The first reviews are in for the Echo Show, Amazon’s newest $230 Alexa-powered device, and it appears the company has found another winner.
The Echo Show is a lot like other Alexa-powered devices, with one big exception: a seven-inch touchscreen. The Echo Show will give users the ability to watch video briefings, YouTube videos, and see content from apps including weather, lyrics, security cameras, and to-do lists, using voice commands. It comes with the features of existing Echo devices, and works in conjunction with a variety of smart home devices services, for controlling lights, thermostat and other aspects of a home.
Amazon first unveiled the device last month, and its release is set for Wednesday.
Reviewers didn’t give Amazon a ton of points on the design, with TechCrunch’s Brian Heater writing that the device looks like it “fell off the back of a RadioShack truck in the late-80s.” That said, Heater predicts the new device will be a boon for Amazon.
The Echo Show isn’t a great piece of hardware. It’s beefy and clunky, and kind of looks like something that fell off the back of a RadioShack truck in the late-80s. The display isn’t great (there’s a reason the company’s not talking specs) and sure, the speaker gets loud, but if you’re looking for music playback, there are thousands of better Bluetooth speakers on the market.
But none of this really matters. When it starts shipping on June 28, the Echo Show is going to be huge. So far I’ve been an Echo holdout. I’ve never seriously considered buying one, and I didn’t think the Show would be the product to win me over. I mean, think about it for a second — it’s just an Echo with a seven-inch display attached.
Not exactly revolutionary — and yet it makes all the difference in the world. From new features like movie playback and video calls, to the simple addition of visual search results, it’s easily the most capable and compelling Echo yet.
Nathan Ingraham of Engadget also dings the design but notes that the device is “bulbous at the base” in order to house a pair of speakers that are actually an upgrade from the original Echo. Though the touchscreen — with the ability to watch movies, visualize things like weather and calendar and watch movies — is the primary selling point, the overall music experience has also been improved. Ingraham concludes by noting that there isn’t anything like the Echo Show, and it will be interesting to see what comes next.
The Echo Show exists without any direct competition. If you’re considering a voice-activated speaker, your choices are basically the Echo or Google Home. While Google has added plenty of features to Home since it launched last fall, Amazon still has the more-complete ecosystem here. If you’re deeply entrenched in Google’s world, Home is a good choice, but Amazon works pretty well with most Google services at this point.
If you’re trying to choose between the standard Echo and the Echo Show, you’ll want to consider where it’ll go in your home and what you want to do with it. My Google Home typically sits in my living room next to the TV, and I wouldn’t want another device with a screen there. But in a kitchen, office or bedroom, this little display could come in handy.
Another consideration is how interested you are in video calling and other future features that will rely on the screen. If you buy one without a screen, you’re locking yourself out of any potentially interesting use cases that could come down the line. For an extra $50, there’s a good chance you’ll get a lot of extra functionality out of the Echo Show, and the screen enhances plenty of the day-to-day info you’ll want to check on the device.
Dieter Bohn of The Verge praises Amazon for the simplicity of the new device. Setting up is quick and easy, and using it is even easier. One big drawback though, as of now, there aren’t a lot of Alexa skills that take advantage of the screen. That could change, however if the show is a hit.
The most important thing to know about the new $229.99 Echo Show, an Alexa speaker with a screen, is what it doesn’t do. You basically never need to tap the screen for anything, unless you really want to. There is not an “app store” where you hunt around for new things to add to your screen. It sits on your counter, answers your questions, sets your timers, and occasionally displays useful information. That’s it, and that’s great.
Adding a screen to the speaker must have created a sore temptation for the product people at Amazon to ladle on more features and apps on top of what the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Tap can already accomplish. Instead of doing all that, Amazon appears to have focused on getting the stuff that already works on the Echo to work with a screen. Alexa is a platform now, and the Show is an attempt to build out that platform rather than glom another one onto it.
The Echo Show is a character study in gadget restraint.