The Echo Show boasts upgrades aplenty. It’s equipped with eight ever-vigilant microphones — up from seven in Amazon’s Echo Dot, Echo Tap, and original Echo speaker — and an improved speaker array with Dolby-powered bass and stereo sound.
But the Echo Show’s highlight is its 7-inch color touchscreen — an Echo speaker first. It enhances existing Echo skills with a number of visual flourishes. When you play a song from Amazon’s Prime Music service, for example, you’ll see music lyrics, and when you start a timer, you’ll see it count down onscreen.
Amazon says it can display security camera footage from Ring and Arlo cameras, photos from your smartphone, weather forecasts, to-do lists, shopping lists, reminders, products from Amazon.com, YouTube videos, and flash video briefings from CNN.
The Echo Show is also the first Echo capable of placing and receiving video calls, thanks to a built-in 5-megapixel camera. You can start a hands-free conference with a family member or friend with an Echo from the Echo app, and a new feature, Drop In, lets a loved one connect to an Echo Show to let you know it’s time for dinner, or let you see a baby’s nursery, or check in with a close relative.
Additional hands-free calling features come in the form of Alexa Calling, Amazon’s new messaging platform. In the coming weeks, the Echo Show and existing devices will be able to make and receive calls — they’ll glow green — and you’ll be able to ask Alexa to answer or ignore the call. Alternatively, you can dictate a message with your voice and send it — the recipient will be notified with a chime, and will see the message in the Alexa app for smartphones.
The Echo Show supports older apps as well, albeit without onscreen controls. Music offerings from Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and more are in tow, plus apps from CNN, Uber, and Allrecipes. Existing smart home integrations will work just fine, too, including those from Philips Hue, Ecobee, and others.
And perhaps most importantly, the Echo Show plays nicely with other Echo speakers. In homes, offices, and rooms with more than one speaker, the Echo closest to you will respond automatically.
In terms of hardware, the Echo Show is the most capable Echo speaker yet. It’s powered by Intel’s powerful z5x-Z8350 processor, and the first Echo to support dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11n Wi-Fi. Like other speakers in Amazon’s lineup, it’s fully compatible with Bluetooth accessories including speakers, PCs, and smart home devices.
The Echo Show is available for pre-order starting from May 9, in black and white color configurations, priced from $230. It begins shipping on June 28.
The Echo Show might be seen as Amazon’s effort to shore up its voice-assistant dominance. Earlier this year, the internet retailer brought its AI voice platform to a new form factor in the Echo Look, an AI-equipped security camera, and slashed the price of its Echo speaker by $50.
Amazon has nothing to worry about yet — according to a report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, the Amazon commands 70 percent of the smart speaker market. But rumors persist that iPhone maker Apple is prepping a Siri-equipped speaker ahead of a June launch. The Echo Show, it could be argued, is a preemptive strike.