ProsAdding a screen elevates the Echo to a whole new level; has potential to be the ultimate Smart Home AI
ConsVoice recognition is as bad as ever; Alexa app is cluttered and unintuitive; Smart Home features rely on 3rd parties
When Amazon first announced the Echo Show, we knew we had to get our hands on one for review. We pre-ordered a two-pack that very day, and received our Shows on June 28, the day they were released. We've been using them extensively ever since, and over more than 30 days of testing, we've come to some pretty firm conclusions about the device. We think you'll find a lot more insights into what the Show is really all about in this review than what you saw in launch-day reviews from sites that received media samples. For better and for worse, a review written based on a few days of testing most definitely can not sum up the entirety of the Echo Show experience.
We purchased our Echo Show samples at retail from Amazon. They currently retail for $230 each or $360 for two. Read on to find out whether this is the Smart Home revolution we've been looking for!
Critical Update: We have permanently lowered the score on this product from 4 stars to 3.5 stars due to the removal of Google's YouTube app from the device for a second (and likely final) time. Google is pulling all support for its video services on Amazon devices due to an ongoing dispute between the two companies over Amazon's refusal to sell Google's products on the Amazon storefront. This is a clear case of the consumer losing when companies battle it out.
Description and Features
The Echo Show is fairly substantial, at 7.4” wide, 7.4” tall, and 3.5” deep. It weighs just over 2.5lb., or about as much as many high-end laptops. That's a bit surprising given the relatively-small 7" touchscreen and lack of a battery, but it probably comes down to the dual 2" speakers, which provide sound capabilities that you won't find in any laptop. Also on board is a 5 megapixel camera and dual-band Wi-Fi that supports 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4 and 5 GHz) networks. We're a bit shocked that Amazon hasn't included 802.11ac support, but luckily the bandwidth provided by the 802.11n 5GHz band will probably be sufficient for any possible usage scenario. Like the Echo Dot, but unlike the original Echo, the Show includes Bluetooth A2DP support for audio streaming from Echo Show to your Bluetooth speaker. In an odd twist, it also supports streaming from your mobile device to Echo Show, which we presume you'd do if you called up something on your phone and wanted the Show's better speakers, but ideally you'd call up the content on the Show itself. We'll cover what Show is able to display natively a bit later in this review. Powering this little powerhouse is the Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor, which in case you haven't kept up with Intel's Atom line, is among the most popular CPUs in current low-cost 2-in-1 laptops, which often go for about $250. It's really a fairly robust solution, and clearly "shows" that the Show is meant to do everything a tablet can and more.
To set up the Show, you'll need to use the Alexa App, which is available for Fire OS, Android, and iOS devices. Frankly, this is a serious mis-step by Amazon. Given that the Show is essentially a stand-alone tablet, why does it need a smartphone to set it up? We've found that the Alexa App has only grown harder to use as the Echo family has added features, and the worst part of all is that it's nearly impossible to understand how and why Amazon implemented the contacts feature in the App. It does not appear to allow actually adding contacts except at initial startup. After that, you have to count on Amazon to push new contacts to you as they purchase Echo devices or download the Alexa App. This is a huge oversight, and furthermore, adding contacts should be possible from the Show's screen, because it's smarter and more powerful than any smartphone, so why rely on a third-party device to set up all of its key features?
And it has a lot of key features. In addition to everything that the screen-less Echoes can do, the Show has the ability to show song lyrics, make video calls, play TV shows and movies, and display your cloud-based photo albums. It really does promise to replace just about every gadget you have in your home, and in our opinion, the Show is the closest thing we've seen to offering the future presented in the classic 1993 AT&T "You Will" TV spots, which all futurists owe themselves the opportunity to view again (or for the first time!). This was before the age of the Internet, e-mail, cell phones, or GPS, and yet AT&T predicted it all. The most touching promise of all was that you could "tuck your baby in from a phone booth" using video conferencing. Yes, Apple's Facetime has allowed you to do that for a few years now, but comparing a Smartphone and a Smart Home device is missing the bigger picture that these are two different types of devices, and they both have a place in our lives. In fact, we think the Show could very well be the next must-have device, now that billions of people all over the world have smartphones.
All right, let's move on to how the Echo Show performs in real-world use. Does it really add to the standard Echo experience, or does it just make it more complicated? Read on to find out!