When I say Echo Show 8 ($80 at Amazon), what's your first thought? If it's, "there are already 8 of them?" I understand. No, this is actually only the fourth Alexa-enabled smart display from Amazon -- and it has an 8-inch screen. Squeezed between its high-end 10-inch and budget 5-inch siblings, the Show 8 offers the right mix of features and design perks to justify its middle-child existence.

8.3

Amazon Echo Show 8

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Like

  • The Echo Show 8 has solid sound quality and screen resolution.
  • The $130 price tag makes the Show 8 one of the best midrange smart displays on the market.
  • The physical camera shutter is a small, smart addition to soothe privacy concerns.

Don't Like

  • The interface isn't as smooth or user friendly as Google's Nest Hubs.
  • You can't call up YouTube videos by voice.

In fact, if you're thinking of buying a smart display for the holidays, the Show 8 might just be the best product for the price. Not only is it already discounted to $100 for Black Friday, but it will hit $80 for Amazon's Cyber Monday sale.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

Fitting in with the crowd

Amazon is currently rounding out its two central product lines of smart speakers and displays. Over the past few months alone, we've gotten a new Amazon Echo, Echo Dot with Clock, Echo Studio, Echo Show 5 and now the Show 8. There's a pattern: Each product line has a papa bear, mama bear and baby bear option. Amazon is hoping one of these devices will be just right for you.

Echo's line of smart displays doesn't just add dumb screens to smart speakers. These devices equip the voice assistant Alexa with video chatting and streaming, they work with Ring doorbells to display your front door, they can provide cooking assistance in the kitchen (read more about Amazon's new partnership with Food Network to bring lessons from professional chefs to your kitchen). They even offer touch controls for the smart home. For $130 (£120), the Echo Show 8 really does pack in a lot of useful smarts -- and it's already on sale for a cool $100 (£60). It's not yet available in Australia.

Third thought, best thought

Critics might argue that the Echo Show 8 doesn't bring any new features to the countertop. That's true, but as with October's Echo Dot with Clock, the Show 8 is less about grand innovation than smart iteration.

The Show 8 brings more heft than the Show 5 (which is cheaper by $40): a screen that's bigger than a propped-up phone, fairly sharp 1,280x800-pixel resolution and a pair of solid two-inch speakers. What's more, the Show 8 steals the Show 5's best ideas, like the physical camera shutter and sunrise alarms (although for some reason, Amazon didn't include the 5's tap to snooze feature).

I particularly like the shutter. The second-gen Echo Show ($170 at Amazon) doesn't have any design feature to disconnect the camera. While Google opted for a kill switch for the camera and microphone on the Nest Hub Max ($229 at Walmart), Amazon has included a physical shutter on its last two displays. From a privacy standpoint, I'm a fan of Amazon not demanding we just "trust them." I can look at the Show 8, see that the shutter is closed and be 100% certain that I'm not being watched.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

Another smart touch is that the screen, while sporting the same resolution as the 10-inch Show from last year, uses a new feature to improve the image quality over that larger display. While images won't appear any sharper (other than by merit of the pixel count on the smaller display), progressive scanning means fewer visual artifacts will appear on screen. It's an addition few casual users will notice day to day, but it's a useful quality-of-life upgrade that you'll feel over time.

Talking to myself

While the Show 8 is a clear upgrade from its predecessors, it seems to fall short in one big area: The camera is only 1 megapixel, as opposed to the 5-megapixel camera on the second-gen Show. Lower-megapixel cameras generally produce blurry results, and honestly, I was taken aback when I heard that spec.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

But when I video chatted with myself using the second-gen Show and the Show 8, the feed from the 5-megapixel camera actually looked more pixelated than the one captured by the lower-quality cam. Whatever the reason, the lower-quality camera, in this case, actually produced consistently higher quality results for me.

The bottom line is this: the extra $100 for the Echo Show isn't necessarily going to translate to higher video chat image quality, so that 1-megapixel camera shouldn't dissuade you from opting for the cheaper Show 8 instead.

Keeping an ear to the counter

When it comes to sound quality on the Echo Show 8, you might be pleasantly surprised. The pair of 2-inch speakers are a little smaller than the 2.2-inch speakers in the 10-inch Show, and you can hear the slight difference in sound quality, especially at higher volumes. When you push it, the Show 8 starts sounding a little buzzy, and it doesn't have the range and distinction of the Echo standalone speaker or 10-inch Echo Show.

But the Echo Show 8's sound quality is much higher than the more diminutive Show 5, which only has a single 1.7-inch speaker. In fact, set side-by-side with the latest Amazon Echo smart speaker, the Show 8 produces somewhat similar results -- as long as you keep the volume in the middle of its range.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

Alexa and the screen

Despite cutting the Zigbee receiver from the second-gen Show and the tap-to-snooze feature of Show 5, the Show 8 might be the best Alexa-enabled smart display. But that doesn't mean it's the best display altogether. While I like the combination of clever features -- and as importantly, the price tag attached to them -- Google's smart displays do boast a better user experience.

It's tough to compare the Show 8 directly to the Nest Hub ($99 at Walmart) -- Google's $130 7-inch display -- because that doesn't even have a camera. And the Nest Hub Max, which does include a high quality camera, costs $230. But one thing both Nest Hubs share is a smoother interface than Echo Show 8's. The screen is more responsive, the camera can follow your face if you walk around while video chatting and you can access videos on YouTube with a simple voice command.

Amazon's operating system is improving, but compared to Google's, it still lags -- a jarring experience if you're accustomed to the responsiveness of modern smartphones and tablets.

That minor complaint aside, I'm happy to recommend the Show 8. For $130, it's the smartest Amazon display for the price. It combines the best of the rest and has a cam and better sound quality than the Nest Hub.

8.3

Amazon Echo Show 8

Score Breakdown

Features 9 Usability 7 Design 9 Performance 8