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Amazon Echo Show 8 review




CNN
—  

The new Echo Show 8 is here, which keeps the same design and all of the functionality, but packs in a new camera for improved video calls and photography.

The Echo Show 8 is the $129.99 smart display from Amazon. With an 8-inch HD display, you can use it for video calls, get visual responses from Alexa and even watch TV shows or movies. When we first reviewed it in 2019, we felt that it was the smart display for most people – not as large as the then unwieldy Echo Show 10 and not as tiny as the Show 5.

And now, that same great display has slightly more speed and a camera experience that is really delightful. So let’s unpack it all.

Who this is for: Echo Show 8 is a feature-filled smart display ideal for someone in the Alexa ecosystem or looking for a first-time smart device. It also makes sense if you currently have a smart speaker and want to add in visuals.

What you need to know: Not much has changed on the Show 8 2nd Gen; it’s all about the new 13-megapixel camera, which significantly improves video calls and photography. The screen size, design, user interface and audio quality are identical to the predecessor.

How it compares: The Echo Show 8 isn’t as futuristic or technology-forward as the Show 10. That more expensive smart display features a rotating screen, a faster processor and better sound. It’s faster than the Show 5 and a larger screen makes it easier to use. The Nest Hub has a better interface that is easier to interact with, but it’s more ideal for those who prefer the Google Assistant. The Show 8 is an ideal smart display for those in the Alexa or Amazon ecosystem — and it’s priced right.

Jacob Krol/CNN

The biggest change with the new Echo Show 8 is a camera swap — a 1-megapixel lens for a 13-megapixel lens, which delivers a significant improvement for image capture. Our first thoughts on our selfie and video call tests? More details, better lighting and no crazy levels of saturation. It’s simply better overall, and the same lens you’ll find on the Echo Show 10.

When taking a Zoom or Skype call, we immediately noticed a clearer picture on our end, compared to the previous Show 8, and those on the call with us did as well. With a bright LED light above us, the new Show 8 was no longer blowing out the image’s background, but instead kept things balanced. Our saturation levels were close to real-life as well and this all makes for a more natural call. It can also fit more into a single shot since the frame is a wide 110-degrees, which is leagues better than standard lens on the original.

Pushing that further is Amazon’s stay-in-frame tech. On Show 10, the smart display tracks you and physically rotates to keep you in the frame. The execution here is all digital, as the Show 8 is a stationary device and uses computer vision to keep you in the frame. It’s pretty close to the experience with Center Stage on the iPad Pro, but the Show 8 isn’t as quick on its feet. As a result, it can take a few extra seconds to get you in the frame and, for some reason, likes to make many adjustments. It makes video calls much more engaging, and for moments where you have to walk around, it will keep you in the frame. We’d also note that it isn’t as seamless as on the Show 10, you’ll notice the camera slowly zooming in and moving on you.

Jacob Krol/CNN

Jacob Krol/CNN

Amazon’s smart speakers and displays have made some big leaps in sound quality recently. The Show 8 isn’t getting new audio tech but keeps the same speaker tech that won us over in 2019. It features two 2-inch speakers that can each push out 10-watts. While that might seem like a minimal amount of speakers, the Show 8 delivers a rich sound experience that can fill a room.

Both these speakers fire out the back, so it pays to place the Show 8 in a corner; this way, the audio can bounce off and pack a bit more force. The Show 8 is on par with the new Show 10 and the core 4th Gen Echo, and louder than the Show 5 or Echo Dot. With a track like “Good 4 U” by Olivia Rodrigo, the bass and synthetic lower tones don’t crackle or pop. Additionally, the overall mix doesn’t wash out vocals and other instruments on the track. You also get the ability to customize the sound experience with an EQ board on the Show 8’s screen or via the Alexa app for Android or iOS.

The speakers pair quite well with the display, and when you’re using select music services (like Amazon Prime Music), the screen will display lyrics in real-time. And the 8-inch screen on the Show 8 performs just fine as a multi-functional home display. Plus, it’s responsive to multitouch.

This way if Alexa delivers a visual response along with her verbal answer, you’ll be able to interact. The Show 8 also features a proper home screen of sorts that can store widgets. It’s not as featured as the Nest Hub — there, you get several tabs and full control panels — but the Show 8 feels much more responsive. It’s a trade-off of sorts, but it also depends if you prefer Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant.

The Show 8 has a relatively tiny 8-inch display, but it’s handy for watching something while you’re working or multitasking. In addition, Show 8 supports various services like Hulu, Prime Video, Peacock, and HBO Max. However, YouTube is not officially supported here.

Here’s one big note on Sidewalk, which we’ve detailed extensively here — during Echo Show 8 setup, there is a welcome screen to Sidewalk. This is Amazon’s shared wireless network that takes a piece of your home network and opens it up to other Amazon devices. Since it’s enabled by default, your options are to continue or disable it. If you proceed, you’ll see a second screen asking to allow location with Sidewalk. Currently, we recommend turning both off, and if you enable it by accident (or out of curiosity) during setup, you can always turn it off later.

Jacob Krol/CNN

The Echo Show 8 keeps a similar design language to other Echo Show devices. No, it doesn’t have a circular base with a rotating screen like the Echo Show 10. It’s the classic Echo Show form and sits as a larger Echo Show 5.

Amazon is offering the Show 8 in charcoal or glacier white, two classic colors. We’ve been testing both and find them both to be pretty basic. And the color is only visible around the screen and on the back of the device. Like all other Echos, Amazon is using a mesh-like material to act as the outer shell.

The 8-inch display is front and center with a 13-megapixel lens above the right top corner. It’s a physically bigger lens and is identical to the one embedded into the Show 10. There’s a decent bezel around the display which is less noticeable with the charcoal version. We’d also once again beg Amazon to drop the bezels from these displays.

On top of the device, you’ll find three buttons and one slider. The mute, volume down and volume up sit center, while the right side has a slider to cover the front-facing camera. There are also four far-field microphones on the top.

You’ll plug the included power cord into the back of the Show 8 and it’s still a proprietary jack connector. It sits alongside a microUSB port (primarily used for internal Amazon purposes), but Amazon has dropped the 3.5-millimeter audio jack. That exclusion means you cannot connect the Show 8 to non-smart speakers. It seems like a last-minute move, as the plate under the ports is still large enough for three inputs.

Lastly, the bottom of the device features a rubber grip which gives the Show 8 a minimal boost in height (we’re talking under an inch) and is mostly here to ensure the smart display stays in place. The Show 8 can push out some serious sound, so it’s an excellent addition.

Amazon’s new Echo Show 8 doesn’t change much over the previous generation, but that’s not a bad thing. The Show 8 still stands as an excellent smart display that delivers a lot of value. The 8-inch screen is handy for viewing photos and visual results with Alexa, and is now a real star for video calls. The improved 13-megapixel camera is really the star and a much needed upgrade here. For $129.99, the Show 8 is a terrific smart display and smart home controller.

If you’re primarily using the original Show 8 for calls, it’s worth an upgrade — but that’s the only main change here. So if you idon’t need an improved camera, you can wait. And if you’re new to Show 8, it’s a great time to get one.



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