Amazon Echo Show 8 2nd Gen REVIEW
The sequel to Amazon’s original Echo Show 8 is both a worthy upgrade and a fabulous addition to any really smart home, writes PAT PILCHER.
Amazon’s original Echo Show 8 has been a popular choice for smart displays since it first launched two years ago. This is mostly attributable to decent sound, an excellent screen, and a huge amount of Alexa skills as well as its wide smart home gadget compatibility.
The second generation of the Echo Show 8 is here. But it looks (and sounds) like its older sibling, so the big question is whether it’s worth an upgrade from the original.
At a glance, the Echo Show 8 2nd Gen looks identical to the original model. It’s roughly the same size and sports the same triangular shape that allows its 8-inch screen to tilt back slightly. The screen has the same chunky bezel, complete with a camera in its top-right corner. The far-field microphones, controls and camera shutter are in the same place along its top too.
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The 2nd Gen has the same 8-inch touch screen (sporting 1,280-by-800 resolution) and identical dual 2-inch speakers (with a passive radiator for extra bass). Interestingly, it uses a slightly slower MediaTek MT8183 CPU than the MT8163 used on the original version. That said, in use, there was no noticeable difference when it came to everyday use. My guess is that the first iteration worked well, so why fix what isn’t broken?
So, is the 2nd Gen merely a branding upgrade? Thankfully not. For starters, it sports a 13MP camera that can auto-frame video calls like the Echo Show 10.
As you’d expect with an Amazon Echo device, Alexa is there to do your bidding. There are many skills available which support third-party hardware, applications, and services. Alexa is also preloaded with TuneIn for streaming radio. You can access Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, and audiobooks from Audible. Amazon says that the Echo Show 8 works with Amazon Video and Netflix. I also regularly catch TVNZ’s One News bulletin simply by saying, “Alexa play One News”.
Perhaps the biggest strength of Alexa and Echo hardware is its support for smart home gear. I love being able to get music playing on the Sonos gear in each room of my home, switching on/off lights, changing their colour and brightness with Philips Hue bulbs, and getting live video from my Ring doorbell and Arlo cameras. The Echo Show 8 2nd Gen brings all these smart home gadgets together using simple voice commands. This makes using them intuitive and hassle-free.
It turns out that the upgraded camera is there for a good reason: making it possible to make video calls to anyone else with an Echo Show. Test calls to a friend saw the camera delivering crisp HD video. When I switched the “follow” setting on, it used its wide-angle lens to automatically pan and zoom so I stayed in-frame during the call. This proved incredibly handy when doing other tasks as I was no longer stuck in front of the camera but could move about. Using the drop-in feature, I could use the other Echo Show devices around my house as video intercoms.
Amazon’s Drop-in service works for audio calls with Echo speakers or the Alexa phone/PC app (Skype and Zoom are supported for video and audio calls too). If you’re away from home, but want to keep an eye on things, the Echo Show 8 2nd Gen can use its camera for home monitoring, and is accessible manually by tapping the Home Monitoring feature on the Android/IOS Alexa app). If you subscribe to Amazon Guard, you get automatic notifications and routines (Alexa can, for instance, turn on lights when her camera detects motion). It’s the perfect pandemic tech.
Its display impressed me. Like the earlier Echo Show 8 model, the screen is both bright and vivid. I was also impressed with its speakers. Considering their petite size, they managed to fill my dining room with sound. While the lack of dynamic range won’t satisfy audiophiles, the Echo Show 8’s audio output is ample for notifications, timers and listening to RNZ. For music, I’d simply say, “Alexa, play the Spice Girls on dining room” (the name of the Sonos speaker in my kitchen), which saw Spotify audio streamed across to the more sonically capable Sonos. Considering the Echo Show 8’s petite size, the AV it delivers wasn’t too shabby at all.
When setting up the Echo Show 8 2nd Gen, I was prompted to opt-in (or out) of Amazon Sidewalk, which is the space invader’s attempt to create a neighbourhood mesh network to improve the uptime of compatible cameras and other sidewalk-capable widgets. As convenient as this sounds, I decided not to opt-in due to privacy and security concerns. After entering my home’s Wi-Fi network credentials and logging into my Amazon Echo account, I was good to go. All told, the setup process was both quick and intuitive.
Considering its pocket pleasing $199 sticker price, the Echo Show 8 2nd Gen is excellent value for money. Thanks to its superb display, solid sound quality and video calling chops, it’s a worthy addition to any smart home setup and a decent upgrade on the previous model.