We have come a long way from the time when the rather cool Echo Spot was leading the mission for Alexa with a display, albeit with limited utility because of the curious circular screen. Since then, we have seen the top-of-the-line Echo Show with conventional 10-inch display and an Echo Show 5, which as the name suggests, has a 5-inch display. But what if you want something that sits in the middle of these two screen sizes? That would be the new Amazon Echo Show 8, with an 8-inch display that hits the sweet spot in terms of size. And gives the Google Nest Hub something to think about.
The Echo Show 8 is priced at Rs 12,999 but as is the case with Amazon, you can happily snag some deals and discounts if you play your credit cards and payment methods right. Yes, it costs more than the Rs 8,999 price tag of the Google Nest Hub which has a 7-inch display. But it would probably make more sense for you to get the Echo Show 8 if you have other Alexa devices at home anyway. All the more value for money, because the capabilities of the Echo Show 8 are closer to those of the Echo Show (around Rs 22,990), than the Echo Show 5 (around Rs 8,999). That simply adds a lot of value to the price tag. You can buy this in black or white colour options.
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It is More Like Its Larger Sibling
First things first, the display performance and viewing experience. This 8-inch LCD canvas is 1280 x 800 pixels, which is the same as the resolution on the larger 10-inch display of the Echo Show. That is good news, because more pixels packed in means this 8-inch screen is adequately crisp and is great to look at. Adequately bright, black levels are dark-enough one would have to admit, and it doesn’t get stumped by reflections from ambient lighting. That’s a great start for a device you will keep in your living room, bedroom or perhaps even the kitchen. Familiar interface, if you have used any of the other Echo Show devices. What I perhaps miss is that the Echo Show 8 doesn’t have an ambient lighting sensor that can allow the display colour to be tweaked—the Google Nest Hub does that.
The Echo Show 8 can do the video playback thing as sweetly as the Echo Show—which means you can use this to view content on Amazon Prime Video and Voot video streaming services, for instance. But it still doesn’t play well with Netflix, or Disney+ Hotstar, for example. Platform limitations aside, the Echo Show 8 is compact enough and versatile enough to be your video streaming display around the home. You can place this on the kitchen counter to get the latest recipes. It can be on your dining table to catch up on the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory. You can even prop this up on your bedside table and get through a stand-up comedy show as you prepare for bed. There is a massive library of content available to you, and that is always good. We do hope though that support for the missing streaming apps is added soon.
You will not believe how good this sounds
In terms of the audio output as well, the Amazon Echo Show 8 matches up well to the more expensive Echo Show. The main reason for that is that the same audio hardware has been carried down into the Echo Show 8 as well. It means that behind the display sit two neodymium audio drivers, each 2-inch in size as well as a passive bass radiator for lower frequency handling. The audio drivers are positioned for side-firing, which helps with the wider sound illusion that works well in most rooms. The Echo Show supports Dolby audio as well, which the Echo Show 8 doesn’t—but to my ears, it really didn’t make much difference while streaming the same tracks on Amazon Prime Music and Apple Music. As and when the High-Resolution music on the Amazon Prime Music platform comes to India, the Dolby features will gain more significance. The question now is—if the Echo Show 8 does the sound bit so well, would you only go for the Echo Show because of the larger display and the Dolby Atmos infused future proofing?
As things stand, the Amazon Echo Show 8 sounds much better than anything Google has in the smart speaker and smart display line-ups in India. In fact, it is miles ahead of the Echo Show 5 and its singular and completely inadequate 1.65-inch audio driver.
It is smarter than most smart devices
The Amazon Echo Show 8 also gets a physical shutter to close off the front camera—that is great for anyone wary of having a smart camera sitting in their bedroom or living room.
What the Echo Show 8 doesn’t have is the smart home hub—that will only be a limitation if your smart home devices require a hub to work and you’ll need to install one separately (some of the older Philips Hue smart bulbs needed a hub). Chances are, most of your smart lights and switches will simply work brilliantly with voice commands. You can also pull the feed from smart security cameras to this display.
The versatility of having a display to go with a smart assistant is undeniable. Voice commands and the touchscreen combo make it much more intuitive to control smart home devices too. Perhaps Google’s Nest Hub still offers the same functionality in a slightly simpler package as far as the interface goes, the flexibility works well, nevertheless. You can also make video calls to anyone who uses Skype, another Echo Show device or uses the Alexa app on their phone. You can also use any one of these devices to drop in on another device, perhaps to check if the pets are okay at home or if the children are indeed studying sincerely.
You will be able to call out to Amazon Prime Music, Apple Music, TuneIn, JioSaavn, Gaana or Hungama Music for the soundtrack to your day. If you want, you can change the default music source too—you aren’t mandatorily made to listen to Amazon Prime Music.
Apart from that, the Amazon Echo Show 8 does everything that the Amazon Echo line-up of smart speakers do very well with the Alexa virtual assistant. This includes skills that plug into third-party apps such as Uber and Ola to book cabs via voice commands, call out for kids’ entertainment and more. You can also simply ask Alexa the latest news updates, weather, sports scores, answers to any random queries you may have, set reminders and even recipes as you cook—it is like the truly smart companion you always wanted. I would love to use this display as a photo frame from time to time, but it is a big disappointment that Amazon and Google have still not gotten around to enabling Google Photos on this—it’ll make life much simpler to get photos on to the Echo Show 8’s display.
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There is little doubt that the Amazon Echo Show 8 is a very versatile smart speaker that is worth every penny it may cost you. It is just the right size to work well around your home—equally comfortable on the bedside, in the living room, in the kitchen, the dining table or even the kids’ room. The fact that it absolutely delivers on the sound means it’ll be the music driver for many. If only it could be a proper photo frame with my Google Photos too.