(Pocket-lint) - The Amazon Echo Show 8 debuted in 2019 to broad acclaim – including from ourselves, as it was the best yet – bringing sensible scale visuals and Alexa voice control goodness in the one device.
The Echo Show 8 had most of the audio power of the larger-scale Echo Show 10 – the updated model of which now features a new rotating screen feature – yet with a larger screen than the more basic Echo Show 5.
Unlike the 2021 version of the Echo Show 5 – which is a relatively minor update – the second-gen Echo Show 8 has more of a features boost, with a new camera featuring pan and zoom tracking, plus an upgraded processor. There's no 'extreme' rotating head unit, so you could argue that this is the ideal Echo Show for most people.
Design and specs
- Dimensions: 200.4 x 135.9 x 99.1mm / Weight: 1037g
- Wi-Fi: Dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
- Colours: Glacier White, Charcoal
- Processor: MediaTek MT 8183
The second-generation Echo Show 8 is barely changed from the previous version physically. Indeed, pretty much the only external change is that the new version doesn't have a 3.5mm audio jack – so you can't wire in external sources.
Once again, it's a fairly compact unit with a row of standard Alexa buttons above the screen and a mic mute/camera shutter slider on the top right. Being able to shut off the camera physically has become a pillar of Amazon's commitment to privacy – even if in reality you'll rarely close it off. As with every Echo device, there's also a physical mic mute button.
Once again the Echo Show 8 doesn't have the Zigbee smart home hub. In reality, we've never found this hugely useful and it certainly isn't missed here.
While the Echo Show 8 doesn't support newer Wi-Fi 6 networks, it retains full compatibility with Wi-Fi 5 and older so it'll work with all networking gear.
Like the older Echo Show 8, the newer device is powered by a MediaTek processor, but while the old 6163 was quad-core, while the chip is octa-core and so is more powerful. Things are therefore a little zippier compared to older Echo Shows, especially when moving between menus.
Display and sound
- Screen: 8-inch, 1,280 x 800 pixel touchscreen
- Speakers: dual 2-inch neodymium speakers with passive bass radiator
The display is unchanged for this second-generation model, retaining an 8-inch touchscreen. That's the same resolution as is available on the 10.1-inch display on the Echo Show 10, too. It's reasonably crisp at this scale and does enough for a display that you glance at rather than work at or watch for hours on end.
Audio-wise, the experience is also unchanged from the previous generation, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. While the first Echo Show 10-inch was very bassy, later generations have been significantly more effective. This won't fill a large room, but is a brilliant speaker for a kitchen, office or dining area, for example. It's much more effective than the Echo Show 5 in our opinion.
The audio setup consists of dual 2-inch speakers with a passive bass radiator (the Echo Show 10 has a dedicated woofer). As with all Echo devices you can beam music from another Bluetooth device as well as use the various music services.
In terms of the audio for calls and such, the Echo Show is excellent in terms of its quality – and there are a total of four mics on the device so you won't have an issue being heard.
Camera and software
- Camera: 13-megapixel with built-in cover, new pan and zoom
- Software: Fire OS 7 based on Google Android 9 Pie
The upgrade to the camera is the biggest change for Echo Show 8. It's now a 13-megapixel unit, unlike the rather average 1-megapixel camera inside the older version. That means it has the same camera capabilities as the larger Echo Show 10.
But while the Echo Show 10 features a rotating screen, the camera in Show 8 is static. However, with this model comes a vastly improved 13-megapixel sensor with pan and zoom.
Essentially the camera can follow you around the room as you move (within reason). This is very effective when you're on a video call, especially if you have kids that are constantly on the move or if you're moving about preparing a meal while on video. You can turn off the 'following' feature if it's annoying you, just as you can turn off video in a call.
How can it do this? Well, 13 million pixels is far more than required for a single image. Even a Full HD display is little over two million pixels. So having the excess gives the opportunity to utilise different parts of the sensor as required.
It's a feature we've seen before, most notably on Facebook's Portal range of devices. While the Portal was originally a video calling device via Messenger and WhatsApp and is trying to become more of a general smart display through various updates, it feels a bit like the Echo Show is going the other direction – a smart display that wants to become more of a communication device.
Video calling options are OK – whether via Skype or Amazon's own video calling service – but while Zoom has come to Echo Show 8 and 10 in the US, it still remains bizarrely absent in the UK.
In terms of its software, the Echo Show remains a mixed bag. The Fire OS 7 software (based on Google Android 9 at present, so it's two generations behind) has significantly improved over the last couple of years, but there are still times when Alexa feels more designed for voice-first rather than a touchscreen and as we've noted before, this is a feeling that doesn't go away.
While core stuff like asking for the weather, sports scores, viewing Ring devices or calling up your appointments work really well with the display, third-party skills are often very patchy in their display support.
One area that has improved is the ability to use Echo Show to display your photos – even if you need to use Amazon Photos to do this. And as always, doing Amazon-centric tasks such as checking out the latest deals or voice shopping work really well.
In terms of entertainment, music is well catered for as on every Echo device. There's Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and Amazon Music support. You can also get Sirius in the US and BBC Sounds in the UK as you'd expect, in amongst access to other stations.
There's support for Netflix, Hulu (US only), and Amazon Prime Video, but you need to go into the browser to view YouTube videos; there's still no native app which just seems crazy when YouTube is available on Fire TV devices without issue.
Amazon has tried to assuage this issue with content deals such as Vevo for music videos and FoodNetwork/BBC Good Food for cook-along recipes – but it's not enough when so much content is on YouTube.
There are some recent refinements to the software, such as adaptive brightness and the ability to use the device as a sunrise clock. There's also an action to swipe in from the right-hand side of the display to view shortcuts to common tasks such as routines and alarms. You can also view recently-used commands, too.
There's no doubt the Echo Show 8 remains a great option if you're looking for an Echo device with a screen. It's a great fit between the expensive and, let's face it, slightly bonkers Echo Show 10, and the bedside-orientated Echo Show 5.
Indeed, the Show 5 is a little bit of a poor relation when Amazon has one of its regular sales – the Show 8 tends to get discounted to the point where it's a no-brainer compared to the Show 5, and this will become even more evident the case when the older Show 8 goes end of life.
The Echo Show software is getting better all the time, but it's still very annoying there's no native YouTube app. At the time of writing there is no Zoom support for Echo Show in the UK – but there is in the US. These irritations, plus those of patchy third-party Skills, mark out the Echo Show as a platform that Amazon needs to work harder on.
Yet this remains the best bang-for-buck Echo Show and the new camera really marks it out as a device that's well worth investing in.
Amazon Echo Show 5
At a slightly smaller price depending on deals, this smaller Echo Show has many of the same appealing features that make the Show 8 a great buy. However, if you want a decent sound you'll still need the Show 8. That's not to say the Show 5 is bad on sound quality, but it's a clear step down. You also don't get the Show 8's high-quality camera.
Google Nest Hub
If you're all about Google Assistant rather than Amazon Alexa, the standard Nest Hub with a 7-inch touchscreen is an obvious alternative to the Echo Show 8. It slots in below the Nest Hub Max, which butts up against the Echo Show 10. Nest Hub devices have the YouTube integration that Echo Show lacks, while it majors on Google Duo video-calling.