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Amazon Echo Show 15 Review

Verdict

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That new large display and the way the Amazon Echo Show 15 uses widgets are excellent, as are the options to wall- or stand-mount. As the centrepiece to a kitchen, acting as a family hub, this larger Echo Show could find a place in many homes. Yet, for all that it brings extra, sound quality isn’t as good as the older models, nor is the webcam. At this price, the smaller Echo Show 10 is a better and more versatile smart display for most people.

Pros

  • Widgets add useful extra features
  • New, larger display is excellent
  • Wall or optional desk mount

Cons

  • Audio is lacking
  • Basic webcam

Availability

  • UKRRP: £239.99
  • USARRP: $238.99

Key Features

  • Screen sizeThis smart display has a 15-inch screen, the largest in the Echo Show line-up.
  • StreamingYou can watch Netflix or Amazon Prime Video natively, plus play music from Amazon, Spotify or Apple Music.

Introduction

The Echo Show range kickstarted the demand for smart displays, showing that adding a screen really does add another dimension to smart interactions. All of the existing devices are really personal devices, designed to sit on a desk or countertop, but the new Amazon Echo Show 15 is different.

Built to be wall-mounted (or attached to an optional stand), this larger 15.6-inch Echo Show is designed to be a central hub, with shared family calendars, sticky notes and new widgets. And, with its 1080p resolution, Amazon is pitching this as a TV replacement, too.

The new interface is great, and I love using the larger display, but audio quality is below what you get on the Echo Show 10 and this new model doesn’t quite feel as essential.

Design and build quality

  • Wall mount included in the box
  • Picture-frame style design
  • Doesn’t stand up by itself

All previous Echo Show devices have been freestanding models that you plonk on a desk. Not so with the Echo Show 15, which comes in a picture-frame form factor that makes this device look more like the Netgear Meural Photo Frame. That’s no bad thing, with the black frame and white internal mount, the Echo Show 15 looks great.

Too thin to stand up by itself, the Echo Show 15 ships with a wall bracket, although you can buy an optional tilting desktop stand for £29.99, with additional mounts to come in the future.

Amazon Echo Show 15 rear

You can mount the display in portrait mode or landscape mode; I quite like portrait mode, although this does make it impractical for watching films.

Amazon Echo Show 15 portrait

Physical controls are similar to other recent Echo Show devices. There’s a physical slider to cover the webcam, plus a mute button that turns off the camera and microphones, plus volume controls.

Amazon Echo Show 15 controls

Features

  • Does what all other Alexa speakers do
  • Visual ID uses the camera to identify the user
  • Clever new widgets

As a touch-screen device, the Echo Show 15 can be connected to Wi-Fi and your Amazon account without touching the app. That makes this device very fast to set up and get working. Once connected, it does all of the things that the other Echo speakers do, from telling you about the weather, answering general questions and controlling smart devices.

Thanks to the display, you get more information than with a voice-only speaker, such as a visual display of the weather over the next week or on-screen controls to tweak the smart home command you issued (for example, if you turn on a light, you can adjust the brightness with your hand). My guide to Alexa goes into more detail, so here I’ll focus on what’s new.

Widgets are a big addition. With the larger 15.6-inch display, there’s now more real estate for customisable information. Amazon is allowing third-party developers to create their own widgets but, for now, there’s a choice of 12 to pick from.

Using the Widget Gallery, you can pick what you want on the home page, such as your shopping list, calendar events or recently played music. There’s a Smart Homes Favourites option, too, which pulls in your favourite devices that you set in the Alexa app. This gives you quick access to your most commonly-used devices, but I’d like to see more granularity and have favourites per group.

Amazon Echo Show 15 widgets

When I’m in the kitchen, you see, I want quick access to those lights and the thermostat; when I’m in the living room, I’d only want to see devices there.

Amazon Echo Show 15 sticky note

Sticky Notes are a new addition, letting anyone in the house leave a note for other people. This is part of Amazon’s goal of making the Echo Show 15 a central part of the house. You can also have a shared calendar.

Part of using an Echo device has always been about personalisation. Alexa has always been able to detect voices and then give personalised results, but this model adds Visual ID, using the camera to detect who’s looking at the screen in a similar way to Apple’s FaceID. 

Visual ID is entirely optional and all of the processing is handled on the device; buy a second Echo Show 15 and you’d have to run through the same registration process to get the display to recognise you. Visual ID will be coming to the Echo Show 10 and Echo Show 8 in the near future.

This device has a 5MP webcam for video calls, a distinct step down from the 13MP cameras in the Echo Show 10 and Echo Show 8 models. It’s fine for the occasional video call, but for a better experience, the Echo Show 10 and its motorised base that tracks and follows is the better choice.

Amazon Echo Show 15 camera shutter

Via the Amazon Alexa app, you can view the live view through the Echo Show 15’s camera, and talk to anyone that you can see. It’s a handy trick to see what’s going on in your home, but with no recording, this option doesn’t replace a dedicated security camera.

Amazon Echo Show 15 app webcam view

Sound quality

  • Lacks bass
  • Loud but doesn’t have the range of the other Echo smart displays

I’ve always found the Echo Show displays among the best for sound quality, with their relatively big cases capable of excellent bass. With the thinner body here, the Echo Show 15 is something of a step backwards.

There’s very little bass on offer. Using OK Go’s bass-heavy This Too Shall Pass, I didn’t get the full impact of the song and it sounded a little flat. Likewise, Rage Against the Machine’s Bombtrack doesn’t kick in with the impact that I’d expect.

There’s a good amount of stereo separation thanks to the width of the display and the dual 1.6-inch full drivers. Play Enough Space by the Foo Fighters, and the opening guitars do sound like they’re swirling around you.

The Echo Show 15 is capable of going loud, filling even a big room with sound. It lacks precision and subtlety. Play Hurt by Johnny Cash, and the track tends to merge in the mid-tones, and I couldn’t pick up the subtle sounds of Cash’s fingers sliding up and down the strings.

If you want a smart display that’s good for music, the Echo Show 10 or even Echo Show 8 sound better.

Video quality

  • Bright and sharp screen
  • Handles reflections well

Having a larger display is brilliant, and not just for the interface. With Netflix and Amazon Prime Video available (there’s no Disney+ just yet and YouTube is accessible through the clunky web browse), this screen is far better for watching video than on the Echo Show 10, while the smaller smart displays are, well, too small.

Amazon Echo Show 15 Netflix

It’s a quality display, too. Nice blacks, rich colours and good contrast mean that you can watch anything on this, in pretty much any lighting condition. For TV and films, the audio quality isn’t such an issue: the Echo Show 15 is loud enough to hear clearly, even if a little more bass would be nice.

For smaller kitchens, the Echo Show 15 could certainly take the place of a TV, although the number of services is a little limiting and you don’t get live TV. An HDMI input could have gone a long way here.

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Should you buy it?

If you want a larger screen and an Echo Show that you can wall mount, this model offers something different to the others in the range.

If you want the best sound quality, then other Echo Show models are better; and, if you want something cheaper, the Echo Show 8 makes more sense.

Final Thoughts

Available for the same price as the Echo Show 10, this larger model is well priced. For some, the wall mount option that keeps the smart display out of the way will be the right choice. Plus, the new interface and widgets give this display a feeling of something new, and I love the larger display.

Yet, for all that’s good, the webcam is a step backwards and audio is a little lacking. If you’ve got counter space, I think that the Echo Show 10 is a the better option at this price, while the Echo Show 8 remains the best value smart display.

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We use the same test tracks for each smart speaker to see how well each handles music.

FAQs

Does the Amazon Echo Show 15 have a touchscreen?

Yes it does, you can use this for on-screen control, such as selecting what to watch or controlling smart devices.

Can you put the Echo Show 15 on a desk or table?

Yes, but you will need to buy the optional tilt stand (£29.99).

Does the Echo Show 15 work with the Ring Doorbell?

Yes, if someone rings your doorbell, you’ll be able to see them on the Echo Show 15 and you can answer the door by tapping the on-screen answer button.

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