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Echo show 8 2nd gen review: Is this the new go-to Amazon smart display?

We tested the device on videocalls, pop playlists and more to assess its performance

Alex Lee
Wednesday 09 June 2021 11:23
<p>The new device pans, tracks and zooms to follow you as you move</p>

The new device pans, tracks and zooms to follow you as you move

We’ve been shouting the name “Alexa” for so many years now, it’s easy to forget that Amazon’s range of Echo smart speakers and displays have only been in our living rooms since 2014. The company has launched so many different flavours of Echo that we’ve frankly lost count.

And just three months after launching the fancy third-generation Echo show 10, which featured a sleek motorised swivel base, the tech juggernaut has welcomed a further two new Echo show smart displays into the family.

The new second-generation Echo show 8 smart display is here, and the middle child is going to give the more expensive Echo show 10 a serious run for its money.

The smart device’s camera has received a beefy upgrade, plus its processor is better, and it’s chock full of new features to boot.

Before we get down to the nitty gritty, if you’re not too keen on the Alexafication of your home, why not check out our round-up of the best smart speakers available now? In the guide, you’ll find reviews of other smart displays like Google’s 7in Nest hub.

Read more:

While we haven’t had a chance to look at the lower-spec Echo show 5 just yet, read on for our thoughts on the show 8.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Amazon Echo show 8, 2nd gen

Buy now £119.99, Amazon.co.uk 

  • Screen size: 8in
  • Resolution: 1280px x 800px
  • Camera: 13 megapixels
  • Sound: Dual 2in speakers
  • Size: 7.9in x 5.4in x 3.9in
  • Weight: 1037g

Design, display and specifications

For those of you that already have an Echo show 8, you’ll struggle to notice any difference when it comes to the design of the second-generation version. It broadly looks the same. It’s got the same fabricated rear, the same options of “charcoal” or “glacier white” and it weighs and measures the same, with an 8in display.

But look up to the right and you’ll notice that instead of a grainy 1-megapixel camera in a round component, the second-generation model has a much improved 13-megapixel camera. It’s still got the privacy shutter which slides into place over the lens, giving you peace of mind if you fear prying eyes, and there’s also a physical mute button if you don’t want the Echo to hear you either. We’d recommend keeping the camera on if you’re going out though – more on that below. 

Read more: The Google Nest mini reviewed

As for that display, well, it’s a little snappier than the previous show 8 thanks to the MediaTek MT8183 octa-core processor, but not in a massively noticeable way. The second-generation device also has an adaptive ambient display, which adjusts to the light in your room (think TrueTone on Apple devices or the ambient sensing display on the Google Nest Hub). However, we really did prefer just using the device with our voice, rather than the touchscreen.

It has the same four-microphone configuration as the previous model, and on the whole, it picked up our voice when we called on it. We did have to raise our voice a little above normal, something we don’t really have to do with our Amazon Echo 3 smart speaker, which has more microphones inside it. 

Annoyingly, Amazon didn’t design the Echo show 8 with an in-built stand, so we weren’t able to angle it up towards us. It was a bit of a nuisance ducking down slightly, trying to watch videos in the kitchen. Amazon does sell an adjustable stand (£22.99, Amazon.co.uk) if the fact it can’t angle up is just as much of an issue for you as it was for us.

Camera

The features in the camera are probably the thing we’re most excited about when it comes to the Echo show 8. As mentioned earlier, there’s a supreme 13-megapixel camera, which had our mother cooing about how clear we looked when we dropped in on her own older Echo show in another part of the country.

While it doesn’t spin round and round like the show 10, the second-generation show 8 has a pretty nifty new feature that tracks you as you move. The camera followed us left to right, no problem, as we walked up and down the living room, swinging our arms up and down as we went. The feature worked a charm, keeping us in the centre of the frame wherever we went.

Read more: We put Bang & Olufsen’s newest Beosound portable Bluetooth speaker to the test

We also enjoyed the new home-monitoring feature, which allows you to see a live feed of your house if you’re not there.

Unfortunately, three of the device’s most attractive features are not available in the UK – Zoom support is only available in the US; Alexa Guard can send US users a notification if the Echo hears the sound of breaking glass, and the device also has the capability to run routines whenever Echo show owners in the US walk into the room, such as turning on any smart lights.

Sound

There’s a dual 2in speaker system which made the songs in our upbeat, poppy Spotify playlists sound nice and full, but the soundstage isn’t the widest. As with previous Echo show devices, we found that it sounded better when the screen was facing away from us – we reckon that’s just because of the product’s sloping shape. But for a £130 device, the speakers do a brilliant job.

We found that the sound really came to life on videocalls, with the speakers being clearer and louder than when listening to music or watching The Boys on Prime Video. Sadly, the 3.5mm jack from the first-generation show 8 in the back is gone, so you won’t be able to hook up any better-sounding speakers than the ones included.      

Price and availability

The second-generation Echo show 8 is available now and costs £119.99. That’s the same price the original Echo show 8 cost when it was first released in 2019. The first-generation model is inevitably now going to go down in price, and is already discounted (£91.99, Amazon.co.uk).

It’s slightly more expensive than the new second-generation Echo show 5 (£74.99, Amazon.co.uk) but significantly cheaper than the third-generation Echo show 10 (£239.99, Amazon.co.uk). We’re expecting most Amazon devices to go on sale during Amazon Prime Day 2021.

The verdict: Amazon Echo show 8, 2nd gen

For just £119.99, you get a heck of a lot of bang for your buck with the new Echo show 8. There’s an ambient sensing display, a home-monitoring feature, an upgraded processor and a better 13-megapixel camera which has less intrusive panning and zooming tracking features than the Echo show 10. The second-generation Echo show 8 is now the go-to device for those looking for an Amazon smart display.

While its speakers might not be the best, the Echo show 8 is less about the sound than it is the display and the overall Alexa experience. With Alexa supporting over 40,000 “skills” in the UK, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything better. Of course, you can always find superior-sounding devices in our guide on the best smart speakers.

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