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Amazon Echo Show 10: when the best smart speaker is too smart? (video)

By Jaime Rivera May 21, 2021, 7:00 am
Amazon Echo Show 10

Anton D. Nagy contributed to this Amazon Echo Show 10 feature.

There’s this common misconception that Amazon Echo speakers are just a doorway to Amazon services. I’ll admit it was the primary reason for me to not try one until I got an Echo Dot free on a bundle like 3 years ago, and that’s even after being a Prime member for at least 10 years. My thought process at the time was that I’m already enough of a compulsive buyer. The last thing I need is a product designed to keep me shopping… But the more I used it, the more I understood how my perception was wrong, and why people love these speakers.

Yes, Amazon is mostly a retail company, so of course, you can use them to shop, but that would be a huge oversimplification of what these speakers can do. See, Amazon’s Echo business has been one defiance. Their first speaker was created when no one else was doing it. Siri was exclusive to iPhones at the time, and Google didn’t launch its assistant until two years later. And guys, even I also questioned the need for a speaker that could talk back to you, but today it’s come to the point where I find myself frustrated when a regular Speaker *doesn’t* respond, and I’ve noticed I’m not alone.

Amazon Echo Show 10

That said, I think the key to their success has been evolution. Amazon has really played the long game with this platform, from functionality, to form factors. In an era where we’re full of screens, it made so much sense for the company to create the Echo Show in 2017, and today it’s their fastest-selling Echo, even if more expensive. Clearly, you can do so much more with a product when things get visual, but what happens when the speaker is so smart that the whole visual experience happens both ways?

Well, this is the Echo Show 10, Amazon’s latest and greatest smart display, which yeah got a bit of creep publicity at first, but I think it’s because a lot of people missed the bigger picture. After using it for nearly a month, it proved to be so useful that I ended up getting two.

Alright, I think we should tackle an obvious point right of the bat, you don’t need a smart display or a smart speaker. This is one of those products that’s cool and useful, but that won’t achieve something you can’t do on your own.

The question is, why would you want to do more instead of less. I think that the secret of any successful product is how much better or easier they make a process, and digital assistants have been getting better at This. Have you done the math of how many steps you need to do to set a simple timer on your phone? Or an Alarm, or an appointment? A timer takes 5 steps. A reminder or calendar appointment can take up to 6. Finding your favorite channel on YouTube 5. Playing a song on your Spotify takes 4.  The only challenge is for the digital assistant to not fumble and make it worse, and Amazon’s assistant is probably one of the most effective at understanding voice commands. Yes, another misconception I had is that I thought the Google Assistant or Siri was better, but in my experience, that hasn’t been the case.

                                                            

Amazon Echo Show 10 camera

So, Echo Show 10. I know, it’s not cheap. If you’re on a budget, the Echo Show 5 does a lot of what this one can do for a lot less, but if you care about audio, that one is more similar to an Echo Dot, and the screen is obviously tiny. I do use my Echos for audio and entertainment, and the Echo Show 10 is more like a mesh between the two 1-inch tweeters you get on the Echo Studio, which are best-in-class, and the 3-inch woofer you get on the regular Echo. It’s kind of the ideal middle to higher ground solution for anyone looking for crisp audio. It won’t light up a party like the Echo Studio, but it’s good enough for what I care about, which is more of an office setting. 

Now, the main selling point is this 10.1-inch display. It’s a 1280 x 800 LCD which is pretty good from a typical distance and has some very accurate colors. It doesn’t look at all cheap like most competing panels. You can tilt it up or down to your convenience, but yes, what makes this Echo different is that the screen can follow you, but notice I said *can*, as no worries, it’s actually optional. The way it works is there’s a 13 Megapixel camera in the top right corner that’s more than a one-trick pony. Inside the Echo, there’s this new brushless motor that’s completely silent as the Echo moves around. So if you think of it, it’s really not a gimmick. It makes a lot of sense to have the Echo follow you during a video call if you’re multi-tasking, or if you actually have a decent-sized kitchen and want a video recipe to adapt to your movement… though that’s hard for me to show you in New York for obvious reasons. 

If you’re worried about Privacy, Amazon claims this all happens on the device, and is using just a map of points and not actual detection of faces or a specific person. It’s hard for me to prove that, but I find it better than what Google does on the Nest Hub Max, where that one detects specific people even from a distance. If the motion becomes too distracting, you can tell it to not follow you, which will make it respond only to your keyword. And hey, if you don’t want the motion, or you want full privacy, you can cover the camera completely, which again, is a better solution than what Google offers where you can’t really tell if the camera is not looking at you because there’s no physical cover.

Alright, so why do I own two, and why do I keep the camera on? Well, I use smart displays more as a dashboard in my home office and studio. I had a Nest Hub Max before, but I prefer the audio quality, plus the display quality, plus the privacy options on this Echo Show 10. For me, it’s a quick way to control the smart devices I have here, and as a Zigbee hub, it spares me the extra hardware to connect them. I mostly have it static just showing me things I care about, and I’ll have it follow me if I’m watching a video. Now my main use case is actually more for security purposes. Through the Echo app, you can use this as a free rotating surveillance camera that allows you to scroll around the room, or you can use Amazon Guard to take that to a more secure level.

Amazon Echo Show 10

Last but not least, I’ve learned to prefer Amazon’s assistant for a couple of reasons. You can get Samuel L Jackson and other celebrities to be the ones responding back, and I just find it to fumble less with my commands when compared to others. I would also consider it my favorite at picking up my voice from across the room, and a lot of it is thanks to Amazon’s collaboration with Mediatek. This Echo Show 10 is powered by their new MT8512, which is designed for high-end audio processing and voice assistant applications, that all integrate well with Amazon’s AZ1 Neural Edge processor. There’s a reason why Mediatek is the World’s number 1 chipmaker for voice-assisted devices.

The not so good

But alright, you know me, there’s no such thing as a perfect product, and there are a few reasons I’m mixed. The first is that I’m really not a fan of the UI. I’ve found myself in situations where I want to navigate back on things, and there isn’t always a button. You see a large screen and you kind of wanna treat it like an iPad, but even to go home it’s an extra command.

Second is that I wish I could make this a smarter dashboard. Google is really good about creating blocks of things I care about every morning when I wake up, from my commute time to the weather, to my calendar, which I’d like this to permanently display.

Third is that even if you do have horizontal rotation, there is no vertical option, so if anyone left this echo lifted for whatever reason, using it as a camera will only show you the roof in case you care about surveillance. And oh, the camera is not infrared by the way, so forget about using it in full darkness.

Last is that yes, smart speakers have a reputation for being a little ad Trojan Horse, and this one is no exception. That said, I think it’s become a common standard for you to give up some information to gain some functionality, and if the recent fire deals I’ve been pinged on having to do with the speaker listening to me, I won’t complain. But obviously, I can’t prove that, and let’s face it, so is your phone. But then that’s why I like that there are ways to block this through hardware on Echo devices, and then I can still use this as a Bluetooth speaker.

Conclusion


View Amazon Echo Show 10 at Amazon

To conclude, what can I say. The Echo Show 10 is the best smart display I’ve ever used and tested, it’s got some cool features, but yeah, it’s hard to just recommend for the price. That said, if you do the math, you’ve almost got an Echo Studio in the audio quality, which sounds amazing and is not cheap, plus a best-in-class display, plus a rotating surveillance camera. All these products separately would most likely cost you a lot more. 

Even if the screen rotation might be a gimmick to you, the rest of the package is pretty premium. If you’re in the market for the best smart display money can buy, I think this is it. If the price is a problem, you know they’re constantly finding discounts so just keep a lookout. Oh, and I’d pick the Charcoal option if I were you, I think it hides the bezels better than the glacier white.

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