Since the Amazon Echo first launched, there has been a constant drive to deliver the best smart speakers and displays on the market. While there have been a few that have missed the mark, the brand has been consistent in quality and features year over year. Thankfully, this trend continues with their latest smart display, the Echo Show 15, and it is easy to see how this new entry is destined to become the new centre of your smart household.
Hitting the market in early December 2021, the Echo Show 15 is the biggest Echo-based smart display released, boasting a 15-inch screen, and costing $249.99 ($329.99 CAD). With the new bigger screen size, and the new AZ2 Neural Edge processor, for anyone building the smart home of the future, the Echo Show 15 is built to make your life a bit smarter.
There is no denying, the Echo Show 15 is a big display. Amazon has built it with mounting it on a wall as the primary method for displaying this picture-frame-looking smart screen. When you first open the box, you will find the Echo Show 15, a mounting bracket, and all the needed cables and screws to get you rolling.
With all the mounting screws, anchors in the box, the process of unboxing and installing should take no more than 15 minutes. But should you not want to work with tools to get your new smart display set up, there is the option of picking up a stand. Sadly, this is not included in the box and will cost an additional $29.99 on top of the price of the Echo Show 15.
With the display mounted at eye level in our living room, and the cord as hidden as possible, the Echo Show 15 was ready to command our smart home in all its 15-inch glory. It was frustrating to find a place to mount the screen where it was easy to reach without the wires getting in the way, but it depends on your home setup, so keep that in mind before buying.
“When you first open the box, you will find the Echo Show 15, a mounting bracket, and all the needed cables and screws to get you rolling.”
One advantage of keeping it at eye level is the built-in 5MP camera will detect when interacting with the device, giving personalised content. This can include weather, cooking recipes or news, and, in theory, this will be personalised for each person in the household. It is also possible to customise the experience based on your needs and use cases, but more on that later.
There are a bevy of options available, and they are a great way to customise your Echo Show 15 for your home. Sadly, while there are plenty of things you can add to your home screen, there is currently no way to resize anything, so you are stuck with the default, making it tedious at times to set things up to be the most useful without it feeling a bit messy. It also means you will be limited to how many you can show at one time, with only around five visible at any one time, with the rest hidden until you go into them.
I was impressed by the selection, but there are a few things that made the Echo Show 15 useful while testing, and that is the notes and calendar. There is something to be said about having all the needed appointments always displayed as you wake up in the morning, and the reminders ensured I never forget important information as I started my day. I also loved having a reminder of the weather that I could quickly glance at as I left for work, making sure I was never surprised by a freak shower.
I was also a big fan of the new AZ2 Neural Edge processor featured in the Echo Show 15. While it may seem like a device where the processor should not matter, I found this addition was one of the highlights of the Echo Show 15. It responds noticeably faster than any other Echo device in our testing, and I found it had far fewer false activations. This finally feels closer to how smart assistants are marketed, with it working when needed, and invisible when you are going about your day.
“One advantage of keeping it at eye level is the built-in 5MP camera will detect when interacting with the device, giving personalised content.”
The Echo Show 15 can also be used for video calling, although you will be limited to the 5Mp camera. While it works in a pinch, and the fact it is wall mounted makes it easy even when doing other tasks, compared to the 13-MP featured on the Amazon Echo Show 8, it was a bit disappointing, especially since this feels very much like the top-end smart screen.
I was also disappointed by the audio on offer in the Echo Show 15. While it is not bad, it just feels far less impactful compared to other devices in the Echo lineup. Featuring two side-firing 1.6” full-range drivers, audio is clear, but in testing it lacked the depth and range when listening to music or media.
That is not to say the Echo Show 15 is bad. It features great midrange audio that sounds fantastic for podcasts, dialog heavy media or pop music that does not rely on bass. Even if you want to push it to listen to Spotify or enjoy the latest video, it should work and should sound more than adequate, but compared to some other Echo speakers, the Echo Show 15 just did not blow us away with its audio prowess as much as we would have liked.
The screen, on the other hand, feels great for the user, and while it may not feature HDR or more advanced display tech many TVs offer, the 1920 x 1080 resolution and the interface look great on a wall. The viewing angles looked good in our testing, and the design makes it feel like a live picture frame ready and waiting for your commands.
It was easy to integrate into our Alexa powered smart home, and the easy UI made it painless to control different aspects of our home, be it through touch input or through voice. I was impressed with how well the Echo Show 15 looked just displaying images from the web, and once I discovered the night mode—stopping the constant changing of the screen—it quickly felt like a necessary part of the smart home.
Amazon keeps improving on the Echo formula, with the Show 15 feeling like a good evolution on what we can expect from a smart screen. While I would have loved to see improvements in the camera and audio department, as an additional display for a household that is already invested in the Echo ecosystem, it feels like an amazing offering. There is plenty of room to improve with next year’s iteration, but as it stands now, if you want a portal to your smart world, it is hard to beat the Echo Show 15.