Amazon Echo Show 15 review: One step forward, two steps back
Echo Show 15 is the largest Alexa display to date and can be mounted on the wall for the first time. Are Visual ID and Alexa Widgets convincing or do you just get more of the same?
Alexa is everywhere. I can hardly imagine any application areas for which there is no suitable Echo device.
With Echo Show 15, Amazon continues to pursue its product strategy and closes a supposed gap. The largest Echo display to date can be mounted on walls and is supposed to appeal to multi-person households in particular with new smart functions. My test shows whether Echo Show 15 is a useful extension for Alexa smart homes.
- Note: We will not go into the basic Alexa features in this review since they do not differ from Echo Show 8 or Echo Show 10. Please read the linked reviews or our Alexa guide for more information.
Review of the Echo Show 15 in brief
Amazon does without many camera features already known from the predecessors in the Echo Show 15, installs weak speakers with miserable sound, and does not consistently follow through with many good ideas. The new features like Visual ID and Alexa Widgets are useful additions to the home screen, but the widgets still have significant weaknesses. The bottom line is that Amazon adds an expensive smart home dashboard for the wall with Echo Show 15, which wants to be more of a family organizer than a multifunctional smart display. You can find a detailed conclusion at the end of the article.
Echo Show 15 is suitable for you if you…
- always wanted to hang a smart display on the wall
- want to create multiple user profiles with personalized content on one smart display
- are looking for a smart family organizer
Echo Show 15 is less suitable for you if you…
- want to listen to music with a smart display
- value high-quality videotelephony
- have a light-flooded apartment (display is highly reflective)
- you already have an Echo Show 8 or 10 and can do without wall mounting
Echo Show 15 mounted on the wall isn’t great
The unique selling point of the Echo Show 15, which is obvious at first glance, is the wall-mounting option. The Alexa display is supposed to be able to be attached to the wall like a picture frame in portrait or landscape format.
However, the whole thing does not look quite as elegant as expected. The black frame is not flush and stands about two centimeters away from the wall. This is due to the two 41 mm speakers that are installed on the left and right side of the case and are angled towards the wall. Of course, the cable also has to go somewhere and detracts from the overall picture. Only a bit of craftsmanship and a cable channel in the wall can help here.
Optionally, Amazon also offers a stand for Echo Show 15, which is screwed to the back of the device similar to the wall mount. The stand is covered with a soft rubber-like plastic that attracts dust like a magnet and is difficult to clean. A feather duster alone is not enough here.
Amazon’s largest Alexa display so far is convincing in terms of sharpness and responsiveness. However, users who place the Echo Show 15 in bright rooms will quickly get annoyed by the strong reflections on the display.
Echo Show 15: Disappointing speakers and camera
The built-in speakers have been the biggest disappointment since I started testing Echo devices. Amazon uses the same speakers here as in the small Echo Dot. Listening to music is therefore not a serious option with the Echo Show 15. Everything sounds tinny and bass is non-existent. Although only one of these speakers is installed in the Echo Dot, the small sphere delivers a rounder sound than the 250 euro wall-mounted model.
Amazon also saves on the camera and relies on 5 megapixels. For comparison: Echo Show 10 offers a 13-megapixel camera. The smart features like automatic zoom and face recognition of the “small” Echo Show siblings are also missing. Why?
Visual ID – Alexa, who am I?
As a pure smart home dashboard, the Alexa display partly shines with new features. Through Visual ID, Alexa recognizes who is in front of her. The voice AI greets me and only displays content on the screen that is intended for me. This includes calendar entries, reminders, music, or sticky notes created for me from the Alexa Widgets.
Alexa takes photos of my face from different angles to automatically recognize it. It takes less than two minutes to set up and should run completely on the device thanks to the new processor. According to Amazon, the pictures do not go into the cloud.
On the device itself, I can only create voice and face profiles. Via the Alexa app, I can enter user profiles, personal calendars and nicknames, and the relationships between household members. Visual-ID worked reliably in the test and could regularly distinguish me from my wife. However, Amazon states that inaccuracies can occur with very similar-looking people.
Alexa Widgets: Innovations for the home screen
Amazon has also come up with something new for the home screen. Users are allowed to distribute various Alexa widgets on it, which basically work like the familiar widgets on smartphones. I can select up to six Alexa widgets from the gallery at the same time, which are placed on the right half of the home screen. If I have created different profiles, the contents of the widgets are based on the saved user profile via Visual ID and Voice ID.
A distinction is made between small and large widgets, with the large widgets coming with a peculiarity that is not entirely understandable: A large widget takes up three spaces. Although there would theoretically be room for a large widget in the top and bottom row, the Echo Show 15 does not allow me to place two large Alexa widgets at the same time.
So I always have to choose between the big calendar and the big music widget. By the way, the latter is limited to Amazon Music. Spotify, Deezer or Apple Music customers are left empty-handed here. It is also annoying that an odd number of arranged widgets leaves an unsightly gap in the grid.
Alexa Widgets: Practical, but expandable
To start the day, I can see my upcoming appointments, to-do and shopping lists or the weather forecast for the next few hours at a glance. I can pin small digital reminders or messages to the Alexa home screen using the sticky note widget.
For controlling the connected home, there are the Smart Home favorites. Here, Alexa lists the smart devices I use most often, which I can quickly turn on and off with a tap of the respective icon. There are currently thirteen Alexa widgets, counting small and large versions of calendar and music.
In addition to the widgets already mentioned, there are also favorite photos, suggestions for recipes or Alexa functions, and a reorder widget. Here, consumable items that I frequently order on Amazon are suggested. It is possible that Amazon will add more widgets via software updates.
Conclusion of Echo Show 15: The compromise among Alexa displays
Echo Show 15 is a big compromise. The larger display is sufficiently sharp, but it is very reflective. The powerful AI chip AZ2 enables useful features like Visual ID and the practical Alexa Widgets. In return, a slimmed-down camera without the features already known from the other Echo Show devices and meager speakers sit in the frame. The sound is a disaster.
The wall mount is well thought-out and can be attached without problems. However, the Echo Show 15’s build does not allow for an elegant overall look on the wall and the optional stand, while practical, is a dirt magnet.
Echo Show 15 should be seen more as an addition to an existing Alexa smart home than a multi-function smart display. It primarily wants to be a smart home dashboard and organizer for the whole family. The Alexa display is suitable for briefly checking the calendar or the traffic situation and looking up who is at the front door via video stream. The new features around Visual ID and Alexa Widgets are useful for this purpose and enhance the home screen.
If that is what you are looking for, you will be well advised with Echo Show 15. However, you do not get a full-fledged all-rounder for the smart home here, which makes the circa $250 too expensive. Instead of continuing the good path of the Echo Show 8 (2nd generation) and Echo Show 10, Amazon only delivers another Echo device with the Echo Show 15, not a better one.