Amazon Echo Show is Finally a Decent Home Companion

The second generation of Alexa’s big-screen home is more attractive, brighter and smarter.

Amazon Echo Show

A few years ago, I invested in a 19-inch TV and an Apple TV box for the kitchen. I thought we could use them to keep us entertained while we cooked. Now I wish I’d chosen the Amazon Echo Show instead.

The $229.99 (for Prime Members) second generation device amends much of the original Echo Show’s missteps while upgrading the design, hardware and software to provide a smart, central, home information, control, and entertainment hub, that unlike the cheap TV I bought is actually angled up at the viewer.

Amazon’s second-generation Echo Show is, at 9.6-in. x 6.8-in. x 4.2-inch., noticeably wider and a little deeper than the original (7.4-in. x 7.4-in. x 3.5-in.) to accommodate that 10.1-inch screen, but it’s also almost an inch shorter, which makes it a somewhat less monolithic presence than the original 7-inch Echo Show. Though still wedge-shaped, the new device is softer and appears more at home among my kitchen decor. Amazon smartly removed the speaker from the front of the Echo Show. So, even with a noticeable 0.5-to-1-inch bezel, the face is essentially a large screen.

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The speakers are now hidden around the back of the Echo underneath a soft, but resilient mesh. Instead of sharp, almost dangerous corners, the body is all curves. Along the top edge are three buttons: two for volume control and one to turn off Echo Show’s camera and its impressively sensitive far-field microphones. I literally whispered “Alexa” (I was a few feet away from the device) and the Echo Show heard me.

Talk Show

As before, the Echo Show is a visual home for Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa, with the screen adding illustrations for answers Alexa offers on the weather and general interest questions like, “How old is Michael Douglas?” (look, there’s a picture of the guy!). With Echo Show, I can not only hear my upcoming schedule, provided I gave Alexa access to my calendar, but see reminders about my day on the screen, along with a carousel of news, weather, and trending information.

Amazon’s Echo Show also taps into a wide array of video content, including Amazon’s Own Prime Video library, new videos, and content you can find through the Web (safe search is on by default).

When Amazon originally released Echo show, it deftly integrated YouTube. Unfortunately, Amazon had done that without YouTube permission and the feature was soon pulled from the device. In the new Echo Show, you can only play YouTube videos if you search for them through Amazon’s Silk Browser or Firefox (you choose one as your default Web interface). Amazon has been open to adjusting how it accesses the YouTube API to satisfy YouTube, but Google, YouTube’s parent company, apparently never responded.