Amazon Echo Show 10 3rd Gen review: You spin me right round
Quick verdict: The Echo Show 10 3rd Gen’s ability to spin itself around to face you is a neat (or possibly creepy) party trick, but Amazon hasn’t done enough to make it a must-have feature.
- 10.1-inch display is decent for video viewing
- Look Ma, it spins!
- Good microphone pick-up
- Spinning feels a touch redundant
- Spinning can make touch access difficult
- Needs a wider clear base than other smart displays
- Expensive compared to other Echo Show units
We've seen a proliferation of smart speakers in recent times, with seemingly everyone jostling to deliver good quality audio and a smart home experience for around $150 or thereabouts. The Smart Display space, where a touchscreen is married to a smart speaker to give you visual information as well as spoken, has moved considerably more slowly. Google has just announced its 2nd generation Nest Hub, and to combat it, Amazon is bringing the 3rd generation of its Echo Show 10 Down Under.
The Echo Show 10 3rd Gen has one genuinely unique selling point. Where other smart displays are stationary devices, the Echo Show can move, guided by its camera through a full 350 degrees. It's a neat trick, but Amazon doesn't really make enough of it to make it a compelling prospect.
- 10.1-inch display is great for info display and video
- Rotating base needs a lot of bench space
The Amazon Echo Show 10 3rd Gen essentially resembles any generic tablet you could name, bolted front-on onto a speaker that looks more like Apple's full-sized (and now discontinued) HomePod than any other Amazon speaker released in Australia to date.
The display is a 10.1-inch LCD with a resolution of 1280x800, which isn't super-crisp for a tablet of that size, although it's decent within the smart speaker space. There, we've seen far more low-resolution screens, because you're generally not expected to do a lot of close-up peering at them anyway.
If that was all the Echo Show 10 3rd Gen could do, then it would just be a visual upgrade of the 2nd generation Echo Show 10. However, Amazon's big design change here is the way that the display bolts on to the speaker section. It does so via an arm attached to a ring that is positioned on the top of the speaker portion. Being a circle, it can rotate, and there's an inbuilt motor that works based on what the Echo Show 10's inbuilt 13MP camera can see from a full 110-degree span.
One of the practical design aspects of this arrangement is that the Echo Show 10 3rd Gen requires quite a bit more bench space than any comparable smart display because you've got to give it clear air to spin around. It is smart enough not to crack itself into walls if you do place it near one, and it'll "learn" its environment over time and offer to check its rotational abilities from time to time to ensure it's still optimally placed.
- Display is nice for watching limited streaming options
- Motion can be either cool or alarming
- Motion lacks purpose beyond security scanning
At its heart, the Amazon Echo Show 10 3rd Gen is yet another Amazon Echo device, which means it relies on Amazon's Alexa assistant to manage a range of smart home activities. Pretty much anything you could do with a cheaper Echo speaker, such as the cute little ball-shaped Echo 2020 can be done via Alexa on the Echo Show 10 3rd Gen. Frankly, if you just want a little music playback and smart home voice action, the Echo Show 10 3rd Gen is total overkill.
The reason to buy a smart display is if you want to do something with the screen, and here the Echo Show 10 3rd Gen has some upsides… but more downsides.
Ask Alexa a simple question and she'll show you pertinent web-based results depending on what you ask, once you've set up your Amazon account and details to fully personalise your experience. It took me a little while to work out where I had to change the Echo Show so that it would show me today's date with Celsius, and it still somewhat had a preference for US-based news when it was running random carousels. In Amazon's US home base you can naturally use the Echo Show 10 3rd Gen to shop on Amazon, but we're yet to see that kind of functionality roll out to Australian Echo users.
The Echo Show 10 3rd Gen has support for streaming video services such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, as well as more limited support for other services via its inbuilt choice of browsers. Amazon's Silk browser is present, as is Mozilla's Firefox to pick from, although the experience of using the touchscreen to tap in URLs and selections isn't exactly a desirable outcome. If video display is key to your desires around a smart display, the wider availability of services and Chromecasting ability of the Nest Hub Max make it a better choice.
The Nest Hub Max can't spin on its own accord without being placed on a lazy Susan, however. That the Echo Show 10 3rd Gen can very much do and will do unless you explicitly disable the motion facility. Otherwise, it will use the location of your voice and its 110-degree camera to track you as you move around it so that the display is always in "front" of you for easier viewing.
This is cool technology in play, but it does stumble in terms of actual utility. For every person I showed the Echo Show 10 3rd Gen to who thought it was "cool", an awful lot more found it "creepy" to have a display constantly following them around the room like some kind of needy puppy. Mine spent much of my review period living on my kitchen bench, and I had to constantly check that glasses, plates or other items weren't being placed too close to the Echo Show 10 3rd Gen. It won't bump walls hard enough to damage itself, but it's quite capable of toppling over a glass if it doesn't know that it's there.
The other issue with the motion function is that it makes using the actual touchscreen on the Amazon Echo Show 10 3rd Gen a real chore. If you're using the browser or want to swipe through content, it'll shiver from side to side as though it's trying to work out where your finger might be going, meaning that you hit the wrong parts of the screen or type the wrong letters. In every case, disabling motion before you start is a wise step.
You can connect up the Echo Show 10 3rd Gen to a Ring Doorbell (sensible enough, as Ring is an Amazon-owned subsidiary) to make it a video doorbell, or use its own camera as a kind of "rough" rotating security camera from your smartphone, although this is when you discover that its field of view might not be ideal for actual home security purposes.
Should you buy the Amazon Echo Show 10?
- Buy it if you want a smart display that's always facing you.
- Don't buy it if you find the tracking creepy, or want the widest array of video services on tap.
I can't fault Amazon's ambition with the Amazon Echo Show 10 3rd Gen. It has genuinely produced something different and new in the smart displays space with the Echo Show 10 3rd Gen and perhaps shown a glimpse at what could be done with smart display robots in the future of the brand. All of that is fine in a technology sense, but right here and now to justify your money, the Echo Show 10 3rd Gen needs to deliver something that you otherwise can't get.
That rests on just how useful and desirable you're going to find that spinning feature. It feels a tad underdone to me – I wish there were more ways to incorporate its movement into new experiences that aren't possible for stationary displays – but for folks who get annoyed when they can't see the screen on their smart displays it could have some appeal. For everyone else, even if you are in the Amazon Alexa ecosystem, the much cheaper Echo Show 8 or Echo Show 5 would be a smarter buy.
Pricing and availability
Images: Alex Kidman
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