Amazon has been gently expanding its lineup of its Echo devices. There's the traditional Echo, then there's the smaller and cheaper Dot, the outdoor Tap, the fashion-focused Look and, most recently, the screen-based Show.
Because it has a display, the Show can do things the other Echoes cannot. It can, well, show you things, which ends up changing how you interact with Alexa in many ways. All of a sudden, you don't have to just listen to her responses. You can see them.
Read this: The best smart home systems to own
Thus, with a new device comes a lot more things you need to know. So let's get to it – here's everything you need to know about the first Echo to pack in a screen.
What is the Echo Show?
The Echo Show is an Echo with a big ol' touchscreen display. The 7-inch display fundamentally changes the look of an Echo device. Rather than utilising a cylindrical design, it's more of a boxy affair, with the display angled upward.
Below the display is a giant speaker that booms out Alexa's voice. If you're used to the other Echo's version of Alexa, you might notice that she sounds a bit weird. That's because these speakers point in one direction, rather than the more omnidirectional speakers in the circular Echo. Where you point the Show makes all the difference, so be sure to put it down below your line of sight, too, since that screen angles up.
Above the screen is a small front-facing camera. This can be used to take pictures if you so wish, but the killer feature here is video calls, which brings a new dimension to Alexa calling (something you can do with the other Echo devices).
How does video calling work?
The Echo Show has both a display and a front-facing camera, and that means that it can be used to video call people. Specifically, it allows you to video call people with either an Echo Show or the Alexa app on their phone. You can either initiate a call by asking Alexa to call someone ("Alexa, call dad") or you can ask her to answer or decline an incoming video call.
Speaking of incoming calls, the Echo Show has a new feature called Drop In, which is intended for you to use with your closest family and friends – the kind of people you'd give a copy of your house keys to, y'know? That's because Drop In is essentially a digital version of that. When you ask Alexa to Drop In on someone, it'll let you immediately start chatting with them. However, there are 10 seconds of translucent fog to before the video pops in, so you won't catch them completely off guard.
Drop In is disabled by default, and you have to choose who – if anyone – you want to be able to drop in on you. If you have multiple Echo Show devices, you can choose which ones are allowed to be dropped in on and which aren't.
What new things can Alexa do?
The big new thing that Alexa can do with the Show is – obviously – show you things. So in addition to Alexa speaking to you, the display will animate to show you what she's talking about.
For instance, as Alexa goes through the weather report, you'll see the weather report flashing across the display. It's a little like a TV weather report, just without the meteorologist pointing to a map. Similarly, you'll see the news while she reads it.
There's even more: You'll see your timers as they're ticking away, you can scroll through your calendar, lyrics will bop along as your favourite song plays. You can even see things when you're not asking Alexa do something. The default home screen will scroll through suggestions and information relating to your calendar/account. So you'll see headlines as you walk by, or you'll see a new recommended video for you to watch.
Read this: The best Amazon Alexa devices
Oh yeah, a display means that Alexa can play video now. So if you want to watch the Thor: Ragnarok trailer, just say something like "Alexa, play the Thor: Ragnarok" trailer. This extends to sports highlights, too, so if you want to watch a penalty shootout between Liverpool and Manchester United, go ahead.
You can search YouTube for your videos or you can play stuff straight from Amazon Video. If you have Prime Photos, you can also ask Alexa to display your photos. So if you're in the kitchen bored out of your mind cooking and want to watch some Man In The High Castle or reminisce on that wonderful Italian vacation, you can do so. And speaking of cooking in the kitchen…
What about the skills?
So Alexa has some new abilities, which means there's a whole new world of potential skills. All kinds of companies have been updating their skills with Echo Show support, taking advantage of that big display and camera.
The most immediately useful application of visual skills is the kitchen. Food Network and Allrecipes have both updated their skills to take advantage of the display. Food Network will play cooking tutorials, so you can follow along while you cook in the kitchen. Similarly, the Allrecipe app will either play video or list out the recipe so you can quickly reference it as you cook.
Read this: The best Amazon Alexa skills
That's not all though. Some news apps, like CNN's Flash Briefing, now have a video component so you can get a video flash briefing (you just have to say "Alexa, play my video flash briefing"). The popular Jeopardy! skill will show your question on the display, and the Uber app will show who your driver is, what their star rating is and how far away they are.
There are also a whole new category of skills, like those for smart security cams like Ring Doorbells. Now you can ask Alexa to show you your video feed, and you can view it right there on your Show's display.
Alexa skills are constantly getting updated for the Echo Show, too, so as more developers figure out ways to adapt to that new display the more options you'll have.
Setting it up
Like other Echo devices, setting up the Show is simple. You just turn it on and connect it to your Wi-Fi network. Rather than handle things on the Alexa app on your phone, however, you'll just type in your information on the Show itself. It does have a touchscreen display after all.
All you have to do is make sure you have an Amazon account. If you have an Amazon Prime account, even better, as you'll have access to Prime Music, Video and Photos.
Pricing and release date
The Amazon Echo Show is available now from Amazon if you're in the US, while folks in the UK will have to keep waiting for now. It's priced at $229.99, making it a more costly investment than a standard Echo ($149.99), the Dot ($49.99) or the new camera-toting Echo Look ($200).