For a while, Amazon Echo smart speakers were just that β speakers. But now there's an alternative to the simple Amazon Echo. Yes, the Amazon Echo Show can offer visual feedback, as well as audio, thanks to its 7-inch screen. But which is best for you?
Which is more attuned to your particular needs? Does the screen make the Alexa experience that much better? Read on to find out, and don't forget to check out our Amazon Alexa guide.
Amazon Echo vs Echo Show: Design
These two devices couldn't look more different. One is a tall cylinder, while the other is a wider, flat slab. One has a display, and one has a whole bunch of speakers.
We've found that the second generation Echo is handsome enough to fit in with the rest of the home. It tends to blend in a little better than the Show, and it's much easier to fit somewhere because of its smaller footprint. And the now-iconic blue ring at the top gives it a nice flourish.
Since the Echo is a speaker, and it's purpose-built for audio, there's a certain magic to the way it listens and responds. No matter where you're standing in relation to the Echo, you can hear it perfectly well. It's not going to blow you away with sound quality β we don't think it makes a great music speaker, even with Alexa's equaliser β but it sounds good enough.
The Echo Show, on the other hand, is a bit ugly. Things have improved since the first generation, which looked more like an old portable TV than any type of speaker, but it's still not quite as nice as the family of Google Smart Displays. Its slab-like design and display mean it doesn't blend in quite so well. It's also got a large footprint, which means it's more likely you'll have to move things around to make room.
Of course, this is all because the Echo Show has a display. This is angled slightly upwards, so you'll want it at a level that lets you see it clearly without craning your neck β especially if you plan on using the video chat. Since it's pointing in one direction, unlike the Echo speaker, if you're on the wrong side of the Show you're just not going to hear it as well.
So, while some may like the display of the Show β it kind of feels like a digital picture frame at times β the slender and handsome Echo is more likely to better fit into your home, and sound better, too.
Amazon Echo vs Echo Show: Features
The Echo and Echo Show share plenty of the same Alexa-based features, such as setting timers, checking the weather, listening to news updates and controlling your smart home devices. However, the Show's display also adds a whole host of new abilities that the Echo can't perform.
The most obvious is video. That 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800 display isn't the best thing you're going to watch video on, but it's good enough for small bouts of video-based entertainment. You can also, if you choose, watch shows and movies on Amazon Prime Video, or video news reports from the likes of CNN.
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The Show also has a small camera above the display, which means you can use it to video chat to friends and family. In our experience, the video chat worked fine and was pretty seamless, but having your video chat device be a fixed point can be uncomfortable. You better hope you have it in a place that can showcase you while you relax, rather than forcing you to stand in one spot in your kitchen. You can also use that camera to take fun pics of yourself, but it's a small amusement that'll likely get boring fast. By the way, you can also use Amazon video calling with the Alexa app. So you can video call from your smartphone to a Show and vice versa. That's pretty cool.
You can also call people via the Echo, but it's audio only, obviously. Regardless, the ability to call people from your Echo and basically have a speakerphone chat is convenient. This, like the video chat, also works from your smartphone via the Alexa app. Similarly, the Echo will also let you use Drop In, Amazon's feature that allows you to instantly call in to a trusted family member or a friend's home. It's the digital equivalent of arriving at someone's home unannounced, but, of course, the major difference is that the Echo does this audio-only, while the Show will show you a translucent fog for 10 seconds (if they have an Echo Show, that is).
The more subtle differences are Alexa's abilities, which are slightly tweaked for the Show. Rather than just ask Alexa about the weather, the Show's Alexa can show you the weather for the week. The benefit here, for example, is that you don't have to listen for forecast to be spelled out for the next seven days. It's faster, and if you're more of a visual person then it's far more convenient than listening. This extends to stuff like timers, movie times and more. In some instances, it just makes more sense to have a visual component.
So, while the Echo has proved immensely useful for a lot of people, the Show becomes even more useful in some ways by adding the ability to show you things. It can more quickly convey the information you ask for, and it's far more convenient in the kitchen, where it can show you recipe directions step-by-step instead of just sending them to your phone for reference. On the other hand, if you don't mind taking the time to listen and you don't need video chat then the Echo is a better option.
Amazon Echo vs Echo Show: Skills
The Echo Show is compatible with all the Alexa skills you know and love, but it's also got a particular set of skills unique to its abilities β video. Skills like Allrecipe and Food Network have been updated so you can see the information Alexa is giving you, so, for example, when you use Allrecipes, it'll list the ingredients and directions for you to see and reference. The Food Network skill, similarly, will play short videos that walk you through the recipes.
Other skills, like Jeopardy!, have been upgraded for more basic visual interaction. So you can see the categories and questions instead of β once again β relying on audio only. There's also a whole new set of smart home integrations available. You can now view your smart security cam footage right from your Show.
One problem we've found with the Show is that not all the skills have been adapted for the screen, so in some cases you're met with a blank display as Alexa talks to you. And that's still true over two years on from the original launch.
Amazon Echo vs Echo Show: Price
The $64.99 second-generation Amazon Echo is much less expensive than the $179.99 Echo Show. That said, the latter is often found at an even bigger discount on Amazon, so if you do want to pick one up, we'd recommend waiting and grabbing it with the reduction.
And there's also the Echo Dot, which currently rings in at $29.99 and is far more compact than the Echo. The only thing you're losing is a higher quality speaker, but it can do everything else the taller Echo can, at a budget price.
Amazon Echo vs Echo Show: Which is best?
The Echo Show is bursting with potential. Its ability to both show and tell you information gives it much more variety over the standard Echo. That, plus its ability to video chat people with either an Echo Show or the Alexa app on their phone is a wonderful perk.
And while the Echo can also call people, the video chat on the Show could be a nice extra for those who would like another way to talk to friends and family, or those who often find themselves on Skype.
However, the Echo is still better value. Not only can you opt for the cheaper Echo Dot, but it feels a lot more mature. The skills are more ready, Alexa's abilities are there and the price is there. With the Show, we're still waiting on the device to catch up with the rest of the ecosystem.
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