Do voice-first devices need displays?

The Amazon Echo Spot has so far been the only smart display from the company in India. But the e-commerce giant recently introduced the Echo Show here, it’s bigger, badder, and original smart display.

However, the Echo Show is not just the second smart display from the company in India, it’s the most expensive Echo in the country right now. Which brings us to the question — should a voice-first device be aided by a screen?

The answer, after using the Echo Show for a few weeks, seems to be — yes. You just have to think of the Echo Show as a futuristic portable television. It will be propped up on your desk all the time, has a screen big enough to be watched from afar, and sounds good and loud enough to hear both music and dialogues.

Truthfully, that’s the review of the Amazon Echo Show right there. It has all the strengths and weaknesses of any Echo device. It is as useful or useless as any Echo device. And most importantly, it’s as much of a novelty as smart speakers ever were in India.

What the screen does though is it makes the speaker more accessible. Having used touch inputs and screens for so long, the transition to voice can sometimes feel unnatural. Here, when Alexa doesn’t get a command right, or turns up/lowers the lights etc. you can see what the result of your command was. That makes it feel more natural.

Furthermore, you can tell the speaker to play content from Amazon Prime Video, ask for new trailers to be played and so on. It’s not really brimming with content just yet, but that will hopefully come with time.

The Echo Show also has a in-built smart home hub, making it compatible with most other smart lights and other devices. If your smart devices follow the zigbee smart home protocol, chances are, they will work with the Echo Show. It also means that lights like the Philips Hue will not need their personal hubs, freeing up more sockets in your home.

All things considered, if Amazon had to flaunt a “flagship" Echo device today, this would be it. Which brings us to the speaker’s big downfall.

For a device that wants to flaunt the screen, the Echo Show has a screen that doesn’t belong in this era. Its 800p display is dim, lacks colour and unattractive. Amazon should not only have chosen a higher resolution display, but a much better panel with better colour reproduction. In an era where content is regularly being pushed in high dynamic range (HDR) resolution, the Echo Show really isn’t the screen you enjoy looking at.

And that brings us to the price of this device. Do you want to spend 22,999 on a device that does everything its counterparts do, but fails at the one feature that makes it unique? Personally, I wouldn’t. But hey, if you really want your smart speaker to feel more natural, go right ahead.