Today Amazon begins selling the third-generation Echo Dot, one of the best-selling smart speakers in the world.
Without question, the third-generation Echo Dot outperforms its predecessor in sound quality as total sound output. In fact, Amazon says the latest Echo Dot is 70 percent louder than the second generation. It also looks better. All new Echo devices introduced last month — from the Echo Plus to the Echo Show to the Echo Dot — ditched the plastic exterior for a mesh finish.
If you’re an Amazon Echo fan, this is all welcome news. It is, as some reviews have pronounced, the best Echo Dot yet, but if you belong to the wider cohort of people who have yet to bring a smart speaker into their home, you should know: Google Home Mini is still better than the Amazon Echo Dot.
Despite improvements to the latest Echo Dot, the Home Mini still delivers sound quality that is more appealing to the ear.
Yes, the new Echo Dot brings more bass and thicker notes than its predecessor, but the Home Mini does a better job of letting music and human voices keep their integrity, and to do so without sounding muffled.
In trials with friends and family, the word that frequently came up was crisp: The Echo Dot is physically bigger and weighs more than the Home Mini, but the Home Mini delivers crisper sound than the new Echo Dot.
The Echo Dot can achieve higher volume, but frankly you don’t want to turn either of these speakers up to full volume if you want the richest experience possible.
This is the second year the Home Mini has delivered a better sound experience than the Echo Dot. Last year, VentureBeat did a similar side-by-side comparison and found the Home Mini was able to produce both better sound quality and higher volume levels.
The Home Mini being better than the Echo Dot matters a lot, because these small speakers make a big impact, and choosing one over the other can set off a chain of responses.
For example, multiple studies have shown that the average consumer will buy more than one smart speaker.
So when shopping, you have to consider not just whether the Echo Dot is better than the Home Mini, but how they pair up with the larger range of Echo and Home speakers.
The Home Mini and Echo Dot are the No. 1 and No. 2 selling smart speakers in the world because they cost $50. Price also appears to be playing a role in the rise in popularity of speakers from Xiaoice and Alibaba in China.
So you may go out and get another Echo Dot or Home Mini, but it’s also about the Home versus Echo, the Echo Amp versus Home Max, and the Home Hub versus Echo Show.
Compared to these other devices that produce sound quality good enough for your kitchen or family room, the Home Mini and Echo Dot are designed to act as an auxiliary for your bedroom, garage, bathroom, or the rest of your home. They’re great at acting like a remote that connects with a larger system of speakers throughout your home, offshoots from a Home Max or Echo Show in whatever room you happen to spend most of your time.
So these two speakers can matter a lot if you like the idea of having voice control and music throughout your home.
The line of smart speakers you choose could also end up deciding whether you shop with Amazon or Google Express, watch Amazon Prime Video or YouTube, or pay for Amazon Music or Play Music.
Beyond the walled garden of apps and services each tech giant provides, the assistant you choose can also affect how you run your smart home.
Visit the Amazon marketplace, and you’ll see, right below the price of the Echo Dot, an offer to sell you a smart plug too. The smart plug upsell and ease of hands-free voice control seems to be a gateway to buying more smart home devices.
That’s because the AI assistant you select can influence the smart home devices you purchase.
So yeah, the Home Mini is a year old, but it’s still better than the new Echo Dot, and there’s potentially a lot more than $50 on the table when you choose whether to buy an Echo Dot or Home Mini.
The speaker you choose to buy — or the one you get as a gift this holiday season — can help determine which AI assistant will be ubiquitous throughout your life.