The Amazon Echo Show 8 hasn’t been around long, but in that time it’s really owned its role as the middle child of the Echo Show lineup. By providing more features and functionality than the Amazon Echo Show 5 at a significantly lower price than the Amazon Echo Show 10, the Amazon Echo Show has - in the past - provided heaps of value for the money.
Of course, we say that in the past tense because this year’s Show 8 is slightly more limited than previous years’ due to its lack of a 3.5mm out jack and lack of a built-in Zigbee hub. The display remains a lackluster 1280 x 800 resolution and speakers that can get loud, but lack resolution and depth.
While those are all serious strikes against the Echo Show 8, it’s not all bad. This generation incorporates a new 13-megapixel wide-angle camera that digitally pans and zooms during video calls and an octa-core processor that helps the display switch between apps faster.
The result is a functional and aesthetically pleasing smart display that can make calls to family and friends and play your favorite songs and shows from services like Amazon Music Unlimited and Amazon Prime Video – though often not at their highest resolution.
We wouldn’t upgrade from last year’s Echo Show 8 for any of the new features nor are we about to trade-in our larger Amazon Echo Show 10, but if you’re a newcomer to the smart home space and looking for a smart display, the all-new Amazon Echo Show 8 could be a good option for you.
Price and release date
- Release date: June 9 2021
- Price: $129.99 / £119.99 / AU$199
The Amazon Echo Show 8 became available on June 9, 2021 for $129.99 / £119.99 / AU$199 in two colors, Charcoal and Glacier White.
That’s significantly less expensive than the Amazon Echo Show 10 that costs $249.99 / £239.99 / AU$399.99, and only a bit more than the new Amazon Echo Show 5 (Gen. 2) that costs $84.99 / £74.99 / AU$119. The Amazon Echo Show 8 falls nicely in between those two, and is a nice middle ground in terms of price and functionality.
That said, we still like the larger Amazon Echo Show 10 for most tasks as well as the Google Nest Hub Max as well. Their larger screens look a bit better, and we feel their speakers offer a superior sound quality that you just won’t find on the Amazon Echo Show 8. They’re pricier, yes, but we’d recommend them over this year’s Amazon Echo Show 8.
- Similar design to the previous Echo Show 8
- New this year is a 13-Megapixel camera and MediaTek MT8183 octa-core processor
- Same dual 2-inch speakers and 1280 x 800 resolution display as before
- No more 3.5mm aux-out port on the back
Admittedly, there’s not a huge difference aesthetically between the old Amazon Echo Show 8 and the new Amazon Echo Show 8 – the shells are pretty much identical as are the eponymous 8-inch 1280 x 800 resolution displays.
On top of the Echo Show 8 are the control buttons for volume up/down and Alexa, but there’s also the mute button that turns off the microphone and a slide to cover up the camera. It’s a non-negotiable for privacy enthusiasts, and it’s great to have it here.
The big change this year is the new 13-megapixel camera that is a massive step forward compared to the 1-megapixel camera on the original Amazon Echo Show 8. The extra image resolution of the camera allows you to take some great selfies and makes video calls – especially ones where you’re sitting further away – a lot clearer.
Of course, those meetings are going to require microphones and the Echo Show 8 (2021) also has the same four-microphone configuration as the previous iteration that work at a medium to long range and should be able to hear you over the sound of loud music – though, sometimes you might have to repeat yourself a few times for Alexa to hear you.
Inside, the Echo Show 8 (2021) has the MediaTek MT8183 octa-core processor, compared to the current Echo Show 8, which has a MediaTek MT 8163. In theory, this should help the smart display feel a bit snappier than its predecessor. In practice, however, we found it hard proving that was the case – in fact, both are relatively nimble, though videos do seem to start a bit faster on the new Echo Show.
To play audio, there’s the dual 2-inch speakers that hide behind the mesh back of the Amazon Echo Show 8. These speakers aren’t the be-all, end-all of speakers (more on that below) but having two drivers is certainly better than one.
The lackluster speakers wouldn’t be such an issue however Amazon actually removed the 3.5mm auxiliary jack on the new unit – i.e. there’s no porting audio from the display to a more powerful speaker via a 3.5mm cable. That’s not going to impact everyone, but those of us who really like and use the feature will be disappointed by its absence.
Instead all you’ll find on the back is a microUSB cable that can be used to connect the display to an ethernet cable if you buy an extra adapter, however it’s likely not necessary as the bandwidth required for the Amazon Echo Show 8 is relatively low.
- 13MP camera is a big leap forward for the Echo Show 8
- But its screen and speakers are disappointing
- Alexa is getting smarter, but still can’t answer complicated questions
- Lastly, it doesn’t have a built-in Zigbee hub
So what is the Amazon Echo Show 8 like to use? Well, it’s pretty similar to many of the other Amazon Echo Show devices. It’s a visual display - albeit one with a slightly lower resolution than we’d like - with tons of information about your day. The Show often will have messages on the screen about what Alexa can do (“Alexa, make a call”), or about events on your calendar, or facts and weather information for your area.
Above all else, calling is what the new Amazon Echo Show 8 is all about, so it’s there you’ll find its greatest strength. With a 13-Megapixel camera, call quality should look significantly improved for you with very little grain even with bad lighting. The 13MP camera makes the picture look sharper most of the time, sure, but it also allows the Amazon Echo Show 8 to zoom in when you’re sitting further away from the camera - which is a neat trick if you can’t always sit super close to your Show.
How much use you’ll get out of that feature depends on how much video calling you do (the Echo supports both Echo-to-Echo and Zoom calls now) but we do appreciate the extra attention Amazon has given to the feature at a time when we’re spending more time than ever on video calls.
We also have to point out the fun photo booth mode we didn’t even know the Amazon Echo Show series of displays had. Ask Alexa to take a photo, and you’ll be able to choose between single shots, multi-shots and a photo booth mode that takes four shots in quick succession and patches them together. The images are instantly saved to the cloud but you can also share them with friends and family as well. It’s a neat feature and one we haven’t seen on any other smart display, so it wins a few points in our books for that.
That said, we can’t talk about an Amazon smart device without talking about Alexa. Finding out what Alexa can do relies on you either having an Alexa device already, or by going through some of the basic tutorials. That said, Alexa’s functionality has grown so much over the years thanks to its ever-growing Skills library that it can do more than you’d ever imagine or learn from the tutorials. For example, Alexa can tell you how good the air quality is around you when you ask “Alexa, what’s the air quality like today?” or can tell you how to pronounce words in another language (though, it can’t translate conversations in real-time like Google).
However, for every query Alexa can answer, there are a half-dozen more that it can’t – which can feel frustrating for folks who have a hard time understanding when a question becomes too complex for Alexa to answer (“Alexa, what’s Risk?” vs “Alexa, who goes first in Risk?”) and often requires you to remember Alexa commands verbatim.
As for the audio quality, the Amazon Echo Show 8 has definitely amped up the mid-range to make dialogue and conversations much, much clearer, but it has come at the expense of the high-end and low-end of the audio spectrum. Songs like Good 4 U by Olivia Rodrigo have exceptionally clear lyrics and driving bass, but snares get lost in the mix as do the background vocalists – especially if you compare it to the Echo Show 10 that has an absolutely ludicrous bass response for a speaker that’s nearly the same size.
The silver lining here? It’s incredibly easy to lump Alexa speakers together into groups that can then all play the same song in different rooms. That’s perfect if, say, you put the Amazon Echo Show 8 in a kitchen and have something more substantial like the Amazon Echo Studio in your living room both playing the same song. By itself, the Amazon Echo Show 8’s sound quality still leaves something to be desired, but when it’s part of a larger group, it doesn’t stand out as much from the crowd.
It’s a similar story for display, too. The Amazon Echo Show 8’s 1280 x 800 resolution display won’t blow you away - especially when compared to tablets or laptops - but it’s fine for watching a cooking tutorial video or a short show on Amazon Prime Video. The picture isn’t cinematic, certainly, especially without HDR support, and often you’ll still likely rather watch movies and shows on your phone that will have HDR support instead.
There’s also the elephant in the room – and that’s the lack of proper YouTube support. Sure, you’ll still be able to access the service through a web browser, but you won’t find a native app for the Amazon Echo Show like you would for Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. That’s a minor quibble, but it’s one more reason you might be better served by buying a streaming stick like the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K or Amazon Fire TV Cube instead of a smart display.
Lastly, in terms of smart home features, it’s worth noting that the Amazon Echo Show 8 doesn’t have a built-in Zigbee hub. It can still connect to many devices over Bluetooth, but you wouldn’t want to buy this to be the brains of your burgeoning smart home only to find out that some of the lightbulbs, smart thermostats, smart cameras and doorbells will require longer setup processes because the Echo Show 8 doesn’t have a hub built-in. It’s another small point, admittedly, but the difference in difficulty between setting up devices with a Zigbee hub and without one can be pretty substantial in terms of total install time.
Should you buy the Amazon Echo Show 8 (2021)?
Buy it if...
You can’t decide between an Echo Show 5 and an Echo Show 10
Perfectly priced between the Amazon Echo Show 5 and Amazon Show Show 10, the Echo Show 8 is a happy medium in terms of screen size, resolution and sound quality.
You’re looking for a better video conferencing solution
Thanks to its Zoom integration and new zooming capabilities, the Echo Show 8 is a great display for video calls. Everyone should be able to see you clearly on the call and extra features like the photo booth mode will help stave off boredom between meetings.
You want an Alexa speaker that has (nearly) every feature
Alexa is a powerful ally in the smart home space. It can show the lyrics to your favorite songs for impromptu karaoke and can deliver both the news and recipes in a visual, easy-to-digest format. That in itself can be more helpful than good sound quality if you’re more of a visual learner, and the 8-inch screen is fairly easy to see from a few feet away.
Don't buy it if...
You want exceptional sound or picture quality
As we've mentioned before, the Amazon Echo Show 8’s 1280 x 800 resolution display and dual 2-inch speakers aren’t going to win any awards in the AV department unfortunately. Without HDR or the ability to adequately stream hi-res audio, we don’t recommend this over a good speaker or tablet.
You already have an Echo Show 8 or Echo Show 10
If you already have an Echo Show 10, don’t replace it with this year’s Echo Show 8 – you’ve already got the best feature (a 13MP camera) in the Echo Show 10. Similarly, the Echo Show 8 from two years ago has many of the same design features as the new Echo Show 8 and isn’t worth upgrading for – especially if you don’t plan on using the camera that much.
You want to buy the brains of your smart home
Without a built-in Zigbee hub the Amazon Echo Show 8 can communicate with some smart home devices, but not all of them – and when you’re picking out a new smart light bulb or doorbell, the last thing you want to worry about is whether it will play nicely with your Echo.
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