Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) Review

Bigger, better, more useful than the original

Verdict

The combination of voice and video proved to be a winner with the original, and the Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) improves on the original to deliver the ultimate Alexa experience. At its heart, the high-quality audio delivers the most compelling sound experience of any Echo speaker, making it a great choice for music or radio. The screen comes into its own, displaying more information from your Alexa commands, offering direct control over smart home devices and even letting you watch content from Amazon Prime Video (although the voice search is a little clunky). It's a touch expensive, but if you want the best Alexa experience then look no further.

Pros

  • Great display
  • Smart home control at your fingertips
  • Excellent audio quality
  • Can watch Amazon Prime Video

Cons

  • Relatively expensive
  • Poor YouTube access

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £219.99
  • Amazon Alexa built-in
  • Bluetooth
  • 10.1-inch Full HD touchscreen
  • 2x 2-inch drivers
  • 5-megapixel webcam

What is the Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen)?

The original Amazon Echo Show was my favourite smart speaker of last year. Combining a screen and voice assistant, being able to watch videos and retrieve on-screen information and voice responses proved to be a winning formula. With the Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen), we’re getting an improved version of what came before.

A bigger, higher-resolution screen makes the new Echo Show better for video, and for viewing your security camera footage. A new design, with a material-covered finish updates its look, too. In addition, with the built-in Zigbee hub offers control over your smart devices without the need for additional hubs.

A few niggles – a lack of Netflix and a bodged YouTube experience – detract slightly, but in general the new Echo Show offers an improvement over the original.

Related: Which Amazon Echo should I buy?

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) – Design and build quality

As is the case with many of Amazon’s early Echo products, the original Show was rather utilitarian and functional. There was nothing particularly wrong with the old model, but it wasn’t the kind of product that you’d be proud to have on display.

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) vs original

With the Echo Show (2nd Gen), Amazon has put in a little more effort into the design of its smart display. The new model remains fairly chunky from the front, but the soft-material rear (available in black or white) gives a far nicer finish. Given the Echo Show’s screen means it’s a device that needs to be visible, the new design is more suitable for display.

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) side

The new Google Home Hub is arguably the more attractive product, sporting a floating screen. The downside is that you get only a 7-inch display; the new Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) has a 10.1-inch Full HD display up from the 7-inch display of the original.

The compromise is that the new model is larger (246 x 174 x 107mm) than the old (187 x 187 x 90mm), but I think it’s a fair trade-off and would rather have the larger screen for this model given how it will be used. For anyone looking for something smaller, there’s the 7-inch Google Home Hub, which looks tiny next to the new Echo Show.

Related: Amazon Echo vs Google Home Hub

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) vs Google Home Hub

Around the back is the power input; there’s no audio output for hooking up external speakers, although you can use Bluetooth if you prefer. On top, sit the physical controls: volume and mic mute (for when you don’t want Alexa to listen in), which also turns off the camera for privacy.

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) controls

There’s a micro-USB port at the rear, which you can use with a USB-to-Ethernet adapter if you’d rather hard-wire your Echo Show to your home network. Eight fair-field microphones are designed to pick up your voice from anywhere.

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) –  Features

The main benefit of the Echo Show is that its touchscreen display is used to deliver more information than voice response only. So, ask about the weather and the screen pops up to display the forecast over the coming week. Ask about upcoming appointments and you can see them on-screen. And, you can interact with the display using touch – say, to cancel an upcoming appointment.

Voice-only responses can be overwhelming; it’s hard to take in all of the information. This is the reason Alexa often dumps more information into the phone app; with the Echo Show, everything you need is displayed on the screen right in front of you.

My Amazon Alexa Guide goes into greater detail on what the smart assistant can do, but for basic tasks Alexa works well – from getting upcoming appointments to finding information on local businesses. Google Assistant is a little easier to talk to and, since it’s powered by Google Search and Google Maps, provides more accurate results more of the time. Alexa relies on Bing and doesn’t pick up natural language quite as easily.

That said, Amazon has a huge app store full of Alexa Skills, which let you extend the assistant’s capabilities. There’s some real drivel in there (as is the case with most app stores), but there are plenty of quality skills to expand what Alexa can do.

Amazon Prime Video programmes can be played on the Echo Show using your voice to search for them. The interface doesn’t let you refine a search very easily. Search for a TV show, such as Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, and you get a single thumbnail on-screen. Tap this and the Echo Show will play the next episode you haven’t watched, rather than expanding to let you choose what you want to watch. It’s a shame that there’s no way to browse on your phone and then cast to the Echo Show (2nd Gen), or to use the touchscreen to more accurately choose what you want to watch.

Related: Which Amazon Echo should I buy?

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) Amazon Prime Video search

There’s no YouTube support directly, although you can launch the Firefox browser and tap the thumbnail. Using YouTube this way isn’t particularly easy. In addition, the web browser doesn’t work with all sites: go to Netflix, for example, and you’re told to put your phone in portrait mode, which you can’t do.

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) browser

Neither is the on-screen keyboard ideal for typing in web addresses, since the full stop is hidden away on a secondary keyboard layout, rather than with the alphanumeric characters.

You can play music from Spotify or Amazon Music. The latter displays lyrics on-screen, so you can sing along. If you want to go multi-room and play different tracks on different Echo devices, then you’ll need an Amazon Music Family account (£14.99 a month). That’s a little disappointing; Sonos lets you play different tracks in different rooms with a single Spotify account. In addition, Sonos makes grouping rooms together a fear more simple process compared to Amazon.

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) music from Amazon

Built-in recipe support lets the Echo Show (2nd Gen) become your partner in the kitchen – to a degree. When it works, recipes are shown clearly on-screen, allowing you to follow instructions step by step. The problem is that Alexa doesn’t always find what you want. I asked Alexa for a recipe for hollandaise sauce; the voice assistant tried to fob me off with one for bread sauce. That’s breakfast ruined.

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) recipes

The screen adjusts automatically to brightness, dimming at night so you won’t be bothered. You can schedule Do Not Disturb mode for the night hours, too.

There’s a 5-megapixel camera at the top of the screen, which can be used for Echo-to-Echo video calls. Quality is pretty good, displaing a sharp and detailed picture. Of course, you can make voice calls between Echo devices or use the drop-in feature to use the Echo Show as a kind of high-tech intercom system for your home.

If you want to do a bit of shopping, you can say, “Alexa, scan”, then hold up barcodes oo products for an automatic search of the Amazon store. It can be handy if you’re looking for a quick replacement for a product and have the barcode handy.

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) – Smart home

Smart home control is one of the main benefits of Alexa, with every major manufacturer supporting the voice assistant. Advanced controls, such as the ability to create routines, makes it easy to control multiple devices at once, too.

Related: How to create Amazon Alexa routines

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) routines

With a built-in Zigbee hub, the Echo Show can now control some smart home devices directly, rather than having to have a separate hub. It’s a feature that came with the first Amazon Echo Plus, but Amazon has done a bit of work behind the scenes to improve control.

Amazon Alexa App - add light

I connected some Philips Hue bulbs to the Echo Show (2nd Gen). With the new Alexa App, I could group the bulbs into rooms. More importantly, app control let me set the bulb colour, as well as brightness and toggling them on and off. This is a recent update; when the original Echo Plus launched, organisation and control was pretty poor.

Amazon Alexa App - light bulb colour

Now, for basic control over Hue lights, the Echo Show is pretty good – although still not perfect. I managed to pair a Philips Hue Dimmer Switch, but Alexa is unable to do anything with it. And, if you buy a Hue system then you get more control over light colours and scenes. The gap is closing and, this time around, the Zigbee hub is far more useful than it was a year ago.

For smart home control, the Echo Show adds an extra feature: direct control. Just swipe down on the top of the Show’s screen, then the Lights & More icon, and you can see recently controlled devices that you can tap to toggle on or off. Both groups and individual devices are shown.

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) smart home controls

Annoyingly, this feature only gives you on and off control right now; you can’t set a light’s brightness or colour. That’s a shame, since the app gives you that level of control now.

When you don’t want to use speech, the on-screen controls are handy, providing control via just a finger tap. A similar level of control has been added to the app, too.

Cleverly, more detailed on-screen controls for a light or room are put on-screen when you use a voice command. So, turn on your lounge light, for example, and you use the on-screen slider to adjust brightness. However, you can’t adjust colour. Brightness control shows that this is possible on the Echo Show, which makes the fact that the option isn’t included in the swipe-down menu even more frustrating.

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) light control

Compatible video products can be streamed to the Echo Show’s screen. A new update notifies you if a Ring Video Doorbell is used, and you’ll be able to answer the call straight from your Echo. For other cameras that have support via their skills, you can stream video to your Echo Show. That’s handy if you want to keep an eye on something, such as the front garden if you’re waiting for guests to turn up.

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) – Sound quality

Dual 2-in-1 neodymium stereo drivers and a passive bass radiator make the Echo Show (2nd Gen) one of the most powerful Echo devices around. It’s clear and loud, producing a prodigious amount of bass and a clarity that some of the other devices lack.

This is one Echo device on which I’d gladly listen to music; you won’t find yourself wishing for a separate set of speakers. You can pair it with an Amazon Echo Sub for better low-frequency sound. The system works well enough, but I’m not convinced this is a worthy upgrade. On its own, the Echo Show (2nd Gen) produces a fair amount of bass, so the upgrade isn’t noticeable. Second, the Echo Sub only works on music, not video content, so you won’t get bigger explosions or more depth to anything you watch on Amazon Prime Video. Still, for music, the Sub is a nice upgrade and gives the Echo Show more depth to its audio.

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) – Video quality

With a 10.1-inch Full HD display, the Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) is leaps and bounds ahead of the old model, which had a 7-inch 1024 x 600 screen. The new model is far better, then, for watching content.

I often caught up on Amazon Prime Video programmes on the old Show, but the new model makes this even easier – and you can see more of what’s going on. As a secondary display for a small kitchen or office, the improved screen size and resolution is handy.

While the Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen)’s screen can’t compete with a full-on TV, the video quality is actually pretty good. Decent contrast and dark enough blacks make it easy to watch practically anything.

Related: Best Bluetooth speaker

Why buy the Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen)?

The Echo Show (2nd Gen) certainly isn’t cheap, but it offers the best overall Alexa experience. The mixture of voice and on-screen info make for a winning combination. The larger display, combined with the clear audio, make the Echo Show (2nd Gen) far better for watching audio and listening to music.

The Zigbee hub adds an extra dimension, with the app now provides decent control over colour-changing light bulbs. But, for all that, the Echo Show (2nd Gen) doesn’t offer a perfect experience. The lack of Netflix is a shame, as is the browser-based YouTube fudge. And, the smart home controls on the show are useful, but why aren’t the same colour options available as in the Alexa app?

These aren’t deal breakers, and software updates will most likely fix many in time. Overall, the presentation, screen size and quality make the Echo Show (2nd Gen) a great choice for instances that you want more than just audio responses. For a cleaner interface and better search results, the Google Home Hub is a great choice – and it’s a lot cheaper, too.

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