The original Echo Show was built on something of a novel idea: what would happen if you added a screen to a voice assistant? Our minds boggled at the possibilities.
Ultimately, however, Amazon didn't really deliver on the promise. Alexa didn't have a whole lot of screen-enhanced capabilities, plus the hardware was clunky and underwhelming. Ultimately, it didn't justify the added hardware let alone the added expense. The smaller, alarm clock-like Echo Spot proved a better overall package, at least.
But now Amazon has a second chance to nail the Echo Show, and the result looks a whole lot better than before. The new 2018 model is a complete redesign and make some serious improvements along the way – enough so that it might convince those who rightly passed over the first edition.
Following yesterday's announcement, here's a deeper look at what might make the new Echo Show the pick of Amazon's 2018 litter.
1) The screen is much larger
On the original Echo Show, the 7in touchscreen was supposed to be the star of the show... but it barely took up half of the face of the device. It was surrounded by loads of bezel, along with huge speakers beneath that didn't really prove to be worth their real estate.
One glance at the new model shows a pretty massive change in that regard. The 2018 Echo Show now features a 10.1in touchscreen, and it owns the vast majority of the front of the device. Not only does it provide about twice the screen area than before, but the new model also doesn't give off the impression of loads of wasted space. It's the main attraction, as it should be.
2) It's not as boxy and awkward anymore
The immense bezel wasn't the only problem with the way the first Echo Show looked. It was big, boxy, and oddly angular – we called it a "flabby slab" in our review. While it got the job done, it didn't feel as aesthetically polished as most of the other modern devices in our lives. But that's been a common knock on Amazon-made gadgets over the years.
The 2018 Echo Show is clearly not the same device. There's still a bit of bezel framing the screen, but it's modest – and the corners are rounded instead of pointy. And there are curves! Swapping the dull, all-over plastic for fabric on the back also helps create a device that shouldn't stand out as much in your home. That's a good thing.
3) It's a better smart home hub
Putting a screen on the Echo Show meant that it could be used for things like previewing video doorbells or the feed from a baby monitor – that was a big perk for anyone who had invested in a connected home setup.
Luckily, the new Echo Show takes things a step further by being a Zigbee smart home hub, as well, so that it's easy to discover and setup things like light bulbs, plugs, and switches that fit that standard. Also, there's a two-way talk feature for Ring and August video doorbells, so that you can both see and chat with whoever's on the other side of your door.
4) The sound quality is improved
One of the unexpected downsides of the first Echo Show was the sound quality. With two 2in speakers on the front, we expected results that were much better than the standard Echo devices. Instead, we found the playback to be confined and sometimes muddled, really underwhelming us in the process.
Amazon says that's not the case with the new Echo Show. Thanks to the reimagined design, the 2018 Show has a pair of side-firing 2in Neodymium drivers, a passive radiator for boosted bass, and Dolby processing alongside. The company claims that all of that tech delivers "expansive sound with deep, powerful lows, and crisp highs," and early hands-on reports do suggest a noticeable improvement. We're hopeful.
5) It's made to entertain
With that big 10.1in screen front and center on the new Echo Show, it's certainly better built for watching video. We can see ourselves taking in an episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or some other Amazon show while chopping up veggies for dinner or washing dishes, for example.
Unfortunately, Amazon's spat with Google means that the Echo Show still doesn't have YouTube support, but the new device's enhanced interface is better integrated with other video apps. In the States, you can ask Alexa to call up shows or channels in Hulu, and bring up a favorite show in the NBC app as well. It's also connected to video platform Vevo internationally, so that you can pull up music videos with ease.
And if you snag Amazon's new Fire TV Recast DVR device, you can also call up recorded shows and content on your Echo Show, wherever it might be sitting in your flat.