Amazon Echo Show 10 2021 review: I like to move it

 The Echo Show range of smart displays really showcase the power of the Alexa virtual assistant

author_img Tushar Kanwar Published :  11th September 2021 06:17 PM   |   Published :   |  11th September 2021 06:17 PM
Amazon Echo Show 10 2021

Amazon Echo Show 10 2021

Amazon’s Echo range of smart speakers may be the popular choice for consumers looking to get their feet wet with smart speakers, but it’s their Echo Show range of smart displays that really showcase the power of the Alexa virtual assistant. They’re great to offer up visual cues to voice responses, quickly look up videos and recipe instructions and make the odd video call. Screen sizes range between 5- and 10-inches, but they’re meant for use in one place and in one orientation, almost an anomaly in our smartphone toting times. 

The Echo Show 10 attempts to fix that, by following you around - not from room to room (thankfully), but across its line of (computer) vision. It uses the front camera and beam-forming microphones to locate you across the room and swivel the screen to best face you, which opens up a whole host of usage scenarios that previous stationary, immobile Echo Shows simply couldn’t manage. Worth the extra cash though? Let’s find out.

The Echo Show 10 is the first Show to forgo the familiar wedge shape and the integrated screen-plus-speaker design and instead use a floating touchscreen attached to a fabric-covered cylindrical base, which allows the brushless motors inside to spin the 10.1-inch touch screen nearly 360-degrees around to face you. Controls are minimal – volume up/down, mute and privacy sliders - and found on the top edge of the touchscreen. Privacy sliders are table stakes for a device with a camera, more so for one that can track you around the room – strangely our phones don’t come with them, though. There’s no power switch, so if it’s plugged in, the Echo Show 10 is always on. Based on where you place it, you may want to manually tilt the screen upwards or downwards for a better viewing angle.  

Most of the time though, you’ll be using your voice and, if you’re standing close enough, the touchscreen to control the Show 10, and there’s a lot it shares in common in Alexa interactions with the Echo Show 8 I reviewed last year, and whichever one you pick up, you get the same ever-growing library of Alexa skills at your disposal. There are slight tweaks to the visual layout, squeezing in more information in the space than before, and the comprehensive support for local names (including full Hindi language commands as well) gets better each day. For video, there’s Prime Video and Netflix support and YouTube plays in the built-in browser, and most of the popular popular music streaming services like Prime Music, Apple Music, Spotify, JioSaavn and Gaana are supported for hands-free playback.

What starts off as an unnerving party trick for visitors and friends – a screen that swivels towards you when you use the Alexa wake word – is central to the new motion capabilities of the Echo Show 10. As you set it up, the device lets you define the resting position and the range of motion, which is handy if the full 350-degree movement is impeded by other objects or walls. The process is a little more tedious than I’d have liked, and the adjustment of two points on a slider followed by tapping “Preview” was followed by the device slowly spinning in both directions to show you the range of motion. Tiny tweaks needed one to repeat the needlessly slow process again, and it felt like something that Amazon could improve. During setup, you can also choose to define when you want the screen to point at you – while making video calls, watching videos or while listening to music as well. 

With that out of the way, the experience is pretty much as advertised – by combining sound source localization with computer vision, the Echo Show 10 can quickly and quietly find you around the room and point the screen at you. It even tracks you across the room, say when you’re on a video call or watching a video and continues to swivel the screen to always face you. On video calls, it does one better – not only does it point the screen towards you to always keep you in the frame, but it also reframes and zooms in on the view to keep you centered in the screen. Add another person in the conversation and the camera zooms out to accommodate both of you. Video quality is excellent, far better than most web cams and laptop cameras I’ve tried. 

There’s a visceral sense of futurism in the entire experience, maybe not at the level of a bot following you across the house, but certainly one that is unshackled from its stationary point of view in the room. However, that future is still held back by some limitations of today. For instance, the motion tracking relies on good ambient light, and the rotation mechanism is entirely disabled in dark or poorly lit rooms. Video calling is limited to Echo-to-Echo devices and dropping in via the Alexa app on phones, and I cannot wait for other services like Zoom and Google Meet to join the party. Speaking of, the ‘drop in’ capability is very well implemented on the Show 10, with the companion Alexa app allowing you to monitor the home remotely…or at least, the room with the Echo Show 10. Neat home security camera use case for the Show 10’s swiveling setup. 

At its price though, there are a lot better sounding speakers out there, though arguably none with the Echo Show 10’s unique motion capabilities. The two 1-inch tweeters and a single 3-inch woofer setup is fine at low volumes, but it’s easy bested by options like the Apple HomePod, the Amazon Echo Studio or Google’s Nest Audio at higher volumes. This is still very much a personal speaker meant for smaller audiences, like a kitchen setup or something on a standing desk, rather than a speaker for large spaces. If sound quality is your thing, you’ll likely need to sacrifice the swiveling display.  

 

Highlights: Amazon Echo Show 2021
Pros: Unique motion capabilities that track you across the room, Alexa’s virtual assistant is still the most “skilled”, good camera for video calling, big touchscreen for media consumption and calling
Cons: Average sound quality, video calling needs more services to be truly useful, motion capabilities trip over in low light
Rating: 8/10
Price: Rs. 24,999

Tushar Kanwar is a tech columnist and commentator, and tweets @2shar

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