Amazon Echo Show guide: Everything you need to know about the 2018 edition

Get some popcorn and enjoy the show

Amazon Echo Show (2018) guide
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When the Amazon Echo Show launched last June, it became the first Alexa speaker to feature a screen - but it wasn't the best looking, nor did it offer the friendliest integrations.

As part of its 2018 refresh, though, Amazon has now announced a second generation Show, launching on 11 October in the US and UK, that brings an all-new design and an ability to act as a Zigbee smart home hub.

We'll dive into all the details below, but the basic advantages of the Show over standard speakers is obvious. With a screen, the Amazon Echo Show can do things the other Echo devices can't. All of a sudden, you don't have to just listen to Alexa's responses, you can see them. And the ecosystem of visual Amazon Echo Show Skills is growing by the week.

Read this: Amazon Echo Show 2018 first look

But with a new Show in our midst, there's plenty to understand, and below we've explained everything you need to know. It'll be priced at $229.99, making it a more costly investment than a standard Echo and the Echo Dot, so be sure to cover all the bases before making the investment.

What is the Echo Show?

Amazon Echo Show guide: Everything you need to know about the 2018 edition

The Echo Show, as we say, is essentially an Echo with a touchscreen display. The new 10-inch display fundamentally changes the look of the device, and is greatly improved from the 7-inch screen present in the boxy first generation. Things are still angled upward, but a new fabric design helps integrate it with the rest of the Echo range and a new interface makes it much easier to navigate.

Read this: Amazon Alexa missing manual

Gone is the giant speaker that sat below the display and boomed out Alexa's voice, with the new design instead hiding the Dolby dual 2-inch drivers and a passive bass radiator behind the fabric on the rear. Only time will tell if this proves to be more effective at helping sound be delivered in all directions, instead of the one direction found in the first iteration. With eight microphones onboard, too, we're hoping that voice recognition is also more consistent.

Something that remains, however, is the small front-facing camera. This can be used to take pictures if you so wish, but the killer feature here is video calls, which brings a visual dimension to Alexa calling and Skype calls, which we'll come onto below.

You also don't exactly need an Echo Show to have an Echo Show. Amazon's Fire Tablets are now updated with something called Show Mode, which essentially turns your Fire Tablet into an Echo Show. There's even a Show Mode Charging Dock that'll hold your tablet up for you while you scroll across its UI and shout commands.

How does video calling work?

Amazon Echo Show guide: Everything you need to know about the 2018 edition

The Echo Show has both a display and a front-facing camera, and that means that it can be used to video call people. Specifically, it allows you to video call people with either an Echo Show or the Alexa app on their phone. You can either initiate a call by asking Alexa to call someone ("Alexa, call dad"), or you can ask it to answer or decline an incoming video call.

Speaking of incoming calls, the Echo Show has another feature called Drop In, which is intended for you to use with your closest family and friends – the kind of people you'd give a copy of your house keys to, y'know? That's because Drop In is essentially a digital version of that. When you ask Alexa to Drop In on someone, it'll let you immediately start chatting with them. However, there are 10 seconds of translucent fog before the video pops in, so you won't catch them completely off guard.

Drop In is disabled by default, and you have to choose who – if anyone – you want to be able to drop in on you. If you have multiple Echo Show devices, you can also choose which ones are allowed to be dropped in on and which aren't.

Through the new generation, calling through Alexa can also be handled by Skype, which opens up video calls to those who don't have a Show, Spot or the Alexa app downloaded. This will be landing later this year, Amazon say.

What new things can the Echo Show do?

Amazon Echo Show guide: Everything you need to know about the 2018 edition

Through the original Echo Show, you could already get a more visual look at the likes of timers, weather reports, kitchen recipes, your calendar and your music. But with the 2018 edition, more is coming to bolster the experience.

For starters, playing video through the Show is being upgraded in the new generation. There's now live TV available, with Prime Video, Hulu integration and even the ability to play back TV recordings when you pair it with a Fire TV Recast.

This Recast is basically a mix between a Slingbox and TiVo. It acts as an antenna to pick up over-the-air TV programming and allows you to record it like a DVR. When paired with a Fire TV device, it'll add a DVR menu. It also will play your TV shows and movies on practically any device - including the Show.

The device also, crucially, now comes with Amazon's Silk Browser, which means that you'll be able to watch both YouTube and YouTube TV via the browser - something which wasn't an option through the first generation, after the app was cut.

What about the skills?

If you've only used the standard Alexa speakers before, you'll have to learn some of the assistant's Show-centric capabilities. All kinds of companies have been updating their skills with Echo Show support over the past year, in order to advantage of that big display and camera, so make sure to head over to our dedicated Skills brief to get the most out of your Show.

Best Amazon Echo Show skills

The most immediately useful application of visual skills is in the kitchen. Food Network and Allrecipes have both updated their skills to take advantage of the display. Food Network will play cooking tutorials, so you can follow along while you cook in the kitchen. Similarly, the Allrecipe app will either play video or list out the recipe so you can quickly reference it as you cook. And this has been improved through the new interface for 2018, letting you go step-by-step and even skip forward or back at different stages.

That's not all, either. Some apps, like CNN's Flash Briefing, have a video component so you can get a video flash briefing (you just have to say "Alexa, play my video flash briefing"). Below is a list of some of the most useful skills making use of the Show's display and camera.

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Echo Show 5 - Buy two, save $30
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Echo Dot Kids Edition - Buy two, save $30
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Echo Show - Buy two, save $100
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Echo Dot - Buy two, save $20

Get started with some Amazon Echo Show commands

“Alexa, take a photo” – Alexa will take a hands-free selfie and upload it to Prime Photos.

“Alexa, what’s the weather like today?”

"Alexa, call an Uber" – With the Show, you'll be able to see visual updates on the status of your ride

"Alexa, play the trailer for [movie]"

"Alexa, ask Kayak how much it costs to fly from [place] to [place]" – With the Show, you'll see a list of options, which is easier to digest than listening to Alexa read them all out.

"Alexa, show me the lyrics"

"Alexa, show my front door camera" – If you have the Ring Video Doorbell, Alexa will show you a live feed from the doorbell on your Show. You can do a similar trick with the Nest Camera.

"Alexa, what movies are showing nearby?"

Controlling the smart home

Amazon Echo Show guide: Everything you need to know about the 2018 edition

Arguably, the new Echo Show has leapfrogged the Echo Plus as the most attractive option to control your smart home. Like the Plus, it now features a Zigbee controller, eliminating the need for hubs for specific devices like bulbs and smart security systems. And the reason this is more attractive on the Show than the Plus, naturally, is because of that 10-inch screen visualising things for you.

With the improved internals, you can now say "Alexa, discover my devices" and add a bunch of new tech to your smart home. There's a new two-way talk feature for Ring and August doorbells, which upgrades on the simple video feed you were given through the first generation.

Read this: How to use your security camera with your Echo

It can also pair with Nest cameras, to let you check up what's happening outside or in another room, and control your Nest Thermostat from the Show as you would from other Echo devices.

And for devices that don't agree with the new Zigbee smarts, you can still hook up your Echo Show to the likes of your Yale lock via the SmartThings or Wink hub, meaning you'll be able to control the lock on the front door with voice. So you can see who's outside on the Show's display and ask it to unlock the door if it's someone you want to let in.

Setting it up

Just as with other Echo devices, setting up the Show is simple. You just turn it on and connect it to your Wi-Fi network. Rather than handle things via the Alexa app on your phone, however, you'll just type in your information on the Show itself. It does have a touchscreen display, after all.

All you have to do is make sure you have an Amazon account. If you have an Amazon Prime account, that's even better, as you'll have access to Prime Music, Video and Photos. Top tip: be sure to set your location in the app, as this will make Alexa more useful with certain features.

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