Amazon has been aggressive with extending its Alexa platform in 2017, no doubt spurned by the advances of Google, and now Apple, into the connected speaker market. One of the more intriguing additions to the Echo lineup is the new Echo Show, which is available in white or black for $229.99 starting this week. The big difference is the addition of a 7-inch touchscreen and camera, which allow users to do things with an Echo that wasn’t possible before, like video calling and watching videos.
The big feature you’ve likely seen making the rounds on headlines this week is called “Drop In,” which allows anyone to start a video chat without you having to accept the call. It’s bizarre, creepy and confounding (why would Amazon think this was a good idea?), but the good news is that it’s disabled by default.
Despite that one horrendous miscalculation, the Echo Show does offer a bevy of interesting features that make it an intriguing and, potentially, useful device for a lot of users. Here are the five best:
A lot of writing about the Echo Show has, rightly, positioned the device as a great addition to your kitchen. Alexa has been able to help with recipes, timers and other kitchen needs for years, but the added screen on the Show makes it especially useful for the burgeoning chef. Now, you can see full recipes, watch instructional videos and have your timers visualized to give you a leg up when making dinner.
The other big added feature brought on by the advent of the screen is video calling. Users can employ the Echo Show to call anyone with the device or the Alexa app on their phone. Amazon may be hoping this will catch on and give juggernauts like Skype a run for its money, but it likely won’t. The Alexa app, for one thing, is not intuitive enough to catch on with the masses and how many people will jump on the Echo Show remains to be seen. But, it could make for an easy video calling setup for grandparents and grandkids, or as a calling station dedicated to your closest friends and family with the “Drop In” feature.
Audio quality has always been a sticking point for connected speakers. The original Echo offered supreme ease of use compared to wireless speakers like Sonos, allowing users to simply ask Alexa to play a song rather than having to dig out their phone, but it couldn’t come close in the sound department. The Echo Show is still not on the same level as the better wireless speakers on the market, but it does shorten the gap significantly. Add in the same simplicity as with other Echo devices, and the Show could become the first choice for music in many homes.
Another addition brought on by the new screen, the Show allows users to watch videos from YouTube and Amazon Prime. The company would be wise to add in other streaming platforms, especially Netflix, soon but in the meantime you can at least indulge in Prime’s substantial catalog or catch up on your favorite YouTube channels while you do the dishes.
Obviously, the Echo Show is still an Echo, meaning it can do all the wondrous things other Alexa enabled devices can do. The difference here is that you get an extra layer of information thanks to the display. Now you can see your timers, and avoid Alexa’s absurdly long announcement of how many timers you have, how long they were each set for and how much time is remaining, get additional information about the weather and numerous other little touches. Amazon still has a bit of work to do in this department to take full advantage of the touchscreen (for instance, if you ask about a local restaurant, you can’t tap or swipe to get directions) but there is no doubting it adds a level of detail.