The Echo Show 8 is hands-down the best smart display (and it's on sale)

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Thu November 28, 2019

Amazon's Echo Show 8 feels and looks like a smaller variant of the original Echo Show. And, truth be told, that's exactly what it is.

The Echo Show 8 has an 8-inch display (when measured diagonally) and keeps that familiar triangular profile that gives it a built-in stand. That means it's smaller than the original Echo Show, which had a 10-inch display. But from what I found, that's the only thing you'll sacrifice.

Oh, and it's cheaper. The Echo Show 8 is on sale for $79.99, down from its regular $129.99 price point.

It looks like an Echo Show

The Echo Show 8 keeps an inherently similar design language to the Echo Show 5 and the larger Echo Show. Show 8 comes in two colors: charcoal or sandstone, which is a nice touch as it fits in with the Echo ecosystem. I've been testing a sandstone model that features a larger white bezel around the display, which transitions nicely into the sandstone soft outer shell.

On top of the device, you'll find three buttons and one slide. The mute, volume down and volume up sit center, while the right side has a slider to physically cover the front-facing 1-megapixel camera. Unlike the charcoal variants of the Echo Show 5 or 8, which have a white camera cover, Show 8 in sandstone has a matching camera hider. It can make it tough to quickly glance and see if it is open. There are also four far-field microphones on the top.

The back of the device features a proprietary circular power jack. It's the same one used on all Echo devices: Echo Dot, Echo Dot with Clock and Echo, among others. The standardization is nice, but an open-source choice would have been a nice bonus. You also get a 3.5-millimeter audio jack for connecting non-smart speakers.

Sticking in line with other Echo speakers and displays, the bottom has a rubber-like finish that should prevent the device from sliding, even if you accidentally push it or if you're blasting music, because the Show 8 can push out serious tunes.

Show 8 packs a loud and wide soundstage

While the Echo Show 8 is smaller and cheaper than the Echo Show, it has the exact same speaker setup. It seems like a case of hard work by the design team to fit more into less. But either way, it delivers a set of two, 2-inch speakers that can each push out 10 watts. That's the spec-heavy side, but the actual usage side is just as impressive.

Show 8 is much louder than Show 5 or an Echo Dot and is on par with the Echo Show. It still fills the room and my Apple Watch gives me a noise alert when rocking out to "S.O.S." by the Jonas Brothers at full volume. And while it doesn't offer super Ultra HD music like the Echo Studio, you still get customization with the built-in equalizer. You can swipe it or even ask Alexa to make adjustments, like to lower the bass. I found with most songs that the bass was set high and resulted in reverb, but this is a software tweak or one you can adjust on the fly.

I also tried out the score to Episode 7 "The Force Awakens," tracks by Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, Bebe Rexha and Ariana Grande, among others. Of course, I also listened to the "Frozen II" soundtrack. Let's just say the on-screen lyrics feature gave me a chance to test my karaoke skills.

The Echo Show 8 performs incredibly well and offers a crisp and enjoyable listening experience. I highly recommend placing it against a wall corner if possible, which will help the audio fill the room. Or if you have it on a nightstand, just turn the volume all the way up.

Alexa with a screen is great

If you still haven't tried Alexa with a display or screen, it's an experience that keeps getting better. The Echo Show 8's 8-inch diagonal display performs just fine. It's not a Super AMOLED and doesn't offer the most vibrant experience, but for a smart display, it works just fine. Plus, it's responsive to multitouch.

Unlike the Echo Show 5 which features the custom clock backgrounds, you can pick from visuals on Show 8 and even connect an Amazon Photo library to use it as a digital photo frame. The only other service it supports is Facebook, so those of you who use Google Photo or iCloud Photos will need to look elsewhere.

Additionally, when playing music from Prime Music, you'll get lyrics on the screen, which transforms it into a souped-up jukebox or karaoke machine for 2019. It's fun to scream "Born to Run" at the top of your lungs or belt out "Into the Unknown" from "Frozen II" or "Love You for a Long Time" by Maggie Rogers.

But there are more reasons to use the Echo 8 other than music and photos. You get a visual for all of Alexa's answers, so for the weather, you get a nice graphic and fun accompanying images. You can stream content from Hulu, Prime Video and ESPN. Notably, Netflix isn't on here and YouTube is a poor experience in the on-board browser.

But for the most part, the screen improves the experience, and while it does increase the footprint from, let's say a 3rd Gen Echo speaker, it's well worth it.

Bottom line

The Echo Show 8 feels like the perfect size for a smart display. And whether it's on sale for $79 or at the normal price of $129.99, it's an affordable entry into an Echo Smart Display that brings a lot of value.

It packs a punch with sound, has a vibrant display and gives you the power of Alexa. Furthermore, like other Echo devices, it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb as it has home-like design elements. I'm a big fan of the mesh outer shells on the Echos, which stays true with the Echo Show 8.

Furthermore, this is CNN Underscored's Best Smart Display. It provides more value than the Nest Hub with better sound and it's a lot cheaper than the Nest Hub Max. It also has me questioning the Echo Show, unless you need a 10-inch display, Show 8 does just fine at an excellent price point.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.