Review: Amazon's Echo Show 10 is a step forward for smart devices but it's not all good

Amazon Echo Show 10 sitting on a counter top
Is the tech giant's combined smart speaker and screen worth the investment? Photo credit: Supplied / Amazon

I have three different brands of smart speakers dotted around the house, each providing some functionality I need slightly better than the others.

But the Google Nest Hub aside, which is generally used for monitoring security cameras and the doorbell, none have a screen.

That has been a deliberate choice - there are already so many screens around my house that I don't think I could count them all if I tried.

Could Amazon tempt me with its new Echo Show 10 combined smart speaker and screen, or would it be one too many?

I've been using the Amazon Echo Show 10 for a couple of weeks now and here are my thoughts.

The good

As with the other Amazon-branded devices I've bought and used from the tech giant, there's a lot to like about the Echo Show 10.

The first thing you notice about it is the screen. It's 10.1 inches in size and comes with 1280x800 resolution, hardly exceptional but definitely not bad.

It's not going to be a primary device for watching high-definition movies, but it's more than good enough for the functions it offers and I was able to enjoy the experience of streaming from both Netflix and Prime.

The screen also has adaptive brightness and colour to automatically adjust colours and contrast based on your environment for the best possible viewing in the circumstances.

The best thing about the screen is that it tilts - it also rotates, but more on that later. The tilting meant when it was sitting on my desk I was able to easily adjust it to the perfect angle for my viewing.

Listening to music with the Echo Show 10 was also a very decent experience. 

Despite Amazon having its own streaming platform, both Spotify and Apple Music are supported and you can easily choose your default in the Alexa app on your smartphone.

The audio is a little bass heavy, which I don't mind as it gives the metal songs I like playing a bit of oomph. But it really excelled when I put on a classical music playlist as background noise while I worked; the audio sounded true and full, and it helped me go about my day with a smile on my face.

Amazon Echo Show 10 sitting on a counter top
Photo credit: Supplied / Amazon

You can also connect your smartphone and other devices to the Echo Show 10, using Bluetooth if you prefer navigating your music choices that way. In the end that's how I mainly used it as I found it easier to set up my playlist and start it playing.

There's a big range in volume too. You can have it quiet enough that you won't disturb someone a couple of metres away or loud enough that Alexa sounds like it's telling the whole neighbourhood what it's doing.

If you've ever used Alexa, there's nothing here that will surprise you. I've found it to be one of the better smart assistants and even with my heavy Scottish accent it generally picked up what I was asking.

A clear example is with the weather. Two other assistants really struggle when I ask for the "Weather in Helensville" and often give me the wrong forecast. Alexa picked it up correctly every time I asked.

One of the functions I really enjoyed was recipes, which Amazon clearly sees as one of its prime uses. I asked Alexa to show me vegan chocolate cake recipes and I was given half a dozen choices.

Once I'd decided which one I liked and selected it via the touch screen, I was able to add it to my saved recipes so I wouldn't lose it or automatically add the ingredients to my shopping list.

When it comes to baking, Alexa will read the recipe step by step and you can use either your voice or the touchscreen to move to the next part. But I didn't quite get to that point and I'll explain why shortly.

Overall, this seems like a potential winner to me. It's not a cheap device, but it costs significantly less than many tablets and I'd much rather get a bit of flour and vegetable oil on this screen than my iPad Pro, for example.

Lastly, there's a 13MP camera on the front, which is perfect if you want to make video calls. It was good enough for me to show my mum and dad in Scotland I was keeping well without showing every wrinkle and grey hair on my aging head.

It also has other uses...

Amazon Echo Show 10 sitting on a counter top
Photo credit: Supplied / Amazon

The creepy

For a company that has had a strained relationship with privacy rights, to put it mildly, the smart motion system which rotates the display to follow you is an eyebrow raiser.

Amazon says all recordings and images associated with detecting motion are processed on the device and aren't uploaded to the cloud. While that's laudable, I was quite simply creeped out by the idea that I was seemingly being spied upon.

That might sound over-dramatic to some, but that's really how I felt when the system operated, especially while watching movies and on Skype calls. 

If I move off to the side to grab my phone I don't want the screen rotating towards me. Ever. It's that simple. I might be missing something, but the functionality on offer in exchange for my every movement being tracked is not even close to being worth it, for me.

To Amazon's credit, the system works pretty well. It's smooth and soundless which, now I come to think of it, makes it even more creepy.

Thankfully, you do have ultimate control so you can leave it on during all activities, some activities or switch it off completely either in the menu or by sliding the camera off button which manually covers the lens.  

It's switched off for me permanently and won't ever be turned back on.

The bad

Ignoring any larger issues with the company and how it tracks us, the biggest problem for me is just how awkward the Echo Show 10 is.

The 10.1 inch screen may offer a decent way to watch television shows and movies but when it's strapped on the front of an already large speaker it suddenly becomes unwieldy.

Where other smart speakers can be tucked away in a small corner, the Echo Show 10 is going to be prominent wherever it's situated - and it's going to take significant space in doing so.

I tried to use this in my kitchen to make that delicious vegan chocolate cake but it quickly became apparent it wasn't going to work. When it came to actually following cooking instructions I ran out of counter space and so the Echo Show 10 was sent to the naughty corner for being too in my face.

There were a couple of other minor niggles too.

I want to see more apps available for the device. There's a Netflix and Prime Video app, but where's the Disney Plus and YouTube versions?

You can access websites via the inbuilt Silk browser but it's just not quite the same.

While I appreciated that Amazon is open to allowing its competitors on to its devices, it's a few short of being a truly functional beast.

I also quickly got used to saying "Alexa, screen off" as I don't want another screen switched on all the time, only when I deem it necessary.

For the most part, it obeyed the instruction - but every now and again it would come on without being touched or even me being in the same room. Not a biggie but it is supposed to be me in charge, right?

Amazon Echo Show 10 sitting on a counter top
Photo credit: Supplied / Amazon

The verdict

Amazon's Echo Show 10 is one of the more interesting smart displays on the market. More so than most, it has the potential to be really game-changing if used correctly.

However, its biggest strengths are also its biggest flaws.

The screen is good to look at and receptive to touch, while the audio is just about up there with the best I've heard from other smart devices - but they both require space.

My kitchen and lounge aren't exactly small, but we simply don't have enough room to make this into the gadget it wants and seems destined to be.

For what this costs - currently around $440 - you could get something that demands to be the centre of attention, that will aid you in daily tasks and keep you up to date with what's happening in the world.

Instead, I was left to use it in my home office to play music, add items to my shopping list and watch the occasional bit of Netflix (after work, honestly!).

This isn't a smart device for everyone or everywhere, so if you're considering buying one make sure you've got somewhere to put it.

I've just had a thought... Alexa, how do I build a bigger house?

Newshub was supplied with an Amazon Echo Show 10 for this review.