- Amazon's second generation Echo Show is available now for $229.99
- The Echo Show feels like the can-do Echo
So yes, Amazon offers several Echo smart speakers, but only two add a screen to the equation. The tiny Echo Spot ($129.99; amazon.com) and the large Echo Show. The Show ($229.99), in its second generation, has grown into itself. Let's dive into it.
What's makes an Echo Show an Echo Show?
For starters, it's fair to call it one of the flagship Echo devices. The first generation had an awkward design and not many Alexa skill makers took advantage of the display. Essentially, you were still getting an audio-only experience. The good news is that since the second generation Echo Show launched last fall, many Alexa skills take advantage of the display.
And rightfully so. It's a large and vibrant 10.1-inch HD display that fills more of the Echo Show's front. You'll still get a unique pyramid design in the back, but it also is finished in a mesh-like material. That makes it feel more like a home-oriented device, similar to what Apple did with the HomePod and Google's desgin strategy on the Nest Hub.
A front-facing camera that can be used for video calling through Amazon's service or Skype is above the display. Yes, Skype is on board with a full Alexa skill, and it's pretty awesome to use. Meanwhile, Amazon's service allows you to call with any other Echo or via the Alexa app for iOS and Android. And these functions utilize the same microphones that power the Echo Show. Simple to say, the quality is great when it comes to audio and picking up words.
Alongside a vibrant display, the Echo Show also impressed with speed and sound. It's powered by an Intel Atom processor that helps process voice requests, running Alexa skills, and of course, content streaming. It's speedy and performs much better than the original. I rarely experienced a hang up on anything.
Secondly, you have a bass unit and two separate drives for sound. To say the least, the Echo Show packs a punch, and since it's rear firing, it can bounce off the walls to provide room-filling audio. You'll likely be surprised when you hear the sound. A neat trick is having something at full blast, and by just naturally saying Alexa, the far-field microphones will be able to pick up on it, even in a noisy environment.
So we know it has solid hardware that can power many different experiences, but what exactly can you do with an Echo Show?
Plenty of music sources
A great speaker system amounts to nothing if you can't play music on it. And while partners originally were slim for Alexa, there has since been a substantial expansion of streaming services that work with Echos. Of course, you can still Bluetooth to the device to manually stream music. But you can stream directly with Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, to name a few. If you want to have a karaoke party, many of these services will also stream lyrics across the display.
If you want to watch music videos, it's pretty awesome that Vevo offers a skill that allows you to stream music videos in all their glory, listen to music via the built-in speakers and watch all the action via the 10.1-inch display.
Additionally, you can group Echos for a broader soundstage or simulate surround sound. You can quickly hook up a few Echos, Echo Dots or even an Echo Sub ($129.99; amazon.com) with the Echo Show.
Watch movies and TV shows
With a 10.1-inch display, the Echo Show is smaller than your average TV and might not seem like a first choice for watching movies, but it can come in handy. There is support for streaming originals like Amazon's "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" through Prime Video, along with its entire collection of content. You can also pair a Hulu account with your Alexa to access live TV and sports, along with its library of content.
While it can be awkward to watch longer content on the Echo Show, it's nice to have it in the kitchen or a nightstand for quick consumption. However, it doesn't have all the necessary services or a big enough display to be a full TV replacement.
Another common question: Is YouTube supported? Well, there is a dedicated skill or app for it, but you can use the built-in web browser to navigate to YouTube and stream content from there.
Alexa's knowledge base is vast and can help you cook
Alexa, "Show me recipes for spaghetti and meatballs." You'll be presented with a few top recipes, can select one, have Alexa add the ingredients to your cart or dive right into the step-by-step recipe. It's an impressive feature and can actually come in handy in the kitchen.
After all, your hands are likely dirty or have food on them, so it makes sense to use your voice. Moreover, while it can be unnatural the first few times, eventually you'll get the hang of cooking with Alexa. It also doesn't have to be as specific as spaghetti and meatballs. You could ask for stir-fry dishes or ideas on how to prepare chicken.
Also, if you decide you want to steer off the tracks of a recipe, you can ask Alexa to play music or a video.
Plus, the Echo Show has access to the same Alexa as on an Echo Dot or regular Echo. So you can ask her for jokes, data questions, historical facts, to play a game, ask if you'll need a raincoat and much more. With the ever-growing library of skills and improvements, Alexa knowledge will grow larger.
There's a lot to like
Out of all the Echo devices, the Echo Show ($229.99; amazon.com) seems like it has the most to offer. Yes, it can handle routine queries. Yes, it can also play music and surprise with sound quality. And yes, it can power your smart home — think lights, door locks and smart plugs.
However, the screen is a game changer. Especially if you put the Echo Show in a communal room like a den or a kitchen, Alexa can answer with visuals, screen a quick news briefing, let you catch up on TV and even rock out with a karaoke party.
Plus, like all Echos, it will get better over time, and Amazon frequently offers deals around its flagship Echo with a screen.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed prices at the time of publication.