CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Smart Home

Build your own Echo Show on the cheap

Don't want to spend $230 for Amazon's Alexa-with-a-screen? You can build one for a lot less.

amazon-echo-show-product-photos-3

The Echo Show is $230. The DIY option might cost you as little as $65.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

When Amazon first introduced the Echo Show just over a year ago, it seemed like the logical progression of the product line: An Alexa-powered smart speaker, but with a screen.

If you liked the idea of that but not the $230 price tag (which has held steady, save for occasional sales), here's the good news: You can now cobble together an Echo Show equivalent for considerably less.

The first thing you need to build your own Echo Show

The key component in this DIY equation: An Amazon Fire HD 8 or HD 10 tablet. Amazon's new Show Mode software update 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 have a compatible Fire? The HD 10 (32GB) and HD 8 (16GB) currently sell for $150 and $80, respectively, though Amazon frequently runs sales on both. (During Prime Day, for example, they were $100 and $50.) But you can also get certified-refurbished versions for $120 and $65 -- an option I recommend if you don't want to wait for the next sale. (Amazon's refurbs are literally good as new, right down to the 1-year warranty.)

Given that the Echo Show proper has a 7-inch display, let's focus on the Fire HD 8. It has not only a slightly larger screen, but also slightly higher resolution: 1,200 x 800 versus 1,024 x 600 on the Show. Your total out-of-pocket so far: $80 (or $65 if you choose refurbished.)

Everything else: Optional

sony-xb20

Consider pairing your Fire tablet with a Bluetooth speaker to create a more robust Show experience.

Best Buy

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 we didn't especially like the Echo Show's throwback design, we did like its audio capabilities, which exceeded those of other Echo devices.

The Fire's speakers are okay for video calls and YouTube, but woefully insufficient if you plan to ask Alexa to play music. Thus, as you'd likely do with an Echo Dot (£40 at Amazon.co.uk), consider pairing your Fire tablet with a Bluetooth 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 2018.

09-amazon-show-mode-charging-dock

Amazon's Show Mode Charging Dock makes it easier to charge your Fire tablet, but there are cheaper options.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Then there's the question of where to put your Fire while it's pulling Show Mode duty. Amazon recently introduced the Show Mode Charging Dock, 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 $55 for the Fire HD 10 version and $40 for the HD 8 -- though Amazon currently has both on sale for $5 less.

See it at Amazon

Should you bother? Well, here's an adjustable tablet stand for $8.

See it at Amazon

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; you just need the latest Fire OS update.

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 $65 for the Fire HD 8 and $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.