2-Echo show 15
CNN  — 

Amazon just unveiled its largest smart display yet: the Echo Show 15. It has all the normal traits of an Alexa smart display but also aims to be a digital whiteboard of sorts.

Alongside a new Echo, Amazon rolled out some updates across its product line. Notably, Blink unveiled a $49.99 Video Doorbell and Ring launched the Alarm Pro. The surprise was the unveiling of Astro, the long-rumored robot with Alexa built in.

But now we’re breaking down everything else that Amazon announced during its event. And that starts with an Echo Show that’s egging for a spot on your wall.

Echo Show 15: Part smart photo frame, part smart home control panel

1-Echo show 15

Amazon is taking a different approach with its Echo Show 15 ($249.99; amazon.com) compared to previous models.

It’s thinner and is designed to be hung on a wall (either vertically or horizontally) and features a 15.6-inch 1080p display with an anti-glare coating. With that screen real estate, paired with a border and a frame, it’s much more sizable than previous Echos — and almost makes it more akin to the Sony Frame in a way.

The Echo Show interface is both touch and voice compatible. Amazon also lets you customize the interface a bit more — you’ll be able to choose from widgets like a shopping list, smart home control, sticky notes or even from third parties. Like Alexa Skills, which are controlled via voice, there’s an open API and SDK for developers to build widgets. You’ll have two sizes of widgets to pick from, which will let you design and stick with a layout that works best for you. Better yet, if you have a Ring Doorbell or a Blink Camera, motion alerts can show up as picture-in-picture.

In that vein, the Show 15 really feels like a smart home control panel crossed with a digital whiteboard. Essentially, it’s a grid system that will let you place elements into a block. Amazon is also launching a shared family calendar, which will be a centerpiece out of the box.

The Echo Show 15 is also getting Visual ID, which will let Alexa customize the experience based on who is using the device. It’s optional, but if you enable it, the Show 15’s camera will scan your face and learn to recognize it. This way when it sees you, it can change the interface to one that matches your preferences and customize the Alexa responses to your queries. Visual ID is not exclusive to the Show 15, though, and will be rolling out to other Echo Show devices. Similarly, the updated user interface will arrive on other Show devices in the near future. Just know that on smaller screens, you’ll need to swipe to access widgets.

The Show 15 might just be the best Echo to watch content on with a larger HD display. Amazon already offers Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix among others, but TikTok and Sling TV will soon arrive. There are also speakers built in, but don’t expect a significant amount of bass here, as the Show 15 is much slimmer and thinner than a Show 5, 8 or 10.

The other piece of the puzzle is Amazon’s AZ2 Neural Edge Processor. This is the second-gen chip made by Amazon and builds upon what’s in the fourth-gen Echo. The upgraded processor should let the Echo Show 15 quickly respond to queries and questions, and should be faster and more natural over previous Echos. The AZ2 Neural Edge also allows Visual ID to be processed completely on-device, which means none of this information will be sent off to the cloud. And yes, you can ask Alexa on Echo Show 15 anything you could think of — just like any other Echo.

Echo Show 15 will cost $249.99 and come in just one color, including a white mat around the screen and a black frame. You can sign up to be notified now to order, and like the Echo Show 10 last year, it will be available for order in the coming weeks. Amazon will sell the stand along with mounting kits for an extra cost. If you don’t want an Echo on your wall, the Show 10 or Show 8 are excellent alternatives.

Amazon Smart Thermostat

amazon smart thermostat

If you’re looking for a smart (and relatively affordable) way to adjust your home temperature, Amazon is rolling out the Amazon Smart Thermostat. Made in partnership with Honeywell, this $59 thermostat works with Alexa with the goal of making it easy to keep things just as hot or cool as you like them. For example, the thermostat can automatically adjust temperatures based on when you’re typically at home or away. And if you say, “Alexa, good night,” the thermostat can make the temperature lower or higher based on the preferences you’ve set.

The Smart Thermostat is one of the cheapest devices of its kind yet — most thermostats we’ve tested range from $150 to $250, and even our budget pick (the standard Nest Thermostat) goes for $129. At a quick glance, Amazon’s new budget option looks a little more streamlined than what we’ve used. For example, it’s Alexa-only, whereas many competitors offer support for both Alexa and Google Assistant control while also letting you create a more detailed temperature schedule for each day of the week. Still, that low price is compelling, and we’re looking forward to seeing how the Smart Thermostat stacks up to our favorite smart thermostats. In the meantime, you can preorder one for $59 now.

Amazon Glow

amazon glow

Amazon has plenty of devices that let you video call with loved ones, but the new $249 Amazon Glow gadget is specifically built to allow parents and guardians to enjoy engaging games with their little ones from afar. This unique-looking device combines an 8-inch video calling display with a 19-inch touch-sensitive surface, which can display games, videos and interactive storybooks that are projected onto it.

The idea is that kids have an interactive surface to play with while a parent or loved one watches on. Glow activities will include children’s books, classic games like chess and checkers, and a digital drawing board. This gadget has object-scanning capabilities, allowing kids to do things like scan a real-world object to turn it into a virtual jigsaw puzzle. There will also be hybrid physical-digital activities, such as Glow Bits, which challenges children to solve puzzles by placing physical blocks on a digital board.

Glow has a number of parental controls, including the ability to choose exactly which contacts your children can call. You’ll be able to see who your kids have contacted via the Amazon Parent Dashboard, and can disable the device’s cameras and microphones using the onboard privacy shutters.

The Glow is certainly a unique take on a typical Echo Show device and could prove useful for parents looking for a way to stay engaged with their little ones from afar. We’ve had good experiences with video calling on Amazon’s previous devices, but the success of Glow will ultimately come down to the quality of the included games and experiences. It’s also not cheap — the Amazon Glow is launching with an early access price of $249, and you can request an invite to buy one right now.