Is the Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) Worth the Money?
  • Larger, higher resolution screen
  • Now with Skype calls too
  • Convenient smart home controls
  • Fire HD 8 can do almost the same thing for less money
  • Not a full HD display
  • Automatic brightness is iffy
8Overall Score

Alexa, what’s the capital of Kazakhstan? Alexa, where’s my stuff? Alexa, play Song Quiz! We’ve gotten to the point where these smart assistants are very much a part of our everyday lives. However, mostly up until now, our interaction has been voice-based. With the 2nd generation Amazon Echo Show, the “smart screen” revolution is ramping up its mainstream appeal. But when you consider that you can get the regular Echo smart speaker for less than half the price, do you want to pony up those Bison Bucks to add a 10-inch HD display?

An All-New Echo Show

First, a little bit of context. You might remember that the first generation Echo Show only had a 7-inch screen. And the giant speaker underneath the display made for a much bulkier-looking design. With this sophomore effort, Amazon went with more of a wedge style shape, pushing those speakers to the back so that the front is mostly all screen.

This is decidedly more attractive, especially since we get a bigger, higher resolution screen to go with it. But while this is perfectly fine on a kitchen counter, your audio experience may suffer a little if the Echo Show gets crowded on a bookshelf. The sound will still come through, but it’ll obviously work best if the speakers are given some space.

Unsurprisingly, I find the larger, more conventionally-shaped display here to be much more practical than the Amazon Echo Spot. You get access to all of the same Alexa skills, including the video skills, but things don’t get cut off by a round screen. Conveniently, you can swipe down from the top to get at the settings panel, just as you would on a tablet.

There’s quick access back to the home screen, as well as your alarms, lights and more (smart home stuff), routines, settings, do not disturb, and screen brightness. Adaptive brightness is available; however, you need to go into the actual display settings to enable or disable it. You won’t find it on this quick settings panel, which seems like such an obvious oversight.

The Alexa experience is a familiar one, including Spotify streaming, Prime video streaming, flash briefings, adding items to your shopping list, getting the weather, controlling smart home components, and making video calls.

But What About the Fire Tablet?

My first reaction to the 2nd-generation Echo Show was that it didn’t feel all that necessary anymore. Even if you don’t get the optional Show Mode Dock, you can get a Show-like experience on the decidedly more affordable Fire HD 8 tablet (including the newer 8th generation model). Just plug it in, swipe down, and enable Show mode.

And that’s true… sort of. The 8-inch screen on the Fire HD 8 is naturally smaller than the 10-inch screen on the Echo Show. That being said, you could get the Fire HD 10 instead and put yourself in the same league. While I haven’t had a chance to test the Fire HD 10, the display on the Fire HD 8 does appear to be inferior to the one on the Echo Show. The latter is brighter and more vibrant.

The Amazon Echo Show also gets those eight far-field microphones that the tablet does not, as well as much louder speakers for a better overall experience too. But these aren’t the only differences either.

Alexa Calls and Drop-In

One of the great features that you’ll find with the Echo range of products is the ability to complete voice and video calls through Alexa. Amazon also recently announced that Skype calls are available on this product range too. That’s great news, especially when you add the “drop-in” functionality where you can initiate a call without the other end “picking up” the call. Of course, you’ll restrict this to trusted friends and family only.

Here’s the thing. Only actual Echo devices can accept an incoming Alexa call or drop-in request. You can do an outgoing call on the Fire tablet or via the Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet, but you can’t do incoming. You need an Echo for that. Whether this difference is worth the price differential is up to you.

The Audio-Visual Experience

All said, the overall experience with the Echo Show is generally superior to that of the Fire HD 8 tablet. The screen is bigger, brighter, and higher resolution. The speakers are louder and clearer. The multiple microphones allow your voice to be picked up from across the room, even over music. And even the front-facing camera is better for those Alexa and Skype video calls.

Again, though, there are some caveats to keep in mind. The Fire HD 8 tablet is still a tablet, so it is portable. It also has access to the Amazon Appstore for all kinds of games and apps and utilities. The Echo Show has access to Alexa Skills, but it’s not quite the same thing. And, of course, it needs to be tethered to the wall for power too. While there is some overlap, these are two different classes of product.

Show Me the Money?

If you’re already well ensconced in the Amazon ecosystem with Prime Video, Prime Photos, Amazon Music and all the rest of it, you’ll find a lot to like here. If you like being to tap into your Amazon account using voice, like checking on shipping status, you’ll like this too. And then you’ve got all those Alexa Skills (I’ve been playing Jeopardy every day) to boot.

For my part, I generally prefer Google Assistant over Amazon Alexa, but that’s largely because I’m more heavily invested in the former’s ecosystem. We do need to bear in mind that these smart screens aren’t the cheapest things in the world either (though they’re not crazy expensive either). It’s just a matter of deciding whether you want to have this kind of device in your home. The experience is much better than Show mode on the Fire tablet, but it’s also more than twice the price.

The all new Amazon Echo Show (2nd generation) is available now for $229.99 US or $299.99 Canadian. It comes in your choice of Charcoal (dark gray) or Sandstone (as shown). For context, a Fire HD 8 is $79.99 US ($129.99 Canadian), a Fire HD 10 is $149.99 US ($199.99 Canadian), and a standard Echo is $99.99 US ($129.99 Canadian). The price difference is nothing to sneeze at.

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