Amazon Echo Show 15 review: Is a bigger Alexa screen better?

Amazon’s Echo Show 15 for $250

is the company’s largest smart display to date. With a 15.6-inch screen, you can do all the standard Echo Show-like tasks, but with more screen real estate. These tasks include watching step-by-step instructions for a new recipe, watching videos on YouTube or Amazon Prime Video, or asking Alexa to tell your kids a joke.

7.5

Echo Show 15



Very well

Like

  • Dynamic dispaly
  • Visual identification is useful

Do not like

  • Camera quality
  • Counter stand not included

For the past month, the Echo Show 15 has been up and running, both in a home setting and in my home office. It’s a tool I use to quickly check my daily schedule and to check camera feeds from time to time. Although I found it useful, there are still areas that need work.

A small TV or a very large smart screen?

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Setting up the Echo Show 15 isn’t a long or difficult process. You’ll connect it to your Wi-Fi network, log in to your Amazon account, and you’ll be up and running within minutes. That’s the easy part, but there’s one aspect of initial setup that can seem daunting: where do you put the 15.6-inch screen?

Included in the box with the Echo Show 15 are the parts and pieces needed to mount the display to a wall, or you can opt for a

counter stand for $30.

Personally, I wish Amazon included the stand with every Echo Show 15 instead of selling it as an add-on. You have to be really committed to your smart home setup to drill holes in your wall and permanently mount the Echo Show 15.

The Echo Show 15 can be configured for landscape or vertical orientation if you mount it or use the stand. Amazon included the stand with my review unit, so that’s what I used for testing.

In landscape orientation, the Echo Show 15 measures 15.8 inches long, 9.9 inches tall, and 1.4 inches thick. Amazon’s store listing for the Echo Show 15 lists the weight at 78.1 ounces, or about 4.88 pounds. If you decide to mount it on your wall, be sure to follow the instructions and take all necessary precautions to keep it in place.

Amazon’s AZ2 Neural Edge quad-core processor powers the Echo Show 15, and there’s a 5-megapixel camera in the top left corner of the device. There’s a physical switch just above the camera that you can slide to cover the camera. This same camera is used for Amazon’s new visual identification feature (more on that in a minute) and for all video calls.

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Above the camera, you’ll find a few buttons to control volume levels and mute the always-on microphone.

The camera leaves a lot to be desired in terms of photo or video quality, but it’s good enough for casual calls with friends and family members.

I can’t decide if it’s best to consider the Echo Show 15 the right size of a modern take on a small kitchen TV, or if it’s just a really big smart screen .

A hub for your family… or not

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

For the first two weeks, I had the Echo Show 15 on my kitchen counter with the intent of using it as a central hub for my family. I connected my iCloud calendar to my Alexa account, so the Show 15 can display appointments and events in our shared family calendar.

It quickly became apparent that I was the only person in my family to actually use the Echo Show 15 – aside from a few random Alexa requests from my kids.

Eventually, I moved the Echo Show 15 to my desk where I could glance at the calendar widget to see the next item on my agenda.

The basic interface layout of the Echo Show 15 has rotating information on the left side of the screen, with the right side showing one of the widgets you’ve added. Currently, there are 22 widgets to choose from. Of these 22, only the Cookpad widget that displays popular meals is created by a third-party developer. The rest of the widgets are made by Amazon and show everything from shortcuts to your music accounts to delivery updates to your calendar.

As well: The best Amazon Echo: Which device is right for you?

I would love to see more widgets from third-party developers, like an Apple Music or Spotify widget, or even a Ring widget with snapshots from my outdoor cameras.

During initial setup, I enabled Visual ID for just my personal Amazon account (as opposed to my entire family) on the Echo Show 15. The process takes a few minutes and is similar to enabling FaceID on an iPhone . The Echo Show 15 has to scan and register your face, which is done locally on the smart display itself.

None of the information leaves the device, according to Amazon.

Once a face is registered with Visual ID and the Echo Show 15 recognizes you when you approach or pass in front of the screen, it will automatically change the information that appears on the screen, adapting it to the person which is close to the screen. For example, when I walk over to the Echo Show 15, it shows my personal calendar, along with news suggestions based on my past interactions with the device.

You can set up Visual ID for all family members linked to your Amazon account, including your children. In the case of enabling it for kids, the Echo Show 15 will change the interface to a kid-friendly experience.

Visual identification is also available on the

Echo Show 10

and

Show 8

, and, for me at least, it’s become a must-have feature on the Echo Show 15. Knowing that every time I interact with the Echo Show 15, the information presented is specific to me and my interests solve a problem that I have long with smart displays. That is, seeing random suggestions and content that I’m not interested in, or using the Echo Show at the time.

Performance can be hit or miss

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As you can see, there are random misfires like empty space on the left side of the screen.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

My biggest complaint about the Echo Show 15 is the sporadic performance slowdowns. There are times when swiping down from the top of the screen to reveal the shortcuts menu takes a second or two, while other times it’s instantaneous. The same goes for tapping or swiping different menus. I waited at least 30 seconds today for the list of available widgets to show up when I try to navigate through the gallery. As soon as I came back to the home screen and back to the gallery, it didn’t take long to load at all.

There’s also often a lag when using the new picture-in-picture feature that lets you view all compatible security cameras (both Ring and Blink are supported).

At one point during my review, I asked Amazon PR about the slow display. I was instructed to provide specific examples, so I decided to just take a picture of the problem. However, for the next five minutes – while filming – I couldn’t slow down the Echo Show 15 at all. Everything was quick, responsive, and worked as I expected.

What’s frustrating about the Echo Show 15’s performance is that there’s no rhyme or reason why it’s slowing down. It just does, and then it doesn’t. I noticed there have been a few software updates since I first set it up, so it’s possible that Amazon is slowly increasing performance and fixing the bugs I’ve encountered.

At the end of the line

Whether or not you should get the Echo Show 15 depends on your investment in Amazon’s ecosystem of Echo products and services. For someone who has plenty of Alexa-linked smart home devices for automation, routines, etc., the Echo Show 15 makes a lot of sense.

For someone who is heavily invested in Google Home or

Apple HomeKit

, I’m not sure the Echo Show 15 makes sense. Since none of these companies has a comparable product – with the exception of the

Nest Hub Max

– but that can be said of any Amazon Echo product.

I really see the need and value of a large smart display like the Echo Show 15 for organizing a family, keeping tabs on your smart home gadgets, and even watching live video feeds from your cameras. With the addition of Visual ID, impromptu interactions are more personal and efficient.


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