Great tool for communication
Appropriately focused on security
Excellent entertainment options
Not a smart home hub
Amazon Sidewalk is (slightly) concerning
About the Echo Show 8
- Price: $129.99
- Colors: Charcoal, Glacier White
- Connectivity: 2.4GHz and 5GHz dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
- Smart assistants: Amazon Alexa
- Camera: 13 megapixels
- Resolution: 1280 x 800 pixels
- Dimensions: 7.9”W x 5.4”H x 3.9”D
- Warranty: One year limited warranty
If Amazon changed anything about the aesthetic design of the Echo Show 8 from generation to generation, the company fooled me. Not that there was anything wrong with the Show 8’s design in the first place; it’s been applauded by many as the ideal middle ground between the diminutive Show 5 and the monstrous Show 10.
For anyone who has set up an Echo Show before, getting the new Show 8 up and running will be a familiar task. There may have been a few too many steps beyond logging into Wi-Fi and my Amazon account for my liking, but the anxiousness I had to bring the Show 8 online and start using it may have factored into that.
What we like
Communication takes center stage
Video calling and remote communication became an integral part of society over the past year-plus, and the Show 8 certainly reflects that. The classic Alexa Call and Drop-In features from past iterations of the Show are back, and they are undoubtedly handy for interacting with friends and family that also have Echo devices. But the addition of Zoom video support steals the limelight here, especially given the fact that you can command Alexa to join your scheduled Zoom meetings as long as you’ve linked your calendar in the Alexa app.
I took a more manual approach to hopping on a Zoom call with a few friends by asking Alexa to join a meeting without first having linked my calendar. She asked for, and seamlessly accepted the meeting ID, but stumbled a bit when I tried to offer up the meeting’s password. Maybe it was the combination of upper and lowercase letters that fooled it, but after a few tries I was prompted to simply type my password in on the Show 8’s screen.
When I did join the Zoom call, all the participants (myself included) were fascinated by the Show 8’s fancy new 13-megapixel wide-angle camera. No matter where I moved in my office, the Show 8 utilized its digital panning and zooming functionality to maintain focus on my bearded mug. It may not have the physical ability to move with me like the new Echo Show 10, but I was impressed with this stationary device’s ability to follow me as I bobbed and weaved throughout the room in a blatant attempt to fool it.
A proper focus on security
Like other Echo devices before it, the Show 8 offers an Alexa Guard feature that, when activated, will listen for sounds like smoke or carbon monoxide alarms or glass breaking, then alert you if it detects anything. The Show 8 also masquerades as a smart home camera, a feature I employed to check on my dogs throughout the day. I like my Wyze cameras, especially for their sheer affordability, but I was struck by the improvement in detail when using the Show 8 to keep tabs on my pups vs. the Wyze cam.
The Show 8 also has a few physical fail safes that offer a little extra piece of mind. It incorporates microphone and camera controls, plus a built-in camera shutter for moments when you want to guarantee there won’t be any unwanted eyes peering into your space. It’s a small design perk that most people will find helpful at one point or another—I just wish the shutter’s color was something other than white. I understand why it is—to obviously distinguish between when the camera is and isn’t available—but the white shutter simply doesn’t seem to mesh with the overall aesthetic of the product.
It’s an absolute entertainment machine
I was an early adopter of the first-generation Echo Show, and I still call on the sharp-edged artifact to play some music from time to time. But with an octa-core processor, improved resolution, and expansive compatibility with entertainment apps, using the Show 8 for fun was an immensely refreshing experience.
Mostly, it was just easy to use. Frustratingly, there’s still no built-in YouTube to speak of. But I regularly asked the Show 8 to do things like play specific episodes of The Grand Tour on Prime Video or access certain podcasts from Spotify, and Alexa quickly pulled up precisely what I was looking for.
If I wanted to sit down for some serious music listening, the adequate, but comparatively miniature 2-inch speakers built into the Show 8 would not be my first choice. And you won’t catch me grabbing my popcorn to watch Bo Burnham’s new Netflix special, “Inside,” on its ultimately tiny 8-inch display. But for the purposes of jamming out to country music while making dinner or having Hulu on to the side of my monitor while I work on a review, the Show 8 is more than sufficient. More importantly, it’s remarkably simple to use.
What we don’t like
Not a smart home hub
You get plenty of perks when forking over $130 for the Show 8, but you don’t get the benefits of a built-in Zigbee smart home hub. Especially when Amazon’s fourth-generation Echo doubles as a smart home hub for $100, it’s something of a head-scratcher that the more expensive Show 8 doesn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. Controlling my vast collection of smart home devices with the Show 8 was a breeze, with the device consistently carrying out tasks like showing the feed from my Ring doorbell or adjusting my Ecobee thermostat. And new features, like occupancy routines that perform actions when a person is detected near the device, were fun and mostly useful to tinker with.
This is still a great display to have at the center of your smart home. I was just expecting the Show 8 to eliminate the need for a third-party smart home hub and offer effortless compatibility with new products that I add to my ever-growing ecosystem. And to that end, I’m disappointed that the Show 8 came up short.
I’m not sold on Amazon Sidewalk
On paper, Amazon Sidewalk doesn’t seem so bad. In a nutshell, it’s a new feature that constructs a network by crowdsourcing the internet connections of Amazon devices in your general vicinity. A little bandwidth here, a little privacy omission there, and boom: your security cameras can stay connected if the Wi-Fi goes out, because they will be part of a shared network in your neighborhood.
In reality, though, this feature is a bit too new and unproven for me to put my stamp of approval on it. For the sake of fairness, Amazon has tried to reassure us by pointing out that Sidewalk data is deleted from its server every 24 hours, and beefs up that server with three layers of encryption. But when you consider Amazon’s history of privacy issues and the fact that Amazon Sidewalk is a feature that you have to opt-out of, it all seems just a little too sketchy for comfort at the moment.
That said, I (briefly) had the Amazon Sidewalk feature turned on before turning it off, and didn’t experience any differences in performance.
Smart home devices come with inherent risks to your personal privacy, (especially those with cameras). Amazon hasn’t had the cleanest track record in this department over the years, but it has made the effort to ensure Echo device users will be able to have some perception of privacy. In addition to the built-in camera shutter, Amazon provides the ability to view and delete voice recordings simply by asking Alexa to do so.
You can also ask Alexa to “tell me what you heard,” prompting the smart assistant to repeat your most recent request or command. Alexa will even send you a direct link to reviewing all of your privacy settings and options if you ask “how do I review my privacy settings?” By design, these Echo devices aren’t exactly champions of privacy. But at least Amazon is attempting to provide users with the tools to keep track of how their personal information is being stored and used.
Should you buy it?
Yes, for its effortless blend of utility and fun
Previous generations of Echo Shows have proven to be neat devices that can easily and effectively perform tasks like toggling smart home lights on and off, setting timers for the dinner roasting in the oven, and providing vital information like the upcoming day’s weather forecast. With this newest line of Echo Shows, it finally feels like we’re getting the trusty companion that Amazon has promised us for years.
The second-generation Echo Show 8 performs all of the smart home tasks you’re used to from an Echo device, but also incorporates compelling new communication functionality and superbly simple entertainment options.
A built-in smart home hub would have been a great feature to have for the smart home enthusiast. But if, like me, you have been holding out on replacing your first-generation Show until something far better came along at a reasonable price, the new Echo Show 8 is the display you’ve been looking for.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Nick Woodard is a tech journalist specializing in all things related to home theater and A/V. His background includes a solid foundation as a sports writer for multiple daily newspapers, and he enjoys hiking and mountain biking in his spare time.
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