We tested 12 smart speakers, and the Amazon Show was the easiest to setup. All you have to do is plug it in and follow the prompts on the screen. All the other speakers we reviewed require you to download an app and use your mobile device to connect them to your Wi-Fi network. You still need to use the Alexa mobile app to setup smart-devices, like lights and wireless cameras, but once you do, you can watch your camera feed on the Show’s screen instead of your phone or tablet. The Echo Show doesn’t have the computing power of a tablet, but it has similar features.
The Echo Show offers the same answers to questions as all the other Alexa-enabled speakers we tested, but the answers come with visual information. When you ask the Show, “What’s the weather like outside?” you get the audio information, and a more detailed visual forecast. Another handy use for a smart speaker is setting reminders. You can tell Alexa to remind you about your dentist appointment in two weeks, and see your entire list of reminders on the screen without opening the mobile app.
After you set up your contact list, the Echo Show can make phone calls to anyone who also has an Echo device or the Alexa app on their phone. Ask Alexa to call your Dad or send a message to your Dad’s Echo with a recording of your voice. You can also make video calls between any Echo Show or Echo Spot. The calling and messaging features between Echo devices are free, which makes it a good way to keep in contact with friends and family, even if they live in a different country.
The pair of two-inch speakers on the front panel didn’t sound as good as other smart speakers we tested, like the Sonos One and Google Home Max, but the accompanying visual information made listening to music a bit more fun. We connected the Echo Show to an Amazon Music account and asked Alexa to play a few of our favorite hits while we sang along with the words scrolling on the screen. You can’t plug a microphone into the Show, but if you could, it would be a voice-controlled karaoke machine with thousands of popular songs ready to cue and sing along with.
The feud between Amazon and Google for smart speaker supremacy took YouTube away from the Echo Show, but there are still plenty of visual skills available. You can watch a CNN newscast, movie trailers and get cooking tips from the Food Network. Ask Alexa to show you a recipe for lasagna from Allrecipes, or if you run out of tomato sauce, ask her to order some. Alexa has a list of more than 25,000 skills.
One privacy concern worth noting is the lack of a physical shutter on the camera. When you press the mute button on the top panel, it turns the microphone and the camera off, but you may be wary about having a camera on an active listening device, even if it’s turned off.
The Amazon Echo Show adds fun visual cues to web searches and music playback, and as the list of skills increase, so will the visual content. If you plan to use your smart speaker for setting reminders, finding recipes or creating lists, the visual information can be a helpful addition.