Customer Review

Reviewed in Canada on December 7, 2018
I've only had my Echo Show 2 for a couple of weeks, and so may update this if my experience improves, but thus far it has been very disappointing. The screen is an afterthought to a device that almost always operates as if it doesn't have a screen.

Some context on how I'm using it: I keep it in my bedroom, as a sort of visual time/news/weather feed, with the hope of using it to play media occasionally. I also will sometimes use it as an alarm clock (not my primary, but if I take a nap or something, or want to get up earlier than my usual alarm goes off). I do have some smart home stuff (a lot of Hue lights and a Harmony hub), but I usually control those with dedicated accessories.

I have been really intrigued by smart screens for a while, and have been impatiently waiting for them to come to Canada. Even though it's kind of silly, I've used Google Home for a while, and enjoy interacting with technology through my voice, and having a visual response can add to that. I wasn't too impressed with the dinky-sized screen of the Echo Spot, and was waiting for the larger Google smart screens to get to Canada. But at pretty much the exact time those became available, the Show 2 also became available. And from a hardware perspective, it was superior. A nice big screen, a good looking form factor, and highly rated sound. Even though I use a lot of Google services, I'm also a Prime member, and was interested in having access to the Alexa universe. So - though I now regret it - I went with the Echo Show 2 instead of one of the Google alternatives.

The hardware hasn't disappointed me. It is indeed a nice form factor, good sound, and a perfectly fine screen (I wouldn't call it great quality, but it's a good size). But the software is really awful, and a very poor extension of the voice interface into the visual world. Alexa is all about "skills", but (a) I have no idea what "installing" them achieves, since it seems you can invoke them just fine without installing them; and (b) there's no visual shortcut for accessing them; i.e., there's no skill menu on the device that you can browse. Even things that are natively installed on the Echo - like the Prime Video player, the audio player, or the Web Browser - aren't accessible from any kind of app drawer. In fact, I'm pretty sure there's *no* way to open the browser at all, other to verbally ask Alexa to open the browser. When I asked Alexa to "open Netflix.com" this morning, she innocently confused that with "open Prime Video". There isn't even any kind of link into a shopping portal for buying stuff on Amazon. And here I thought that was the whole point of the thing.

Prime Video has a couple of pretty great originals, but its whole Canadian catalog is like 150 movies and TV shows, and 140 of them are hot trash (there is no Netflix app/skill, and Netflix.com won't play videos, because it insists you install the app - which is impossible).

I imagine that the Show will be good at video calls, and I'll commend it for native Skype integration, because being stuck in the universe of people who have Echo Spots or Shows would make this pretty much useless. But that's still not nearly as big as the universe of people who have Facetime or even Google Duo (as do my friends and family).

So for me right now, it's mostly just a rotating feed of sports scores, and a very expensive clock. As a frequent Google Assistant user, I haven't found Alexa impressive. Her voice sounds much more unnatural than Google's, and she's really easily confused.

If the software gets some attention, this has the potential to be a much more useful device than it currently is. It's just not there yet.
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