A smart speaker with a screen, impressive audio quality and a little something extra
- Technologically impressive motion tracking
- Works beautifully for video calls
- Good sound quality
- Motion setup can be fiddly
Amazon’s larger Echo Show speakers have always existed at the periphery of the firm’s range of smart speakers but the latest generation takes this to a whole new level.
In addition to a tablet-sized 10in touchscreen – the benefit of which was never completely realised on the previous model – Amazon has now added a motorised base that enables the screen to pivot 350 degrees, and use clever computer vision tech to follow you around the room.
Amazon Echo Show 10 review: What you need to know
Alas the Echo Show 10 can’t yet literally follow you around, nipping at your heels, like some motorised pooch begging for snacks. Instead, it uses its 13-megapixel camera and beam-forming microphones to pinpoint your location and pivot the screen so it faces towards you.
It’s a clever party trick but beyond impressing (and potentially unnerving) friends when they’re eventually allowed to come visiting once again, the principal use case is video calling.
With Amazon having launched group calling for its Echo devices at the end of 2020, the Echo Show 10 is primed to supplant Zoom and Skype for remote family get-togethers. Indeed, with support for Skype already in place and Zoom coming soon (although this has only been confirmed for the US currently), the Echo Show 10 (3rd generation) could be viewed as the ultimate standalone webcam.
Aside from this, the Amazon Echo Show 10 operates just like the firm’s many other screen-based smart speakers. It’s able to answer queries, play music, radio and podcasts on its speaker, and it can help you control smart devices like smart bulbs and plugs thanks to its built-in Zigbee hub.
Of course, since it has a 10.1in 1,200 x 800 screen, it can also play video, display your photos and patch you through to your video doorbell and security camera feeds, among other things.
Amazon Echo Show 10 review: Price and competition
With all the extra complexity and technology, you probably won’t be surprised to discover that, at £240, the Echo Show 10 is Amazon’s most expensive smart speaker and it costs more than its predecessor, the second-generation Echo Show, which debuted at £220.
If you’re willing to forgo the pivoting display, you can save quite a bit of cash by opting for the 8in Echo Show 8 for £120, or the Echo Show 5 (5in) at £80, although neither are as well-suited to video calling as the Echo Show 10 and neither sound as good.
As for smart screens from other firms, the choice is vanishingly small. Google’s Nest Hub Max has an equally large 10in display, costs £220 and also supports video calling via Google Meet. Zoom support is coming but there appears to be no plan to integrate Microsoft’s video calling products – either Skype or Teams.
Meanwhile, the smaller standard Nest Hub offers the same features and a 7in screen for £50. Again, though, at this size, it isn’t as well-suited to video conferencing as the larger devices.
Amazon Echo Show 10 review: Design and key features
The Echo Show (3rd generation) is quite a departure from previous Show speakers. Instead of integrating the touchscreen directly into the speaker unit, Amazon’s engineers have attached the screen on the Show 10 to a motorised, pivoting base via a slim, curved bracket. This allows the angle of the display to be pushed back from vertical to a 45-degree angle, as well as giving it a more elegant overall look.
It’s a nicely made thing, too, and less lumpen and awkward than previous Shows. The speaker unit is shaped like a small barrel wrapped in textured fabric – it’s available in white or charcoal grey – and other than the power cable, which snakes out of a small cutout at the rear – it’s pleasingly minimalist.
The physical controls are all mounted on the top edge of the display. Here, you’ll find volume and mute buttons plus a privacy slider for the camera. Slide the latter into place and the Show 10’s 13-megapixel camera is physically blocked and electrically disabled, so there’s no chance of any potential hacker taking control of it.
Most of the time, however, you’ll be tapping and swiping the touchscreen or using your voice to take control over things. On this front, the Show 10 performs much as the second generation device did, albeit with a handful of notable improvements.
The display now adapts its colour temperature to the ambient light in the same way that Google’s Nest Hub Max does. This works well and it gives the display a more natural, neutral overall tone than the 2nd generation Echo Show 10.
Wireless receives a specification bump with support for Wi-Fi 6, which should improve connection reliability and there’s an integrated Zigbee smart hub for direct connection and management of compatible smart devices such as plugs and lights.
Amazon has also done some work on the visuals, squeezing multiple panels of information onto some screens, making more of the space available than before. This is a good thing, although there is still some work to do on this front.
One of the most irritating things I’ve come across over the years of using Echo Show devices is the lack of an option to display the time permanently, which becomes painfully apparent when you’re using third-party services or skill to listen to audio.
Ask Alexa to play a BBC radio station, for example, and the screen – to all intents and purposes – goes blank. No useful information is displayed, other than the station you’re listening to, the skill you’re using and an Alexa suggestion at the bottom. Even DAB radio gives more information than this; it’s criminally bad.
Amazon Echo Show 10 review: Motion tracking
The Echo Show is all about motion, however. A motor is built into its base and there’s some smart tech that allows the screen and camera to track you as you move around the room. It does this using a combination of “sound source localisation” and computer vision and it works remarkably well, although some niggles do need ironing out.
Before you can get started, some initial setup is needed. This sees you tweaking the default resting position of the display and setting the range of motion, which is handy if you’re positioning the speaker on a shelf or up against a wall. If you don’t restrict the speaker’s range of motion, it can get confused as sound reflects off nearby surfaces and I found it often turns to face the wrong direction.
Unfortunately, this is a pain to set up. It’s done by adjusting two points on a slider to set the left and right positions, then tapping “Preview”. The speaker then slowly spins clockwise and counterclockwise to preview the range of motion you’ve chosen and, if it’s slightly off, you have to tweak the slider position and preview again. This is hit and miss, very clunky and unnecessarily slow; hopefully, something Amazon will improve it as it gets more user feedback.
You’ll also need to experiment with the “Motion preferences” to find what suits you best. I started out with motion enabled “During all activities”, which keeps the screen facing towards you whether you’re listening to music or radio, watching video or making video calls but quickly found that I didn’t want the screen following me during music or radio playback.
Instead, I set it to “During select activities”, which turns on motion with only some multimedia activities (watching video or following a recipe but not while playing music, podcasts and radio) and when you’re on a call.
With that done, everything proceeds pretty much as you’d expect it to. The device turns to face you whenever you say the wake word (Alexa by default but it can be changed) and it’s pretty good at locking onto your position in the room and tracking you around. I found it was occasionally confused by large objects placed nearby, which caused it to get stuck facing the wrong way. It can be freed, however, by simply saying the wake word, or “Follow me” or “turn left/right”. The brushless motor driving things is completely silent, too.
I can’t say it has dramatically improved my relationship with the smart speaker but it is handy for video calls. Here, not only can the camera turn and track you around the room physically, its object tracking technology is also able to recognise how far you are from the camera and digitally reframe and zoom the view to keep you centred.
It’s also worth noting that the camera quality is excellent; certainly better than most laptop and standalone webcams can offer. It’s crisp with balanced colours and copes well in low light without getting too noisy or mushy.
Amazon Echo Show 10 review: Audio quality
And it sounds great, too. Amazon has got pretty good at audio engineering over the years and its latest Echo speakers are impressive and the Echo Show 10 3rd generation continues its improvements in this regard.
Where the second-generation Echo Show 10 sounded too bassy, necessitating hefty tweaks to the EQ settings to get it listenable, the new model is a joy straight out of the box. The bass is more balanced, tight and agile, the mids more forward and the trebles crisper and more detailed. That makes it easier to hear voices, no matter how deep, and it also means it’s more fun to listen to with music and video.
At this stage, I’ll point out that the Echo Show isn’t as good as the Echo Studio, the Sonos Move or the Apple HomePod on the audio front. If sound quality is your thing, it’s clear you need to sacrifice the display. However, it doesn’t lag behind by a huge degree, and it’s a good bit better than the other screen-based smart speakers we’ve reviewed.
Amazon Echo Show 10 review: Verdict
The third-generation Echo Show 10 is certainly clever and, in some ways, it’s a technical tour de force. The silent, brushless motor and motion tracking tech are genuinely impressive, even though I’m not at all certain they’re completely necessary.
Still, even if you don’t see yourself taking advantage of the moving display, the Echo Show 10 represents a genuine upgrade over its predecessor. It has a nicer screen with an adjustable angle and an improved UI, it sounds much better and it comes with a privacy shutter that blocks the camera as well as disabling it electronically.
Combined with that ultra-modern look, the Echo Show 10 is a smart speaker that genuinely justifies the price. If you favour audio quality over technological gimmickry, however, the Echo Studio is a better choice and cheaper as well.