The world of technology seems to be moving faster every day and such is the case with the Amazon Echo Show. The Show is the latest take on the smart speaker concept by Amazon and is the successor to the Amazon Echo. The Amazon Echo has first introduced two years ago and was hailed as one of the breakthrough products of 2015.
The 2015 Echo was an internet-enabled wireless speaker that was incorporated into Amazon's personal digital assistant Alexa. Let's take a closer look with my Amazon Echo Show Review.
Adding a screen to the Amazon Echo Show was intended to make it stand apart from the crowd of Apple's Homepod or Google's Home. In fact, it is the first wireless speaker to sport a screen meaning that more information is instantly accessible and the built-in camera allows users to make video calls. The presence of a screen and camera also allows interaction with Alexa in new and wonderful ways which may or may not end up having an impact in the day to day lives of users.
Amazon Echo Show Review
Perhaps you want a recipe found online? Or the lyrics to your favorite tracks? A few words with Alexa and there you go. Although the idea is there the reality is that Alexa is still frustratingly limited but new improvements to the technology and the addition of compatible smart devices being added to the market every day make the possibilities endless.
There could be so much more to the digital assistant as some simple commands still manage to confuse the speaker. Another possible issue is the questionable design on the Echo Show as it comes off a bit……well, not so sleek.
The Amazon Echo Show also carries quite a price tag with it. Other than these minor concerns, the Show has quite a bit of potential and we now invite you to join us as we purpose to discover what it's like to use to Show for extended periods of time and if it is worth it getting yourself one.
Update since writing this post. Amazon has released a second-generation version Echo Show. I will be doing an update on the much improved Amazon Echo Show 2nd generation in the coming weeks.
The good news is the price has stayed the same, and the new Echo Show has many improvements. Like a sleeker look and more features than the previous model and you can now watch YouTube. You can buy it today at Amazon.
- Slate design
- 7 inch LCD display and a 5MP camera
Unlike its obelisk-like older brother, the Echo Show has a subtle slate design meant to fade (though it fails at this) into the background of whatever room you decide to place it in. The only Indicator of its presence in a room is the screen that lights up when someone enters the room and offers prompts and notifications.
There is a “Do Not Disturb” mode that darkens the screen to give you a good night's sleep without bright lights keeping you up. If you are an avid reader of newspapers, the Show may save you some effort by reading out the text of a news article as well as displaying it on the 7-inch display.
Speaking of the display, it is a 7 inch LCD display with a resolution of 1024 x 600. The display may seem a bit tiny at first, especially if you are used to larger screens for your entertainment, but you get used to it pretty quickly.
An interesting feature of the display is that you can watch movies on it as the Show provides access to the Amazon Prime catalog of content. The Show also has a 5-megapixel camera at the top for video calls.
The speaker on the Show is located at the bottom and is front-facing. A problem with the original Echo was that it had a pretty terrible speaker compared to other Bluetooth speakers available at the time. The speaker this time around on the Show is much improved in comparison.
There are still some issues with audio quality but overall the speaker performed well. If you feel that the audio quality is not up to scratch, you can pair the Show with a Bluetooth speaker of your choice. The Echo Show does not have a 3.5mm audio jack — users who need this option will have to get an Amazon Echo Dot
Where the Show really stands out is with its microphone which is located at the top edge of the slate, encircling the volume up/down and microphone on/off buttons in an elliptical shape.
The microphone can pick up your voice over the sound of music or conversation and it was so accurate that this feels like where the magic really happens for the Show. This time around there is no ring of light signifying activity. Instead, we get a blue line of light along the bottom of the screen.
The major component and selling point of the Show is Alexa. Amazon's voice-activated digital Al assistant. Alexa is capable of a whole host of tasks ranging from the relatively mundane (setting the time, fetching weather predictions) to the positively complex (control home lighting).
Alexa in the Show offers a different experience from the normal due to the existence of the display. Alexa can now show you things such as trending news headlines and to-do lists. If you require more in-depth information, you can ask for it.
For example, if a single day's weather information isn't enough, you can ask Alexa to bring up an entire week's worth of forecast data. If you want more than just the headline, Alexa can read out the entire article for you as you drink your coffee and jot down some notes.
Another feature that I found to be interesting on the Show is the Drop-In feature. Drop-In allows connectivity between the Show and another device without the other end having to pick up. Drop-In made its debut on the older Echo and was mostly used as a feature or intercom. Having this feature for video raises concern for the more privacy-minded among us but not to fear.
You can opt-out of Drop-In or you can click on the Mute button so that anyone trying to ‘drop-in' on you will only get audio. Drop-In also gives a 10-second warning where the screen turns frosty before coming online so you know if someone on the other end is trying to reach you.
The only way for the video call feature to work is that the other party must have an Amazon Echo Show also.
Amazon Echo Show second generation
At the moment, there isn't any support for third-party video call platforms (such as Skype) and it is doubtful if there ever will be. The Show is first and foremost a way for Amazon to market Alexa to the world and video conferencing is very much not their focus.
If video calls aren't your thing then voice calls still work on the Show and is free of charge in Mexico, Canada, and the US. The voice calls are not limited to only Alexa devices; they can also work to any landline or mobile numbers.
Whoever you're calling will also be able to see your name, and contact information when you call. We found the audio quality of the voice calls was choppy with the Alexa frequently cutting off words. So you might want to stick to your cell phone for the time being.
A final, and potentially very useful, feature on the Alexa is its ability to connect to security cameras. This means that you can easily know if anyone is at the door if you are expecting guests over and are preoccupied with something else.
Depending on how elaborate of a smart home system you will also need a smart hub. What is a smart home hub and how do you choose one?
Amazon Echo Show 2nd Generation Review
Pros and Con
Despite all these shortcomings, there are a few silver linings to the Echo Show story. It acts as a pretty good streaming device for music. There is also the fact that it offers unlimited free calling albeit at the poor audio quality.
There is also the fact that having a device that can display any information you require while you work on something hands-on can be very useful. For example, calling up the exact recipe for a meal that you are already halfway into preparing.
For the time being, Alexa still has a lot of growing up to do if it wants to take on Google's Assistant (its main rival). On a good day, Alexa can answer all your basic questions like “what's the weather like' or “what's the meaning of life” as well as variations of such questions.
But it struggles when you ask more complex questions like “when does Black Panther come out” or “who invented cheese”. Alexa will simply reply that it does not know or it will give irrelevant answers.
The video calling feature, though interesting, is limited in use. The Show also wastes its display by only displaying mundane information that can be obtained from any other smartphone display. The lack of support for third-party applications is also frustrating.
The Show, like the older Echo before it, is a luxury device meant more for fun than for true necessity. However, it adds value by combining features from other devices such as the Echo Dot and is an improvement over the original Echo.
It shows promise on the long road to truly smart home and despite it being among the first devices on that road it gives a good taste of what that would truly be like. List price at $229.99. You can get it for $179.99 if you keep an eye out. The Amazon Echo Show is, without doubt, the best Amazon Echo experience to have.