Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen review: Great hardware let down by software

Alex Kidman 24 October 2018 NEWS

The Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen has a great display and powerful speakers, but the visual Alexa experience needs a little refinement before it becomes a must-buy proposition.

Quick Verdict
Amazon's built some great hardware into the Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen, but it needs to work on how it uses the visual medium to present information as well as the services that it supports this way.

The good

  • Large HD-ready display
  • Easy control of smart home appliances
  • Simple set-up

The bad

  • Limited video viewing options
  • Some visuals aren't displayed well
  • Big and heavy

The Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen follows the Echo Spot as the second screen-based smart device Amazon's bought to our shores. We're seeing more "smart displays" emerge as part of the overall smart home scene, and Amazon's take is among the largest you can buy. However, is bigger always better?

Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen: Design

  • Big bold design
  • Easy to see from across the room
  • Choice of colours

The Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen is a smart display where the actual display part dominates the visual design, thanks to the inclusion of a full 10.1-inch 720p-capable display. It does have some pretty hefty bezels, but your eye is still drawn to that much visual real estate, if only because most competing smart displays opt for smaller screens.

The rear of the Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen is wrapped in a fabric that you can get in either a charcoal or sandstone finish, with rear speakers that work best if you place the entire unit near a wall. You'll need to give it plenty of space anyway because it measures 246x174x106mm, which isn't small.

It's also pretty hefty for a smart home device at 1.768kg. Essentially speaking, pick your spot for the Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen and stick to it because gravity would very much like you to do so.

While that's not a weight that's going to break you, I did have some flashbacks to the era of CRT TVs while setting it up because the standard weight for tablet-sized displays is much lighter than the Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen.

Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen: Speaker/Video quality

  • Nice large screen
  • Not enough video sources
  • YouTube capable... sort of
  • Software needs tweaking for visual search elements

The Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen features dual two-inch speakers with plenty of grunt, although not quite the highest level of audio output I've hit from a smart speaker.

Still, across a crowded room, and especially at higher volumes, you're not going to miss a word that Alexa has to say to you or a line of dialogue if you're watching video content on it.

I'm yet to test out the speaker quality for the new generation Amazon Echo Plus, but the Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen comfortably sits alongside the older Echo Plus in terms of audio quality for the most part. If you're fussy about your music playback quality, you might find the Echo Show's audio wanting, but it'll be just fine for most of us.

However, that does presume that you can find content to enjoy on it. As it did with the smaller screen-enabled Amazon Echo Spot, Amazon supports its own video service in Australia. It actually works on the larger Echo Show in a way that the Echo Spot struggled with because 10.1 inches is plenty for viewing some of Amazon's great content.

The problem in Australia is that there just isn't that much of it. Yes, you can (and should) watch American Gods and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but the reality in the local market is that the overall Amazon Prime Video offering is tiny compared to the likes of Netflix, Stan or Foxtel Now.

Speaking of Foxtel, you can call up a Fox Sports News feed... but not actual sports, or indeed any other part of the Foxtel catalogue. You can't send any video signal to the Amazon Echo Show, either.

There is a workaround here... of sorts. If you want to watch services such as YouTube, it's possible to do so via the Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen's inbuilt browsers.

Yep, that's deliberately a plural because you can pick from Amazon's own Silk browser or Firefox for your web perusing needs. Either can navigate to the mobile YouTube page and watch videos, but to do so you've got to use the Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen's onscreen keyboard.

Voice commands are not supported in any way, so you may as well be using a more portable (and powerful) tablet. Amazon and Google don't agree on YouTube, but the problem goes wider than that. Try to watch ABC iview, for example, and you'll be prompted to install the Google Play iview app, which you can't do.

These are software issues that Amazon might solve with software updates and new Alexa skills, but it's not promising given how long the Amazon Echo Spot's been on sale here. You'd think they'd already have those services lined up for the more visually serious Amazon Echo Show.

It ultimately feels like a waste because alongside its smart display features, the Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen could make an excellent kitchen or small display area TV if there was only more support for it.

Support for intelligent use of the video screen is something of a recurring theme, too. I've been testing out the Amazon Echo Show alongside the Google Home Hub, and the difference in the way the two devices present information is rather striking. Ask for a nearby petrol station from the Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen and it'll give you a list of them, but ask the Google Home Hub and it'll not only bring up the same information, but give you a map and photo to work from. One is clearly a better thought out way to present information than the other.

You can use the Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen as a large photo display, but you'll have to upload your photos to Amazon Photos in order to do so. It's within its general strategy to keep matters within the Amazon ecosystem, but that doesn't automatically mean that consumers will want to shift gigabytes of photos over from iCloud or Google Photos to do so.

There's definitely gold in the idea of a smart display, and Amazon's delivered the goods in terms of hardware, but the software still needs time to catch up.

Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen: Smart home quality

  • Easy voice control of your smart home devices
  • Acts as a Zigbee hub as well
  • Can view compatible video cameras onscreen
  • Skype integration coming soon

It's a more pleasing story in the smart home arena for the Amazon Echo Show 2nd gen on multiple fronts.

Like any other Echo product, you can configure the Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen to talk to a very wide range of smart home appliances, making it easy to control lights, cameras and more with just your voice.

The use of a display means that you get a visual representation of your light intensity or the ability to answer video calls through, for example, the Ring Video Doorbell. That shouldn't be a surprise, given that Amazon owns Ring outright.

To add to that scenario, the Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen is also a full Zigbee hub for home automation purposes. I didn't have Zigbee-capable gear to test this out, but if you're already in that space, the Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen should integrate seamlessly.

Unlike the Google Home Hub, the Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen does incorporate a video camera into its front display, and that means it's capable of video calling via the same "drop in" mechanism used on the Echo Spot. Amazon says it's working on including Skype compatibility for the Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen in a future update as well, which would give it even more video calling flexibility.

Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen: Verdict

  • Good for existing Amazon Echo households
  • Nice hardware, but the software lets it down

While I can't help but feel that Amazon's nailed the hardware but not quite the software side of the equation with the Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen, that doesn't mean it's not worth buying.

It's just that it's very much a play into the Amazon ecosystem and not much else. If your house is already equipped with multiple Spots, Dots and Plus speakers, it's a natural part of that ecosystem. However, it's not what I'd buy first if I was getting into the Amazon Echo world.

Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen: Pricing and availability

The Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen sells in Australia through Amazon for $349 outright.

Buy Amazon Echo Show 2nd Generation

Buy Amazon Echo Show 2nd Generation from Amazon AU

Everything you love about Alexa, now with visuals on the new Echo Show, featuring a 10 inch display and Dolby speakers for premium sound.

View details

Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen: Alternatives

You don't have a lot of alternatives in the smart display space in Australia, at least not yet. If you want to keep within the Amazon ecosystem, consider the smaller and more affordable Amazon Echo Spot.

Click to buy Amazon Echo Spot - Black

Click to buy Amazon Echo Spot - Black from Amazon AU

View details

If you're not yet in an Echo world, the Google Home Hub is a smaller and more affordable option to consider.

Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen: What the other reviewers say

Site Comment Score
Tom's Guide "While still a bit confused about what it wants to be, the second Echo Show is a huge improvement over the first." 4/5
Tech Radar "Much better, but still has some creases to iron out." 4/5
CNET "If you like the idea of a smart display for cooking, calling or watching videos, the newest Echo Show is a great option. But don't expect any extras." 7.3/10
Digital Trends "Amazon's jumbo new Echo Show is the Alexa-powered mini TV you need" 4/5

Specifications

Product Name
Amazon Echo Show 2nd Gen
Assistant
Amazon Alexa
Wireless network
802.11a/b/g/n/c
Weight (grams)
1768g
Height
174mm
Width
246mm
Depth
106mm
Speaker information
Dual 2” active driver stereo speakers with a passive radiator
Bluetooth
Yes
Min. Frequency Response (Hz)
TBC
Max. Frequency Response (Hz)
TBC
Audio out
No
Water rating
NA

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