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Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd gen) review: The Alexa smart display for everyone
Amazon Echo Show 8
What we like
What we don't like
The list of the best Alexa-compatible smart displays is pretty short, with the Echo Show 8 line consistently being one of the best bang for your buck options. In early 2021, Amazon issued an update to the smart display to give it a faster processor and a massively upgraded camera along with a range of software capabilities to capitalize on that hardware.
In the Android Authority Amazon Echo Show 8 review, we see if Amazon’s second-generation mass-market smart display has the chops to take on the Google Nest Hub and the growing number of excellent Google Assistant-enabled smart displays.
What you need to know about the Amazon Echo Show 8
- Amazon Echo Show 8: $129 / £119 / €129 / Rs. 7499
The Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd gen, 2021) is the company’s updated mid-range smart display that sits between a 5-inch desk-sized model and the larger 10.1-inch HD screen-toting Echo Show 10 that can rotate on its base. The 2021 edition of the smart display includes an upgraded processor and a high-resolution camera for better-quality video calls.
The Echo Show 8 ships from Amazon and other major retailers globally in both white and black colors, though users will have to make do with a white power cable regardless. The primary competitor for the Echo Show 8 is the Google Nest Hub that has a smaller display and single speaker. Users may also opt for voice-only smart speakers like the Amazon Echo that has all the same capabilities, minus the display, and can be had for cheaper as well.
Amazon’s 8-inch smart display keeps much of the same design and hardware fundamentals from the model it replaces. The front is dominated by the 8-inch 720p display that can now adjust color and white balance based on ambient lighting. I wish Amazon had taken the opportunity to update the design a bit and balance out the bezels. Instead, you get a larger camera cutout.
A physical slider for privacy is also included that can block off the camera. The white color of the camera cover makes sure that you know for certain that the camera is physically inaccessible. Shutting the slider will also electronically disable the camera, as before.
The dual speakers on the Echo Show 8 sound fantastic, and the camera is a drastic improvement.
The speaker system remains unchanged since the first-generation model but the dual speakers still output room-filling sound. There’s ample bass and music remains clear even when cranked up loud. In fact, the audio system here easily surpasses the one on the first-generation Google Nest Hub (the only model available here in India), making it an easy choice for anyone looking to get a smart display that doubles up as a small streaming music system.
Unfortunately, Amazon has opted to remove the 3.5mm audio output jack — a possible upsell for Amazon’s Echo Link ($199) streaming deck.
Another change is the front-facing camera. Built for a post-COVID, video call-focused era, the 2021 model Echo Show 8 is being positioned as a hub for video calls alongside its smart home duties. To that effect, the camera gets a massive jump from a 1MP shooter to a 13MP camera with an ultra-wide lens.
Swipes and taps react to actions immediately — a big improvement over earlier generations of Amazon's smart displays.
Like the third-generation Echo Show 10, the camera can now follow subjects and zoom in to them, making use of the ample resolution. The lack of a physical rotating assembly like on the Echo Show 10 means that you still need to stay within the frame. The Echo Show can make and accept calls from both Skype and Zoom, in addition to Alexa’s own Drop-In video call service.
Powering all of that is an upgraded Mediatek MT8183 processor. The more powerful processor has had a noticeable impact on responsiveness. Swipes and taps react to actions immediately instead of the seconds you’d often have to wait with earlier generations of Amazon’s smart displays.
What’s not so good?
The software is still the Achilles’ Heel of Amazon’s smart displays. Admittedly, Amazon has been making moves to make the touch display a bit more useful with sticky to-do notes and by opening up the developer ecosystem, but we’re yet to see the fruits of those efforts. It’s just too bloated and unintuitive to be the easy-to-use, quick access experience it needs to be.
The Echo Show 8 feels like a voice-first device with its under-utilized display.
Basic functions like toggling smart lights can take multiple taps and that’s a problem that can’t be solved with better responsiveness. In fact, the entire device seems to be built with a voice-first approach, with touch capabilities added in as an afterthought.
Amazon also doesn’t have an alternative to Google’s excellent Cast functionality on the Nest Hub. This essentially locks you into a handful of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. Popping open YouTube is also an exercise in frustration as it requires you to load up Amazon’s less-than-stellar Silk browser. These issues aren’t new but they’re not really expected from a category of devices that is starting to become ubiquitous.
On the camera side of things, I came to appreciate the drastically improved video quality, but the focus reframing definitely needs some fixes. The software seems to be a bit too aggressive in its attempts to keep the user in the frame and I noticed that the camera often kept shuffling between different zoom levels. During my test calls, I preferred to switch off the follow focus mode.
Another errant bug I noticed was the occasional echo (heh) in video calls. I wasn’t able to replicate the bug consistently, but other reviewers have also noticed it and I imagine Amazon should be able to fix it in software.
Amazon Echo Show 8 review: Should I buy it?
Ultimately, the choice to buy an Echo Show 8 (2nd gen, 2021) rests almost entirely on which smart assistant camp you are in. If you’ve already got a bunch of Amazon Echo devices, the Show 8 is a shoo-in and will integrate seamlessly with the rest of your smart home setup. As a smart hub, however, the Google Nest Hub ($99/Rs.6,999) is just a bit more thoughtfully designed to be a better fit for most.
The Echo Show 8 isn't an essential buy, but it would be a good fit for anyone invested in the Amazon ecosystem.
How much utility you get out of the Echo Show 8 also largely depends on how many video calls you expect to make, or if you want a small screen to watch videos on in the kitchen. Sure, Amazon is making efforts to increase the software use cases for the display, but as it stands, it is simply faster to use voice commands to accomplish the same tasks.
The Echo Show 8 is a solid product should it fit your needs, but it’s not a straight-up must-have over Amazon’s Echo speakers.