Amazon Echo Show 15 review: Bigger Alexa is good, but not yet better | Amazon

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The Echo Show 15 is Amazon’s largest Alexa smart display and is designed to be a command center or digital message board for the whole family.

It’s considerably larger than the rest of Amazon’s Echo Show devices, which recently received a motorized screen and small desktop-ready displays. The Echo Show 15 – which costs £239.99 ($249.99 / A$399) – eclipses them, with its massive 15.6-inch screen looking more like a picture frame than a tech.

This illusion is enhanced by its wall-mounted form – it’s designed to hang in a central location like the digital equivalent of the bulletin boards common to kitchens in 1980s homes, and can be mounted in either landscape or portrait orientation.

The back of the Echo Show 15 has screws for the included wall mounting plate or bracket (as pictured), with a cable storage compartment to keep things tidy. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

It can be bought with a stand for an extra £30 if you’d rather not screw 2.2kg of tech into your wall.

The 1080p touchscreen is bright and crisp when viewed at your fingertips. Its two 1.6-inch speakers are loud and clear for Alexa voice or watching videos, but only average for music lacking bass, sounding closer to the budget Echo Dot than the Echo Show 10. beefier.

It has buttons on the top for volume, microphone and camera mute, as well as a physical privacy shutter for the camera.

Widgets and more

A screen showing a selection of widgets available for the Echo Show 15.
The selection of widgets is a good start and they are easy to use and place, but it would be good to see more varied options. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

For the most part, it works like Amazon’s other Alexa smart displays. It answers questions, sets timers, controls smart home devices, and displays feeds from Ring Doorbells or other compatible cameras. It can also display your photos from Amazon Photos or Facebook, either alongside other content or alone as a huge digital photo frame, which looks great.

Unlike its siblings, the Show 15 can display more than one thing at a time, supporting multiple widgets on its home screen alongside the usual time, information and photo display. Widgets can include a yellow sticky note for leaving messages, shared to-do lists, calendars, weather, Amazon Music commands, recipe ideas, and smart home controls.

The concept is great but the widgets are a bit slow to use and lack variety in size, shape and placement. There must be more, and I would like a bigger smart home control widget and to be able to put the bigger calendar widget at the bottom of the screen, not in the middle. It’s a good start, but they still have a ways to go to be a killer feature.

Video feeds from security cameras can be streamed in a floating picture-in-picture window so you can see who’s at the door while doing something else, like following a recipe, which is handy.

kitchen television

The BBC iPlayer website in the Silk browser on the Echo Show 15.
TV and movies look awkward in portrait orientation, but fill the screen if you have it in landscape mode, showing the BBC iPlayer site in silk here. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The big screen lends itself to being a kitchen TV, but only Amazon Prime Video and Netflix have native apps you can access via voice, like asking for the latest Bond movie. For everything else, you have to use the built-in Silk browser to view them as you would on a laptop. It’s a clunky affair, but YouTube, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and All4 work well enough with voice control of play and pause once you’ve loaded the right video. Some, like BT Sport, don’t respond to voice commands, while Disney+ won’t work in the browser at all.

You can listen to music from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Deezer or Spotify as well as BBC Sounds and various other radio stations via TuneIn. The Show 15 can also be used as a Bluetooth speaker from your phone or tablet or connected to a third-party speaker.

Video calls and facial recognition

A screen on the Echo Show 15 showing voice and visual identification settings.
The Echo Show 15 can recognize you by face or voice to show you personal content such as a private calendar. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The 5-megapixel camera can recognize the face of the person standing in front of it using Amazon’s new “Visual ID”, which then displays personalized content such as a specific calendar, music account, etc., without you having to interact directly with the screen. or Alexa. It works well, greeting you with the name and a small photo of the person it recognized, so you can see which account the information is coming from.

The camera can be used for video calls to other Echo Show devices, contacts with the Alexa app or via Skype. It works well enough but can be a little slow to start a call and you can’t use Zoom or any other service in the UK just yet. You can also use it as a security camera, viewing its live feed through the Alexa app on your phone.

Sustainability

The camera privacy shutter, mute and volume buttons are displayed on the top of the Echo Show 15.
A physical privacy shutter for the camera, mute and volume buttons line the top of the device. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Echo Show 15 is generally serviceable and will receive security updates for at least four years after the device is discontinued. It contains 99% recycled aluminum and at least 35% recycled plastic. Amazon has also pledged to offset the electricity used by Echo devices with renewable energy. The company offers take-back and recycling programs.

Price

The Amazon Echo Show 15 costs £239.99 ($249.99 / AU$399) or £269.98 ($279.98 / AU$448.95) with a stand. The stand can be purchased separately for £29.99.

For comparison, the Echo Show 5 costs £44.99, the Echo Show 8 costs £119.99 and the Echo Show 10 costs £239.99, while Google’s Nest Hub Max costs £219 and the Nest Hub costs £89.99.

Verdict

The Echo Show 15 is a good smart display with plenty of potential to be really great.

There’s nothing else on the market, with that big 15.6-inch screen, picture frame, and wall or stand mounting options. But Amazon hasn’t really taken advantage of its size yet, with only a few widgets and limited multitasking options. It’s as if it could do so much more as a home’s central digital hub.

Alexa responds quickly and does everything it can on Amazon’s small screens. Facial recognition works well as a way to show you personalized content without having to interact with it directly.

If you want a really big Alexa smart display for the kitchen, the Echo Show 15 is it, for the same price as Amazon’s smaller 10-inch motorized version. But it is not yet quite the revolution he promises.

Advantages: Alexa, large screen, widgets, wall or stand options, facial and voice recognition, video calls, Prime Video or Netflix apps, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and All4 via browser, contain recycled materials.

The inconvenients: expensive, speakers not as good as the standard Echo, limited widget options, no UK zoom yet, native video and music services are limited to a handful of great ones, browser access to video sites is clumsy.

The Echo Show 15 in portrait orientation on a kitchen counter.
The widgets and rotating photo display fit better on the screen in portrait orientation, but the device looks odd sitting so large on a kitchen work surface. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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