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Echo Dot with Clock vs. Nest Mini: Which Smart Speaker Wins?

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Amazon and Google unveiled updates to their entry-level speakers within weeks of each other. Piggybacking on the success of their predecessors — the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) and Google Home Mini — the Echo Dot with Clock ($59.99) and the Nest Mini ($49) bring useful alterations to two of the best smart speakers out there. The Nest Mini boasts better sound, while the Echo Dot with Clock features a neat LED time-telling display.

The Echo Dot with Clock and Nest Mini serve a similar purpose: to supply a functional voice assistant in a low-cost, unpretentious package. Both let you listen to music, control the best smart-home devices and communicate with your household. But which updated budget device is better? Here's how Echo Dot with Clock and the Nest Mini compare.

Echo Dot with Clock vs. Nest Mini: Specs compared

Echo Dot with ClockNest Mini
Price$59.99$49
ColorsSandstoneChalk, charcoal, coral, sky
What's in the boxEcho Dot with Clock, 15W power adapterNest Mini, 15W power adapter
Size3.9 x 3.9 x 1.7 inches3.85 x 3.85 x 1.65 inches
Weight10.6 ounces6.4 ounces

Design: (25 points)

Outwardly, neither the Echo Dot with Clock nor the Nest Mini received a significant makeover. The Echo Dot with Clock is 1.7-inches tall and 3.9 inches in diameter. Its sides are swathed in fabric, while the top dons manual control buttons. LEDs surround the Echo Dot with Clock's top, too, and illuminates blue when the Amazon Alexa voice assistant is active.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Echo Dot with Clock is available only in a white-gray sandstone finish, whereas the Nest Mini offers four variants. Chalk and charcoal lend neutral looks, but I'm a fan of the bright coral-orange and sky-blue options. I'm also partial to the curved, recycled fabric casing of the 1.65-inch-tall Nest Mini. It's more inviting than the hockey-puck-like Echo Dot. 

Rather than an LED ring, the Nest Mini has four status lights on top that glow when Google Assistant registers a voice command. Google's budget smart speaker also has a wall mount on the bottom, meaning you can hang it up and save counter space. It's not a groundbreaking feature, but a useful asset, nonetheless.

Winner: Nest Mini

Display (5)

The Echo Dot with Clock has a small, white LED display on front side. It displays the current time, but can also show volume levels, alarms, timers and the local temperature when asked. You can't change the color of the LEDs, but you can adjust the brightness within the Alexa app or with your voice.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Though the clock is the sole upgrade to this year's Echo Dot, it's a smart one. You will no longer need to ask Alexa for the time, which Amazon said is among the most frequent questions asked to its Echo speakers.

Regrettably, the Nest Mini doesn't deliver in this category. The LED display on top does little more than indicate when Google Assistant is listening. If it had a clock, too, I would be encouraged to make use of the wall hook. 

Winner: Echo Dot with Clock

Sound (25)

The Echo Dot with Clock and Nest Mini pack respectable sound for their sizes. You won't get the same audio quality as you would from larger speakers that benefit from hardware like woofers, but both satisfy in small spaces.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Echo Dot with Clock doesn't get loud, but sounds solid on a medium-to-low volume level. It's awesome for emitting background noise and sleep sounds, if you're into that kind of thing. The Nest Mini, on the other hand, has a more impressive volume capacity and sounds stellar at most levels. 

Beyoncé's "Drunk in Love" sounded subpar coming out of the Echo Dot with Clock. And since Beyoncé is not a subpar vocalist, I'd blame the hollowness of Amazon's mini speaker. Queen Bey's love anthem sounded bolder and more present on the Nest Mini, which boasts two times better bass than the Home Mini.

MORE: Best Smart Speakers - Wi-Fi Speakers With Virtual Assistants

One year ago, the results of the audio category would've been closer, but Google stepped up its game for the Nest Mini's interior improvements. 

Winner: Nest Mini

Smart features and privacy (30)

When deciding between these smart speakers, you're deciding which smart assistant you'd like in your home. With either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, you're can control music, operate smart home gadgets, make phone calls, get answers to questions and more. And because the Echo Dot with Clock and the Nest Mini are direct products of Amazon and Google, they make the most use of the respective voice assistants.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In other words, there's little one can do that the other can't. It's like choosing whether to buy a Mac or Windows laptop. 

I prefer using Alexa, but that's because I'm a frequent Amazon customer and like to maintain a coherent ecosystem of electronics. However, Google Assistant is just as capable, and edged out Alexa in our comparison of Alexa vs. Google Assistant vs. Siri

Amazon and Google are taking strides to improve the privacy implications of keeping a microphone in your home. The Echo Dot with Clock and the Nest Mini both have  buttons you can use to disable the microphone for those times you'd prefer your speaker not be listening. You can also review and delete your history at any time in your account settings. 

Winner: Tie

Microphones (10)

What make the Echo Dot with Clock and Nest Mini "smart" are the built-in microphones that listen for voice commands. When turned on, these microphones wait to hear "Alexa" or "Hey Google," followed by a query.

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The Echo Dot with Clock can't hear as well as the Nest Mini. While reviewing the Echo Dot with Clock, I found it struggled to pick up commands over conflicting sounds. Whether the audio was coming from my nearby laptop or the Echo Dot with Clock, I had to raise my voice to trigger Alexa.

MORE: 15 Google Home Smart Speakers, Ranked from Best to Worst

Meanwhile, the Nest Mini did an excellent job of hearing me over itself and other sounds with its new added microphone. When I tested the call features on both with my mom, she said I sounded clearer and closer on the Nest Mini, too. 

Winner: Nest Mini

Price (10)

Both the Echo Dot with Clock and Nest Mini are among the best cheap smart home devices under $100. The low cost makes either an excellent smart-home entry point.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Google maintained the $49 price on the new Nest Mini, while Amazon tacked another $10 on the Echo Dot with Clock. In our review, we concluded that the premium on the Echo Dot with Clock is worthwhile. But shoppers with a $50 budget will opt for the Nest Mini or the standard third-generation Echo Dot. 

Winner: Nest Mini

Echo Dot with ClockNest Mini
Design (20)1618
Display (5)50
Sound (25)1822
Smart Features (30)3030
Microphones (10)79
Price (10)89
Total (100)8488

Overall Winner: Nest Mini

The Google Nest Mini wins this one, but not by much. Although it sounds and looks better than the Echo Dot with Clock, the Dot offers an accessible entrypoint into Amazon's massive ecosystem of services and products.

Both smart speakers support the useful features of a virtual assistant in an affordable, compact package. So if you're shopping for such a device, your choice should come down to preference of Google Assistant or Alexa. Or whether you really want that LED display on the Echo Dot with Clock.