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Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) Review: Minor Upgrades But Good Overall Product
While we were still drooling over the immersive audio performance and the fancy rotating display of the Echo Show 10, Amazon quietly upgraded its best-selling mid-size speaker- the Echo Show 8. The second-generation Echo Show 8 comes with the same 8-inch HD display, tried and tested speaker setup but adds a bigger 13MP camera and a faster octa-core chipset.
- Clear & Immersive Audio
- 13MP Camera Serves Well For Video Calls
- Adaptive Color Display
- Feature Rich Alexa Assistant
- Limited Video Calls Service Support
- No Native YouTube Support
- No Instagram, Google Photos Support For Photo-Frame
- Design Needs A Makeover
The 2021 edition of Amazon's mid-size Alexa-powered smart speaker is priced at Rs. 13,999 but is selling at Rs. 10,999 on Amazon.in at the time of writing this review. With this pricing, the new Echo Show 8 fills the gap between the affordable Echo Show 5 and the premium Echo Show 10 models. We tested the upgraded camera, faster chipset, and the newly introduced- Celebrity voice skill feature on the new Echo 8. Here's how it performed.
Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) Specifications
- Size & Weight- 7.9"x 5.4" x 3.9", 1,037 grams
- Display- 8-inch HD (720p) Display
- Camera- 13MP With Built-in Cover
- Audio- 2.0" (52 mm) Neodymium Speakers With Passive Bass Radiator
- Connectivity- Dual-band Wi-Fi, A2DP Audio Support
- Processor- MediaTek MT 8183
Better Video Call Experience
Starting with the biggest upgrade, the 13MP front-facing camera with auto framing feature allows for a better overall video calling experience on the new Echo Show 8. The bigger sensor outputs sharp images with natural-looking skin tones. The auto framing feature works as advertised and keeps you in the focus. It's a smart software implementation to enhance the video calling experience.
Just say, Alexa, I want to make a video call, and the virtual assistant will help you start a video call session with people in your contact list. Notably, the other person should have an Echo device or a smartphone with an Alexa app to attend the call. The video call feature on the Echo Show 8 doesn't work with third-party video call services such as Google Duo and Zoom, a missed opportunity.
Home Monitoring With A Physical Shutter
Moving on, you can also use the 13MP camera as a security device to keep a track of activities in your bedroom, or living room depending upon where the smart screen is placed. The feature can be activated from the smartphone app. You can also shut the camera with the mechanical slider if you are very particular about privacy.
Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) Design
Amazon hasn't made any changes to the external design, which is a bummer because the same old aesthetics have now started looking a bit dated. The front fascia is occupied by an 8-inch display with thick black bezels on all four sides. The top right corner has the front camera housing and an ambient light sensor. The top has the usual set of buttons including volume up/down, microphone mute button, and a mechanical camera shutter.
The speaker setup extends to the back and serves as a base to rest the smart screen on any flat surface at a tilted angle. A piece of mesh fabric covers the speaker system matching the color of the bezels around the LCD. You can buy the new Echo Show 8 in two colors- black and white. The entire setup weighs 1.03 kgs and measures 7.9"x 5.4" x 3.9". The smart screen only takes a small area on a study table.
No 3.5mm Audio Jack This Time
Surprisingly, Amazon has replaced the 3.5mm audio jack with a microUSB port on the 2nd Gen Echo Show 8. This could be upsetting to users who like to extend Alexa's AI features to their dumb yet reliable sound setups. Lastly, the Echo Show 8 2021 comes equipped with four microphones for hands-free voice commands.
It is worth mentioning that Amazon takes the environment and greenhouse effect quite seriously. The Echo Show 8 2nd Gen is made up of 10% post-consumer recycled plastics, 100% post-consumer recycled fabric, and uses 50% post-consumer recycled plastic for the bundled power adapter.
Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) Display
The Echo Show 8 isn't exactly a tablet but it still offers one of the finest big screens for media playback. The HD panel has 1280x800 pixels resolution and no HDR support. Despite the lack of a full HD resolution and high-quality viewing formats, the 8-inch LCD serves well for video playback, thanks to decent contrast levels, adaptive color technology, and excellent color tuning. Videos on the OTT apps and YouTube look crisp and vivid.
The 8-inch display also adds to the convenience in the day-to-day routine with responses to the voice commands. You can watch the news, check your daily routine, and access basic settings/functions of the smart speaker comfortably as the touch response is as good as you get on a high-end Amazon Echo smart speaker.
Overall, the screen on the Echo Show 8 is bright, colorful and offers immersive visuals.
Digital Photo Frame
You can also turn the 8-inch home screen into a digital frame by selecting photos from your Facebook account or albums on your smartphone. I wish the Echo smart screens could have supported Google Photos too and the native YouTube app. These two cross-ecosystem apps would make things much easier for Echo users in the day-to-day routine.
Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) Audio Performance
For its size, the Echo Show 8 has a fairly powerful audio setup enough to fill a 13 x 15 feet bedroom. You still have the same 2.0" (52 mm) Neodymium drivers with a passive bass radiator that produces incredibly loud and clear audio. The sound signature emphasizes mids and extreme lows with no distortion even at the maximum volume levels.
Dialogues and vocals sound clearer and the bass-heavy music sounds booming; however, it still won't give that wall-shaking bass feels. Also, the high-frequency response could have been better. You can tweak the sound profile to some extent from the built-in EQ in the Alexa smartphone app.
Overall, the sound delivery on the Echo Show 8 will not blow your mind but is fairly good for its price. The somewhat balanced sound offers an engaging music listening experience. The sound setup serves well for most day-to-day multimedia requirements, be it music/video playback, news broadcast, and voice calls.
Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) User Experience
Let's talk AI. The Alexa speaks English and Hindi on the Echo Show 8 and smartly responds to most voice commands. You can ask for weather updates, set reminders, add to-do lists, play videos/shows on Netflix and Prime Videos with simple voice commands. And while there's no native YouTube app support, the Echo Show plays YouTube videos on a web browser with no major issues.
The four microphones can actively hear your voice provided that the music is not blasting at high volume. And this isn't just the Echo Show 8's problem. Almost all smart speakers from both Google and Amazon have the same issues with understanding voice commands if the volume levels are high. Keep the volume levels between 70 to 80 % for smooth voice commands response.
Amazon should now upgrade its smart screens with some third-party apps such as YouTube, Google Photos support, Instagram Albums for Photo frame, etc.
How To Set Up Celebrity Voice Skill
One of the highlights of the new Echo Show 8 is the support for the celebrity voice skill. Amazon has got on board the Bollywood legend- Amitabh Bachchan, known for his incredible voice and dialogue delivery. The new skill allows you to listen to answers to your voice commands in the actor's voice.
● To activate the celebrity voice skill, all you need to do is a simple voice command- 'Alexa, introduce me to Amitabh Bachchan'.
● The smart screen then gives you a neat demo of what you can ask Amit Ji for quick answers to your queries.
Say "Alexa, enable Amit Ji wake word" on the new Echo Show 8 and other Echo devices to enable the celebrity voice skill.
Once the skill is enabled, you can Ask Amit Ji for music, poetry, joke, tongue twisters, and more. As per Amazon, the entertaining content is handpicked by Mr. Bachchan himself and will be executed by Alexa. Notably, the feature isn't free of cost but demands a minimal yearly charge. It can be bought on Amazon.in on your Echo device at an introductory price of Rs. 149 for one year.
The new Echo Show 8 is a good mid-range smart speaker but is only worth upgrading if you own a non-screen Echo speaker or the older Echo Show 5. If you have an older generation Echo Show 8, you might want to skip upgrading to the 2021 Echo Show 8. There's no major change in the performance, design, audio, and display quality.
Amazon upgraded the camera but kept the video call services support limited to just Echo and Alexa app-enabled devices. This is a missed opportunity as the support for more video calling services would have made the Echo Show 8 our favorite device for attending video calls in our day-to-day routine for all things work and fun.