Amazon’s latest top-of-the-range Alexa smart display has a trick up its sleeve like no other: it can follow you around a room.
The third-generation Echo Show 10 costs £239.99 and is Amazon’s largest smart display, sitting above the smaller £100 Echo Show 8 with an 8in screen and £80 Echo Show 5 with a 5.5in screen.
It looks very different to its forerunners, like one of Amazon’s Fire tablets mounted to a fat rotating Echo speaker, but fundamentally it is just like other wifi-connected smart displays powered by Alexa.
The 10.1in screen is bright, good-looking and crisp enough for viewing at arm’s length or more. It acts as a digital photo frame, displays timers and alarms, tells you the weather, the news and what’s coming up on your calendar, controls smart home devices and plays music and videos from services such as Prime Video and Netflix, or YouTube through the built-in web browser.
But its differentiator is the screen’s ability to rotate 350 degrees around its motorised base. It uses its 13-megapixel camera to track the shapes of people using built-in AI, not face recognition, and then spins so the display is always facing you. That may sound creepy, but once you see it and interact with it, you realise this is very much a step towards the sci-fi future where tech comes to you rather than you going to it.
When idle it stays still. By default it will follow you as you move around the room when you are interacting with it in any capacity, but you can also switch it to do so only when placing video calls, watching video, reading recipes or other media, or only on request by saying: “Alexa, follow me.”
The benefits are obvious. When you’re placing a video call, the Show can keep you in frame as you walk about, slowly zooming in and out on you and others in frame, similar to other high-end video displays and the Google Nest Hub Max.
You can control and view the camera remotely like a security camera, too, rotating the display on command.
If you close the shutter on the camera or mute the mics, motion is turned off, or you can tell Alexa to stop following you or hit a button in the quick settings.
Alexa, I’m over here
You can change the range of rotation and where it returns to when idle. A kitchen island, if you have one, feels like the Echo Show’s natural home. I don’t, so I propped it against a wall on the kitchen work surface.
It is very slick during the day, but things start to come unstuck at night when light levels drop. I found my kitchen under-counter lights weren’t bright enough for the Echo Show, and I needed to switch on my rarely used main bright spotlights. It would routinely notify me on screen that motion was turned off because of “dim lighting” in the evenings and would sometimes go into its night-time dormant state, displaying a clock on a black screen.
The camera on the rival Nest Hub Max has no problem performing its facial recognition magic in the same low lighting conditions.
The Echo Show’s two 1in tweeters and single 3in woofer are contained in its fabric-covered central hub and rotate with the screen. It sounds similar to the third-generation Echo. It can be a little boomy at times, requiring a tweak with the equaliser in the Alexa app to correct, and despite the stereo speakers it lacks any real separation between the left and right channels.
It doesn’t sound as fantastic as the latest, fourth-generation Echo, but holds its own against most competitor smart displays.
The Echo Show 10 is generally repairable. It contains 100% post-consumer recycled fabric and aluminium plus at least 30% recycled plastic resin. Amazon also pledged to offset the electricity used by Echo devices with renewable energy. The company offers trade-in and recycling schemes.
Alexa and Skype are available in the UK for video calling, but Zoom is only available in the US.
The display will stop if it hits something, and it wobbles a little when you are typing using the on-screen keyboard.
The screen would often point slightly off to the left of my body, but this didn’t happen as much for others in my household.
It had issues setting and displaying background pictures from my Amazon Photos library, which the company said was related to a configuration problem with my particular account, but could not fix in the review period.
The third-generation Echo Show 10 costs £239.99 and is available in black or white.
The third-generation Echo Show 10 is the most innovative smart display yet, and shows that adding a little movement has enormous potential to change the way intelligent devices fit into our homes and lives. But on its first try, Amazon has only partially delivered on that promise.
In good lighting everything works very well. It is novel, fun and proves useful, particularly when placed somewhere with the freedom to rotate. Having a camera that can not only pan and zoom but rotates makes video calls significantly more natural. But you can forget using the tracking features in lower light levels in the evenings, which is a real shame.
Remove the rotation and the smart display works just like its excellent static predecessor, so if you’re going to just stick it in a corner or a place where rotation is restricted, the Echo Show 8 is a better buy at less than half the cost, unless you need the larger screen.
Pros: Alexa, good screen, novel motorised display, automatic pan and zoom for good video calling, good sound, Netflix, security camera function, attractive design contains recycled materials.
Cons: expensive, camera can’t handle lower light levels, speakers not as good as standard Echo, no Zoom in the UK yet, video and music services are limited to a handful of big ones.