Skip to main content

Hands on: Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) review

Better camera. Faster processor. Still the same ol’ Alexa.

What is a hands on review?
Amazon Echo Show 8 (Gen. 2)
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

The Amazon Echo Show 8 (2021) offers a superior camera for enhanced video calls and a faster processor, but not the best audio quality or screen resolution. We’ll need to spend some more time with it to put it through its paces, but so far it’s proven to be a great device for chatting with friends and family.

For

  • New 13MP camera for video calls
  • Cheaper than the Echo Show 10
  • Alexa has a wide range of skills
  • Easy to group speakers together

Against

  • Audio quality can still be improved
  • Requires you to remember commands
  • Only a 1280 x 800 resolution
  • No built-in Zigbee hub

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 provides heaps of value for the money.

What the second generation of the mid-range smart display aims to provide is a new 13-megapixel wide-angle camera that digitally pans and zooms during video calls and a new octa-core processor that helps the display switch between apps faster. You’ve also got dual stereo speakers on board and the eponymous 8-inch HD screen with adaptive color. 

The result, so far, feels like 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. We’re still unsure if it’s worth upgrading from an original Echo Show 8 for any of the new features, 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 

The Amazon Echo Show 8 will be available starting on June 9, 2021 for $129.99 / £119.99 / AU$199 in two colors, Charcoal and Glacier White. 

For comparison, the Amazon Echo Show 10 costs $249.99 / £239.99 / AU$399.99, while the new Amazon Echo Show 5 (Gen. 2) 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, not only is the Amazon Echo Show 8 the mid-range champion of Amazon’s lineup, but it’s also priced right in between the new Google Nest Hub 2 and Google Nest Hub Max as well. We’ll compare the two down below, but if you’re only looking at the sticker price, the Echo Show 8 has the clear advantage here.

Design

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. On the front bezel you’ll find the new 13MP camera and the 8-inch 1280 x 800 resolution display, but otherwise there’s nothing else to see there. 

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. 

Speaking of the microphones, 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. 

Amazon Echo Show 8 (Gen. 2)

(Image credit: Future)

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.

Last but not least, 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. 

Performance

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. 

Of course, 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. 

Amazon Echo Show 8 (Gen. 2)

(Image credit: Future)

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.

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.

Amazon Echo Show 8 (Gen. 2)

(Image credit: Future)

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, but it’s decent for its size.

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 a small point, admittedly, but the difference in difficulty between setting up devices with a Zigbee hub and without one can be pretty substantial.

Amazon Echo Show 8 (Gen. 2)

(Image credit: Future)

Early verdict

We’ve only had the Amazon Echo Show 8 in our home for a few days now so we can’t yet say definitively if it’s worth your money or not. That said, compared to the other smart displays we have all throughout the house, the Amazon Echo Show 8 offers the best camera out of them all (13MP vs 6.5MP on the Google Nest Hub Max) and a wide range of features that make it a more compelling option. We’re not in love with the sound quality or HD/SDR picture quality, but folks who want great video calling and a cheap alternative to the Amazon Echo Show 10 will surely find it here.  

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.