The Echo Show is the latest in a long line of unique devices from Amazon. First there was the full-sized Echo, then the Echo Dot and the Echo Look. Now they added a camera and a touch screen in the $229 Echo Show. The Echo Show is far from perfect, yet, depending on your needs, it may be the best voice-activated device for you.
The Show is built of sturdy molded plastic in a trapezoid shape. It doesn’t have the expected futuristic look. In fact, it may remind you of devices from about 10 years ago. The Show has a boxy design with wide bezels. It come in black and white and is quite heavy and chunky-looking. It measures 7.4″ x 7.4″ x 3.5″ (187 mm x 187 mm x 90 mm.) Although it only weighs 41.0 oz. (1170 grams), you won’t be moving it around with only one hand.
It has a 7-inch color touchscreen at 1024 x 600 with a 5-megapixel camera and a pair of 2-inch speakers under the screen. Hidden in the device is an eight microphone-array with noise cancellation.
The Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor makes is quite responsive. On the top edge there are volume control buttons and a kill switch to turn off the microphone and camera. On the back is a port for the power cable. Unlike the full-sized Echo, the Show supports Bluetooth. You can stream music from your smartphone to Show or from Show to another Bluetooth speaker. Unfortunately you cannot play both devices at once.
Like other Echo devices, setup is extremely easy. If you ordered directly from Amazon, your Amazon account will be preloaded. All you have to do is enter your Wi-Fi and confirm your Amazon password. If you didn’t order your Show from Amazon, there are just a few more things to enter. After setup, the Show offers you a few instructional videos on using the device.
Like most tablets and phones, there is a notification-type screen that can be pulled down from the top of the screen. This includes a link to the Home screen, Settings, Do Not Disturb, and Brightness.
Of course the screen is the most unusual part of this device. Although the display resolution is a measly 1024 x 600. It is clear and certainly good enough for a device that we will be viewing at a greater distance than a phone or tablet.
Like the resolution, the touch-screen is not perfect, but it is certainly adequate. The screen brightness is adjustable in the settings. One drawback is that the screen angle isn’t adjustable. It is great when sitting, but is slightly awkward to see and touch from above.
What It “Shows”
When you turn on the Show you will see the time. Three screens which scroll every 8 seconds or so give you your appointments, weather, or what Amazon thinks is pertinent current information. Below that are tips on what to try on the Show. Although it’s great to see the time at a glance, the Amazon-chosen leads were completely uninteresting to me. In fact, they became aggravating. Luckily, most of the screen can be customized even to the point of using your own photo for the background. The mix of fonts including serifs, san-serifs and italics distinguish thing like the weather from the headlines making the words easy to read.
There is a Do Not Disturb setting but it is unclear whether that simply turns off the screen or turns off the screen and the camera. There is also a button that cuts off the Show’s microphone—but using the button means the whole thing stops working. Adding a separate button to turn the camera off would go a long way toward alieving the privacy concerns of some users.
Music, and Videos
In a side-by-side comparison of the original Echo, the Google Home, and the Google Show, music the Google Show won hands down. Everyone who listened thought that the Show had better sound with more depth and richer bass. The stereo sound easily fills an average room. Unfortunately, you can’t play the same music on several Echos simultaneously. However, the Show offers an interesting music perk. If you subscribe to Amazon Music, much of the music comes with lyrics that scroll on the screen. This is not only interesting, but can help you tune up your vocal skills or hold a karaoke party with your friends.
Another excellent features is that you can simply ask Alexa to play YouTube videos to be shown on her screen. If there is more than one choice, you can scroll through them right on the screen. The Show also allows you to watch Amazon’s Prime Video service, and Netflix and Hulu might not be far behind.
Other Useful Screen Features
The addition of the screen makes a huge difference. For instance, when you ask the Show to give you the weather, Alexa announces today’s weather. The Show follows that with report the weather for the next five days on the screen. Very useful!
Shopping is also much easier with the Echo Show. Alexa can show you the objects that you ask about and you can know the price and make your choice right on the screen. Following recipes is also much easier with the touch screen. There is no doubt that app developers will also come up with additional ways to use the screen in the near future.
Video Chats and Drop-In
The free Skype-like connectivity is only available for use between Echo devices or apps. This differs from the Google Home connectivity that is currently being implemented that which will allow calls to phones and landlines. To use the Show’s connectivity, you simply add your contacts and the device will show you which of your contacts have an Echo device that you can use to contact them. This works for audio between all Echo devices, however, you can only place a video call between two Echo Shows.
To use the new Drop-in feature, both you and your recipient have to enable it on your devices. If you both have Echo shows just say “Alexa drop-in on mom.” Their camera and microphone will come to life without any interaction from mom. She can disable the call if she likes. Between two Echo Shows, the recipient of the drop-in call sees a blurred feed for 10 seconds during which you can stop the camera or reject the entire call. If someone is actively viewing your feed, you will see it on the screen.
This whole scenario is a bit awkward for some, but it will be useful for many. In the home, it makes all of your Echo devices connected for use as an intercom system. The Show can connect to several different security cameras for instant viewing on the screen. And if you call your mom or grandma often it is better than Skype or FaceTime because someone who is technically-challenged can use it as easily as a telephone. You can also use the app on your phone to drop-in to your Show to see what is going on at home.
The Echo Show is far from perfect, but many will find it a useful device. And its skills are sure to grow in the near future.