Amazon has updated its year-old Echo Show (2017) with a gorgeous new model that has a fresh look and beefier sound.

But how do these devices really stack up? We're comparing the established Echo Show (2017) with its new sibling, the Echo Show (2018), spec by spec and feature by feature. They're pretty similar, but also noticeably different. Here's what you need to know.

Echo Show (2018) vs Echo Show (2017): Design

  • Echo Show (2018) has a new fabric look
  • Echo Show (2017) is the smallest

Echo Show (2018) measures 246 x 174 x 107 mm, while the Echo Show (2017) measures 187 x 187 x 90mm.

The Echo Show (2018) looks much more like a serious entertainment device than last year’s model, and that’s thanks its 10.1-inch glossy display. It’s also three inches bigger than its predecessor and has more of a rectangular face rather than a square like the Echo Show (2017). Both have a trapezoid shape on the rear and angle back. These oddities leave you with symmetry, but some very sharp lines some don't like.

Both are available in black or white colour options, though last year's model is plastic with the speaker grille sitting under the landscape display, and this year's model has a new fabric design on the back, which presumably hides the speaker grille beneath.

Echo Show (2018) vs Echo Show (2017): Display

  • Echo Show (2018) has a 10.1-inch HD (not full HD) display
  • Echo Show (2017) has a smaller, lower resolution screen

The Echo Show (2018) has a 10.1-inch HD (not full HD) touchscreen display firstly. The lack of high resolution is a bit disappointing, but Amazon clearly hasn't wanted to make its new Echo line up any more expensive than their predecessors.

The Echo Show (2017) display is 7 inches with a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels (169ppi), so it's a lower resolution. The question of whether that display resolution matters might come down to what you want it to do. Showing song lyrics in nice big text doesn't need a lot of detail, so a low resolution is fine. Showing your photo albums means a need for more detail for sharper images.

Echo Show (2018) vs Echo Show (2017): Hardware

  • Both are Intel Atom powered
  • Both have 5MP front camera

Amazon said both the Echo Show (2018) and the Echo Show (2017) have an Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor. What does all this mean? At the moment we can't tell, because the important thing is how smoothly the new Echo Show runs the software platform, how well it stays connected, and how responsive it is, etc. When we reviewed last year's model, we found it to be fast enough with hardly any lag.

Aside from the new display and audio, the new Echo Show (2018) has a few other new specs and software enhancements of note. There’s a built-in Zigbee smart hub, like the Echo Plus, so you can now ask Alexa to discover new smart home devices providing they’re Zigbee compliant. Both devices also feature a 5-megapixel front-facing camera and support Amazon's own video calling system.

Echo Show (2018) vs Echo Show (2017): Sound and speakers

  • Both offer stereo speakers
  • Echo Show (2018) has sound improvements

Both devices are used for entertainment - playing music, watching videos - so what they sound like is going to be pretty important. And the new Echo Show (2018) chiefly brings with it sound improvements in the form of upgraded speakers (side-firing two-inch Neodymium drivers that really are small room-filling and a passive bass radiator). Amazon also worked with Dolby for sound processing.

The Echo Show (2017) was one of the most powerful of the Echo speakers when it launched, with a pair of 2-inch stereo speakers in the front. Little else has been said about them, but they are front-firing and they do sound pretty good, if not hugely proficient.

Echo Show (2018) vs Echo Show (2017): Software

  • Both offer a fully-featured Alexa experience
  • Echo Show (2018) is launching with some new tricks

Alexa almost needs no introduction. Experienced by many as a voice-first system, the display adds a new dynamic: visual confirmation of list, timers or calendar entries. The Alexa experience on the Echo Show (2017) is fully-featured, letting you connect to all manner of smart home devices and control them. You can view your connected cameras, stream your music, play games, and more.

We suspect the Echo Show (2018) will work similarly. But Amazon is pretty pally with Microsoft this time around, letting users access Cortana on all its Echo devices, and now, Skype is coming to the Echo Show. Amazon will also be adding Silk and Firefox browsers. There’s a new partnership with Hulu, too. Amazon also showed off how Echo Show (2018) works with its Fire TV Recast box to record over-the-air television.

The Echo Show (2017) software will apparently be updated, however.

Echo Show (2018) vs Echo Show (2017): Conclusions

So, which is better?

Alexa feels like a runaway train, and that's a great thing for Echo users, because more support and interaction comes every week. The Echo Show (2017) has been available for £199/$229 for the past year and is often discounted, including currently in the US, as you can pick it up for $129. It'll be totally replaced by the £199/$229 Echo Show (2018), which you can pre-order now on Amazon.

We hope to get it in our homes so we can really compare it to last year's model. If you're wondering which to get, we can't argue with getting the cheaper of the two, as it is an exceptional device. But it shouldn't be for sale long. Plus, if you don't mind splurging (though you can wait for the inevitable discount sale), we think the new model's improved sound, fabric design, and larger display are stunning.