Amazon’s new Echo Show 8 is a little faster and has a better camera

Still the best Alexa smart display

Amazon’s midsize Echo Show 8 is the best smart display in its lineup. It’s bigger and more capable than the smaller Echo Show 5, while also costing much less than the larger Echo Show 10. The Echo Show 8 is handy for watching videos, listening to music, getting weather reports, controlling smart home appliances, and making video calls. , even more.

So it’s no surprise that the second-generation model, which sells for $129.99 and is shipping this week, isn’t rocking the boat. It’s pretty much the same smart display as before but with slightly faster performance and a better video calling camera. It has the same display, similar design, similar speaker system and the same set of features as its predecessor.

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Improving video calling capabilities makes sense, considering how much video calling everyone is (and for a large part, still is) doing at home during the pandemic. The new Echo Show 8 borrows the 13-megapixel camera from the flagship Echo Show 10, replacing the pitifully low-resolution, average 1-megapixel camera that was in the first gen. As before, there’s a mechanical privacy shutter that you can slide on the front of the camera, to both disable it and block its view.

The new Echo Show 8 has the same camera as the Echo Show 10: a larger, 13-megapixel sensor with automatic panning and cropping.

You can block the view of the still camera with the physical shutter.

The improvement in video calls is immediately noticeable. You can use the Echo Show for video calls on the Alexa app on the phone or other Echo Show devices, or you can join Skype, Zoom, or Amazon’s Chime calls from it. In my testing with the Zoom Call, the image is much sharper and more pleasant to look at, with better colors and a lot more detail.

The Echo Show 8 doesn’t have the motorized base on the larger Echo Show 10, but it can still automatically frame you and follow you as you go thanks to its higher resolution. Autoframing isn’t quite as good as the new iPad Pro’s Center Stage feature, and it moves very slowly and constantly re-frames itself, like you’re the star of a Ken Burns documentary. But the Echo Show is a $130 smart display, not an $800 tablet, so it’s hard to complain, as long as you stay relatively still during video calls. If you don’t want the camera to autoframe, you can say “Alexa follow off” to disable it.

You can use the Echo Show 8 for Zoom calls, but it works best for one-on-one calling, not groups

That said, there is still a lot of room for improvement. The new camera has a more wide-angle lens, which allows it to perform those auto-framing tricks. But it can also cause the image to look distorted at times and is not always very flattering.

The Echo Show 8’s eight-inch display works fine for face-to-face video calls, but it’s too small to comfortably use for group calls. If you’re on a call where someone is sharing a screen, it’s hard to see what’s going on, and while you can view messages posted to a chat, you can see yourself on the Echo Show’s display. No one can type. Joining a Zoom call can be done entirely by voice, but it’s much easier to call the Zoom app on the Echo Show by saying “Alexa, open Zoom” and then typing the meeting code or starting yourself with the touchscreen.

I also noticed an echo of my voice in many Zoom calls, with both individual and group calls, which made it hard to use the Echo Show for any work-related issues. Other parties in the line also said that whenever I unmute my mic there is an annoying echo of my voice. Amazon says it is looking into the issue and will update this review if a solution is found.

The new processor in the second-gen Echo Show 8 makes the smart display respond faster to taps and swipes than its predecessor. It’s not a huge difference, and Amazon’s software still has a long way to go to make it more useful via touch, but when compared side-by-side, the new menu and screen opens up quickly. .

The wedge-shaped design houses two speaker drivers that deliver impressive volume for its size.

Amazon left behind the 3.5mm output jack.

Elsewhere, the changes are either non-existent or very minor. The wedge-shaped design is exactly the same; You can still get it in the same white or black color options as before. (Annoyingly, both colors come with a white power cord.)

The display has the same 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, but can now adjust its color and white balance to the lighting in the room. Like the new processor, the difference isn’t huge, but the new model is a bit warmer and more pleasant to look at when the adaptive color setting is enabled. I’m still more than impressed with the ability of Google’s Nest Hub, which mimics the look of a printed photo by customizing its color to the lighting in the room.

The dual-driver speaker system is unchanged and is as loud and full as the first gen. The Echo Show 8 can fill a small room with sound surprisingly well, and its bass response is better than expected. Sometimes, it may even seem very Stale, but you can easily adjust the EQ in the Alexa app to compensate for that. Unfortunately, Amazon dropped the 3.5mm output jack on the back of the new model, so it’s not possible to connect it to larger speaker systems with a wire.

You can watch Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Netflix on the Echo Show, but Disney Plus, Peacock, HBO Max and many other streaming services are not available. YouTube is available through the Echo Show’s Silk browser, but it’s not as intuitive as the experience available on Google’s Nest Hub, and you can’t easily cast video from your phone to the show’s screen.

The software on the Echo Show 8 is the same as that introduced in the Echo Show 10 earlier this year. Amazon is starting to make better use of the display, with a split screen that shows weather data alongside news, but it still feels like a voice-first device. Even though the new Echo Show 8 is fast, it’s still a chore to tap through all the screens to gain smart home controls, and there’s a lot of menu diving and tweaking to manage what appears in the rotating information screen on the display It requires trial and error to get what you want. (And even then, you’ll probably still be worried about the new Alexa skill or other Amazon promotions you might not care about.)

Managing what appears on the display when it’s not in use is a chore.

The new Echo Show 8 is noticeably faster when responding to touch input.

There are of course many other things you can do with the Echo Show Smart Display – too many to cover in the scope of this review. I find it most useful for viewing weather reports, managing grocery shopping lists, and viewing video feeds from a doorbell or security camera.

The Echo Show 8’s main competition is Google’s second-generation Nest Hub, which has a slightly smaller seven-inch screen and costs $30 less. The Nest Hub supports more video streaming services, has a more useful touch interface, can track your sleep, and works with Google Assistant instead of Alexa. But it doesn’t have a camera for video calling, its single speaker is blown away by the Echo Show’s dual speakers, and it’s too slow and sluggish to use. In the end, the choice comes down to how you want to use the smart display and which smart assistant you prefer.

Facebook’s 10-inch Portal is another option if you plan to use the smart display primarily for video calling, but it effectively loses out to the Echo Show 8 in every other aspect.

If you like Alexa, the new Echo Show 8 remains the best smart display to get, as it has a large screen for reading from across the room, doubles as a great speaker, and multiple cameras. -Comes with related features, including the aforementioned video calling and security camera features. It’s less than $100 less than the motorized Echo Show 10, while still offering many of the same features and capabilities. And given Amazon’s frequent discounts, you’ll likely be able to find the new Echo Show 8 for much less than its sticker price.

The new Echo Show 8 doesn’t define what a smart display can be, but it’s still a pretty good virtual assistant with a screen for an attractive price.

Photography by Dan Seifert/The Nerdshala

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