The Amazon Echo Show 10, now in its third generation, is not only Amazon’s best smart display, but also the most advanced, sophisticated, and best-sounding smart home hub ever. The brushless motor that spins its 10.1-inch HD monitor around a 350-degree arc almost silently is the first thing that will catch your eye when you take it out of the box, but there will be plenty more to get excited about once you start using it to its maximum potential.
The Echo Show 10 rotates its monitor around its base based on input from its onboard 13-megapixel camera and far-field microphones, ensuring that it is always facing you. If you’re following a recipe, making a video call, or watching a Netflix movie, this is a great feature. Furthermore, Amazon gives you complete control over how motion is generated: You can turn it off completely, allow it for specific activities (like video calls, watching videos, or following a recipe), or activate/deactivate it on demand by saying stuff like “Alexa, follow me,” “Alexa, turn right,” or “Alexa, turn off motion.”
If you position the Echo Show against a wall or in a corner, you can control how much it rotates so it doesn’t collide with something.
Even if motion is allowed, the display tends to have a clutch or similar mechanism that automatically disengages the motor when it is at rest, enabling you to manually turn the display left or right. You can also tilt the panel up or down to get the best viewing angle, unlike previous versions of the Echo Show (this feature is not motorized).
As compared to the first and second-generation Echo Shows, the display quality on this model is significantly better. Not only is it brighter, but Amazon has also provided it the ability to change its brightness and color to match the ambient lighting in the room. Google has already included those features in its competing Nest Hub Max.
I put the Echo Display on my kitchen island and discovered that its tracking feature worked well and smoothly as I moved around the room—as long as there was enough ambient light. The Echo will show a message that says “Motion is inaccessible because the lighting is low” if the room is too dark. When it hits the end of either length, it will reverse and quickly swing the other way, despite the fact that it can spin 175 degrees in either direction. The people on the other end of my video calls experienced moderate vertigo as a result of this, but I doubt you’ll go to the extreme of walking in circles around the display as I did.
If there was someone else in the room going in a different direction, you’ll be moving from side to side much of the time, and the Echo Display monitored those movements reasonably well. It may then became perplexed as to who it was supposed to be watching. Since it uses both computer vision and sound to triangulate the position, having one person speak to the display helps.
Although the headline of this review is right, you shouldn’t be too worried about the Echo Show 10’s ability to monitor your movements having privacy implications. There’s a MediaTek 8183 chip on board, but Amazon’s latest AZ1 Neural Edge processor handles all of the processing required to pull off the rotation trick locally on the computer. For this reason, no photographs or videos are uploaded to the cloud. If you still find the tracking feature unsettling, you can cover the camera’s lens with a mechanical shutter. There’s even a switch to turn off the onboard microphones.
You can use Amazon’s Drop-In feature to stream a live view from other Echo Shows in your home or from those belonging to your contacts, in addition to streaming video from compatible third-party home surveillance cameras, such as those in the Amazon-owned Ring family (providing the appropriate permissions have been granted by the other parties). When you say, “Alexa, I’m going,” the Echo Show will listen for the sound of smoke and carbon dioxide detector alarms. Alexa can send a warning to your smartphone if it hears such sounds, as well as the sound of breaking glass. When you get home, say “Alexa, I’m home” to switch off Guard mode.
When you sign up for Alexa Guard Plus ($4.99 per month or $49 per year), the speaker can also listen for footsteps or doors closing while Guard mode is working, signaling that someone may be in your house when it’s supposed to be empty. The motorized screen on the Echo Show 10 will soon provide Alexa Guard Plus subscribers with even more home security benefits, according to Amazon: When you’re away, the display’s built-in camera will automatically pan the room and notify you if someone enters its field of view. Drop-In mode is enabled by tapping the alert, and you can get a live view from the camera to see what’s going on.
If you can use Alexa Routines to activate various automation based on the position of your smartphone, you can’t use this method to activate Alexa Guard. I think it’s because Alexa currently has no way of knowing if you’re the only one leaving and if someone else is still at home. Among other items, this will result in a vexing false alarm. The only disadvantage of the motorized display is that it requires a five-inch perimeter all the way around the Echo Show 10; otherwise, the spinning display will knock something over.
The Audio performance of Echo Show 10
The audio output of Amazon’s Echo smart speakers has steadily improved over the years, and while the Echo Show 10 doesn’t quite match the display-less Echo Studio, the Sonos One, or the Google Home Max (which we’ll miss forever), it does sound very, very good for the price. It has a pair of 1-inch front-firing tweeters and a wide 3-inch woofer that blasts bass from the top of the squat, cylindrical enclosure. I didn’t get a good sense of stereo separation, but even though you’re sitting directly across from the tweeters, the speaker doesn’t sound noticeably different (an unlikely scenario if tracking is enabled).
Amazon hasn’t released many details about the Echo Show 10’s audio subsystem, but I can assure you that its speakers are very loud. If you want even more low-end performance, you can combine the speaker with Amazon’s inexpensive and wireless Echo Sub, a feature that no other smart speaker brand can match except Sonos. This Echo speaker, unlike most others, lacks a 3.5mm aux input, which I understand because a cord will easily tangle around its base.
You can stream music to the Echo Show 10 via Bluetooth, but Wi-Fi (a Wi-Fi 6 adapter should be included) can provide a much better experience. I began my listening experiments by streaming tracks from the Tidal app on my iPhone 12 over Bluetooth, but I couldn’t bear it for long (there’s no support for a higher-resolution Bluetooth codec like aptX or aptX HD), so I switched to Wi-Fi. In addition to music saved on your network, you can download music from Amazon Music, Amazon Music HD, Apple Music, Deezer, Pandora, Spotify, Tidal, and many other services.
Smart home features
The third-generation Echo Show 10 has a built-in Zigbee smart home hub, like most of Amazon’s more recent smart speakers. That’s awesome if your smart home is based on the Zigbee wireless mesh protocol, but we’ll keep hoping that Amazon, as the majority of other smart home hub manufacturers, will adopt Z-Wave.
The Echo Show 10 will also connect to Amazon’s forthcoming Sidewalk neighborhood network, which aims to broaden the range of smart home devices like motion sensors, pet trackers, and other similar devices. Compatible devices would be able to connect to the internet even if they are outside of Wi-Fi coverage thanks to Sidewalk. This is achieved by using Sidewalk bridges like the Echo Show 10 to siphon a small amount of each participating home’s broadband bandwidth—no more than 80Kbps and capped at 500MB per month. You can opt-out of Sidewalk during setup, but you’ll have to go through the steps to opt-out of Sidewalk on Alexa devices that have already been set up.
While Amazon has expressed support for the Thread smart home protocol, joining Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance as members of the Project Connected Home over Internet Protocol (CHIP) standards body, the Echo Show 10 will not be able to function as a Thread border router like Apple’s HomePod mini. The thread may become a big deal or it may never take off, but the same could be said of Sidewalk. I’d rather have all innovations available to me, even though I never use any of them.
Overall, speaking to Alexa is the simplest way to access all of your smart home gadgets, since nearly every major manufacturer has made their products Alexa compatible. My own house was built 13 years ago with a Vivint smart home hub in the middle and around 50 Z-Wave lighting control units.
Over the years, I’ve added Ring doorbells, lighting, and surveillance cameras; Philips Hue Zigbee smart bulbs and outdoor luminaires; Leviton and Lutron Wi-Fi-based smart switches and ceiling fan controllers; and even smart window shades that use three separate communications protocols.
The $20 premium for the third-generation Echo Show 10 over the still-available second-generation model is well spent. However, I believe it would be more difficult to justify replacing an existing second-generation model just to get the motorized monitor.
If your key uses for the older Echo Show are video messaging, reading recipes while cooking, and watching videos when you’re not stationary, an update is a good idea. However, if you just use the Echo Show for music and smart home control, you should probably stick with it.
The Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen), like previous Echo products, won’t satisfy a hardcore smart home enthusiast, nor will it quench an audiophile’s appetite for high-quality music reproduction or a cineaste’s passion for big-screen movies. In all three groups, though, it’s a wonderful and inexpensive companion to higher-end computers.