My favourite new characteristic on the third-generation Echo Present 8 ($149.99) is the widgets. They flip the good show right into a simpler touchscreen controller, making it simpler to get to the data you need with out having to make use of your voice. It’s nearly as helpful as a pill or telephone for rapidly checking my calendar, selecting a latest playlist, or turning on the kitchen lights, with the benefit of being a tool anybody in my family can use.
However this isn’t a compelling sufficient cause to improve to the brand new Echo Present 8, particularly in the event you already personal the second-gen mannequin, as widgets are additionally coming to that one (a superb transfer on Amazon’s half). The second-gen Present 8 can also be getting the brand new Present’s different trick — Adaptive Content material — which adjusts the display primarily based on how shut you’re to it, making it extra helpful from throughout the room. Coupled with the truth that the second-gen is at present on sale for $60 (down from $129.99), the brand new Present is a little bit of a tricky promote.
Until that’s, you desire a good dwelling controller. The brand new Present 8 is the primary Amazon good show that’s a totally fledged good dwelling hub (a minimum of till the Echo Hub will get launched). It’s now a Zigbee hub and a Thread border router, along with being a Matter controller and Sidewalk hub. This units you up so as to add and management nearly any good gadget to your private home (sorry, Z-Wave). It’s additionally the primary Present 8 with Amazon’s AZ2 chip on board, which makes its touchscreen snappier and extra responsive and Alexa a tad speedier.
A major function of the Echo Present’s display is to get you to spend extra money with Amazon
All of this implies in the event you’re simply beginning out with the good dwelling or trying so as to add your first good show to an current setup, the brand new Present 8 is an effective place to begin. Alongside its good dwelling chops, it does lots for a superb value (though it’s $20 greater than the second-gen was when it launched). It’s an Alexa good speaker with a display that may do all of the hands-free stuff you’d count on from the voice assistant: set timers, reply questions, play music, be a house intercom. The display provides options like video calling, film watching, and visible solutions to questions. Plus, it is a respectable digital photograph body.
Another excuse to decide on the brand new Present 8 over the earlier mannequin is that the sound is actually good. Echo Present 8s have all the time had respectable sound for good shows, however the third-gen brings a redesigned speaker system and spatial audio. This was very noticeable in testing, sounding considerably higher than the first-gen Present 8 I examined it towards. I additionally in contrast it with a second-gen HomePod, and whereas the $300 Apple speaker is healthier, the Present 8 held its personal. The HomePod had higher readability, and the Echo nonetheless goes a tad too heavy on the bass, but it surely was nice to take heed to and will get loud sufficient. Plus, it’s half the value of a HomePod and has a display.
However that is nonetheless an Amazon good show. Which implies a major function of that display is to get you to spend extra money with Amazon. Until you flip off all of the extraneous cruft instantly, you’re going to get very aggravated with it in a short time. There are nearly 50 completely different choices it’s worthwhile to toggle off in the event you don’t need to get bombarded with “product ideas’’ or ideas of the way to have “enjoyable with Alexa” alongside together with your morning espresso. Learn my weblog on the way to arrange an Echo Present to indicate you the least quantity of crap for extra on this.
With all the things toggled off, it’s doable to show the Echo Present into an honest digital photograph body (learn my weblog on the way to use the Echo Present as a photograph body). If you would like a cleaner photograph body expertise, Amazon expects you to pay $10 extra for its $159.99 Echo Present 8 Images Version. If a digital photograph body is what you’re after, there are higher choices outdoors of good shows, and regardless of its different flaws, Google’s Nest Hub is great at displaying pictures.
The primary Echo Present 8 arrived in 2019 as the center youngster between the 10-inch Echo Present and the Echo Present 5. It’s lengthy been my favourite of the bunch. It has extra display actual property than the $90 Echo Present 5, which is simply too small to do a lot with aside from use as an alarm clock. And at underneath $150, it’s a greater worth than the $250 Echo Present 10, whose essential trick is only a larger display that may rotate. (The wall-mountable $280 Echo Present 15 is known as a completely different beast).
The third-gen Echo Present 8 will get the primary important redesign because the authentic, including a extra shapely rear speaker however leaving the touchscreen largely unchanged aside from including edge-to-edge glass and centering the digital camera. The bezel is unfortunately nonetheless tremendous thick.
Nevertheless, the touchscreen is now extra helpful, because of the widgets. The principle function of a wise show is so as to add a visible and contact interface to a wise speaker. It exhibits what album is taking part in, offers you a pause button so that you don’t should yell to show the music off, and allows you to see visible responses whenever you ask Alexa a query.
To this point, good shows have been good on the visible bit however unhealthy on the contact half. Easy duties like controlling a light-weight or altering an alarm take longer with contact than voice, and the brand new widgets go some method to addressing that. A wise dwelling widget lets me entry a light-weight with two fast faucets now, in comparison with swiping, tapping, swiping, and tapping. A music widget offers fast entry to play a latest album, and the purchasing record and calendar widgets are equally useful.
The draw back is you may solely have 4 widgets, they usually’re restricted in each measurement (when opened, they solely use about half the display) and customizability (the music widget opens on Really useful from Amazon Music, and you may’t change it). But it surely’s a begin and does make the Present 8 extra helpful on a desk or bedside desk.
The opposite new characteristic is Adaptive Content material. This adjustments what’s on the display primarily based on how shut you’re. Information headlines and album titles are large whenever you look from the opposite aspect of the room; as you get nearer, the textual content turns into smaller, and the show provides extra particulars. It is a neat trick, however because the Echo Present not often shows a lot I need to see past pictures, I discovered it of restricted use. However if in case you have different use circumstances for the Present, it’s now simpler to see info from additional away.
I examined the Echo Present for 2 weeks, switching it between the kitchen, my workplace, and my bedside desk. I did discover myself reaching for it continuously within the kitchen and workplace, tapping the display to pause music within the kitchen once I needed to shout at my child to get away from bed within the morning, and utilizing the good dwelling shortcut widget to rapidly flip the lights on and off in my workplace when beginning / stopping video calls. I discovered it too large for a bedside clock, although. There’s a cause the Echo Present 5 exists, and that’s it.
I used to be impressed with the Echo Present’s pace as a wise dwelling controller. My Zigbee-connected lightbulb turned off nearly immediately once I tapped the widget display. (The brand new onboard radios imply all the things can work domestically and lower out the cloud.) But it surely nonetheless took two faucets, which is one faucet too many. And I couldn’t management teams of lights, solely particular person ones. I additionally couldn’t alter the brightness of the bulb. For that, I wanted to enter the principle good dwelling management display, which is clunkier to navigate.
Pulling up a reside feed from a Ring video doorbell or safety digital camera was considerably quicker than on the first-gen Present, taking underneath three seconds in comparison with eight to 10. However this received’t substitute a Nest Hub as my desktop good show for one large cause: video. The Echo Present 8 would make an awesome little workplace TV, but it surely solely provides Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video. There’s no YouTube app or YouTube TV, and the place the Echo Present 15 is now a fully-fledged Hearth TV, the Present 8 continues to be restricted.
Amazon has added its new FAST Hearth TV Channels to the Present 8, supplying you with someplace round 400 reside TV channels to peruse. Say “Alexa Watch TV,” and it begins taking part in one, with the choice to faucet by means of others sorted by class. Nevertheless, there’s no information that I may discover, so it’s actually solely helpful if you understand there’s something you need to watch on a selected channel — or in the event you’re bored and need to watch random stuff like somebody whipping up a frittata on Tastemade or cats knocking espresso cups onto their proprietor’s laptops on the very enjoyable Pet Collective channel, I stumbled throughout. (Who wants YouTube?)
The opposite video disappointment is video calling. The Present 8 solely helps Alexa calling, so you may solely do video calls with individuals who have Echo units or the Alexa app on a telephone or pill. I truly like utilizing the Echo Present second gen for Zoom calls, however Zoom isn’t supported on the third-gen.
For those who’re within the Amazon ecosystem, the Echo Present 8 is a superb good show. It’s simply the fitting measurement, it sounds good, and it’s quicker than earlier variations. Its Visible ID characteristic makes it helpful as a communal gadget, as it will probably adapt the content material primarily based on who’s taking a look at it (my husband can see his calendar, and my children can see their playlists). The draw back is that this solely works in the event you maintain the digital camera on (there is a bodily privateness shutter). That digital camera additionally permits the Present to double as a house safety digital camera (though it received’t document), and it will probably pay attention out for appears like smoke alarms or glass breaking whenever you’re not dwelling (though that’s now a paid characteristic; it was once free).
However there isn’t a killer characteristic to justify an improve from a second-gen mannequin — and even decide it over that model if you’ll find it for underneath $100. Whereas the third-gen is a correct good dwelling hub (because of new radios), if that’s your essential want, I’m inclined to say watch for the Echo Hub. At $179.99, it’s dearer, however its options are extra tailor-made to a wise dwelling controller, and it has waaay extra widgets.
If touchscreen good dwelling management is secondary to you, nonetheless, and also you need good sound plus higher responsiveness out of your good show, you’ll be pleased with the third-gen Present 8.
Images by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge
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