(Pocket-lint) – Since the original Amazon Echo Show appeared in 2017, the landscape for in-home smart screens has changed significantly. Google’s Nest Hub series and Facebook’s Portal have arrived, while Amazon has introduced the smaller Echo Show 8 and Echo Show 5 to sit beneath the 2018 Echo Show – which this newer Echo Show 10 now replaces.
While the Nest Hub series (and particularly the Nest Hub Max) is the most natural rival for the Echo Show lineup, 2020 threw a curveball into the mix: we’re all making more video calls and these devices need to work out their part in that scenario within the home. So does the new Echo Show 10 – which has a ‘follow mode’ to always be focused on you – best fit the bill?
Design and sound
- Dimensions: 251 x 230 x 172mm / Weight 2.5kg
- Camera: 13 megapixel, physical camera shutter
- Display: 10.1-inch HD resolution touchscreen
- Audio: Dual 1-inch tweeters, 3-inch woofer
- Colours: Charcoal, Glacier White
It’s that follow mode where the Echo Show 10 differs significantly from earlier versions: it includes a brushless silent motor, so the screen can physically turn to match where you are in the room.
We’ll come onto how this works in a little while, but the feature means the design is very different from other Echo Show devices and reminds us a little of the 2002-2004 iMac G4.
The 10.1-inch screen is reasonably thin, more tablet-like this time around, and can also be manually tilted however you like. Although it can be vertical, it can’t be fully flat. And it’s not detachable in any way.
The bezels remain pretty thick – we’re being greedy here, but we would have appreciated a slightly more modern design. However, that’s not to say we don’t like the look of the Echo Show 10 as a whole, because it’s pretty decent and doesn’t look out of place.
As per the Echo Show 5 and Show 8, the Show 10 has a physical camera shutter that turns off the camera and therefore motion – since the camera can no longer see if anybody is present in the room. There’s also a physical ‘mic off’ button on the top, too, to stop Alexa from listening.
The base of the Echo Show 10 is like a squat Echo Studio, but it’s not a patch audio-wise on that speaker – indeed, the audio is basically a beefed-up version of that inside the 4th-generation standard Echo – which also has a 3-inch woofer, but 1-inch rather than dual 0.8-inch tweeters.
That’s not to say it’s not up to snuff – the Echo Show 10 audio is perfectly decent sounding product for a kitchen or family room. Interestingly, the tweeters are able to move with the display, so you’ll always have a sound that’s ideal for where you are positioned.
Once again, the Show 10 is available in charcoal and white options, just like other Echo Show models.
Motion and key specs
- Platform: MediaTek 8183 main processor, second Amazon AZ1 Neural Edge processor
- Rotation of display: +/-175 degrees, manual tilt possible
- Connectivity: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5
The motion is the most interesting feature of the Echo Show 10 – it’s great for following recipes step-by-step (via SideShef in the US and BBC Good Food in the UK) and for video calls via Skype (note: Zoom integration is coming but isn’t yet available, sadly). It can be good for other uses too – watching video content via Prime Video or Netflix, for example.
The screen will only follow you if the display is on during an activity or you’ve issued a command. It won’t continuously follow you around just for the sake of it. You can ask Alexa to stop following you should you wish (or follow you, or move left/right) and if the physical privacy shutter is closed then the motion is stopped.
You can also toggle motion off easily using the screen. If you need to, you’re also able to move the screen manually or set it to only move when you ask it to. Plus you can delete various utterances – or everything you’ve ever said – with Alexa should you wish.
During the device setup, you’re taken through Device Mapping, which rotates the device to check for any obstacles. You need to do this again if you move the device at any point, via Settings > Motion. If the device bumps into anything at any point, you’ll be asked if the obstruction is there all the time. If the Device Mapping is re-done, the motion range will adjust accordingly. You can also select a default position for the device. After 10 minutes of no activity, it will return to its idle position.
This sounds obvious, but motion works better in bigger spaces where the screen can fully rotate – such as on a kitchen island or on a sideboard in a living room. If you’ve got a tiny kitchen, you’re not going to want it in there because the screen is not going to be able to rotate enough to be effective. This just isn’t the Echo Show for that situation – you need a smaller one, minus the motion feature.
The Echo Show 10’s camera is significantly better than the others in the family. Whereas the Echo Show 5 and 8 have 1-megapixel cameras, the Echo Show 10’s is a 13-megapixel version that will adjust (pan and zoom) to keep you in the frame when you’re on a call. It’s effective and is very similar to the same feature on Facebook Portal.
There’s a lot of intelligence required to keep the camera – and therefore screen – following you. Amazon says it worked with VR to simulate this before the physical device existed.
There’s no facial recognition at work here though. Instead the computer vision – which works alongside recognising where your voice has come from – just recognises a person and the movement of that person. In other words it doesn’t know who you are.
If there are two people in the room, the device tries to position itself in the best way for both.
All the processing happens on the device, not in the cloud – this device uses MediaTek’s 8183 processor plus a second chip designed specifically for current-generation Echo devices.
Alexa and software
- Video calling: Skype, Amazon Alexa Communication (Zoom and Amazon Chime coming soon)
- Video apps: Prime Video, Netflix
- Smart hub: Zigbee and Amazon Sidewalk (latter is US only)
If you’re an Echo user already then you’ll know that Alexa – Amazon’s on-board voice assistant – is very capable and works brilliantly with timers, common questions, music and radio, reminders, task lists and more. Third-party Skills also add to the mix and you can manage it all via the Alexa app for iOS or Android.
This Echo Show 10 features an updated home screen design and the different items can be customised using a three-dot menu in the top corner. While the pace of the rotation of the different items – such as weather, sports scores, news and stocks – is all automated, you can also turn off the messages by category in the settings should you wish. This was useful for us with sports scores as we didn’t necessarily want to see them before catching up on highlights, for example.
The Echo Show software has undoubtedly improved from earlier versions, but it’s not as good as it could be. Opening Settings on our device, for example, was just a little bit slow.
Many Alexa Skills remain visually uninteresting, especially when there is visual content. Some are better, though, such as step-by-step recipes – where the experience is indeed taken up a level compared to the high bar that an audio-based Alexa device sets. And both Spotify and Amazon Music display album art while you’re listening, which is great.
There’s still no app for YouTube (you can watch in the bundled Silk or Firefox web browsers) which just seems bizarre given that YouTube is now on Amazon Fire TV. And watching content on other apps that isn’t on Netflix or Prime Video is a pain – for BBC iPlayer or Disney+, for example, you need to use the web browser, too. It seems weird that this is a problem for Amazon when it is so good at partnerships elsewhere on Fire TV.
Indeed, there’s an argument to say that a Fire tablet paired with an Echo will give you many more options than an Echo Show 10 – though it won’t rotate, but of course.
And, of course, you can call other Alexa devices – Amazon has also introduced Alexa Group Calling to other Echo Show devices (up to seven people). You need to set up a group for this in the Communicate section of the Alexa app.
No smart display has yet achieved the holy grail of being able to communicate using as many services as a tablet – and that’s surely where these devices are heading.
Google Duo on Nest Hub, WhatsApp and Messenger on Facebook Portal, and Alexa Calling and Skype on Echo Show are fine – but really you want to be able to access a bunch of services on one device. Since all support Zoom (or will do), Facebook Portal is closest on this front.
Coincidentally, Echo Show 10 also includes a feature to keep an eye on your home via the Show’s own camera. You can enable Home Monitoring in the settings and the device is then shown in the Alexa app alongside other compatible cameras, such as Ring doorbells. The best part of this is you can control the motion of the Echo Show 10 from your phone to look around your living area, which is quite clever. You can also view Ring devices and other security devices on Echo Show 10, just as you can on other Amazon Echo Show and Fire TV devices.
Coincidentally, as well as Zigbee for connecting to certain smart home devices, the Echo Show 10 can also be used as an Amazon Sidewalk hub – although this is US only for now.
The Echo Show 10 is a compelling device because of its collection of abilities. The physical rotation motion feature is genuinely good, too, while Alexa’s skillset keeps improving.
There are two issues though. Firstly, the Echo Show 10 is more than three times the price of the Echo Show 8, which has many of the same features – minus the rotation. Secondly, while Alexa is great, a lot of the experience is lost on screen and it isn’t a patch on the experience you’d get with a standard Echo and a tablet – which would offer compatibility with a lot of apps that Echo Show doesn’t.
The lack of a YouTube app is ridiculous at this point and people want to watch other streaming services aside from Prime Video and Netflix. The same is true of video calling (there’s still no Zoom at the time of writing) where Facebook’s Portal just about pips the Echo Show experience.
Despite this, we’d say the Echo Show 10 remains just about ahead of Portal and Google’s Nest devices as an all-rounder. If you want a smart display for a big space and are used to using Alexa as an assistant, then the addition of motion is the added lure to buy into the Echo Show 10.
Amazon Echo Show 8
At a significantly smaller price, this smaller Show has many of the same appealing features. You step down in sound quality and camera quality however and, of course, there’s no whizzy rotating base. It’s still great as a kitchen or family room device for a smaller space though.
Google Nest Hub Max
An obvious competitor if you’re all about Google Assistant rather than Amazon Alexa, the Max majors on Google Duo video-calling, while its benefit is its tight integration with Assistant and Nest ecosystems.
Writing by Dan Grabham.