When Amazon first introduced the Echo Show in 2017, it seemed like the logical progression of the product line: An Alexa-powered smart speaker, but with a screen.
Then came the second-generation Echo Show, which improved on the original with better design and sound quality. Alas, the price didn't budge: Save for occasional sales, the Show still sells for $230.
If you liked the idea of the product but not the price tag, here's the good news: You can now cobble together an Echo Show equivalent for considerably less.
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The first thing you need to build your own Echo Show
The key component in this DIY equation: A seventh-generation (i.e. 2017) Amazon Fire HD 8 or Fire HD 10 ( $150 at Amazon) tablet or a 2018 Fire HD 8. Amazon's new capitalizes on those tablets' existing hands-free Alexa capabilities by adding full-screen visuals akin to what you see on an actual Echo Show.
Don't already have a compatible Fire? It might make sense to buy one expressly for Show duty. The Fire HD 8 is currently $80, though it goes on sale frequently. Indeed, with Father's Day just around the corner and Amazon Prime Day just after that, expect the HD 8 to dip to $60 or even $50.
Meanwhile, the Fire HD 10 currently runs $150, but it'll likely go on sale as well. In recent months it's seen drops to $120 and $100, so expect similar pricing in the weeks to come.
Don't want to wait for a sale? You can also get certified-refurbished versions of the HD 10 and HD 8 for $120 and $70, respectively. Amazon's refurbs are literally good as new, right down to the one-year warranty.
Given that the second-gen Echo Show has a 10-inch display, let's focus on the Fire HD 10 as a surrogate. The latter has a much higher screen resolution: 1,920x1,080 versus 1,280x800. Of course, you could also opt for the less-expensive HD 8, which matches the Echo Show's resolution but has a smaller display.
Everything else: Optional
If all you want is screen-enhanced Alexa, the tablet is all you need. Just leave it plugged in full-time and leave Show Mode running; there's your Show.
For a more complete Show experience, though, you'll want to add a few more items -- starting with a Bluetooth speaker.
Although the Fire's speakers are OK for video calls and YouTube, they're insufficient if you plan to ask Alexa to play music. Thus, as you'd likely do with an Echo Dot ( $40 at Amazon), consider pairing your Fire tablet with an external speaker.
There are countless options here -- large and small, pricey and inexpensive, portable and bookshelf. Pretty much anything will work, but make sure whatever speaker you choose doesn't automatically shut off after a period of inactivity. (Some models do, even when they're plugged in.) That would greatly interfere with your enjoyment of your Show Mode setup.
Can't decide? Check out CNET's roundup of the best Bluetooth speakers for 2019.
Then there's the question of where to put your Fire while it's pulling Show Mode duty. Amazon recently introduced the, which combines a special case for your tablet and a wireless-charging stand on which to rest it. (Unfortunately, it doesn't include speakers, nor does it have extra microphones to improve Alexa's listening capabilities.)
The dock costs $40 for the Fire HD 8 version.
The Fire HD 10 version of the dock sells for $55. Again, we might see discounts around Prime Day, but historically the Show Mode docks don't go on sale nearly as often as the tablets themselves.
Should you bother with one of these? Well, here's an adjustable tablet stand for $7.
The real selling point of the dock is the case that adds a magnetic, cable-free charging option to your Fire tablet: Just plop it on the stand and it charges.
That's handy, but how hard is it to plug in your tablet when needed and unplug it when you want to take it with you? The dock is merely a convenience; it adds no real practical value.
The total cost of the DYI Echo Show
If you already have a Fire HD 8 or Fire HD 10 tablet, you don't have to spend a dime to leverage it as an Echo Show. And if you have a speaker lying around -- Bluetooth or otherwise -- you can amp up the audio capabilities to Show levels or even better. Total cost so far: $0.
If you have no such gear, plan on spending at least $70 for the Fire HD 8 (less if you wait for a sale) and around $35 for a decent Bluetooth speaker -- for a grand total of $100. Sure, factor in a few extra bucks for a stand, though any dollar-store cookbook stand would work just fine.
The bottom line is that for a lot less than $230, you can create something that's nearly as good as the Echo Show. And maybe even for less than, which will sell for $90 (and has only a 5-inch screen).
Originally published on July 25, 2018.
Update, May 29: Added information regarding Echo Show 5 and other updates.