With a significantly improved front camera for making video calls, the Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd gen) is great for staying in touch with family and friends during lockdown.
Of all the smart home gadget makers, Amazon offers by far the widest choice when it comes to smart speakers and screens. Alexa-powered devices come in all shapes and sizes to suit the different rooms in your home.
In Australia, Alexa isn’t quite as smart as Google Assistant, but the gap has certainly closed over the last few years. If you’re keen on smart appliances but not necessarily keen on Google, then Alexa might be a welcome guest into your home.
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The new Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd gen) is an excellent fit for the kitchen bench or other living area. Especially if you’re a bit creeped out by the rotating screen on the Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd gen).
The Show 8 still offers plenty of screen real estate so that you can see it clearly from the other side of the room. It actually has a lot in common with the little Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd gen), but Show 8 is too big for your average bedside table.
Like all of Amazon’s Echo devices, the Show 8 puts Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant at your beck and call. She can answer your queries, check your calendar, control your smart home gear and make announcements throughout your home.
On a smart screen, Alexa can both show and tell. This is handy if you’re checking out the long-term weather forecast or viewing recipes in the kitchen. You can also watch a video or check the view from your video doorbell.
When it’s not hard at work answering your queries, Show 8 can scroll through your photo library. The new adaptive colour feature helps photos look natural in any light.
Show 8 is also a great way to stay in touch when you’re stuck at home. You can make voice and video calls to other Echo devices and the Alexa smartphone app – either within your house or beyond. The 8-inch screen makes it easier to see clearly when you’ve got more than one party on the call.
Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd gen) Specs
8-inch, 1280×800 pixel touchscreen
200.4 mm W × 130 mm H × 99 mm D
Stereo – 2 x 2-inch speakers
802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5 GHz)
Charcoal, Glacier White
The star of the show is the greatly improved front camera. It certainly makes video calls feel more natural and engaging.
Realistically, most people probably don’t want to stand in front of a smart screen to make long video calls. Not unless they’re standing while doing something else, like cooking. But position the Show 8 in the right place, like a coffee table or the end of a bench, and you could sit in front of it.
The 13-megapixel front camera is a big step up from the 1-megapixel camera on Show 8 (1st gen) and a 2MP camera on Show 5 (2nd gen). Obviously, you won’t see the benefit of the upgrade; it’s the person on the other end of the call who will appreciate the difference.
The Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd gen) also puts the camera’s extra resolution to good use by digitally panning and zooming to ensure you’re always well-framed on the screen.
It’s of most benefit if other members of your household tend to dip in and out of video calls, automatically reframing as they enter and exit the picture. Or if you’re moving around the room, such as making dinner. The moment isn’t too jarring, but rather a slow and natural transition. You can disable it if it becomes annoying.
Obviously, this ability to follow you around only stretches so far. If you really want a screen and camera which can turn to follow you across the room, you should check out the Amazon Echo Show 10 (2nd gen).
A mute button is at the top of the screen for when you don’t want Alexa listening in on your conversations. There’s also a “Do Not Disturb” mode, which blocks incoming calls and remote viewers. If you want to leave the camera off by default, you can slide across the physical camera cover, which disables the camera and kills the remote video features.
Amazon makes it easy for people to pop in unannounced, with a “Drop-In” feature automatically answering incoming video calls from select family and friends. It’s wisely disabled by default on the Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd gen) to guard your privacy. This is probably less of a concern in the kitchen than in the bedroom with the Show 5.
Likewise, the ability to remotely tap into the camera’s live video feed from afar – using the Alexa app – is also disabled by default. If you enable it, “A household member is viewing your camera” appears on the screen, alongside a stop button, when someone is watching the live feed.
The 13-megapixel camera’s improved picture quality is striking for whoever is on the other end of a video call. It certainly helps chat via video to feel more natural in an era when we’re all suffering from Zoom fatigue.
The Show 8’s camera also does a fine job of handling difficult lighting conditions, such as a bright background.
The people you’re calling don’t just benefit from a sharper picture; there’s also excellent white balance and auto contrast to deal with challenging lighting conditions. Meanwhile, the onboard mic ensures you’re heard, while the onboard speaker does a fine job with voices.
On your end, the screen offers a crisp, vivid image with excellent viewing angles. As with most Amazon devices, the audio is bass-heavy. This makes everything sound a tad overblown and muffled. The sound quality doesn’t quite stack up against smart speaker rivals like Google, Apple, and Sonos when playing music. The Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd gen) is fine for creating ambience, and it gets loud, but it’s not going to really rock the house.
It’s worth noting that Amazon has done away with the 3.5mm audio line-out, which lets you connect the screen to an external speaker. You can still link to a speaker via Bluetooth. It’s also retained the ability to stream audio to the Show 8 via Bluetooth. Keep in mind, Amazon doesn’t have its own equivalent to AirPlay and Chromecast for flinging multimedia around your home.
The Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd gen)’s 8-inch display will hit the sweet spot in terms of screen size versus footprint in many homes. Not to mention price, compared to the expensive Show 10.
The Show 8 brings everything Alexa has to offer into your living area – large enough to see and hear across the room but small enough not to be too intrusive. If you already own the original Echo Show 8, you’d only upgrade if you’d make the most of that great front camera. It certainly takes video calls to the next level, while we can’t be with our loved ones in person.
Would I buy it?
Yes, if I was an Alexa-centric household and I needed a smart screen for a living area.
Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd gen)
With plenty of screen real estate, an excellent front camera for video calls, the Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd gen) could be the star of the show in Alexa-centric homes.