If you’re hooked on Alexa and want a more capable smart display, Amazon just announced a refresh to the Echo Show 8 and Echo Show 5, with better cameras than their predecessors. There’s also an update to the Echo Show 5 Kids Edition, which includes access to Amazon’s kid-friendly content.
The Echo Show 8 and Echo Show 5 have 8-inch and 5.5-inch screens, respectively, with the larger device getting the bulk of the updates. The Echo Show 8 now sports a 13-megapixel camera with a 110-degree wide-angle lens for video calls. It now has a feature similar to Facebook’s Portal, which pans and zooms to follow your movements within the field of view, powered in part by the nondescript “octa-core” processor that Amazon says is in the device. Unlike the Echo Show 10, the Echo Show 8 doesn’t physically swivel to follow you around. The Echo Show 8 is capable of AR effects within Amazon’s video chat app, including the ability to “react” on screen with animated images and set custom virtual backgrounds.
The refreshed Echo Show 8 smart displays are programmed to detect if a “human shape” is approaching the device, where it will then surface relevant routines or automatically launch one to, for example, turn on automatic lights in a dark room. Amazon has made these particular features opt-in only, and you’ll have to punch in an access code during setup to consent to the experience. Google Assistant smart displays have similar features, though they rely on “ultrasound sensing,” which uses speakers and microphones to determine whether a person is approaching the device. Both the Echo Show 8 and Echo Show 5 will also let you peek inside a room by viewing each smart display’s respective cameras remotely from your phone.
The Echo Show 5’s update is a little more like a slight spec bump. The camera has been improved slightly, but won’t get the panning mode feature on the new Echo Show 8. It’s getting a permanent price cut and is now $119. For $15 more, you can get the Kids Edition of the Echo Show 5, including Amazon Kids Plus services, which offers videos, audiobooks, games, music stations, and more content explicitly tuned for the kid crowd. The nearly $US100 ($129) price point also covers any physical damage to the Echo Show 5 Kids for two years.
If what you’re after is a smart display with a clearer picture for video chatting with family and friends, the Echo Show 8 has a bit of an edge over existing Google Assistant displays like the Nest Hub Max, which sports a 6.5-megapixel camera with a wider 127-degree field of view.