**7/17/18 UPDATE** Amazon has recently released special “Show Mode” charging docks for the Fire HD 10 and Fire HD 8 tablets. Click here to read a more recent post about the dock.
Now that Amazon has announced the release of the 7th generation Fire HD 10 Tablet with Hands-Free Alexa (UK readers click here) and priced it at just $150, many consumers are asking if the tablet can substitute for an Echo Show. The short answer is no, and today I’m doing a 7th Generation Fire HD 10 vs. Echo Show comparison to explain why.
Every Amazon Device Is A Niche Device
Many consumers think the natural progression in technology is toward a one-device-that-does-it-all goal, but tech companies’ experience over the years has shown that it’s not possible to optimize a single tech device to optimally perform every tech function and provide a pleasing form factor for every function. Amazon has definitely learned this lesson well, which is why they offer so many different versions of their Kindle reader, Fire tablet, Fire TV streaming video devices, and now, Alexa devices.
Alexa support has been added to numerous Amazon devices, but it’s important to remember that devices designed to be primarily, or even exclusively, a delivery system for Alexa functionality (e.g., Echo, Dot, Show, Tap) will always offer a more robust Alexa experience and feature set than devices where Alexa is layered on top of a different core feature set (e.g., Fire tablets, existing Fire TV devices, HTC U11 phones, third party smart home devices, etc.).
Chances are good that whatever your personal preferences are, there’s an Alexa device for that. But there is not, and most likely never will be One Alexa Device To Rule Them All, offering streaming music, video, apps, full touchscreen capability, trivia, factual lookups, smart home control, fashion advice, Dash button functionality, productivity software, web browsing, email, camera, etc. etc. In the end it comes down to which flavor of Alexa-capable device best suits your needs and priorities.
Note that while the new tablet won’t receive its Alexa software update until some point after it ships, beginning October 11, it’s possible to know what will or won’t initially be supported on the new device because Amazon has already updated its relevant Alexa Help pages (Amazon UK readers click here) to cover the 7th gen Fire HD 10. I’ve also gained some insight from developing skills for the Show.
What Show Does That 7th Gen Fire HD 10 Does Not
First up, let’s talk video chat and Alexa-to-Alexa calling (aka, Drop In). Recall that these are two of the most heavily-promoted features in Amazon’s introductory marketing and orientation video for the Echo Show. You can’t get either of them on the new Fire HD 10.
You can use Alexa calling and messaging from within the Alexa app on the Fire HD 10, but it requires installation of the separate Alexa app and it’s no different than the functionality already available on generations 4 – 6 of Fire HD tablets.
UPDATE 9/22/17: a sharp eyed reader gave me the heads up that this is not working. While Amazon reps have previously told me that a smartphone with a Contacts list is required only for initial setup of messaging and calling in the Alexa app, and thereafter the functionality should be available in any device with the most recent version of the Alexa app and the correct hardware/operating system configuration, this does not appear to be true. I just tested on my 6th generation Fire HD 8, which is supposed to support this, and there are no menu items or icons available to access calling or messaging.
Unlike any other device Amazon makes, the Show is designed to offer video chat, and offer it as a core function.
As of this writing, the Show is also the only Alexa-capable device that supports video playback in Alexa skills. Other devices that run voice-only Alexa skills just fine either won’t run video-playing skills at all, or will only run the audio. Here’s where you can see that Amazon is envisioning the Show as the most likely Alexa device for placement in a kitchen, where cooking skills with videos make a lot of sense. Owner surveys have shown that the kitchen is the room where most consumers place their primary (or only) Alexa device, so it’s not surprising that Amazon would want to offer a version that includes features to improve a kitchen-based Alexa.
Here are the numerous other things you get with Show that aren’t supported on the new 7th generation Fire HD tablet:
– Using Alexa to control a linked Fire TV device
– Bluetooth voice control
– Control volume with your voice
– Voice control of video playback
– Sending Alexa content through Voicecast
– Voice Training
– Photo Booth
What 7th Gen Fire HD 10 Does That Echo Show Does Not
The Fire HD has a much broader feature set than the Show, because it’s an actual touchscreen computer. The Show has a touchscreen but its capabilities are very limited, at this point used only for scrolling and making on-screen menu selections—as opposed to swiping or tapping to open apps, play games, or control different functions within an app. Here are the major features you get on a Fire HD 10 that you won’t get with an Echo Show:
– Kindle book e-reader functionality
– Web browsing
– Android game and utility apps
– Full social media account access
– Full YouTube app
– On-screen Amazon store access
– Interactive, touch-based utilities like calendar and calculator
– Kindle newsstand, for digital magazines and newspapers
– Full featured still camera / videocam capabilities
– Access to upload content to, and delete content from, your Amazon cloud libraries
– Memory card storage for files
– File management utilities
– On-screen drawing capability
So Why Buy A Show?
I’ll admit that the novelty of videochat and Drop-In wore off for me pretty quickly, and I almost never use those features of my Show anymore. However, the Show is still my favorite among all my Amazon devices, and that includes my 6th gen Fire HD 8. As I said before, it all comes down to each consumer’s particular needs and priorities.
For me, access to Kindle books isn’t as important as access to my Audible audio book library so the e-reader aspect of a Fire tablet isn’t a draw for me. I’m also not a big mobile app user, and most of the other things the tablet can do that my Show cannot are things I’d rather do on a full-sized computer screen (e.g., web browsing, online shopping), a full-sized TV screen (video streaming) or cell phone (updating social media, taking pictures, listening to audio books away from home) anyway. When it comes to listening to music at home without headphones, the Show (and Echo) win it over any of my Fire tablets hands down because of the far superior sound quality.
For me the Show is an upgraded version of the Echo, and as the site’s name makes clear, I really LOVE my Echos. Where the Echo offers great sound and convenience for music streaming, the Show adds on-screen display of artist images, album cover art and lyrics. Where the Echo offers the daily weather, Show delivers a scrollable forecast that makes the upcoming week’s worth of predictions available, and with attractive graphics. Where Echo can give you facts, figures and math answers by voice, Show also displays them onscreen with supplemental visuals where available. Where Echo has no shortage of voice-only skills, Show brings images and video to the party.
Even when the new HD 10 is upgraded with always-on Alexa capability, I just can’t see standing it up in my bedroom in place of my Show and getting the same level of enjoyment or functionality from it in that spot.
Each device has a lot to offer, but they are not interchangeable.