Amazon’s latest Alexa smart screen isn’t quite bad, but it really isn’t all that great, either. Rather, Echo Show 15—the newest, biggest, and only wall-mountable smart display in the Amazon Echo Show lineup—is what you might call… enough. Good enough, capable enough, useful enough, but never quite outstanding.
And yet, it also might be the greatest Alexa device ever released. In fact, your Alexa-based smart home is probably lacking without one. How can one device be both “meh” and “yay!” simultaneously? Because the features and specs only tell part of the story.
At 15.6-inches, the display isn’t huge, but it’s big enough. Same goes for the panel’s resolution—1080p is good enough. The processor isn’t zippy, but it’s fast enough. The speakers aren’t spectacular, but they’re loud enough. The design is neutral enough, the operating system capable enough, and the price tag—$249.99 at Amazon—is low enough (in fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if Amazon was selling it at a loss).
You’d think such a set of middling features would add up to a device that ranks as an overall dud, however, Amazon seems to have stumbled upon a kind of synergy here. The Echo Show 15, when taken as a whole, is far greater than the sum of its otherwise unimpressive parts.
But enough’s enough—here’s a closer look at the Echo Show 15, so you can decide for yourself whether it’s good enough to add to your smart home.
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Echo Show 15 ($249.99; amazon.com)
Echo Show 15 mounting options include wall or stand, portrait, or landscape
The first thing you’ll notice about the Echo Show 15 is that it looks nothing like any of Amazon’s previous smart displays. The flagship Echo Show 10’s tablet-sized screen swivels around a cylindrical base the size of a coffee can, and the Echo Show 8 and Echo Show 5 look like bedside clocks. The Echo Show 15, however, resembles a very nice picture frame (although when viewed from the side, its 1.4-inch width gives away that it’s something more).
The Echo Show 15 is the first Alexa smart screen to come with a mounting bracket so you can put it on a wall, which is where it belongs. The only major downside to wall-mounting an Echo Show 15 is the power cable—it’s only 5-ft long and stark white in color, which might work well in a white-on-white kitchen with countertop outlets, but few other places.
Amazon also sells a separate stand ($29.99 at Amazon) if you’d prefer to put your Echo Show 15 on a table, but it takes up a colossal amount of space that way. Plus, the stand itself is just a bit odd—it props the device up at an adjustable angle but looks weird in all but the most upright position.
Another feature that seems a better idea on paper than in practice: this is the first Echo Show that can display content in both horizontal (“landscape”) and vertical (“portrait”) orientations. Portrait mode better accommodates pictures and videos taken on vertically-oriented smartphones, but that’s about the only advantage—for everything else, landscape feels more natural.
Finally, an Alexa display you can enjoy watching videos on, but video calls aren’t great
The Echo Show 15 is never going to replace anyone’s TV, but it could end up being the only permanent screen in the room, depending on where you put it. Echo Shows seem to naturally lend themselves to kitchen placement, and if you don’t have a kitchen TV already, you may find the Echo Show 15 suffices for one there.
Watching video on an Echo Show 5 is obviously not ideal, but even the 8-inch and 10-inch displays are still too small for watching comfortably. At 15.6-inches and 1080p resolution, the Echo Show 15 is the first Alexa display that’s at least good enough for the kind of casual viewing you might do while cooking or cleaning.
Granted, video options are somewhat limited on Alexa devices—Netflix, Hulu and, of course, Prime Video work just fine, and you can watch YouTube videos by navigating to the site with Amazon’s Silk browser, but so far there’s no support for Disney Plus or HBO Max.
Even though the Echo Show 15 is good enough to substitute for a TV, it’s not as good as even the much smaller Echo Show 8 when it comes to video calls, mostly due to the Echo Show 15’s rather lousy webcam. While both the 8-inch and 10-inch Alexa displays boast a sharp 13-mexapixel camera that can follow you around the room, the Echo Show 15 is inexplicably stuck with a puny 5-mexapixel lens that remains fixed in place.
Widgets, facial ID and other features off to a good start, but still have a way to go
With the Echo Show 15’s much larger display, Amazon has finally introduced some truly useful home screen widgets to help with anything from keeping an eye on your calendar to controlling smart home devices. To help personalize which widgets are displayed, Amazon has also introduced a facial ID feature, much like what Apple and Google already use in their devices.
Unfortunately, however, while both widgets and facial ID are welcome additions to the Echo Show OS (both features have since rolled out to other Alexa devices), they’re still a long way off from being all that useful. First, there just aren’t a whole lot of third-party widgets available yet, even a full month after they were first introduced. And the visual ID feature, which was borderline non-functioning at launch, still experiences an annoying number of hiccups and glitches.
Regardless, this wouldn’t be the first time Amazon launched a product before it was entirely ready for prime time, so hopefully, in the coming weeks and months these problems will fade and the Echo Show 15 will improve.
Who should get an Echo Show 15: Households with or without another Echo Show
Although the Echo Show 15 might not make a ideal first purchase for someone considering starting an Alexa-powered smart home (if only because you can spend so much less than $249.99 to take Alexa for a test drive), if you’re already invested in the Alexa ecosystem at any level, the Show 15 represents a solid next purchase.
That’s true whether you have any other Echo Show smart screens or not—the Echo Show 15 is such a radical departure from previous Alexa displays, both in size and feature set, prior experience with a smart screen really shouldn’t factor into your enjoyment of the new device.
Regardless of whether you’re new to the Alexa ecosystem or a seasoned Alexa smart home pro, don’t let the Echo Show 15’s unexciting specs mislead you. With nothing else on the market quite like it—not from Google nor Apple nor any other manufacturer—the Echo Show 15 is a far better device than it looks.
Prices are accurate and items in stock at time of publishing.