A couple of years ago, when we first purchased the Amazon Echo, we predicted that Amazon had a hit with this new voice-activated digital assistant/smart speaker. We were not wrong. In the past two years Amazon has not only sold millions of Echos, but they have expanded the Echo device franchise to include the Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Echo Look, and, now, the Echo Show. If you guessed that we had purchased all of these, you would be correct. Our latest purchase was the Echo Show which offers the biggest upgrade to date to the Echo device lineup.
The distinguishing feature of the Echo Show is that it has a 7-inch LCD touchscreen. All the previous Echo devices are simply speakers of different sizes and shapes that only take input via voice commands or a linked smartphone app. Of course, the Echo Show is still always listening for voice commands, just like the other Echo devices; and it features a very good speaker that can fill a room with music or other audio content. But the touchscreen interface on the Echo Show is what intrigued us and seduced us into forking over $230 for yet another Echo device.
After we took the device out of the box, the first thing we noticed is that the Echo Show is not cylindrical like the other Echo devices. It is more of a square and sits nicely on your desktop or countertop with the 7-inch touchscreen sitting atop the speaker base. So why would we want a touchscreen on our smart speaker? For starters, the touchscreen makes the device setup much easier and user-friendly. We were able to configure our new Echo Show very easily using the touchscreen controls.
Another touted benefit of the Echo Show video screen is the ability to conduct video calls with other Echo Show owners (since the Echo Show also has a built-in camera). Think of this as Amazon’s answer to Apple iPhone’s popular Facetime app. As we tested, we found that it is quite easy to “call” another Echo user (whether or not they have the Echo Show device or some other Echo device). If the other user has Echo Show or has the Alexa app on their smartphone, you can video chat handsfree. If the user you are calling just has the screenless Amazon Echo, you can make a voice call. We really like this sort of private phone network capability of the Echo ecosystem. If you have family or business associates that you regularly communicate with and they have an Echo in their home or office, it is very easy to simply initiate a chat with them by simply issuing a voice command to Echo. The quality of both the audio and video is pretty good.
Other uses for Echo Show’s screen are nice but not necessarily overwhelming. You can play YouTube videos, view Amazon Video content, see weather forecasts, stream music lyrics to your favorite songs, etc. Of course, all of this content can be viewed by simply issuing a voice command (if you can remember what to say). We had to keep our voice command cheat sheet near our Echo Show so we could remember the various commands available. As with the other Echo devices we expect that third-party products will begin to create integrations (or skills) that take advantage of the Show’s video screen. For example, while we do not have this integration, we understand that there are home security systems that integrate with Echo Show to allow you to view your home security cams remotely via the Show. At the time of our testing, however, there were no dramatic video integrations that we observed outside the video chat capability.
So, while we are generally thrilled with our newest gadget, we tend to only use the Echo Show for the same functions that we use our less expensive Amazon Echo, Tap, and Dot devices. We’re not sure why, but we have found it difficult to find anyone who wants to video chat with us. But, alas, that is not an Amazon problem. Just us. So, until we get some video chat partners or we see some really cool video integrations from third party vendors, we’ll just continue to use our Echo Show as a pretty expensive smart speaker that obeys our every command.