Echo Show 15 – Hang it on a wall!

September 17, 2022
9/10

Summary

Echo Show 15 REVIEW

PAT PILCHER gets acquainted with the latest iteration of Amazon’s smart home hub and finds it to be a pleasing progression.

$438

It’s no secret that I’m an Alexa fanboy. She looks after my home’s lighting, security, music and vacuuming!

I’ve reviewed the many variants that Amazon has crafted of their Echo show devices. There have been all sorts of models. Some sported tiny 5-inch displays, making them ideal for plonking on the nightstand beside the bed. Others, such as the capable Echo Show 10, had larger 10-inch screens that rotated to track movement on a video call.

The big question in my mind was this “what’s next?” Amazon answered this by supersizing Alexa to come up with the Echo show 15.

Ironically, while the Echo Show 15’s display is the biggest to date, Amazon slimmed it down to resemble a digital photo frame or small flatscreen monitor. This also makes it the first Echo Show that can be wall mounted. While it’s a nifty digital photo frame, its superpower takes the form of a digital hub that keeps your entire family in the loop.

 

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Unboxing the Echo Show 15, you could easily mistake it for one of those large digital photo frames that were so popular at the dawn of the new century.

Its 15.6-inch screen has a 17.8mm white bezel like you’d see on a framed painting. This is bordered with a matt black metal frame. When I said the Echo Show was slim, I really wasn’t kidding. It’s only 35mm thick and could easily pass as a picture frame. About the only immediate giveaway is the camera lens on its top left corner. A sliding shutter can cover the camera on top of the frame along with volume controls and a mute mic button.

There is also a wall mounting bracket in the box. That said, you’ll find the 1.5-metre power cable a tad too short to be useful. The review unit thankfully came with the optional stand, allowing it to sit on the kitchen bench. Much to the annoyance of my long-suffering wife, the stand takes up a good chunk of kitchen bench space. It tilts the Echo Show 15 at about 30 degrees, which proved ideal for avoiding screen glare. One option Amazon missed was the ability to attach the Echo Show 15 to my fridge. However, its weight would require super-strong magnets, and I’d still have to deal with its power cable. Oh well.

The screen itself impressed. It’s an LCD beastie, sporting a 1920 x 1080 resolution. It was sufficiently bright and vivid that I could see and read on-screen content from the other side of the kitchen. While it can pull photos from your Amazon photo account or Facebook, I could not get Facebook photos to work.

Photos aside, the Echo Show 15’s secret sauce is widgets. These customisable tiles can display information or allow you to interact with them. The current widgets are limited to a calendar, a super handy shopping list, digital post-it notes, to-do lists, weather and smart devices. The range of widgets is growing steadily. Amazon made the widgets API available to developers. Here’s hoping that NZ businesses get behind them, as it’ll lessen our reliance on US/AU content and add hugely to the utility of the Echo Show 15.

That said, being able to wander into the kitchen and see what the day holds at a glance is super handy. This is thanks to the Echo Show 15’s camera. Once it recognises me, it switches the widgets to my content, allowing my personalised schedules and so on to be displayed seamlessly.

My favourite is the smart home widget. With it, I have instant access to the various Ring cameras, and my Ring doorbell and I can control my smart lights all with a single tap. If we have visitors, Alexa will announce “someone is at your ring front door” and display a live video feed in a picture-in-picture window. It’s super handy.

If by now you’re thinking I’m impressed with the Echo Show 15, you’d be totally right. It’s the best Echo Show device I’ve seen to date. That said, there are a few negatives. First and foremost is the same issue that applies to all Amazon Echo gear: an inability to play nice with Google services. I’d love to have Google Photos displayed on the Echo Show 15. YouTube would be handy too, but alas, Amazon and Google seem determined to behave like petulant kids arguing in a sandpit. Sigh.

The other issue I noticed was with its camera. Where the Echo Show 10’s 13MP camera is impressive, the shooter baked into the Echo Show 15 uses a lower resolution image sensor, which makes for average video. Also, there’s still no support for Zoom calls, which in an age of work from home is an annoying omission. Also missing is the auto-framing feature of the Echo Show 10, so you must ensure that you stay in the camera’s field of view.

None of these are deal breakers. The Echo Show 15 is a gorgeous addition to Amazon’s Alexa line-up. If you are looking for a hub for your home and one that can sit on a bench or mount on a wall, then the Echo Show 15 is a worthy contender.

www.amazon.com

 

Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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