Hands-on: Echo Show 8 is like a tablet grafted onto a smart speaker

Enlarge / Thanks for the suggestion, Alexa—it simply may be time to revist Ferris and associates this weekend. Oh, yeah!

Jim Salter

Amazon’s newly redesigned Echo Show 8 affords a kind issue with a ton of potential. The comparatively small sensible speaker/show combo is roughly the dimensions and form of a small Kindle Hearth in a stand and affords an especially high-resolution digicam in addition to stereo audio system, an eight-core CPU, a mic array for higher voice recognition and processing, and a comparatively heavy, flat base that positions its display nicely for viewing at both desk or chest peak.

We had been fortunate sufficient to get two of the brand new gadgets for hands-on testing earlier than launch and have had them for a couple of week.

Overview and controls

Most of your interplay with the Echo Present 8 is completed through both its 8-inch touchscreen or its built-in mic array. The mic array is superb and simply outperformed the Echo and Google House sensible audio system (Dot, Mini, and full-sized) I’ve examined up to now. Even when my youngsters rickroll me on the system’s prime quantity, a no-more-than-moderately loud “Alexa, cease taking part in that rubbish” succeeds in getting her consideration—and getting her to cease taking part in that rubbish—10 instances out of 10.

The touchscreen itself is responsive, nevertheless it’s lower than regular pill requirements—whereas the show measures a strong 8 inches, its 1280×800 decision pales compared to the 2560×1600 provided by my Huawei MediaPad M5 or an iPad Air’s 2360×1640. Happily, the decrease decision does not imply seen “jaggies”—Amazon appears to be doing a wonderful job anti-aliasing the show—nevertheless it sharply limits the display actual property within the Silk browser.

Is Amazon expecting people to type two-handed on this virtual keyboard, or...?
Enlarge / Is Amazon anticipating individuals to sort two-handed on this digital keyboard, or…?

Jim Salter

Worse, we don’t like the on-screen keyboard—it takes up your complete display slightly than being a half-screen overlay. It then wastes all that stolen actual property with an Echo emblem, which splits the keyboard into two broadly separated halves. The large Echo emblem is typically—however solely generally—an equally monumental mic button, which if toggled permits you to voice-direct the keyboard as a substitute of tapping it.

Buttons and ports

Along with touchscreen and mic inputs, the Echo Present 8 affords {hardware} quantity buttons on the highest fringe of the system, flanked by a mic mute button on the left and a digicam toggle on the appropriate. The digicam toggle slides from left to proper, and it strikes a bodily impediment throughout the front-facing digicam lens, which provides a satisfying click on when absolutely closed.

The mute button is sadly digital-only—however its setting does survive reboots. In case you mute your Present’s mic after which lose energy, the Present will nonetheless be muted when your energy comes again up.

On the again of the Echo Present 8 are an influence jack and a micro-USB port. The ability jack is, considerably disappointingly, a DC barrel—so attempt to not lose the wall-wart that got here with the Echo. We initially thought the micro-USB port would enable us to energy the Echo Present 8 from the close by USB hub we cost telephones and tablets with—however sadly not.

After a little bit of sleuthing, we found that Amazon doesn’t help using this micro-USB port for finish customers—however that it can help some micro-USB-to-Ethernet adapters to be used with wired networks. One Echo Present 8 (first-gen) consumer reported this particular Ethernet adapter labored flawlessly; we consider the identical adapter ought to work equally nicely within the new model of the Echo Present 8.

Echo Present 8 as clock radio/bedside music machine

Per week of hands-on testing appears like quite a lot of time—nevertheless it’s nowhere close to sufficient time to go over each use case for the system. Like every Alexa-powered system, the Echo Present 8 can perform as a wise dwelling hub along with extra apparent use as a pill, sensible speaker, or videoconferencing gadget. Your humble creator has a determinedly dumb (and dependable) dwelling, so we have now not examined the automation options but.

When Amazon first introduced the brand new Echo Present lineup, I personally received fairly excited in regards to the 8—not like the smaller Echo Show 5, it has stereo audio system. I like to fall asleep with music at evening, and whereas simply utilizing my Android pill as a standalone media participant works, it made me desperately miss my 1991-era Panasonic increase field—which has vastly higher sound high quality than any sensible speaker I’ve discovered, not to mention a telephone or pill. Alas, previous dependable has been consigned to the lounge for precise FM radio use solely, because it lacks each Bluetooth functionality and a line-in port. (It had a CD participant, so why would Panasonic give it a line-in? Producers within the Nineteen Nineties clearly believed the compact disc was the final medium music would ever be saved on or delivered through.)

Just a few weeks earlier than the announcement, I seen Google’s Nest Audio sensible audio system may very well be linked in stereo pairs—and I would bought a pair, set them on the bedside desk behind my head, and linked them up. They sound good—in all probability inferior to the Panasonic, however at the least shut. Sadly, the method of getting audio from my pill or telephone into the paired Nest Audio audio system is, in our personal Ron Amadeo‘s phrases, “fairly janky.” Simply Bluetooth-pairing my pill to the Nest Audios did not work; as a substitute, I wanted to make use of the Google House app to “forged” to them, a lot as you’d forged video to a wise tv. Does it work? Sure. Is it clunky? Sure. Does it sometimes crash in the midst of the evening with a loud blu-donk sound impact? Additionally, sadly, sure.

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