Skip to main content

The Amazon Echo Hub is almost the whole-home hub I’ve always wanted

Amazon Echo Hub.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

I’ve long dreamed about having a proper sort of home hub. One that’s always on, always showing me the things I want to control at any given time. Not huge. Not obtrusive.

The new Amazon Echo Hub, one several new Echo devices announced at Amazon’s 2023 devices event at HQ2 in Arlington, Virginia, very much seems to fit that bill. It’s a touchscreen that you’ll use to control all your things.

If you’ve ever been in a home with a professionally installed Crestron setup, you’ll get the vibe of the Echo Hub: Sleek. Slick. Sexy. But Crestron-type systems are not inexpensive. They’re not meant for you to set up on your own. The Echo Hub is the opposite of that. You’re meant to buy it and install it and use it yourself.

And that control gets a good bit smarter — or at least easier to set up — with the new Map View feature, which uses the lidar in an iPhone 12 or newer to scan rooms and build a floor plan. That technology isn’t new — many of the best robot vacuums already do it automatically — but it’s new to Alexa, and it lets you build your smart home setup visually instead of just saying “LAMP2 goes in SPAREROOM” or whatever. Visual is inherently better.

Amazon Echo Hub showing a Ring camera.
A Ring camera feed displayed on the Amazon Echo Hub. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

The Echo Hub is wall-mountable, and it looks great on a demo wall. Amazon says it’s easy to install, and I’ll let you try to convince your spouse of that before you try to break into the drywall. You’ve got a number of options to power it — that’s the sort of detail that tidy press images with hidden power cords tend to ignore — so your mileage may vary as to how clean your setup looks. And if none of that sounds like something you want to deal with, you can just get a Hub and keep it on a counter with a handy stand. More on that in a second.

But once you see one clean install, you’re going to want one. More than one, really. Entryways and offices and living rooms are the prime locations, and the Hub is priced so that you could get a couple and not break the bank.

Amazon Alexa Map as seen on an iPhone.
Amazon’s new Alexa appfeature uses an iPhone to map out a room and assign devices. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Flying through the various controls and widgets looked pretty much like what I’d expect from a sub-$200 device, particularly one that’s not actually being sold yet. For the most part, everything looked smooth, but there were occasional graphical hiccups. That’s to be expected at this point. You have to wonder how much, at this price point, Amazon will be able to keep the graphics fluid, but that’s not a problem for us to solve today.

I watched lights turned off and on and Ring cameras displayed (Ring cameras are the only ones that work with the Hub right now if you want a live snapshot), and heard the built-in speakers, which exis,t but aren’t great because it’s supposed to be attached to a wall. And it all made me wonder:

Why would I want this instead of an Echo Show 8?

That’s almost certainly going to come down to a matter of where you’re going to put the thing, and just how badly you want the Hub’s home control UI. They’re two very different products with two different purposes. Both support the Zigbee, Sidewalk, Thread, Bluetooth, and Matter smart home standards. Both have an 8-inch screen. Both make sounds.

If you’re serious about visual home control, you’ll want a Hub. If you care more about sound and more casual home control — again, this all works via APIs and so you should be able to do anything you can do with the Hub through an Echo device — you should go with the Echo Show 8.

Editors' Recommendations

Phil Nickinson
Section Editor, Audio/Video
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
Amazon Astro gets new pet- and security-focused features
Astro looking at an open front door of a home.

Last year, Amazon announced its new home robot Astro. Astro combines autonomous navigation, intelligent motion, Alexa, and a cheery personality all into one device. Thus far, you could use it to help patrol and secure your home or have it always near a loved one for communication. Today at its fall hardware event, Amazon announced new features that Astro will have to improve its intelligence.

First, Astro is no longer just for the home, but also for small and medium-sized businesses. Having Astro patrol your business after hours or while you're away is an excellent alternative to hiring a security guard. Speaking of which, Astro can now utilize Ring's Virtual Security Guard feature to keep businesses protected. For example, suppose the company is already using Ring Alarm systems, and an alarm goes off. In that case, Astro can investigate what is happening while a rapid response agent can visually observe what's happening in real time. Then, if needed, agents can take action by calling authorities or talking to intruders using Astro's cameras and two-way talk microphones.

Read more
Everything announced at Amazon’s 2022 Fall Event: new Echos, Fire TVs, Kindle Scribe, and more
Amazon Astro in a build with Ring Virtual Security Guard on its screen.

Amazon announced everything from new Echos, to security cameras, to Fire TVs, and more at its September 28 devices and services event. The new hardware underscores a commitment to what the company dubs "ambient intelligence:" every interaction should be intuitive, proactive, and personalized to help you enjoy the here and now. What's the secret sauce that lets Amazon deliver these contextual experiences? Sensors. Many of the products announced today come with sensors designed to help monitor and enhance a person's environment and experience. Of course, you can adjust the settings to still keep your data private.

Most of the products will be available later this year, with others (ahem, Astro) coming one day. We've rounded up everything Amazon announced today.
Amazon smart speakers

Read more
New Amazon Echos bring ‘dot displays’ and mesh networking, plus models for kids and cars
The Echo Dot with Clock sits on a table.

At Wednesday's Amazon Devices & Services event, the company announced a brand-new lineup of Echo Dot devices. These include a new Echo Dot, Echo Dot with Clock, Echo Dot Kids, and a new Echo Auto device. The Echo Studio also received a couple of more color options, as well as a software upgrade.

All of these devices feature updated technology and several new features that make them well worth the upgrade, and pre-orders start today. If you want to snag one of these new Echo products for yourself, you can expect to receive it sometime next month.
Echo Dot
The new Echo Dot retains the spherical design of its predecessor, but with new technology on the inside that gives it a lot more power. It features a custom full-range driver and the most powerful excursion speaker of any Echo Dot, which allows it to produce double the bass of the previous generation.

Read more