Amazon Echo Show: we test smart speakers with screens

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Amazon Echo Show 5 and Amazon Echo Show 8 are two smart speakers with screens from Amazon that are available to buy in Brazil for R $ 599 and R $ 899, respectively. The first, with a 5.5-inch display, was launched in 2019, while the second, with an 8-inch display, arrived in the country in February this year. The main difference between the products is precisely the display, which shows suggestions for interacting with Alexa and can even show films and series through Amazon Prime Video. Check below our impressions of the two Echo Show boxes for sale in the Brazilian market.

Screen and design
The two Echo Shows have the same design proposal. The body has a fabric finish and a rubberized area on the bottom, which is supported on the surface. There is the option to buy a base for the model, which fits into this structure and leaves the screen upright – which should be quite interesting in video calls. In addition, the back of the boxes brings an auxiliary input, in case the user wants to increase the sound power with another speaker via cable, and a microUSB port, which also serves as a power source – in addition to the power cable itself.

At the top, there are the volume controls and a button to switch off the microphone, preventing Alexa from being triggered by voice – which can happen unintentionally from time to time. There is also a kind of lock that closes the camera manually. The other commands are given either by voice, with the assistant, or on the display itself, which is sensitive to touch. The interaction with the screen is somewhat limited, but it is sometimes necessary. To access services like YouTube, for example, the user has no other option.

In terms of quality, the display leaves nothing to be desired. Although it does not bring a high resolution, its viewing angle is sufficient, and it is possible to watch the content displayed from almost any position. For watching any video in the kitchen, for example, Echo Shows are good options, but they do not replace a TV for the bedroom, for example.

A very negative point of the design – which can be circumvented with the base sold separately by Amazon – is the inclination of the devices. Resting on a straight surface, the boxes have their cameras pointing upwards. Therefore, features like Drop In, which allows you to watch what is being recorded without the need for a call, do not work the best way to keep an eye on babies sleeping in another room, for example. For video calls, it is also necessary to be attentive to find the best position on the board, which should not be so complicated, since the proposal is to facilitate this type of interaction in relation to the cell phone.

Microphone
During the tests, it was possible to notice some important differences in relation to the audio capture. Echo Show 5, for example, has difficulties in recognizing what is being said – especially when playing music at higher volumes. In some cases, even in a quiet environment the model cannot recognize the commands, yielding a few screams of “Alexa!” In addition, the interaction ends up in an action completely different from the desired, which is frustrating.

Echo Show 8 was better in this regard, understanding the controls even at greater distances. In general, in order to have a better experience – and not have to be shouting for Alexa to listen -, it is worth the tip of not installing the box next to a TV.

Sound
Reproduction is another point where the difference is very clear. Echo Show 8 has powerful bass, making it much more interesting to listen to music, for example. But, in any case, it is worth mentioning that none of them will stand out in this regard, especially in relation to speakers from brands such as JBL, Sony, LG, among others. The focus, once again, is the integration with the Alexa assistant and its services in general.

The good audio power of the Echo Show 8, in addition to the bigger screen, makes it a good option for users interested in watching movies and series through Amazon Prime through the device, for example. The 5.5-inch version also has a loud sound, but with stronger treble.

A very positive point when testing both products is to create a set of speakers, that is, to play music on both Echo Shows at the same time. This feature is available on the Alexa app and can be used with any Amazon speaker. That way, you can enjoy the best of both worlds and in different environments.

Content
In addition to Prime Video and the possibility of listening to music via Spotify, something that happens in all Amazon Echo, the screen versions can be used to read (or listen to) your e-books saved on Kindle, and also access the Internet through the manufacturer’s Silk or Mozilla Firefox browsers. Therefore, it is possible to leave the box in the kitchen to follow recipes online, for example, without the difficulty of having to support the cell phone in the ideal place.

The skills offered by Amazon are also quite interesting, allowing the user to listen to their favorite radio stations, play quiz games or even reproduce animal sounds – something really cool for younger children. Through the Alexa app, it is also possible to create routines, with sequences of actions activated through a single command. In this way, an “Alexa, good night” can turn off the lights, just as the “Alexa, dispense alarm” can turn them on in the morning.

It is worth mentioning that this is only possible with compatible smart lamps, such as Philips Hue or Positivo Casa Inteligente, for example. It is also possible to interact with other products connected with the box, such as air conditioning, smart socket, among others.

Remembering what you need to buy is also easier, as you just have to ask the assistant to add the items and open the app on the market with the updated list. Likewise, it is possible to program alarms with different sounds through the app, or ask Alexa every night to wake up at the desired time. Ordering food through iFood or ordering trips via Uber are also possible tasks in the box.

Another interesting feature is to answer questions about various subjects, such as making accounts and discovering historical dates. Amazon also provides some relevant information related to the new coronavirus, such as updated data, hygiene tips, among other information.

Echo Show 5 or Echo Show 8?
The question is, which one to choose? The smaller and cheaper option is, yes, inferior to the Echo Show 8. Not only in the screen size, but also in the sound performance and in the microphone, which can make a difference at the time of purchase. But, costing R $ 300 less compared to the more powerful version, the Echo Show 5 can be quite interesting, since it brings even more functions in relation to Amazon Echo and costs R $ 100 less. In addition, as it is compact, the box can be installed in the kitchen without taking up much space, as well as functioning as a kind of clock and alarm clock next to the bed.

The Echo Show 8, in turn, due to its robust profile, is more like an entertainment center. Good sound capacity and a larger screen to watch the content of Amazon Prime Video are its positive points, in addition to having sufficient pickup on the microphone. The model, therefore, gives more confidence when listening to music, easily replacing an intermediate speaker – with the added bonus of the video and Alexa.


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