Amazon Echo Show guide: Everything you need to know

It's time to sit back and enjoy the show

Amazon Echo Show guide

The Amazon Echo Show has been out and about for a while now. If you're looking to get the full verdict on what Amazon's display-enabled Alexa device is like, you can check out our full Amazon Echo Show review.

The Echo Show was the first device to boast a screen, though it's since been joined by the Echo Spot. Because it has a display, 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, albeit slowly, a new ecosystem of visual Amazon Echo Show Skills (or apps to the normal person) is springing up.

Thus, with a new device comes a lot more things you need to know. So let's get to it – here's everything you need to know about the first Echo to pack in a screen. It's priced at $229.99, making it a more costly investment than a standard Echo and the Echo Dot.

Amazon Echo Show
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What is the Echo Show?

The Echo Show is an Echo with a touchscreen display. The 7-inch display fundamentally changes the look of an Echo device. So rather than utilising a cylindrical design, it's more of a boxy affair, with the display angled upward.

Read this: Amazon Alexa missing manual

Below the display is a giant speaker that booms out Alexa's voice. If you're used to the other Echo versions of Alexa, you might notice that she sounds a bit weird. That's because these speakers point in one direction, rather than the more omnidirectional speakers in the circular Echo. Where you point the Show makes all the difference, so be sure to put it down below your line of sight, too, since that screen angles up.

Above the screen is a 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 (you can only do audio calls on other Echo devices).

You also don't exactly need an Echo Show to have an Echo Show. Amazon's Fire Tablets have been updated with something called Show Mode. This 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 touchscreen smart speaker

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.

Top bargains for Alexa-compatible gear

Lifx smart light bulb
Lifx smart light bulb
Kasa smart Wi-Fi plug
Kasa smart Wi-Fi plug
Nest Cam Indoor
Nest Cam Indoor
Philips Hue starter pack
Philips Hue starter pack

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What new things can Alexa do?

Amazon Echo Show guide: Everything you need to know about the touchscreen smart speaker

The big new thing that Alexa can do with the Show is – as we say – show you things. So in addition to Alexa speaking to you, the display will animate to show you what the assistant is talking about.

For instance, as Alexa goes through the weather, you'll see the report flashing across the display. It's a little like a TV weather report, just without the meteorologist pointing to a map. Similarly, you'll see the news while Alexa reads it.

There's more. You'll see your timers as they're ticking away; you can scroll through your calendar; lyrics will bop along as your favourite song plays. You can even see things when you're not asking Alexa do something; the default home screen will scroll through suggestions and information relating to your calendar/account. So you'll see headlines as you walk by, or you'll see a new recommended video for you to watch.

A display also means that Alexa can play video now. So if you want to watch a new movie trailer, simply say something like "Alexa, play the new Star Wars: The Last Jedi" trailer. This extends to sports highlights, too, so if you want to watch highlights of a game between Liverpool and Manchester United, go ahead.

Sadly, Google pulled YouTube support from the Echo Show last year, owing to a spat between it and Amazon. The result is that we've all lost out, as calling up YouTube will result in Alexa now telling you that Google doesn't support the service. If the lack of YouTube support is a dealbreaker for you, Google's Smart Displays naturally have support.

You can of course play things from Amazon Video, while Dailymotion and Vimeo are also supported. Still, for some people the lack of YouTube will reduce the usefulness of the Show dramatically.

What about the skills?

Amazon Echo Show guide: Everything you need to know about the touchscreen smart speaker

So Alexa has some new abilities, which means there's a whole new world of potential skills. All kinds of companies have been updating their skills with Echo Show support, taking advantage of that big display and camera.

Best Amazon Echo Show skills

The most immediately useful application of visual skills is 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.

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

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

Like any other Echo, the Show can be a way to control your other smart home devices, and though it's not quite as good as a smart home hub as the Echo Plus (which builds in a Zigbee controller), the Show has its own unique advantage: that display.

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

The Show can be used with a Ring Doorbell to show you a video feed of what's happening outside your house – useful for checking who's at the door without pulling out your phone. It can also pair with the Nest cameras to let you check up what's happening outside or in another room – maybe for checking in on the baby. You can also control your Nest Thermostat from the Show as you would from other Echo devices.

Though the screen doesn't really add much, you can still control light bulbs like the Philips Hue from the Show as well. Paired with a Yale lock via the SmartThings or Wink hub, you'll be able to control the lock on the front door with the 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

Amazon Echo Show guide: Everything you need to know about the touchscreen smart speaker

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, 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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