We had a feeling that Amazon would be releasing a new Echo Show soon. With competition from Google-powered boxes like Lenovo’s gorgeous Smart Display and JBL’s Linkview, which both feature better sound and display quality, Amazon needed to do something to continue to compete.
The company delivered this week with the all-new Amazon Echo Show, an Alexa speaker with a screen (available for pre-order now with a free Philips Hue light bulb for $230, shipping on October 11). We got to spend some time with the new device, and here are our thoughts.
Alexa, Show me movie times
Like the previous Echo Show, the new Show looks a little bit like a propped-up tablet. But the new Show has a bigger, 10-inch crystal clear display, which has double the surface area of the outgoing 7-inch model. It serves as a smart hub, meaning that it includes Zigbee protocol embedded to connect and operate your smart home devices.
Another difference between the old and new devices is the shape. The older version resembled an old-school blocky TV, while the new one is more streamlined, with a sandstone or charcoal fabric backing. The device is ideal for a kitchen environment, where you could ask Alexa to show you tutorials on, say, how to make lasagna.
Amazon stepped it up on sound by adding dual two-inch premium drivers, a passive bass radiator, and Dolby processing. You can also adjust the treble and bass with just your voice from across the room, and use the Show to set up Alexa’s Multi-room audio feature.
You can adjust the treble and bass with just your voice from across the room.
Not surprisingly, the Show integrates neatly with Ring security products, specifically its video doorbells. When your Ring doorbell rings, you can see who’s at the front door on the Show screen. With a Hulu subscription, you can also watch live TV on the device, and soon, you’ll also be able to make Skype calls.
Beyond that, the Show does all the things a regular Echo speaker can do, like add items to your shopping list, set timers, or tell you the square root of 52,000 (answer: 228.03508502). For those of you who get creeped out by devices with a screen in your homes, there’s a way to turn both the camera and speaker off for privacy.
Alexa, play Cardi B.
We got a chance to tinker with the new Show and came away impressed with the improved sound quality. We mean significantly improved. While we could not conduct side-by-side testing (we’ll do that later when we get a review unit of the new Show), it was clear that Amazon bumped the sound from the good-enough category to good-enough-to-play-during-a-party category.
We asked Alexa to play Cardi B.’s I Like It, which has a decent amount of bass. While our old Echo Show tends to sound a bit muffled with songs featuring bold bass, the new Show handled the task well, providing a grown-up, clear, bold, room-filling version of the song. We had a similar experience when we asked Alexa to take it down a notch with The Beatles’ Let it Be. Even if you find the sound of the device a bit lacking, you can still pair it with the new Echo Sub or other Echo speakers to bring out stronger sound.
We also got the chance to watch a few minutes of an episode The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and again, the difference in display clarity was stark compared to the old Show. Crisp, clear images appeared on the screen, and the device could definitely be used as a TV if you wish.
The fabric backing is an improvement over the old Show, which looked more mechanical and tended to attract fingerprints that, over time, just wouldn’t come off no matter what we did. We’re excited to bring the device home and test out integration with our smart-home gadgets.
The fabric backing is definitely an improvement.
A couple dings: While we’re happy to see Zigbee integration, we wish Amazon had also added Z-Wave so the Show could work with a larger variety of smart home devices. We’d also hoped for a price reduction. While Amazon invested in significant upgrades to this 2.0 model, $230 is still a bit steep. In comparison, the eight-inch Lenovo Smart Display is only $200, though the 10-inch version actually costs more than the Show at $250.
Overall we came away impressed with the improvements Amazon made in its overhaul of the Echo, and look forward to putting it through its paces in a real home environment. We’ll update you on how it does when we get a chance to do a full review.