Amazon’s Echo range has gone from strength to strength since it was introduced in the UK back in 2017, boasting integration with a wide range of smart home products and a growing library of skills. The company recently strengthened the line-up with the introduction of the all-new Echo Show alongside the Echo Plus and second-generation Echo and Echo Dot devices, the first Echo device to boast a 7in display.
The display provides an entirely new way to interact with Alexa, but is the Amazon Echo Show worth £199 when the core Alexa functionality can be accessed by cheaper devices? Here’s our Amazon Echo Show review.
If you’re new to the world of the Echo range and Alexa, take a look at our explainer: what is Amazon Echo?
Echo Show: Price and availability
As of September 2018, the Echo Show has been preceded by a 2nd-generation model which costs £219/$229.
If you want to buy the model we reviewed here, it’s on sale in the US for just $129 but in the UK the listing says ‘currently unavailable’ so you’ll have to keep checking back for possible stock.
Getting the old one might be cheaper, but the Echo Show 2 comes with a new fabric design, better screen and improved speakers.
Amazon has also updated the Echo Plus (now 2nd-gen) and Echo Dot (now 3rd-gen). There’s also new products like the Echo Sub.
Echo Show: Design and build
Let’s start with the design and build of Amazon’s Echo Show, as it’s not exactly as sleek and sexy as other gadgets available in 2017. While many manufacturers have steered away from straight angular corners, the Echo Show looks like it could provide most men with a close shave – but that’s not a bad thing. It gives the Echo Show a unique look in a market where smart assistants are available in all shapes and sizes, even if that look is reminiscent of early 2000s digital photo frames.
Specifically, the Amazon Echo Show features a 7in display and two front-facing 2in speakers below, and measures in at 187 x 187 x 90 mm and 1170g. This makes it a fairly hefty device, but you probably won’t be surprised to hear that it isn’t designed to be portable – it’s meant to sit in your home and be ready when it’s needed.
As it requires mains power, the Echo Show doesn’t feature a built-in rechargeable battery. While you may assume this means that the Echo Show anchored to the wall socket, you’re (kind of) wrong.
Yes, it requires mains power to operate, but the power cable is 6ft long, allowing you (arguably limited) movement without having to completely unplug the unit. If you need to move it from one counter to another in your kitchen for a better view of the on-screen recipe, it’s possible.
When the Amazon Echo Show isn’t answering questions or playing music, you’ll find yourself staring at an ever-changing background with revolving news headlines and, of course, the clock and latest weather.
The backgrounds are gorgeous and varied, but it can be a little too distracting (especially if it’s in your bedroom at night). In this scenario you can tell Alexa to dim – or completely turn off – the display without having to power down the device entirely, one of the many ‘small things’ that Amazon has considered when developing the Echo Show.
Echo Show: Features and spec
The flagship feature of the Amazon Echo Show is the 7in display, enabling Alexa to show you things instead of relying only on audio responses. This opens up an entirely new way to interact with Alexa, and provides a more rounded personal assistant experience.
Even the setup is much easier than with other Echo devices thanks to the touchscreen – instead of using the Alexa app to connect the Echo Show to your Wi-Fi network and Amazon account, you simply input it all directly on the device via the on-screen keyboard. But as Alexa’s voice recognition is, on the whole, fairly accurate thanks to the 8-microphone array and far-field voice technology, you won’t find yourself tapping the screen too often.
So, how does the vibrant 7in display enhance the Amazon Echo/Alexa experience? For one, it allows you to connect to smart security cameras from companies like Logitech, Ring and Arlo. Once you’ve installed and set up the relevant camera via the Amazon Alexa app for iOS and Android, it’s as simple as asking Alexa to show you what you want to see.
Want to check if anyone is in your garden? Simply ask Alexa to show you your garden camera, and it’ll appear on-screen within seconds complete with audio.
It’s not a perfect experience though – while you can view and hear video streams from your smart cameras, Logitech, Ring nor Arlo offer the ability to speak to those on camera like you can from their individual apps. And in the case of Ring, it won’t automatically display a video feed when the doorbell is rung or movement is detected, which is a bit of a disappointment.
We’re not sure if this is down to the companies themselves or limitations of Alexa, but we’ve reached out to both Amazon and third-party manufacturers and will update this if/when we get a response.
It’s not just security cameras that make the Echo Show’s display a great addition though – you can ask Alexa to show you the latest movie trailers or stream anything from Amazon Prime Video (if you have a subscription), and thanks to Alexa Skills like Recipedia, you can get detailed recipe instructions displayed on-screen to aid you while cooking. From displaying train times via National Rail to watching BBC News flash briefings, it’s an all-round improved Echo experience.
Unfortunately, although YouTube was one of the services available on the Show previously, it was removed, later re-added, and will be removed again as of 1 January 2018. This is due to an ongoing spat between Amazon and Google, so don’t buy a Show expecting that Alexa will be able to call up your favourite YouTube channels: it won’t. It’s possible the two companies will resolve their disputes, but it’s best to assume they won’t rather than be disappointed.
The Echo Show isn’t only limited to video skills and content – you can still use Alexa to control your smart home, answer questions, play music and do everything else that it can do on voice-based Amazon devices like the Echo.
Camera and video calling
The display and 5Mp camera allows you to make and receive video calls from the Echo Show. You can call anyone on your contact list, as long as the recipient has to have an Echo Show or the Alexa app installed on their smartphone or tablet. It’s a sleek experience that doesn’t require you to tap the display at all, and we found both video and audio quality during video calls to be of a decent standard.
But what about those who have an Echo or Echo Dot? You can still call them free of charge using Amazon’s voice calling service.
Oh, and for those interested, you can also enable Drop In on your Echo Show to allow people to connect directly to your device without you having to answer first, and vice versa. You can set your device to allow any of your contacts to drop in, or you can set it to only allow devices in your home to do so.
It’s a feature that splits opinion, and for that reason it’s opt-in rather than opt-out, so don’t worry about your mum suddenly appearing on-screen when you first set up the Echo Show. It does come in handy if you want to use your Echo Show and other Echo devices as a home intercom system, allowing you to speak to those in other rooms instantly.
The 5Mp camera can also be used to take photos – ask Alexa to take a photo and she will provide you with multiple shooting options, including single shot, filters and quad-shot. The photos are then uploaded to your Amazon Prime Photos account, accessible via the Prime Photos website and smartphone apps.
The Amazon Echo Show features two 2in speakers powered by Dolby below the display, not only for video calling and Alexa’s responses, but also for music playback from not only Amazon Music’s 40 million-strong library (if you’re subscribed) but the likes of TuneIn, Spotify and more.
If you don’t have a premium streaming subscription, you can still listen to radio stations based on anything, from hits of today to Madonna’s greatest hits from between 1984 and 1989. The radio stations are great for discovering new music, and Alexa can even provide you with personalised stations based on what you’ve listened to previously. Over time, it’ll get to know what you like and should provide you with more accurate results.
The Echo Show also features Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to connect your smartphone or tablet to the device and play music from unsupported streaming services like Apple Music.
Overall, the quality of the Echo Show’s speakers is impressive – especially considering its unassuming size. The audio produced is impressively room-filling with crisp vocals and warm bass, although it does become a little harsh at full volume (10). But due to how well the audio is projected, we found we’d rarely need to go above 7 or 8, so it shouldn’t be an issue you’d come across very often.
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