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Amazon Echo Show 1st-gen vs. 2nd-gen

Whether you’re after a control center for your smart lighting and home security or you’re looking for a smart portal to link with your preferred streaming services like Spotify, Netflix, and more, a smart display is an excellent way to build an interface for any smart home — big or small. In the landscape of displays, Amazon’s Echo Show lineup stands tall as a leading choice for smart home controls, especially if you already own an Echo speaker or two.

With a brand new Echo Show generation on the way, there’s never been a better time to get your hands on an older-gen Show device. In this comparison, we’ll be pitting Amazon’s first-gen Echo Show against the second-gen iteration. We’ll take a look at the important specs and see how the models stack up against each other. The second-generation Show is an all-around improvement, but you probably want to know the details: Let’s start with design.

Design

Amazon Echo Show
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The second-gen Echo Show 2018 has a significantly different design than the blockier Show 2017. Let’s talk about the size, the speaker placement, and the materials.

  • Size: The Show 2018 is 9.7 inches wide and 6.9 inches tall, with a screen span of 10.1 inches wide. The Show 2017 measures 7.4 inches wide and 7.4 inches tall, with a screen span of 7 inches. The squarish shape of the original Show has been completely replaced by a rectangular design that’s taken up primarily by the display, plus a mic array on the top of the Show that doesn’t take up much room.
  • Speakers: The original Show had a front speaker panel made of two 2-inch speakers set side by side. The two speakers — still the same size — are separated in the 2018 model and placed on the sides of the Show (which sports a declining pyramid shape). The effect essentially makes the speakers invisible while also improving sound direction.
  • Materials: As with the other second-generation Echo products, the Show 2018 switches from smooth black plastic to a fabric covering that’s available in dark gray or white. It’s more home-friendly but also harder to clean if something splashes on the surface.

Display

Amazon Echo Show
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Echo Show 2017 has a rectangular, 7-inch touchscreen perched above the speaker. With the speaker relegated to the sides, the Show 2018 is more or less all screen — and there’s more of it. The 2018 screen measures in at 10.1 inches and has an even more rectangular shape, closer to the shape of a traditional TV screen than the original Show. The one on the second-gen Show is now 1280 x 800 with 720p HD video.

However, the larger screen is a surprisingly important QOL upgrade. Many people tend to watch video on a Show from across the kitchen or the other side of the living room. A larger screen makes it easier to absorb key details at a distance and makes the Show 2018 a much better video device.

Performance

Echo Show
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

In most respects, performance between the 2017 and 2018 models is identical, particularly in terms of speed and what the Show can do. Both Shows can accomplish virtually everything that other Echo devices can while also showing information on the screen. Both offer video from YouTube, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and more. They can also connect to the majority of other smart home devices and control them via voice commands. And, of course, both Shows can act as video calling devices with a simple, “Alexa, call Dad.” Skype support is also incoming for both models. The second-gen show, however, can support local voice control, which means it can support certain requests (like controlling compatible lights and plugs) even when the device isn’t connected to the internet.

But one of the biggest issues with the original Show was that front-facing speaker (which, remember, is made up of two 2-inch speakers clustered together), which didn’t have the best directional qualities and was rather disappointing, especially compared to the traditional and second-gen Echos.

Amazon evidently realized this. The Show 2018 doesn’t just have different speaker placement — it has two 2-inch speakers, a passive bass radiator, and Dolby processing. The difference is really significant. The Echo 2018’s speakers do not embarrass, and the added clarity is ideal for everything from catching up on a football game to filling your house party with music. In other words, if you like music or watching video on your Show, the 2018 model is an easy recommendation.

Pricing and availability

Echo Show
Image used with permission by copyright holder

As we previously mentioned, Amazon is set to launch a third-generation Echo Show with new upgrades later this year. But until then, it’s proving to be a bit of a challenge to find the older generation Shows. You won’t be able to buy either the first or second-generation Echo Show through Amazon, but you may be able to find a second-gen product from Best Buy for around $150. At the end of the day, it’s probably best to just wait for the Echo Show 10 release. For roughly $100, Amazon’s newest model will bring a rotating display capable of tracking your movements, an upgraded 13MP camera, and Zigbee-compatibility to your smart home.

If your heart is set on a first-generation Echo Show, which is nearly impossible to find, your best bet may be searching for a refurbished version from a website like eBay. 

For the folks looking for a smart display that isn’t quite so large, the Echo Show 5 and 8 are the best options for you. Amazon launched both of these models in 2019 and offered many of the features found in Amazon’s proper second-gen display. You can find the Echo Show 5 listed at about $45 and the Echo Show 8 for $80.

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Michael Bizzaco
Michael Bizzaco has been writing about and working with consumer tech for well over a decade, writing about everything from…
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