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Second-gen vs. third-gen Echo Dot: What’s the difference?

So you’ve landed on this post because you’re either debating on whether to upgrade to a third-generation Echo Dot or you are trying to decide whether to buy a second-generation or third-generation. We can help.

Launched in 2016, 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 will feature fitness tracking, additional games, and a host of new skills.

If you’re debating between the second- and third-generation models, we’ve got you covered. Read on for our direct comparison of the two Echo devices. You can also check out our full reviews of the second-generation Echo Dot and third-generation Echo Dot for guidance.


echo dot 2018 3rd generationRich Shibley/Digital Trends

Unlike the plastic exterior found on the first- and second-gen Dots, Amazon’s latest model utilizes a softer, more attractive design. Fabric covers the outside of the device, which now features a rounded top and is void of sharp edges. Aesthetically, it’s more akin to the Google Home Mini and is available in three new colors: Charcoal, heather grey, and sandstone. The second-gen Dot, on the other hand, is only available in either a white or black finish and is smaller, with a hockey-puck look.

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.


echo dot 2018 3rd generationRich 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 a single 1.6-inch speaker sending out 360-degree sound. The second-generation Dot had one smaller speaker (1.1 inches) that leaked the 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 3rd-gen Dot is 70-percent louder than its second-gen counterpart. In fact, our reviewer Caleb Denison gave the device an editor’s choice award for the improvements Amazon made in the sound department.

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. Amazon also recently announced the Echo Sub, a powerful subwoofer that’s designed to pair with your already-existing devices.

The new device sports a new microphone arrangement, allowing for better performance overall. 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 the music blaring.

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 factor when choosing between the two devices.

Pricing and availability

echo dot 2018 3rd generationThe new Echo Dot wrapped in sandstone sits next to the Google Home Mini and the previous generation of the Echo Dot. Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

The third-gen Echo Dot is now available for $50. The second-gen Dot is currently available for $40, but it’s difficult to say how long it will be available given the launch of the new Echo lineup. An additional $10 is a small price to pay for superior sound and a cleaner look. This makes the decision to pick up the new Dot that much easier for those debating between the two models.

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