Amazon Echo Show 15 review: A big device for a small audience


Amazon’s Echo Show line has been around for four years, but until now, screen sizes have ranged from five to ten inches, making it ideal as a multi-function bedside alarm or a companion screen in the kitchen. Available now, the 15-inch Echo Show 15 is by far the largest size Amazon has tried, and it’s also the first Echo Show you can mount on your wall. Therefore, the company is betting that some people will use it not only as a digital photo frame, but also as a family bulletin board. If that’s specifically what you want from a smart display, the Echo Show 15 could be niche, but a very fitting match. Somehow we suspect that this is not most people.

Gallery: Amazon Echo Show 15 review | 25 photos Gallery: Amazon Echo Show 15 review | 25 photos Framed like a painting

The Echo Show 15 looks like it belongs in a gallery. The 15.6-inch screen is surrounded by a 0.7-inch white border (similar to the mat around a painting), which itself is housed in an elegant black metal housing. It is also quite slim with a thickness of only 1.4 inches. If you told me this is a picture frame, I would probably believe you from afar. The only telltale clue is the camera in the top left corner. You can hide it with a physical shutter using a switch on the top edge of the frame, where you’ll also find volume controls and a button to mute the microphone.

Pros
  • Beautiful photo frame design
  • Large and bright screen
  • Widgets are useful
cons
  • Average camera and audio quality
  • Desk stand available separately
  • Limited widget library

Because the Show 15 is designed to be wall-mounted, it comes with a mounting bracket and the necessary hardware. (You’ll need to have your own electric drill, of course.) Amazon only supplies a five-foot power cord, though, so you’ll want to mount the device fairly close to an outlet. Alternatively, you can run the wire through the wall, like with a TV, but that’s a more complicated setup.

Amazon

You can choose to mount the Show 15 horizontally or vertically, but you cannot rotate it while it is still hanging on the wall. You have to take it off, flip the bracket and put the screen back on. The same goes for a desk stand; you have to choose the direction you want before placing the Show 15 on it.

I didn’t want to drill into my walls (especially to accommodate a device I’m borrowing just for this story), so I chose to use the Sanus Tilt Stand that Amazon sent me for review. It is quite hefty and bulky and takes up a lot of space on my counter. As the name suggests, the stand allows you to tilt the Show up to 30 degrees for better viewing angles. It’s a good wall-mounting alternative, but if I’m going to have a desktop Alexa-powered display, I’d probably pick one of the other Echo Shows because they’re smaller.

Still, the 15.6-inch screen here is the best of all the Echo Shows, with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. The screen is so bright and sharp that I can see it clearly across the room (about ten feet away). When it displays full-screen photos and graphics, the frame really does look like a work of art. It reminds me of the Lenovo Smart Frame we saw at CES 2020, and even Samsung’s The Frame TV, except they’re both a lot bigger – the Lenovo Smart Frame has a 21.5-inch screen while the Frame TV- range ranges from 32 to 85 inches. In addition, the Smart Frame only showed photos while The Frame TV is a television that shows art, both of which lack Amazon’s smart display capabilities.

Engadget

Speaking of this, one of the main advantages of the big screen is Amazon’s latest Echo Show feature: widgets. Aside from the standard array of rotating content on the home screen, such as headlines and weather updates, part of the screen can now be customized with tiles. Options include a calendar, shopping list, sticky notes, to-do lists, the weather forecast, maps and an Amazon parcel delivery tracker. There’s also a ‘What to Eat’ widget with recipe recommendations, restaurant delivery options, and Blue Apron meal pack suggestions.

This widget feature will eventually roll out to all Echo Shows, but only the Echo Show 15 will have them permanently on the home screen. You can add as many widgets as you want, although the Echo Show 15 will only display six at a time, depending on the tile size. It also pushes the ones you use the most and you can rearrange them to your preference.

I found the widgets useful for seeing all my information at a glance. I’ve been making heavy use of the smart home favorites widget, which allows me to view my security camera feeds and control my smart lights with a single tap. I also liked the picture-in-picture live camera view, which allowed me to see who was at the door while watching a video.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many third-party widgets out there at the moment – only 14 at the moment. The company has said it has built an API for developers to build their own widgets, but it’s unclear if more are coming soon. I’d like to see a Spotify widget next to the one for Amazon Music, for example. Browser shortcuts for easier access to my favorite websites would also be helpful.

Visual ID Face Recognition

Engadget

Another feature making its debut on the Echo Show 15 is Visual ID, similar to Face Match on Google’s Nest Hub Max. It is a facial recognition feature that shows you information and widgets that are personalized to you, such as your daily appointments or your to-do list. Whenever I came into the picture, the Echo Show featured 15 greetings like “Good morning Nicole.” It’s smart enough to distinguish me from my husband, who also recognized it well. Visual ID also allows you to send messages; when my husband told Alexa to “leave a note for Nicole that read ‘I love you'”, I saw it pop up on the screen later that day.

This feature won’t be unique to the Echo Show 15 for long; Amazon says the second-generation Echo Show 8 and third-generation Echo Show 10 will also receive Visual ID via a future update. As for privacy issues, the company says data for both Visual ID and Voice ID (which is already on all other Echo devices) is stored on the device, with nothing going to the cloud. But if you still feel uncomfortable, you can just disable both features altogether. Plus, you can view and delete your voice recordings in the Alexa app, if that makes you feel better.

Disappointing camera quality

Engadget

Many of the other features of the Echo Show 15 match what Amazon offers in the rest of its smart display line, including the ability to set timers, stream music, control Alexa-enabled smart home devices, and make video calls. to feed. In addition, it has plenty of streaming video options, including Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, and even less obvious services like TikTok and Sling TV. That said, YouTube is only accessible through the browser, and the Show 15 doesn’t support Disney+ or HBO Max (which Google’s Nest Hub offers).

While Amazon supports video calling via Skype, the Alexa app, or anyone with an Echo device (Zoom support coming in 2022), the Echo Show 15 inexplicably uses a subpar camera that isn’t as sharp as the 13-megapixel sensors on the Echo Show 8 and Echo Show 10. Plus, the Show 15 doesn’t offer Amazon’s automatic framing feature, which keeps you centered in the scene.

Since the Echo Show 15 is so slim, I’m not surprised that the sound quality is so mediocre. It was fine for the occasional chill playlist, but there’s hardly any bass, so I definitely wouldn’t use this to host guests.

The competition

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There really is nothing like the Echo Show 15 in terms of size. The closest is Facebook’s Portal+, which also measures 15.6 inches. But the Portal+ cannot be wall mounted and lacks many of the apps and features of the Echo Show. It also costs $50 more. That said, the Portal+ has a nicer camera with excellent video chat features, so it’s better for calls.

The Echo Show 15’s closest competitors are its own siblings, the Echo Show 8 and the Show 10. They all share the same features, except again, the wall-mounting option. And yes, the larger screen is better suited for home screen widgets. That’s about the only real benefit, though, as Visual ID and widgets will be coming to the smaller Echo Shows as well. The Show 8 and Show 10 also offer significantly better camera and audio quality. Sure, you’ll have to swipe to see the widgets, but that’s not much of a hindrance. The Show 8 is also cheaper at $130 (the Show 10 is closer to $250).

Packing up

Engadget

The main advantage of the Echo Show 15 is that it can be mounted on a wall, and honestly that’s the only reason to buy it. Yes, the screen is nice and makes for a nice digital picture frame, but the rest of the features are no better than the smaller Echo Shows. Plus, the camera is somehow even worse than on smaller Echo Show devices. Unless you’re really committed to the idea of ​​having a smart display on your wall, you’re better off with one of Amazon’s other Echo Shows.

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