The unique Echo Present 8 was launched within the occasions earlier than Covid, when video calls would have been, for many right-thinking folks, an absolute final resort.
The 2021 model is clearly designed with social distancing and distant working in thoughts, as the primary change is substantial improve to the front-facing digital camera. Is it well worth the worth of an improve?
Amazon Echo Present 8 (2021) assessment: What you have to know
As is typical with Amazon’s generational updates, the modifications listed here are largely iterative. The intention is to ship a greater product with out reinventing the wheel whereas, crucially, retaining the worth the identical.
Which means the 2021 Echo Present 8 has three main modifications during the last technology – two optimistic and one damaging.
First, the entrance digital camera has been considerably improved, rising from a measly 1MP sensor to a mighty 13MP unit. That’s the distinction between a largely perfunctory digital camera, and one matching the decision of most selfie cameras on telephones, so it’s a big improve. Additionally word that, whereas the Echo Present 8 will get an uprade to 13MP, its smaller sibling, the Echo Present 5.
The decision is not the one enchancment, both. The digital camera has additionally been upgraded to incorporate computerized panning and zooming; in different phrases, the digital camera will, in impact, comply with you across the room as you progress about.
Then there’s a velocity bump. Whereas the 2019 Echo Present 8 was powered by a quad-core MediaTek 8163 processor, the 2021 version will get an octa-core MediaTek 8183 chip for quicker transitions and customarily higher responsiveness.
The damaging change comes with the removing of the three.5mm audio jack, which might have beforehand allowed you to attach your Echo Present to a unique (presumably stronger) set of audio system. You may nonetheless hook up with an exterior speaker by way of Bluetooth, however that is undeniably a downgrade.
Amazon Echo Present 8 (2021) assessment: Worth and competitors
A small however vital set of modifications, then, and one that enables Amazon to maintain the worth static at £120. The Echo Present 8 isn’t the one mannequin Amazon has refreshed: the £240 Echo Present 10 was up to date earlier within the 12 months with extra dramatic upgrades, and the cheap-and-cheerful £75 Echo Present 5 has additionally been refreshed, though you’ll must make do with only a 2MP digital camera on the fundamental mannequin.
Then there are the alternate options from Google underneath the Nest Hub model. These sensible screens include Google Assistant as an alternative of Alexa and promote at £90 for the second technology Nest Hub or £220 for the Nest Hub Max – though solely the latter is supplied with a digital camera.
Amazon Echo Present 8 (2021) assessment: Design
Though I now not have the first-generation mannequin, so far as I can inform the Amazon Echo Present 8 hasn’t modified in design phrases in any respect since its 2019 debut. It has an 8in display screen, surrounded with chunky bezels on the entrance sat atop a wedge-shaped, fabric-covered speaker on a thick, rubber base. It’s a sensible design, however the show can’t be tilted or adjusted.
A digital camera is embedded within the prime right-hand nook of the bezel and, as with the earlier technology, this may be blocked by way of a swap that bodily covers it in case you’re frightened about being spied on by Amazon. Urgent a button may also mute the mic, and Amazon says this can minimize the feed instantly, nevertheless it’s extra an article of religion as the one proof that it really works is a thudding noise and an orange bar showing alongside the underside of the display screen.
The display screen is touch-sensitive, that means you don’t simply must navigate the performance by chatting to Alexa, and it has the identical 1,280 x 800 decision because the final technology. It’s a superbly satisfactory display screen, if just a little reflective, which is one thing to keep in mind for those who plan to maintain it in a room close to a window. It’s additionally moderately vulnerable to smudging, which is a matter for a contact display screen, though it’s nothing a fast wipe gained’t repair.
Amazon Echo Present 8 (2021) assessment: Efficiency
Amazon didn’t say something about enhancing the sound high quality on the launch of the gadget and, certainly, the specs of the speaker’s twin drivers are the identical, every measuring 2in throughout and rated at 10W.
As earlier than, sound high quality isn’t too shabby, with output someplace between the Echo Dot and full-sized Echo speaker, and though it’s just a little on the bassy facet, you’ll be able to tweak it so the bass doesn’t dominate fairly a lot.
This places it a way behind the good audio provided by the 10in Echo Present however forward of the Echo Present 5. If it had been all about sound high quality, nevertheless, you’d nonetheless be higher off buying a fourth-generation Amazon Echo for £90 or the good – and equally inexpensive – Nest Audio, so the query turns into whether or not the addition of a display screen truly provides something. I’d tentatively say sure, nevertheless it actually depends upon your utilization, and even then you definately may be higher off choosing one of many cheaper non-display sensible audio system.
In day-to-day use, the visible capabilities nonetheless really feel just a little pointless. You may have the lock display screen cycle via your photographs for those who use Amazon Images or are blissful to attach your Fb account, which is good however not as slick because the Nest Hub for customers of Google Images. Likewise, whereas it’s pleasing to have the ability to have a look at album artwork of the tune you’re listening to, or for the climate forecast to be illustrated with solar and rain cloud icons, these aren’t precisely what you’d name killer options.
However, having the ability to ask the Echo Present to search out brownie recipes, and for Alexa to then learn stated recipes onscreen step-by-step is extraordinarily useful. If you happen to’re a visible learner, you’ll be able to ask to see much more brownie recipes on YouTube, and the acquainted search web page will seem by way of the built-in Silk internet browser. It isn’t fairly as clear because the Nest’s integration, which is unsurprising given Google owns YouTube, nevertheless it does the job for those who’re in want of a brownie repair, as I now am after writing the phrase so many occasions on this paragraph.
And I’ve to say that when it comes to video, the Echo Present has improved enormously because the earlier technology. Whereas it nonetheless gained’t allow you to Chromecast issues because the Nest Hub does, it’s now not simply restricted to Amazon Prime Video. You may log in to Netflix, at which level saying one thing like “Alexa, play Black Mirror” will immediately convey up the dystopian anthology present able to play.
For me, regardless of its barely smaller measurement and weaker speaker, the Nest Hub remains to be preferable for video streams because of the flexibility of Chromecast help, permitting Plex, iPlayer and Disney Plus streaming for example, however for the overwhelming majority of individuals, this can do exactly wonderful now the “huge two” streaming providers are lined.
Then there’s video calling, and the 13MP digital camera is actually a giant enchancment. It’s the identical specification as on the bigger Echo Present 10 and its picture high quality is sweet sufficient that it places most different webcams to disgrace. I additionally didn’t have any downside selecting up what my take a look at topic on the Echo Present was saying, which is hardly stunning given Alexa wants good-quality mics to listen to what you’re saying.
Whereas the gadget doesn’t bodily transfer to comply with the speaker just like the bigger Echo Present, the panning and zooming works fairly nicely, too, as soon as enabled. It’s a delicate however welcome addition, though I believe most individuals will choose to stay static for the sort of calls the place this could truly matter; fortunately, I haven’t had to participate in a video job interview, however I can’t think about you’d wish to be wandering across the room throughout a type of.
As regards to video calls, the default is, after all, Amazon’s personal group videoconferencing however, simply as you need to use Spotify as an alternative of Amazon Music Limitless because the speaker’s music supply, you too can allow Skype right here. Zoom can be good however though it’s supported on the Echo Present 8 within the US, that help has but to emerge over right here within the UK. Juggling all these providers is a little bit of a faff, as is enabling them within the first place, nevertheless it does work.
Amazon Echo Present 8 (2021) assessment: Verdict
On the similar £120 worth because the earlier technology, it’s arduous to fault the most recent Echo Present 8; it’s a marvellous product with a wise set of enhancements. However until you make loads of video calls, it’s in all probability not price upgrading from the earlier mannequin.
For me, the Nest Hub remains to be higher, however that’s primarily down to private choice and my deep integration with the Google ecosystem. I take advantage of Google Calendar, YouTube and Chromecast lots; I don’t have the identical reliance on Amazon’s alternate options, and discover Google Assistant extra dependable than Alexa, too.
The sub-£100 Nest Hub doesn’t include a digital camera, nevertheless, so for those who’re somebody who’s invited to loads of video calls then the Echo Present 8 is the superior choice – until you fancy breaking the £200 barrier and choosing a Nest Hub Max as an alternative.