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Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen vs 4th Gen: What should you buy?

Amazon Echo Dot 3 vs Amazon Echo Dot 4
(Image credit: Future)

The Amazon Echo Dot has been one of the most popular smart speakers, because, well, it’s cheap. Amazon typically sells the Echo Dot for less than $50, and often bundles it with some other smart home device, such as a smart light bulb or video doorbell, making it all the more affordable to acquire one of the best Alexa speakers.

At the moment, Amazon is selling two versions of the Echo Dot: The Amazon Echo Dot (3rd gen), and the Amazon Echo Dot (4th gen). Both are two of the best smart speakers, but have different capabilities and different prices. In this guide, we’ll compare the Amazon Echo Dot 3 vs. 4 to help you decide which you prefer.

Amazon Echo Dot 3 vs. 4: Specs

Echo Dot (Gen 3)Echo Dot (Gen 4)Echo Dot with Clock (Gen 4)
Price$34.99$49.99$59.99
Year Released201820202020
Size3.9 (dia) x 1.7 inches3.9 (dia) x 3.5 inches3.9 (dia) x 3.5 inches
Color optionsCharcoalCharcoal, white, blueWhite, blue
Speaker1.6-inch1.6-inch1.6-inch
Ports3.5mm audio3.5mm audio3.5mm audio
DisplayNoNoYes

Amazon Echo Dot 3 vs. 4: Price

Whichever Echo Dot you choose, you’re not going to pay a heckuva lot. The 3rd-generation Echo Dot typically sells for around $35. The 4th-generation Echo Dot is listed at $50, but is usually about $10 more than the 3rd-generation model. 

The 4th-generation Echo Dot with Clock — which has a small LCD display that shows the time — is about $10 more than the version without a clock. 

However, some of the best Amazon deals often bring big discounts to the Echo Dot lineup, so you can usually find them for much less than their list price.

Amazon Echo Dot 3 vs. 4: Design

The 3rd-generation Echo Dot has roughly the same hockey puck shape as the first two generations; however, it has fabric wrapping around its sides, and has a slightly curved top, where you can find its control buttons and a circular LED ring.

The 4th-generation Echo Dot has a completely different shape; like the larger Amazon Echo (4th Gen,) the newest Echo Dot is spherical, and looks like a Magic 8-Ball that’s sitting on its flat side. The majority of the Echo Dot is wrapped in the same fabric as the 3rd-generation Echo Dot, but the rear of the device, where you plug in the power, is hard plastic. It’s not as elegant as the Apple HomePod Mini, but it’s a nice look. 

Four buttons on the top let you control the Echo Dot, but in this model, the LED status ring has been moved to the bottom. Check out our guide to decoding Alexa’s flashing lights if you’ve ever unsure what the current LED color means.

The Echo Dot with Clock, as you might imagine, looks the same as the 4th-gen Echo Dot, but in the middle of the face is a small LCD display that shines through the fabric, showing the time. Amazon once made an Echo Dot with Clock shaped like the 3rd-gen model, but now the spherical version is the only “with Clock” Echo speaker available. 

Amazon Echo Dot 3 vs. 4: Audio quality

Both versions of the Echo Dot have a single 1.6-inch speaker. In our tests, we really didn’t hear much of a difference between the two; the 4th-gen model had a bit more bass, owing to the larger size of the device. Both are best when you want a little background music, or to listen to news or podcasts. However, neither can hold a candle to larger smart speakers like the Sonos One, HomePod Mini, Google Nest Audio, or even the full-size Amazon Echo. 

If you know how to use Alexa, you’ll be able to stream all kinds of audio using your speaker, from music and meditations to podcasts and audiobooks. See how to play Spotify on Alexa and how to Use Multi-Room Music with the Echo Dot for making the most of the speaker.

Amazon Echo Dot 3 vs. 4: Which should you choose?

Unless you really like the design or color options of the 4th-generation Echo Dot, there’s little reason not to choose the 3rd-generation Echo Dot. It’s $10 less expensive, is nearly as good when it comes to audio quality, and gives you access to all the best Alexa skills and Alexa tricks just the same as the newer model. 

Plus, the more compact shape of the 3rd-generation Echo Dot makes it easier to place in tighter spaces, and companies have made a number of accessories that let you mount it on a wall or next to an outlet. 

However, we do think the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock is worth the extra dough; having a small clock that can show you the time and temperature and be used as a timer is incredibly useful. That’s why is the one of the best smart home devices we recommend — period.

For more advice on raising your home’s IQ, be sure to check out our smart home guide. That way, you can see everything your new Echo Dot, 3rd- or 4th-gen, can work with. 

Michael A. Prospero is the deputy editor at Tom’s Guide. He oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories, but also tests out the latest standing desks, webcams, drones, and electric scooters. He has worked at Tom's Guide for many a year; before that, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight or chagrin of his family.