die-cast aluminium ellipse that is at its highest above the connection ports, meaning that the back portion of the speaker doesn’t provide great omnidirectional sound output.
It’s a small issue – since Echo speakers need to be plugged in to operate, you’re unlikely to put one in the centre of a room, but we found better multi-directional sound in the older, cylindrical model. Underneath its notably more mesh-like fabric jacket, the Echo houses a 76mm woofer plus dual 20mm front-firing tweeters, a set-up that supports Dolby Stereo. Like the older Echo Plus, it now features what Amazon calls ‘premium adaptive sound’, allowing it to sense the acoustics of your space and fine-tune audio playback accordingly.
The drivers in the new Echo are the same size as those found in the Echo Plus and the outgoing third-generation Echo, but you now get two tweeters rather than one. Alongside its built-in Zigbee smart home hub, there’s support for Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Amazon Sidewalk. The purpose of the latter is to help you set up new devices quickly and extend the working range of things, such as Ring Smart Lighting, that may be beyond the capabilities of your home wi-fi.