Smart home speakers are no longer just audio devices – they’re now expected to be information, communication and entertainment hubs for the home.
That means including screens as well as speakers to show users information, entertainment content and even make video calls just by using their voice.
The Amazon Echo Show started this last year, and now it’s back in second generation form, with a new design and revamped internals.
But is it smart enough to put at the centre of your smart home?
A big change from the first generation Echo Show is the redesign of the overall device itself. The screen is now the whole of the front panel, with the speakers having been moved to the back and the plastic frontage are gone entirely, and fabric covering the speakers.
Visually it is a significant improvement on last year’s model.
The screen itself is bigger too – 10 inches in total now – and it’s supported by better speakers that offer bigger, sharper sound than the previous generation show.
The new Show is big and bulky to hold, but does a good job of blending into its surroundings once in place, so don’t be alarmed when you first lift it out of the box.
Naturally, most of the key interactions with the Show combine the traditional Alexa voice experience with the screen.
Timers countdown live on the screen so you always know exactly how long you’ve got left, and track names, artists and artwork are displayed when you’re playing music, so you don’t have to ask for info about the song.
Sync your calendar in the Alexa app and your next event will show up on the screen periodically to remind you what’s coming up as well.
The screen itself cycles through a range of information that also includes trending news stories and suggestions on things to ask Alexa.
The device is programmed to automatically dim the screen brightness when not being used, but in reality, this can take time to kick in, so the Show is probably not the best device for a bedroom setting.
For keeping you entertained, informed and equipped in the kitchen however it is great – the Show can be used to view film trailers, as well as for watching video from Amazon’s own streaming service, and show recipes if you’re in need of a little inspiration.
The screen is big enough and capable enough for watching shows while you’re moving around the room.
Flash briefings – Alexa’s customisable news summaries – also go multi-media with video to supplement the audio played.
The screen itself is a touchscreen display too, so it can be used for scrolling should you decide to use it to read one of the trending news stories that appear.
As an Echo experience, the Show is everything we’ve come to expect from an Amazon smart speaker, with the enhanced interactivity that comes with having a screen, but also crucially improves on the previous version of the device.
The 2nd generation Echo Show is a poster child for tech evolution, it takes the positives from the previous Show and builds on them.
The design – a sticking point on last year’s device – has been honed and revamped to make a much better looking finished product. As a lifestyle device it needs to look good to justify itself, and this version of the Show does that.
The addition of the smart home hub also streamlines the process of adding other smart home devices to your network.
It comes with a price, and at £220 this is one of the most expensive smart home speakers you can buy, and that is not a figure that will be acceptable to everyone.
This is not necessarily the Echo to go to if you’re already a veteran Amazon user and looking to introduce an add-on to your network – this is the device you want to build your smart home around.
So if you’re looking for an additional speaker for the bedroom or living room, perhaps go elsewhere, but if you want to upgrade your central Echo device at the heart of your home, the new Show deserves consideration.