Technology

Amazon Echo Show 8 second-gen review: still the best Alexa smart display

Amazon’s midsize Echo Show 8 is the best smart display in its lineup. It’s bigger and extra succesful than the diminutive Echo Show 5, whereas costing far lower than the bigger Echo Show 10. The Echo Show 8 is useful for watching video, listening to music, getting climate experiences, controlling smart dwelling gadgets, making video calls, and extra.

So it’s no shock that the second-generation mannequin, which sells for $129.99 and is delivery this week, doesn’t rock the boat. It’s largely the similar smart display as earlier than however with barely sooner efficiency and an improved video calling digital camera. It has the similar display, similar design, similar speaker system, and the similar set of options as its predecessor.

(*8*)

Good Stuff

  • Loud, full sound
  • Big selection of options
  • Improved digital camera

Dangerous Stuff

  • Few video streaming choices
  • Software program is still voice-first
  • Some video calling bugs

Enhancing the video calling capabilities is sensible, given how a lot video calling has been performed whereas everybody was (and for giant half, still is) caught at dwelling throughout the pandemic. The brand new Echo Show 8 borrows the 13-megapixel digital camera from the flagship Echo Show 10, changing the pathetically low-resolution, mediocre 1-megapixel digital camera that was in the first gen. As earlier than, there’s a mechanical privateness shutter you possibly can slide in entrance of the digital camera to each disable it and block its view.

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The brand new Echo Show 8 has the similar digital camera as the Echo Show 10: a big, 13-megapixel sensor with automated panning and cropping.

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You’ll be able to still block the digital camera’s view with a bodily shutter.

The enhancements in video calls are instantly noticeable. You should use the Echo Show for video calls to the Alexa app on telephones or different Echo Show gadgets, or you possibly can be a part of Skype, Zoom, or Amazon’s Chime calls from it. In my testing with Zoom calls, the picture is far sharper and extra nice to have a look at, with higher colour and way more element.

The Echo Show 8 doesn’t have the motorized base on the greater Echo Show 10, but it surely still can mechanically body you and comply with you round as you progress because of its excessive decision. The autoframing isn’t nearly as good as the new iPad Professional’s Heart Stage characteristic, and it strikes a lot slower and tends to continually reframe itself, such as you’re the star of a Ken Burns documentary. However the Echo Show is a $130 smart display, not an $800 pill, so it’s arduous to complain, as long as you keep comparatively still throughout video calls. If you happen to don’t need the digital camera to autoframe, you possibly can say “Alexa comply with off” to disable it.

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You should use the Echo Show 8 for Zoom calls, but it surely works best for one-on-one calling, not teams

That mentioned, there’s still loads of room for enchancment. The brand new digital camera has a a lot wider-angle lens, which permits it to do these auto-framing tips. However it could actually additionally trigger the picture to look distorted at occasions and isn’t all the time very flattering.

The Echo Show 8’s eight-inch display works tremendous for one-on-one video calls, but it surely’s too small to comfortably use for a bunch name. If you’re on a name the place somebody is sharing a display screen, it’s arduous to see what’s occurring, and when you can view messages posted to a chat, you possibly can’t kind any out your self on the Echo Show’s display. Becoming a member of Zoom calls could be performed fully by voice, but it surely’s a lot simpler to name up the Zoom app on the Echo Show by saying “Alexa, open Zoom” after which typing in a gathering code or beginning one your self from the touchscreen.

I additionally noticed an echo of my very own voice in a number of Zoom calls, each with people and group calls, which made it arduous to make use of the Echo Show for something work associated. Different events on the line additionally mentioned there was an annoying echo of my voice every time I unmuted my mic. Amazon says it’s wanting into this downside and I’ll replace this evaluation if an answer is discovered.

The brand new processor in the second-gen Echo Show 8 does make the smart display reply faster to faucets and swipes than its predecessor. It’s not an enormous distinction, and Amazon’s software program still has an extended option to go to make it extra helpful through contact, however when put next facet by facet, the new one opens menus and screens faster.

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The wedge-shaped design homes two speaker drivers that put out spectacular quantity for its measurement.

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Amazon ditched the 3.5mm output jack on the again.

Elsewhere, the adjustments are both nonexistent or very minor. The wedge-shaped design is precisely the similar; you possibly can still get it in the similar white or black colour choices as earlier than. (Annoyingly, each colours include a white energy twine.)

The display has the similar 1280 x 800 pixel decision, however now it could actually regulate its colour and white steadiness to the lighting in the room. Like the new processor, the distinction isn’t enormous, however the new mannequin is barely hotter and extra nice to have a look at when the adaptive colour setting is enabled. I’m still extra impressed by the potential of Google’s Nest Hub to imitate the look of a printed picture by adapting its colour to the lighting in the room.

The twin-driver speaker system is unchanged and it’s as loud and full sounding as the first gen. The Echo Show 8 can fill a small room with sound surprisingly effectively, and its bass response is healthier than anticipated. At occasions, it would even sound too bassy, however you possibly can regulate the EQ in the Alexa app simply sufficient to compensate for that. Sadly, Amazon dropped the 3.5mm output jack on the again of the new mannequin, so it’s not attainable to hook it as much as a bigger speaker system with a wire.

You’ll be able to watch Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Netflix on the Echo Show, however Disney Plus, Peacock, HBO Max, and lots of different streaming providers aren’t out there. YouTube is obtainable by the Echo Show’s Silk browser, but it surely’s not as seamless of an expertise as out there on Google’s Nest Hub, and you’ll’t simply solid movies out of your telephone to the Show’s display screen.

The Echo Show 8’s software program is the similar as what debuted on the Echo Show 10 earlier this yr. Amazon is beginning to make higher use of the display, with break up screens that present climate information alongside information, but it surely still feels very very similar to a voice-first system. Although the new Echo Show 8 is quicker, it’s still a chore to faucet by all of the screens to get to the smart dwelling controls, and managing what exhibits up in the rotating info screens on the display requires numerous menu diving and trial and error to get what you need. (And even then, you’ll still most likely get nagged about new Alexa Expertise or different Amazon promotions you don’t care about.)

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Managing what exhibits up on the shows when it’s not getting used is a chore.

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The brand new Echo Show 8 is noticeably sooner when responding to the touch enter.

There are after all many, many different issues you are able to do with an Echo Show smart display — far too many to cowl in the scope of this evaluation. The issues that I discover it most helpful for are climate experiences, managing a grocery buying record, and viewing the video feed from a doorbell or safety digital camera.

The Echo Show 8’s primary competitors is the second-gen Nest Hub from Google, which has a barely smaller seven-inch display screen and prices $30 much less. The Nest Hub helps extra video streaming providers, has a extra helpful contact interface, can observe your sleep, and works with the Google Assistant as an alternative of Alexa. However it doesn’t have a digital camera for video calling, its single speaker is blown away by the Echo Show’s twin audio system, and it’s a lot slower and laggy to make use of. In the end, the alternative comes right down to the way you wish to use the smart display and which smart assistant you like.

Fb’s 10-inch Portal is an alternative choice in case you plan to make use of a smart display primarily for video calling, but it surely loses to the Echo Show 8 in successfully each different side.

If you happen to do choose Alexa, the new Echo Show 8 stays the best smart display to get, because it has a sufficiently big display screen to learn from throughout the room, doubles as a terrific speaker, and comes with a number of camera-related options, together with the aforementioned video calling and safety digital camera options. It’s additionally over $100 lower than the motorized Echo Show 10, whereas still offering lots of the similar options and capabilities. And given Amazon’s frequent reductions, you’ll probably be capable to discover the new Echo Show 8 for lower than its sticker value very often.

The brand new Echo Show 8 doesn’t redefine what a smart display could be, but it surely’s still an excellent digital assistant with a display screen for a pretty value.

Images by Dan Seifert / The Verge

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