Echo Show 2 review

With the original Echo Show, Amazon added a new dimension to the smart speaker. To critics, the device was little more than a station tablet. For Amazon, however, the product unlocked a new vertical in the rapidly expanding category. The day to usefulness wasn’t always clear, but the potential certainly was, as Amazon and the […]

With the original Echo Show, Amazon added a new dimension to the smart speaker. To critics, the device was little more than a station tablet. For Amazon, however, the product unlocked a new vertical in the rapidly expanding category. The day to usefulness wasn’t always clear, but the potential certainly was, as Amazon and the competition looked to corner the smart home market.

Like most of the company’s first generation products, however, the hardware wasn’t great. The first Show was big and clunky. It looked dated before it even arrived in living rooms and kitchens. But it got the job done.

While the company hasn’t released sales figures for the product, the first gen clearly sold briskly in its early days, according to rankings. The numbers were ultimately hobbled by a war with Google that resulted in YouTube being pulled from the platform, but on a whole, the device appears to be a hit.

It’s already inspired a number of copycats. In January, Google announced a new Smart Display category relying on third parties to product their own Assistant-powered take on the device. And later this week, it’s expected to introduce its own competitor, the Home Hub. It’s fitting, then, that the second-gen Show bears Google’s unmistakable influence. Heck, it’s kind of theme in this latest batch of Echo devices.

There’s little question that the new show is much better looking product than its predecessor. The big, thick, plasticky look has been traded in for something a bit more homey, with a softer, fabric covering. The front, which was previously home to both display and speaker, is now all screen — meaning those tablet comparisons aren’t going away any time soon.

Still, from a pure design perspective, Lenovo’s Smart Display is the one to beat. It’s still far and away the best looking of the bunch — though the aforementioned Home Hub could give it a run for its money in the near future.

The design choice means there’s a lot more room for screen, which has been increased from seven to 10.1 inches (with a still fairly sizable bezel). That extra real estate makes the product a more compelling offering for watching short videos or episodic TV shows (I don’t know that I’d recommend it for a full film just yet) and finally offers enough space for something like a browser to make sense on the product.

The speaker, meanwhile, has been moved to the rear of the device. It’s a decision that makes sense from an aesthetic perspective, but is a bit less than practical. When listening to music while writing this review, I found myself actually flipping it around.

Sound quality has been notably improved with improved drivers and Dolby bass, but things get a bit muffled when faced away from you. The bass is also a bit too powerful for its own good here, contributing to a muddying of the sound quality. Thankfully, Alexa now understands you when you ask her to turn down the bass.

Things improve a bit when you place it around six inches from a wall, reflecting the sound back at you. Of course, not every home set up can accommodate that orientation. Either way, I wouldn’t recommend looking to the Show as your primary music listening device. Apple and Google’s high end speakers simply sound better — or build your own using the various modular pieces the company announced at its last event.

With a larger display, the new Show demands touch. Amazon clearly recognized this during the redesign. While, like its predecessor, it’s designed to be voice-first device touch-based interactions are more prevalent here.

Exhibit A is the addition of Firefox. It’s a bit of a strange one. You can call it up with an, “Alexa, open Firefox,” but actually browsing the web is a bit trickier. There’s no skill yet for, say, “open TechCrunch.com in Firefox.” Rather, you’ll have to open Firefox and either type the URL with two fingers, or click the microphone icon to speak it.

It’s a nice option certainly, if a bit clunky. Also, there’s no multitouch pinch to zoom here — in fact, so far as I can tell, there’s no way to zoom in at all. What the browser does afford, however, is a workaround for YouTube. Say “Alexa, open YouTube,” and the Show will offer you the choice of watching content in either Firefox or the Silk browser. Sure, it’s not ideal compared to a native app, but until the companies kiss and make up, or, more likely, Amazon launches its own competing service, it will have to do.

The other big news here is a bit of a no-brainer. After bringing smart home hub functionality to the Echo line with the Plus, Amazon has done the same with the Show. The smart screen now features a Zigbee hub inside. Connecting devices is pretty straightforward — just put them in pairing mode and say “Alexa, discover my devices.” If everything goes right, the whole process should take under a minute.

Thankfully, an app redesign has arrived alongside the new devices, so those smart devices can be accessed on your mobile device, along with the Show. The app also lets users routines around groups of devices, so you can, say, turn up the lights, turn on the coffee and get the day’s news (shudder) with an “Alexa, good morning.”

The new Show is nice upgrade over its predecessor. It’s better looking, has a bigger screen and improved (if backwards) speakers, while smart home hub functionality and last year’s addition of security camera monitoring make it a control panel for the smart home. The ball is in your court, Google.

Hulu is first to live stream TV to Amazon’s Echo Show

Amazon’s Echo Show will apparently also work like a little TV, not just a visual interface for Alexa and her many apps. When the newly announced 10-inch HD screen Echo Show begins shipping next month, it will offer support for Hulu – the first live streaming TV service to work on the screen-based Alexa device. […]

Amazon’s Echo Show will apparently also work like a little TV, not just a visual interface for Alexa and her many apps. When the newly announced 10-inch HD screen Echo Show begins shipping next month, it will offer support for Hulu – the first live streaming TV service to work on the screen-based Alexa device. Users will be able to tune into Hulu with Live TV using just their voice, by saying things like “Alexa, play…” followed by the name of TV show, movie or channel.

Amazon also tells us that the streaming won’t be limited to only the new Echo Show devices – the first gen Echo Show will support live streaming, too.

Company execs at Amazon said at an event last week that one of the primary use cases for Echo Show was in the kitchen – and the new device takes particular advantage of that, by offering step-by-step cooking instructions from apps like Kitchen Stories, Allrecipes, Epicurious, Food52, TheKitchn and SideChef.

But there are many other times you’re working in the kitchen, but not following a specific recipe, when you’d rather just have the TV on to keep you entertained instead. That’s where Hulu’s live streaming service comes in. You could have the news on, or a game, or whatever else you want to watch while you prep your meal.

Hulu was one of two TV apps announced for Echo Show, the other being NBC. But Hulu is the only one for now that supports live streamed TV.

As to why Hulu would bother building for what is still a fairly niche Echo device – after all, the top seller is the entry-level Dot, not the Show by any means – the company says it’s about engagement.

Since launching a voice app on Fire TV last November, Hulu says that those who use Alexa watch double the number of hours of content, compared with those who use remotes.

Separately from its live-streaming plans for Echo Show, Hulu also announced a redesigned web version last week. The updated site now supports multiple windows, picture-in-picture mode while browsing, and support for Chromecast.

Amazon Announces An Array Of New Alexa-Powered Echo And Home Automation Devices

Today has been quite the day for Amazon with the company announcing an absolute barrage of new Alexa-powered devices that will take the company’s hardware and services games to a whole new level. The sheer number of announcements is quite impressive, a…

Today has been quite the day for Amazon with the company announcing an absolute barrage of new Alexa-powered devices that will take the company's hardware and services games to a whole new level. The sheer number of announcements is quite impressive, and who knows, there may even be more yet to come!


[ Continue reading this over at RedmondPie.com ]

Amazon Announces An Array Of New Alexa-Powered Echo And Home Automation Devices

Today has been quite the day for Amazon with the company announcing an absolute barrage of new Alexa-powered devices that will take the company’s hardware and services games to a whole new level. The sheer number of announcements is quite impressive, a…

Today has been quite the day for Amazon with the company announcing an absolute barrage of new Alexa-powered devices that will take the company's hardware and services games to a whole new level. The sheer number of announcements is quite impressive, and who knows, there may even be more yet to come!


[ Continue reading this over at RedmondPie.com ]

Amazon’s new Echo Show up close and hands-ons

The Show was far and away the Echo product most in need of a makeover. The original device, introduced two years back, was far more concerned with function than form — that, of course, is in line with many of the company’s hardware offerings, which are often designed to simply show what things like Alexa […]

The Show was far and away the Echo product most in need of a makeover. The original device, introduced two years back, was far more concerned with function than form — that, of course, is in line with many of the company’s hardware offerings, which are often designed to simply show what things like Alexa are capable of.

The original show was big and boxy, with an out of whack body-to-display ratio that took up a lot of space on whatever desk or kitchen counter it might be placed. The refreshed version is far more aesthetically pleasing than its predecessor. That’s important, because unlike products like the Echo or Echo Dot, you can’t exactly stash the product away if you intend on interacting with the display.

While the new smaller design and cloth backing are certainly an upgrade, Lenovo still leads the design pack with its simply title Smart Display for Google Assistant. Google made the right choice here by leading with hardware partnerships to bring its concept to market. That said, the product should look at home in most kitchen.

Even more important than design language are the surface-level hardware upgrades. Screen size was one of my chief complaints with the original Show, and this generation effectively doubles it. Like Google’s Smart Displays, the product really does appear to be a tablet affixed to a speaker backing.

Interestingly, the new Show does support multi-touch. That’s certainly a handy and much welcome addition, though honestly, you’ll ultimately get limited use out of it. After all, the product is designed to be a voice device first and foremost, so the vast majority of interactions you’ll have with the thing won’t involve actually touching it.

That said, there are some compelling new additions that certainly benefit from the feature — including the addition of the Firefox browser. Of course, touch typing on a screen like this is a pain, so you’re probably not going to spend that much time doing it.

Of course, the on-going Amazon/Google battle means no native YouTube support. Of course, Amazon’s found a workaround in the form of a desktop shortcut. The browser means you should also be able to access videos that way — a kind of workaround until the company inevitably launches its own competitor.

The sound has also been greatly improved here, as evidenced by today’s showcase. It’s still not good enough to serve as your primary listening device — of course, the company’s got the workaround for that, in the form of the Sub and Link. Or you can go the Sonos route, but this is an Alexa family, damn it.

Like its predecessor, the new device will run you $330.

Tap to Alexa brings more accessibility features to the Echo Show

Amazon announced some new features this morning aimed at bringing more accessibility to the Echo line. At the top of the list is Tap to Alexa (not to be confused with the Amazon Tap, mind), which circumvents the need to use voice to interact with the Echo Show. The new feature essentially turns the device […]

Amazon announced some new features this morning aimed at bringing more accessibility to the Echo line. At the top of the list is Tap to Alexa (not to be confused with the Amazon Tap, mind), which circumvents the need to use voice to interact with the Echo Show.

The new feature essentially turns the device into a touchscreen tablet, by clicking the feature on in settings. Once enabled, users can choose from a number of shortcuts to add to the home screen. The list includes news and weather, along with customizable functions, like the ability to turn specific smart home devices on and off, using text inputs.

It’s a simple solution, but it should offer a way into the Alexa ecosystem for users unable to audio cues to interact with the system. It’s the kind of thing that Amazon could really only add once it introduced displays into the mix.

Same goes for Alexa Captioning. The feature was introduced for U.S. customers a few months back, and now it’s being rolled out to those in the U.K., Germany, Japan, India, France, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The addition will offer an on-screen text-based Alexa responses on both the Echo Show and Spot.

Taken together, the two features should help Amazon appeal to a whole new group of users.