Top positive review
New Shape, New Processor, Better Sound
Reviewed in the United States on December 15, 2020
The new Echo 4th Gen is a big change in aesthetics and design for the Echo line. The new spherical shape is wider and shorter than previous Echo versions, and now focus sound in one primary direction instead of 360 degrees. It adds an extra tweeter, and seems to produce more sound than previous versions. Here are my early thoughts so far, after using it for about 24 hours:
Setup was incredibly simple. I just powered the device on, and the Echo announced that it was ready for setup. I opened the Alexa app on my phone, and the new Echo was automatically detected and set up instantly. I didn't have to enter any information at all. It can't get any easier than this.
BETTER SOUND. This new Echo has an extra tweeter, for a total of two 0.8 inch tweeters, and the same 3.0 inch Sub from the Gen 3 Echo. This new Echo is designed with the tweeters pointed forward, and the speaker placement seems to generate more bass also somehow, even with the same Sub as the Gen 3. All in all I think it sounds much better than Gen 3, with a little more bass and louder max volume. This could also be do to the sound-mapping feature that allows Echo to maximize the sound by detecting the acoustics and shape of the room. You can also pair two of these in stereo; and you are supposed to be able to use it as a speaker for your FireTV device, though I haven't tested that out yet.
Temperature sensor included. Yes, you can ask Alexa what the temperature is, and it seems very accurate so far. This is a nice touch, and I look forward to doing more testing, to see if I can set up routines based on temperature.
AZ1 Processor. This new Amazon processor promises better voice recognition and faster Alexa responses. In my testing so far, I have barely noticed a slight speed improvement (for example turning on certain room lights) but there are supposed to be upcoming updates that will make an even bigger difference in speed.
Zigbee + Sidewalk Bridge. This comes with a Zigbee hub, just like previous versions of the Echo Plus. It also contains the new Sidewalk Bridge, which allows the Echo to use bluetooth and radio connections to connect to some smart devices at long range, and push data to the internet.
No 360 degree speakers. While I personally prefer the sound of this new version, some people might miss the 360 degree speaker setup of previous Echo generations. It certainly might lead to a situation where the ideal placement of the Echo in your room could be different.
White power cord. This is minor, but a strange choice. No matter what color Echo you get, the power cord is white. Some people might find that annoying.
Voice detection is not great while loud music is playing. This surprised me, as previous generations haven;t really struggled with this in my experience. I'm not sure if it is because this speaker is much louder, but Alexa hasn't heard me a few times when I talked while the music was playing at max volume. This could be annoying if you often listen to very loud music.
-Aesthetics. I think I preferred the look of the cylinder design, instead of this new sphere shape. This is totally personal preference of course. I also wish the entire sphere was fabric, instead of being plastic on the back side. Some people might prefer the ball shape though, so that is up to you.
All in all, I'm keeping this new Echo because of the better sound and faster responsiveness, but it is not really a massive upgrade. Pretty decent so far, I'll update this review and try to answer any questions in the future!