Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen)
$30 $50 Save $20
The fifth generation of the Amazon Echo Dot is the best sounding Echo Dot yet. It doesn't sound as good as the HomePod mini, but it's a lot cheaper and it's compatible with more connected home products and third-party streaming music services.
- Very good value for money
- Best sounding Echo Dot yet
- Great design
- Not great for privacy
- HomePod mini has a better sound
Apple HomePod mini
The Apple HomePod mini is an excellent speaker. You won't find better in a small format smart speaker. It's not as versatile as the Amazon Echo Dot, though, either for the connected home or support from third party music streaming services.
- Stellar sound
- Excellent Apple companion
- Great design
- Not as versatile as the Echo series
- More expensive than the Dot
Apple and Amazon took very different approaches to smart home speakers. Amazon went for cost-effectiveness with the Echo in 2014, pricing it competitively and releasing its entry-level stablemate, the Echo Dot, in 2016 at an even lower price. On the other hand, Apple favored a high-end luxury product and was late to the party when releasing it. The HomePod arrived four years after the Echo, and it wasn’t until 2020 that we got a small-form-factor, lower-priced version of the HomePod Mini.
This presents those interested in getting a great smart speaker with a dilemma. Which should you go for? If you’re already inside Apple’s or Amazon’s connected home ecosystem and want to expand it, it’s a no-brainer — stick with what you have. But those who are looking for a new speaker for music or radio, or are just getting started with their smart home setup, have a choice to make. Which is the best option; the high-quality Mini or the low-priced Dot? Let’s see how they compare.
Amazon Echo Dot vs. Apple HomePod Mini: Price, availability, specs
Apple has never attempted to challenge Amazon on price. The current fifth-generation Echo Dot costs $53 on Amazon (or cheaper if you wait for Amazon’s regular cut-price offers), while 2020's HomePod Mini is $99 on the Apple Store. Both are available to buy now. Amazon also partners with other companies to give away Dots, often in bundles with other devices, while Apple rarely discounts current products.
Naturally, you can get the HomePod mini on Apple's website, and also in stores like Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and more. The Echo Dot is (of course) available on the Amazon website and in most good technology stores like Best Buy.
Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) Apple HomePod mini Display No No Dimensions 3.9 x 3.9 x 3.5 inches 3.3 x 3.9 inches Weight 304g 345g Alarm Clock No No Integrations WiFi, Bluetooth Low Energy Mesh, and Matter controller iHeart Radio, Radio.com, Deezer, TuneIn, Pandora and Amazon Music Audio 1.73" front-firing speaker Full-range driver, dual passive radiators Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5 GHz) Non-detachable USB-C cable and comes with a 20W power adapter. Ports 3.5mm audio jack, Barrel-shaped port AC adapter non-detachable USB-C cable and comes with a 20W power adapter, wireless capabilities Colors Charcoal, Deep Sea Blue, Glacier White Space Grey, Blue, Yellow, White, Orange Speakers 1.73-inch front-firing speaker Omnidirectional speaker SMART ASSISTANTS 15W 20W
The HomePod Mini certainly gives more options for the fashion-conscious. As well as the understated, go-anywhere Space Gray (almost black), white, and blue, you can also get it in brighter yellow and orange designs. The Echo Dot comes in Charcoal, Deep Sea Blue (another navy), and Glacier White (a fetching almost-white design). The black, white, and blue versions of both devices all look pretty stylish and would fit well in any room, whether you want it to stand out as a piece of furniture or blend in with the background decor. Only the HomePod mini offers brighter, more vibrant colors in its orange and yellow design.
Both devices are almost spherical; the Dot measures 3.9 x 3.5 inches, while the Mini is slightly shorter at 3.9 x 3.3 inches tall. Both Amazon’s and Apple’s speakers are designed to look good anywhere, and they do. They’re perfect for a shelf, desk, or bedside table, but as they’re outlet-powered, you wouldn’t want to move them. If portability is important to you, third-party bases containing rechargeable batteries are available for both devices.
The two devices both feature a cloth finish. The HomePod mini boasts cloth all over except for the flat base and top, and the Dot has a cloth upper hemisphere set at an angle, with a plastic section at the rear. Which you prefer is a matter of taste — they both look great. These cloth finishes perform the dual role of protecting the inner workings of the drivers from foreign objects, over-excited pets, and so on while allowing the sound to travel unimpeded. Both can be cleaned with alcohol-based cleaning wipes or a wrung-out rag. Never immerse them in liquid, or clean them with harsh chemicals.
As far as controls go, the Mini’s touch controls atop the device are a little more accessible than the Dot’s. They allow you to play/pause, skip forward and backward through the tracklist, activate Siri, or adjust the volume. The Echo Dot has an Action button to issue a command, enter setup mode, or silence an alarm, a button to turn the mics on and off for when you want to stop the Echo Dot’s digital assistant Alexa from listening in, and volume controls.
The HomePod Mini has better touch controls for audio entertainment, but the Echo Dot has the edge for connected home users. As you mostly interact with a smart speaker using voice commands, this is of limited significance but worth a mention nonetheless.
It’s no real surprise that the HomePod Mini wins out in terms of audio quality. Its full-range driver and dual force-canceling passive radiators give it a warm, solid sound that’s surprisingly good for a budget speaker. It has a decent amount of bass for rock and rap lovers, the mid-tones are crisp and clear, and the high-end sounds lively and well reproduced. It lacks the spatial audio and room-sensing capabilities of the full-sized HomePod, but it’s stereo pair capable (that is, you can buy two of them and set up one as a right speaker and one as a left speaker), and it can manage multi-room audio for music around the house.
It's also not a surprise that the Echo Dot, which costs less than the Mini, is less sonically capable. It uses a single 1.73-inch front-firing speaker, but it can be paired with other Echo devices for a multi-room setup. Although not up to the Mini’s standards, the fifth-generation Dot is in itself a very capable speaker. It’s definitely a significant improvement on previous Echo Dot models. Bass is more than satisfactory, and the high tones are well reproduced too. If you want to tweak the sound, you can use the equalizer in the Alexa app.
Both speakers cope well with a wide range of sound and are not fine-tuned for any specific genre. Turn the volume up to the max and the Echo Dot distorts more than the HomePod Mini. However, the Echo Dot is compatible with more streaming services. It natively plays Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, and more. The HomePod Mini is geared toward Apple Music, but you can also use it with third-party services like Deezer, Pandora, and Amazon Music. It doesn’t natively support Spotify, but you can stream it to the speaker from your Mac, iPad, or iPhone.
The HomePod Mini also doesn’t support direct Bluetooth connections, and can only be set up, connected, and controlled with an iOS or iPadOS device. If you must stream music to a Mini using an Android phone, you can install third-party apps as a workaround.
One final word on sound quality. If your speaker sounds horrible and echoey (no reference to the Dot intended), it might be because you’ve got a drawer or other such enclosed space underneath it. A glass coaster with rubber feet placed under the speaker solves the problem.
Being smart speakers, you interact with them by speaking commands. By connecting streaming services such as Apple Music and Spotify, you can ask them to play music, podcasts, and audiobooks. Of course, smart speakers are far more than just audio players. They also control your connected home. You can issue commands to a compatible device such as a smart light bulb or smart plug, turning them on and off, brightening and dimming the lights, and more.
The Dot offers far more compatibility with connected home products. Almost every connected home device is compatible with the Amazon Alexa ecosystem. Because it arrived later on the hi-tech home scene and it has more expensive smart speakers, Apple HomeKit is way behind in this respect.
You also need to decide how much privacy you’re prepared to sacrifice for the convenience of a smart speaker. All such devices raise privacy concerns, but Amazon’s smart home ecosystem is far less private than Apple’s. For more information on the subject, see Apple's HomePod privacy and security page and Amazon's Echo privacy and security site.
The Dot records your command and sends it to Amazon’s servers for processing. This information is encrypted, but when it’s on Amazon’s servers, it’s associated with your account. This is both a blessing and a curse. While it means Amazon is gathering significant information about you, it also helps your smart device improve over time. A HomePod sends commands to Apple’s servers anonymously; they’re never associated with your user account. Instead, they’re linked to a random, anonymous ID for six months, then stored for another 18 months not associated with an ID at all. After that, they’re automatically deleted.
Over the next few years, the connected home scene could be revolutionized by a new, open-source protocol called Matter, which seeks to unite the major connected homes protocols, allowing them to work together instead of being incompatible with each other. Apple, Amazon, and Google are already on board. This means that in the future, if you buy a smart home device that supports Matter, you can operate it using HomeKkit, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant. Matter 1.0 is already out, and covers smart home categories such as light bulbs, smart locks, and media devices. The Echo Dot can only be set up as a Matter controller using Android, but iOS compatibility is coming soon. It’s too early to say whether Matter will revolutionize the connected home as it intends, but it’s worth keeping an eye on it.
Which is right for you?
Whether you buy an Echo Dot or a HomePod Mini depends on what you want to get out of your smart speaker. The Echo Dot is more versatile and a good deal cheaper, but the HomePod Mini is better at guarding your privacy and offers a better sound. The HomePod Mini definitely doesn’t play nicely with Android or Google phones. Unless you have an Apple device, we wouldn’t even consider an Apple speaker. It works with fewer brands of connected home products too; look for the Apple Home logo for compatible devices.
Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen)
Great for Amazon users
$30 $50 Save $20
The new release of the Echo Dot smart speaker is the best yet, though it's not as good as the HomePod mini for audio quality. It's a better speaker for the connected home, though, and it's awesome value for money.
If you’re looking for a music player to use with your Apple Music streaming service (and have an iPhone or an iPad), grab a HomePod Mini and treat its other functions as a bonus. If you want to put your smart speaker at the center of your ever-growing connected home, or you have a Spotify rather than an Apple Music subscription, get an Echo Dot. The choice is yours.
Apple HomePod mini
For Apple lovers
The Apple HomePod mini has an excellent sound, but is more expensive and less versatile than the Echo Dot. If you're an Apple Music subscriber and want to stream your sounds to a smart speaker, it's an excellent choice.