Amazon just unleashed new versions of its most popular Echo devices, including the fourth-generation Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Kids Edition, and they’ve got a bold new spherical look.
Leading the way is the Echo ($100), which now looks more like a large grapefruit (it’s 5.7 inches across) than a silo, with Alexa’s telltale light ring sitting at the base, its “action,” volume, and mic mute buttons sitting at the very top, and a 3.5mm audio jack (yes, it still has one) in back.
Available now for pre-order in three colors (chalk, steel blue, and charcoal), the Echo boasts a three-inch neodymium woofer and dual 0.8-inch tweeters, along with Dolby stereo sound (versus mono sound for the previous Echo). The new Echo also shares the Echo Studio’s handy ability to sense the acoustics of the room and then adjust its audio accordingly.
Powered by Amazon’s new AZ1 Neural Edge processor, which helps to boost speech recognition responsiveness, the revamped Echo now comes with a built-in Zigbee radio (same as the pricier Echo Plus) and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) support, and it also packs in the ability to act as a bridge for Amazon’s upcoming Sidewalk neighborhood network, allowing other Sidewalk-enabled devices to join the low-power, long-range network.
Echo Dot and Echo Dot with Clock
Also available for pre-order today are the fourth generations of the Echo Dot ($50) and Echo Dot with Clock ($60), which boasts the same spherical design as the Echo, albeit smaller (measuring 3.5 inches high and 3.9 inches wide).
As with the Echo, the Echo Dot’s Action, volume, and mic mute buttons are at the top, and a 3.5mm audio jack sits in the back. The Echo Dot with Clock, meanwhile, has essentially the same LED display as the original, peeking out from its fabric covering.
Amazon is promising “crisp vocals” and “balanced bass” out of the Dot’s 1.6-inch, front-firing driver (hearing is believing, of course). The Echo Dot is also taking the Echo Dot with Clock’s “tap-to-snooze” feature, which lets you tap the top of the speaker to snooze alarms. (The larger Echo is getting the tap-to-snooze feature, too.)
Echo Dot Kids Edition
Finally, the new—and yes, also spherical—Echo Dot Kids EditionRemove non-product link ($60) comes with new panda and tiger prints, and with a one-year Amazon Kids+ subscription (the new version of Amazon’s older, kid-centric FreeTime service).
The Echo Dot Kids Edition will be able to remember the voice profiles of different kids, and switch to that child’s profile—complete with parental controls—when Alexa hears the kid’s voice. Available “in the coming months,” Alexa kids profiles will work on any Alexa-enabled speaker in your house.
Another nifty Kids Edition feature is Reading Sidekick, which helps little ones “build fluency and foster a love for reading.” Just say “Alexa, let’s read,” and Alexa will start reading with your kid, even offering encouragement if she runs into a tricky passage. As with Alexa’s kids profiles feature, Reading Sidekick is slated to arrive within the next few months.
Available for pre-order now, the Echo Dot Kids Edition will (as with other other new Echo speakers) ship in late October.
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.