A lot of people ridiculed the large, unwieldy look of the Amazon Echo Show when it was first released last year. But it turned out to be one of the first in the smart display series and proved that the inclusion of a screen on a voice assistant is quite helpful and practical.

In fact, Google joined the trend a few months after, releasing their own family of Echo Show rival products, in partnership with Lenovo and JBL. But Google’s smart display devices wound up looking sleeker and had a smarter interface, as well as some better features such as step-by-step recipes and YouTube Integration, some of which were adopted in the new Echo Show.

Echo Show (2018) Pros

  • More refined and sleeker design
  • High-quality sound
  • Supports NBC and Hulu (Hulu Live inclusive)
  • Inbuilt browsers grant you access to YouTube
  • Step-by-step recipes with video instructions

Echo Show (2018) Cons

  • More refined and sleeker design
  • More refined and sleeker design
  • More refined and sleeker design

The Rundown

The more recent Amazon Echo Show is a massive improvement on the first edition. With a sleeker build, more outstanding sound, two inbuilt browsers and step-by-step recipes (sometimes with video tutorials), the new Echo Show is far more robust. It has more entertainment selections as well, including NBC, Hulu, and Hulu Live. However, the average display quality is quite unsatisfactory, and if you are a fan of Google, you will find it wanting in so many respects. However, Amazon lovers will find a lot to love. All in all, its affordability is a very strong point.

General Impressions

It seems like Amazon took note of the rivalry while designing this new Amazon Echo, as some major improvements were made – better design, higher quality audio, more advanced entertainment selections. Like Google’s smart displays, they adopted step-by-step cooking guides, and YouTube.com can be accessed via the inbuilt browsers. The Echo Show may not succeed in winning over those that are already deeply rooted in the world of Google, but all these improvements have balanced out any disparities between Amazon and their rivals.

Modern Look

Placing the latest Echo Show side-by-side with the original, it’s somewhat like looking at before and after photos on a makeup app. The 2017 model was so awkward and bulky with pointed edges. To be honest, it looked like something out of the 90’s. This 2018 model, on the other hand, looks modern in every sense of the word. Its speakers are positioned in the back rather than in front, which gives it a simpler and sleeker look.

Display of Amazon Echo Show

The new model also has a larger screen (10 inches across, as against the former 7 inches), which makes it a better gadget for videos and entertainment. Interestingly, the extra screen size doesn’t mean it takes up so much space. It is actually just 9.7 inches wide, as compared to the 10-inch Lenovo smart display which is actually 12.26 inches wide. If your kitchen is small, you will appreciate the extra counter space.

The new Echo Show has a resolution of only 1,280 x 800, and so images are not as clear or colorful on the device as they are on Lenovo’s 10-inch smart display which has a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200. The display is quite alright for small videos and news clips, but it may not be that exciting for full-length films. And what makes this somewhat odd is that Amazon is putting forward video as a major feature, as their recent partnership with NBC and Hulu demonstrates. They also included Vevo Music video support, and the Echo Show can be used to watch DVR recordings from the forthcoming Amazon Fire TV Recast. Granted, the major purpose of the Echo Show is for watching occasional videos while working or simply tinkering in the kitchen, but a clearer display would have been great, especially in the face of so much competition.

Speakers

Despite the setbacks, the Echo Show really stands out in the quality of its sound, owing to two 2-inch neodymium drivers and a passive bass radiator. The audio is truly remarkable. The bass is distinct and deep, and the high pitches are crisp and sharp. The volume range is also quite impressive, as it can get really loud. The Dolby spatial audio processing gives you the feeling that the sound is all over the room. Arguably, the sound is much richer than the JBL LinkView and even gives the Sonos One quite a competition in terms of bass and surround sound.

Easy to Use

Getting the new Echo Show set up is not too different from the old one, and it is a lot easier than Google’s smart displays. The Google devices require a companion app to synchronize everything, but the Echo Show needs no such thing. You just enter your Amazon and WiFi details, and you are good to go. The Amazon Alexa app is definitely relevant to some tasks such as managing skills and syncing your calendars, but you can do without it. Less techy people will find this a major advantage.

Improved Interface

What is obvious is that Amazon was careful to ensure that the home screen of the Echo Show is more visually captivating. For instance, trending topics, the time, weather and Alexa tips are now featured by default. There are also now cool wallpaper images that can be replaced by your own photos. Also, the pictures associated with trending topics, if any, show up with them. The weather forecast font and graphics are also quite brighter and more prominent. Even though these may be tiny details, they do add to the warm feeling that the Echo Show projects.

More Convenient Navigation

Another aspect of significant improvement in the Echo Show is video navigation. When you say, “Show Prime Video,” for instance, a splash page with Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on the background comes up, along with a listing of Prime Video categories on the bottom left. From here, you can request a particular category. It is also nice that you can access your own videos by saying, “Show me my Amazon video library.”

This same navigation access applies to other Amazon content partners such as Hulu and NBC. By saying, “Show me NBC videos,” the same splash page and navigation options will be brought up. And the same goes for Hulu as well as their live TV service. If you are subscribed to that, you can say, for instance, “Show me ESPN on Hulu,” and watch live sports.

Prepare to Choose Your Team

As it is not possible to get Hulu Live on Google’s smart displays, and it is equally impossible to get YouTube TV (which is Google’s own live TV) on Amazon’s Echo Show, you get the feeling that these two rival companies are demanding that you take sides.

A great feature of the Google smart devices which Amazon has now adopted in the Echo Show is step-by-step cooking guides. By saying, “Show me lasagna recipes,” for instance, you get a list of outcomes from various partners including Kitchen Stories and AllRecipes.

Each comes with a list of ingredients and step-by-step procedures that Alexa walks you through. A number of recipes come along with video tutorials, which is an added feature that Google does not provide at present.

Two Browsers By Default

Also interesting is the fact that the Echo Show now has two browsers built in Amazon’s Silk and Firefox – and both can be launched simply by saying, “Alexa, open Silk,” or “Alexa, open Firefox.”

Both browsers can be used to access all your online accounts and social media. It is worth noting that although the Echo Show is majorly voice-activated, the browsers sometimes require data (such as URLs and login passwords) to be inputted using an on-screen keyboard. A microphone button on the keyboard can be touch if you prefer to speak instead, but it may be easier just to type.

The browsers can also help you access YouTube.com, which is pretty cool, seeing that Google cut off YouTube integration from the first version of Echo Show and limited it to their own smart displays only. In fact, directly accessing the YouTube website via the browsers may even prove more functional than the YouTube app on Google smart displays, as you can access all your favorite channels and subscriptions when you pass through the browsers, which isn’t possible on the app. If you try to access YouTube TV through the browser, you will be redirected to download the app from Play Store, which isn’t possible on the Echo Show.

Doorbell Feature

An additional fresh feature that comes with this new Echo Show is its compatibility with Ring video doorbells. This way, you can use it to view your visitors, and also talk to them through the mic if you so wish before you let them in. The Nest Hello video doorbell is handled as just a normal camera by Echo Show. It can be used in viewing who’s outside your door without any other communication whatsoever, which makes it not so useful. Nest Hello is fully functional on Google’s smart displays.

Echo Show can also be used to access other security cameras you may have installed around your house. By saying, “Alexa, discover my devices,” the Echo Show’s new Smart Home Discovery feature will kick in, just like in the Echo Plus. The Echo Show’s local home hub feature allows smart devices to communicate amongst themselves even in the absence of internet connection.

Videocalls Capabilities

Just like the first Echo Show and the Echo Spot, the 2018 Echo Show can be used to make video calls, via a 5-megapixel front camera and inbuilt mic. Skype compatibility should be added soon, which will be much more practical than Google’s smart displays that only offer Duo for video calls, as most people are already accustomed to Skype.

In spite of all the refinements that Amazon has made, Echo Show is far from perfect. Google maps would have been nice to have, and it would have been cool if it were compatible with Nest Hello too. Also, a lot of people prefer Google search results to Bing, which is what Alexa uses. Additionally, although it is pretty cool to be able to access YouTube on the browser, it isn’t quite as smooth as if you only had to say, “Play YouTube.”

Drawing a Conclusion

All things considered, the 2018 Echo Show is a significant improvement on the older model. The audio quality is superb, it has a much sleeker design, and there are so much more entertainment options, although the display does leave much to be desired. The price tag pegged at $230 is also comparatively reasonable, $20 below Google’s smart displays from both Lenovo and JBL.

If you have strong ties to the Google world, you would probably want to wait a while and see what Google will release. Perhaps, the much-anticipated Home Hub may turn out to be a better choice. But if you’re a fan of Amazon or Hulu, then you might want to check out the Echo Show.