By now I think most of us know what an Echo device is, right? These smart speakers or smart screens have built-in smarts of a digital assistant to play music, answer questions and do conversions, create schedules and appointments, plus offer news, weather, traffic and even jokes and TV shows. So these devices are basically digital butlers that can do it all; so what’s new in Amazon’s Echo Show 15 that we didn’t have before in other Echo devices? I recently got my hands on one to find out.
In this review I’ll tell you what makes this version special, what it can do and about the special features, and if I recommend this device for you.
Amazon Echo Show 15
Overall, there are some definitely pros and cons to the Amazon Echo Show 15. Whether you’ll like it or hate it depends on how you most want to use it.
- Larger size shows more info
- More design-minded looks
- Widgets are fun, useful
- Option of wall mount or stand
- Use vertical or horizontal
- Speaker is poor
- Camera resolution is inferior to previous gen
- Need to wall mount, or buy stand
What’s new in Echo Show 15?
Now Family sized
Beyond the basics noted above, the Echo Show 15 is designed to be a family hub. Made much larger than previous versions, the Show 15 is a big, framed flat screen now that resembles a TV.
Now a TV portal
That leads me to my next key feature: this screen is made for video viewing, whether it’s a Zoom call or video chat or watching Amazon Prime TV, Amazon wants you using and engaging with your Echo Show 15 all the time. While you could watch videos on Show devices previously, this big, high resolution screen (1920 x 1080) is designed for viewing.
Now with Widgets
The new option of widget on the echo show 15 gives you even more options for customization and personalization of your screen. You can choose how many widgets to display on the screen at all times, and in what order they should be configured. Choose from Weather information, two notes, calendar, to-do lists and more. While the list of Widgets is small, it should grow quickly enough.
I added my grocery list, Sticky notes, weather at home and for my favourite getaway city of Palm Springs, plus my Amazon delivery notifications and smart home shortcuts.
I do really like this feature. Older version of the Echo Shows let you adjust the photo style or screen saver, and you could get rid of some notifications, but you couldn’t really make adjustments to this extent. I think widgets work really well and they’re useful.
Now Vertical or Horizontal use
Unlike pretty much every other Echo Show device, you can actually choose how you want to place the Echo Show 15. Hang it on a wall or use the (add-on) stand, and orient it either vertically or horizontally. Naturally if you’ll be watching a lot of video, vertical isn’t the ideal configuration, but it does fit into slimmer spaces.
Now with Visual ID
Visual ID is a new-ish feature on the Echo Show 15 that’s also becoming backwards compatible on the swivel base Echo Show 10.
Visual ID uses the built-in camera to recognize who’s in front of the device, so it can feature customized content for that person, whether they’re adults or kids.
Getting Visual ID set up is actually pretty easy. I had my own face scanned in moments, and Alexa was able to recognize me and personalize my responses.
Trying to get my husband set up, however took a few attempts. He never seemed to be able to complete the set up/scanning process, so we left it for a few days, then tried again, and were successful.
Visual ID also lets you do things like send notes to family members directly, or to leave Sticky notes as reminders too.
New: inferior camera
Speaking of the camera, Amazon has chosen, perhaps oddly, to make the camera in the Echo Show 15 a 5mp front facing camera, where on the Echo Show 10 by comparison it is 13mp. Will you notice the difference? It’s hard to say.
The camera in this model also lacks the ability to track you around the room, which is probably not a shock since this device isn’t on a swiveling base. In my opinion, this camera is more meant to facilitate the Visual ID and family hub operations, and is less for video chats.
New: inferior Speaker quality
In another design oddity, Amazon has opted for a smaller speaker in the Show 15. Now, let’s take a step back here for a second for some perspective; putting a speaker in a flat screen and expecting it to sound rich, resonant and booming is just a wrong-headed idea. Based on real estate alone, there’s just no physical way to put a high fidelity speaker into a 1.5-inch deep device. So, we shouldn’t be expecting much from the audio quality… which is good because we ain’t getting it.
The speaker sounds tinny, hollow and flat, particularly as compared to something like the Echo Show 10. It’s fine, and basic for listening to Alexa, but music and even a lot of video isn’t a joy to listen to on this device.
Overall review: Amazon Echo Show 15
Overall, there are some definitely pros and cons to the Amazon Echo Show 15.
It has all the functionality of Alexa, meaning it’s ultra versatile. I love the newer, larger size; you can see a lot more information and it’s very easy to interact with the device using voice or the touchscreen. I think the design itself is a lot less techy and a lot more homey. I like the option of wall mounting it (though the cord shows) or using the optional stand (but it should really come with the screen).
Downsides? The speaker isn’t great (get the Echo Show 10 if audio quality is paramount), and the front facing camera is inferior to the previous generation. You do need to find a way to mount it, or purchase the extra stand… otherwise you will just have to lean it somewhere, which is neither safe nor ideal.
Even so, I’m a fan of Echo devices because they’re smart, useful and work extremely well and reliably, so I’m happy to recommend the Echo Show 15 to you if it fits with your smart home needs.
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