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The Echo Show 8 is still the best smart display and speaker combo available

The Echo Show 8 is still the best smart display and speaker combo available

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The third-generation Echo Show 8 was launched for sale in late 2023 for $150.
  • An improved speaker now boasts spatial audio, a centered camera, and the new Adaptive Content feature. 
  • Though it has many improvements, the screen remains at 1080p resolution, and the customization options are minimal.

The new Echo Show 8 was recently released by Amazon, and I’ve been able to test it for the past few months. Coming from a first-generation Echo Show 8 makes the upgrades to the third-generation model all the more noticeable.

Also: How a ‘smart calendar’ changed the way my family stays connected

Aside from featuring a sleeker design with edge-to-edge glass, a center-set camera, and a smaller speaker enclosure, the 2023 Echo Show 8 features spatial audio, a faster processor than previous generations, and an upgraded smart home experience.

View at Amazon

Amazon’s updates are evident from the moment you unbox the device. The typical plastic packaging is nowhere to be seen, as the device is wrapped mostly in recyclable materials. Amazon says 99% of the device’s packaging is made of wood-fiber materials from “responsibly managed forests or recycled sources.”

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Once unboxed, the Echo Show 8 stands out from previous generations for its different design, particularly the speaker on the back. Older generations had a tapered speaker back that doubled as a stand to hold the smart display up to make it self-standing. The latest Echo Show 8’s speaker also props up the display, but it has a new design that is, in my humble opinion, an interesting choice. 

The speaker on the backside, let’s admit it, looks a bit like a butt sticking out of the smart display, especially when viewed from an angle and just a sliver of it is visible. This isn’t a negative thing, it’s just the unfortunate perception the device gave me.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Suboptimal backside design choices are just one of the many new features packed into the latest generation Echo Show. Amazon finally placed the device’s camera in the middle of the display instead of on the right, as it had done with each Echo Show before this one. 

Also: Amazon’s Echo Show 5 made me a smart display believer (and my daughter, too)

The upgraded 13MP camera is meant for video calls, making the center placement all the more beneficial to prevent people from appearing as if they’re looking off to one side when on a video call.

The camera placement from the right to the center could also better support Visual ID, making it possible for the Echo Show 8 to detect when a person approaches the device. 

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Visual ID personalization is available in the Echo Show 10, Echo Show 15, and Echo Show 8 second generation and newer. This feature makes it easier for each person in a household to have a personalized experience with the smart display. 

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Each household member who wants to use Visual ID has to enroll separately on each device; as Amazon explains, this visual data is stored locally on the device. When an enrolled member approaches the Echo Show 8, the screen will display personalized content, such as sticky notes someone else left for that person, calendars, and their favorite news.

The Echo Show 8 (2023) switches from Standby Mode to a more interactive screen when a registered user is detected.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

But Visual ID differs from Adaptive Content, an all-new feature Amazon is debuting with this third-generation device. Adaptive Content will make it easier for consumers to view content on the screen from a distance by simplifying it when no one is near the device and switching to a detailed view when the person approaches the Echo Show.

Also: 5 things I learned while building my smart home

If the user is also enrolled in Visual ID, then the displayed content will be personalized to that user. Adaptive Content is also coming to the second-generation Echo Show 8 and other Echo Show devices as soon as early 2024. 

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The latest Echo Show 8 is also a smart speaker with spatial audio. The device packs a pair of two-inch neodymium speakers for a vibrant directional feel and a surprisingly rich sound experience despite the size of the speaker, especially compared to the first-generation model and the  2023 Echo Show 5

ZDNET’s buying advice

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The newest Echo Show 8 makes a compelling case for a smart display for both Alexa fans and smart home enthusiasts. Still, the $150 MSRP, higher than previous generations, could be a deterrent (though recurring discounts and sales remediate that). The older, second-generation Echo Show 8 retails for $130, though it’s also often discounted. 

Also: Everything you need to start building a smart home

However, This latest smart display is notably faster than previous models in the screen’s touch response and how quickly Alexa responds to and processes requests. 

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

For smart home users, the Echo Show 8 can process common smart home requests locally for 40% faster responses when you ask Alexa to turn on a smart light or smart plug. The new Echo Show 8 is also not just a smart display with Alexa built-in, but a smart home hub like the Echo and higher-end Echo Show 10. 

With support for Zigbee, Thread, and Matter, the Echo Show 8 can be a central nexus to set up and control compatible smart devices and a smart assistant.

The article was first published here

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