Amazon has today launched the Echo Show 15, a tablet-like screen touted by the company as a hub for your home. You can play podcasts through it, watch TV on it, make calls, sync calendars with family or housemates and use it as a whiteboard.
It’s actually kind of cute, despite being quite big.
The new addition to the Echo Show family, Amazon says, is designed to be the “digital heart of the home”. The Echo Show 15 has a 15.6-inch, 1080p Full HD display, making it good to watch stuff on but not so good to hide away in your kitchen unnoticed. But I don’t think Amazon wants you to hide away your Echo Show 15, as they’ve made it so it can be mounted on a wall or placed on a bench – either in portrait or landscape orientation. It will take up 401 mm x 252 mm x 35.6 mm of space, without taking into consideration the stand or mount.
There’s a front-facing camera that you can toggle on/off on the device, which will also turn the mic off, and physical buttons for volume. The catch is that it has to be connected to power at all times.
When comparing the Echo Show 15 to its predecessors, Amazon is touting a faster experience, boasting an Amazon AZ2 Neural Edge processor, a redesigned home screen with more customisation options, new personalisation features with visual ID (more on that in a second) and all-new Alexa experiences.
Visual ID is a brand new feature that sees Alexa recognise you and personalise the on-screen information on the Echo Show 15. After enrolling in visual ID, if you walk in front of Echo Show 15, Alexa will map your face (or, recognise you, so to speak) and the screen will automatically update to show you a custom greeting, your personal reminders, calendar events, recently played music or personal notes from household members.
According to Kate Gooden, head of Alexa product experience at Amazon Australia and New Zealand, the processing for visual ID happens all on the device.
“We don’t send anything to the cloud,” she confirmed. She also explained that for each Echo Show 15 device you have, you’ll have to set up visual ID. That is, if you set up visual ID on this device, you can’t go to that device and have it recognise you unless you individually enrol on that Echo Show 15, too. You can also delete your visual ID either through the device settings or via the Alexa app.
Still on privacy, Gooden said the Amazon Echo Show 15 also comes with various voice history monitoring features. So you can see a full voice history within the Alexa app and you can even ask the assistant to delete everything through a vocal command.
Amazon is focusing this thing on families, but what if you don’t have one? What if you live alone with your cat? Well as the woman in the pic above shows us, you can stand there and watch TV on it.
During the briefing, Gooden touched on the Aussie-fication of the device. She clarified with Gizmodo Australia that it means the Echo Show 15 has been tweaked for a local audience, that is streaming service partners and available apps and features. Hopefully this means I’ll have a different experience with the device than my U.S.-based colleague.
While a review is incoming (expect it next week), my initial thoughts on the Amazon Echo Show 15 is that I will be limited with what I can do with it, not having a family and not having access to the full gamut of streaming services I use. Currently, the Echo Show 15 supports Netflix, ABC iView and of course Amazon’s own Prime Video, and on the music/podcast side of things, you’ll have access to Spotify, Apple or Amazon Music. Questions on when more services will come online were responded to with something along the lines of what you’d expect when asking about commercial agreements.
As someone who uses a Google Nest Hub in the kitchen as a camera to spy on my cat when I’m not home, a way to listen to the news bulletin when I’m making a coffee in the morning and a podcast player when I’m making dinner, I’m sure I could get a decent use out of this.
The Amazon Echo Show 15 will be available from today for $399 from Amazon.com.au or JB Hi-Fi. Countertop stands and under-cabinet mount accessories are sold separately, but for $448.95 you can purchase a bundle with compatible tilt stand.