I ordered one of Amazon’s large-screened Echo Show 15 devices when they were first announced in early November 2021, with several kind Travel Insider readers underwriting its $250 purchase cost.
I also ordered, at the same time, a $40 “tilt and swivel” mounting stand for the unit.
The Echo Show 15 arrived on 10 December and I wrote about/reviewed it here. The mounting screen, promised to arrive before Christmas, did not arrive until 21 January, and now that I’ve been semi-using the Show 15 for six weeks, and have it placed on its mounting screen, I thought it was time to revisit the device in general.
Let’s first talk about the tilt/swivel mount, then see what has changed, if anything, with the Echo Show 15 unit itself and my feelings about it.
The $40 Tilt and Swivel Echo Show 15 Mount
Okay, so maybe it was my fault/misunderstanding. It turned out that I’d failed to understand the ambiguity in the word “swivel”. I had thought a tilt and swivel mount would be one where you could tilt the screen viewing angle up or down, and swivel it – ie rotate the mount and screen around its azimuth so it would face in different directions, based on where it was mounted and where you were located.
I was wrong. The swivel part of the mount does not allow the screen to face in different directions. That is solidly fixed. Instead, it allows the screen to rotate between a portrait and a landscape orientation. I’d never even considered this to be an option or a feature one might wish – for most of us, most of the time, once we’ve decided which way we want to position a screen, we stick with that choice. Further, with the multi-mount on the rear of the Show 15, if one wished to change it, a quick swap of how the screen snaps into the mount would do so.
I can’t really blame Amazon for this misunderstanding, although for sure it could have been made more obvious on its listing, particularly because many of us will simply click the add-on offer to buy a stand based on nothing more than its one-line description when buying the Echo Show 15 itself.
The mount is a free standing device you can place on any flat surface. The Echo Show is screwed into a mounting plate, and can then be tilted a long way up or a tiny way down, and can, ahem, swivel 90°, going from a landscape to a portrait aspect ratio, as you may prefer. It seems sufficiently sturdy and stable and fit for purpose. And, of course, if you wish to swivel it in the “other” sense of swivel, you can simply move the base on the surface it is freely standing on.
Other than that, it is largely unremarkable, and it is very difficult to see how it ends up costing $40. Amazon also offers a more straightforward $30 tilt-only stand which is probably a better choice for most people, and a $50 under-cabinet mount.
The Amazon Echo Show 15 – Still a Colossal and Inexplicable Disappointment
The large screened Echo Show 15 continues to be something with an enormous appeal, in theory. It could be so useful in so many ways, and as Amazon extends its reach into “smart home” devices, with now both Alexa enabled thermostats (reviewed here) and indoor air quality monitors (reviewed here), plus Blink and Ring security cams, door bells, and the usual range of switches and plugs, having a central monitoring station such as the Show 15 could be (and should be) increasingly of more and more value and benefit to us all.
It would also benefit Amazon, because the more use and value we get from their devices, the more likely we are to continue buying more of them. A $70 indoor air quality monitor in every room? That is certainly what Amazon hopes for, and indeed, for that matter, I’m sure it would love to see us buy multiple Echo Show 15s, too.
Amazon has also had the same six more weeks to continue to roll out new capabilities and “skills” for the Echo Show 15. Has it improved and become more useful?
In a word, no. The most obvious measure is to look at the widgets you can place on the screen. Amazon has increased the number of widgets available, but only in trivial terms. It has added two more, one to show a “Cookpad Recipe of the Day” and the other a gaming widget to no doubt entice you to spend money on buying or playing games. The complete list of now 19 widgets is :
- Alexa Suggestions
- Calendar and Reminders – Daily/Monthly
- Calendar and Reminders – Daily
- Cookpad Recipe of the Day
- Favorite Photos
- Maps (large)
- Maps (normal)
- Music and Audio (large)
- Music and Audio (normal)
- Reorder Suggestions
- Shopping List
- Smart Home Favorites
- Sticky Notes
- To-Do List
- What to Eat
- Your Deliveries
Bugs and Limitations
The screen continues to be buggy. For example, I added a new widget (the Alexa Suggestions Widget – arguably an offensively bad widget, but with nothing better to fill the screen with, perhaps acceptable, although still being more visual pollution) which caused the screen to blank and the device to become unresponsive. This caused a realization – the new tilt and swivel stand covers over the power feed into the unit, so to power the unit off and on is now something you can’t do at the screen, but have to do by unplugging and replugging in the power supply instead. That can be a problem if the plug is behind a bookcase or sofa or something. There is no on/off switch on the screen itself – Amazon clearly never expects anyone to ever wish to either turn it off or cycle the power.
Of equal note, the “Your Deliveries” app remains unreliable. Several times, on say, a Tuesday, it is telling me of items that will be delivered on Monday – I’m fairly certain that once Tuesday comes along, Monday events are no longer going to happen.
It is hard to see any game changing “must have” killer-app on that list, isn’t it. There are some really useful things the screen could do, but doesn’t. I mentioned some of them in my earlier review, and can now add to that list another one – it would be great to be able to see a real-time display of indoor air quality from the Amazon air quality monitor. The software is in place to temporarily briefly flash this on the screen if you can work out the appropriate command, but it goes away again too quickly. Why can’t this be another widget – there’s a huge screen just begging to be used and filled with helpful data, and clearly the software has already been written to allow it to display on the screen, but only temporarily rather than permanently.
I’d love to be able to use it with Zoom or Google Meet or Skype. But if there’s a way to do so, I can’t find it. The only video conferencing I’ve found to be supported is Amazon’s, not anyone else’s.
I’d like to be able to have windows showing realtime displays of what my Amazon Blink security cameras are seeing. When the dog starts barking, it would be wonderful to just look up at the screen to see if someone is approaching the front door. Oh yes, and when she is not barking, it would be wonderful to check and make sure she is not doing something she shouldn’t, inside! But that too is inexplicably impossible. Amazon failed to “join the dots” and understand that people like to be able to see what their security cameras are looking at – a special level of stupidity/short-sightedness that is hard to comprehend or excuse.
It would be really nice, when playing music from a radio station through the unit, that it didn’t take up the entire 15″ screen to tell me nothing other than what I already know – it is playing music. Why does it need the entire screen for this? A single line, or a small widget, would be ample.
This frustration is sharpened because, if I go to the radio station’s website, it tells me the name of the song being played, the performers, provides a picture of the album cover, plus those for recently past songs played and the next two about to be played in the future. When the announcer is speaking, it switches to a picture of the announcer. But, on this huge screen, all I have is an all-red background, a station logo, and thumbs up and down buttons which, ahem, do nothing when touched. Ugh!
Amazon’s use of the huge screen it is offering you remains appalling and unnecessarily restricted. Now, okay, you might reason this is new territory for Amazon and it is still moving towards improving its use of the screen capability. I disagree. The first Echo Show units came out in May 2017, now nearly five years ago. There’s little sign of much forward movement in improving the Show capabilities at all.
It also continues to have a very inconsistent option management system. Some options you can control from the screen system settings itself. But other options you can’t control from the screen and instead have to go to your Alexa app on a phone. Why? The Echo Show 15 is a touch screen, the same as a phone, and with more space to show things – ideally it should be able to do everything that you can do on your phone app. But instead, Amazon has gratuitously limited its usefulness, causing frustration and confusion when confronted with things the Show 15 should be able to do by itself, but can’t.
Voice Recognition Problems Too
Oh, there’s one more limitation too. Indeed, perhaps I’m leaving the worst until last. The unit is very bad at actually recognizing my voice. Isn’t that its prime mission – to be voice controlled?
This might be because of where the microphones are located. There are two, both on one side of the four sided rectangle, facing out to the side instead of directly ahead (where of course most people will be), and with the tiniest of pin-hole openings. I have old Echo Dots that are very much better, perhaps because instead of two microphones facing the wrong way through pinholes on one side only, they have seven microphones arrayed around them and with generous openings for sound to pass through (current generation units now have four microphones which also work perfectly).
You can buy previous generation Echo Dots from Amazon, sometimes for way under $30, and their seven microphones do an excellent job of hearing and understanding you. But buy a new $250 Echo Show 15, and you get two microphones that work poorly. Progress, Amazon style, is a strange thing, isn’t it.
Does the Echo Show 15 have any redeeming features? Now that I’ve had it for six weeks, I’ve failed to uncover anything other than frustrations, disappointments, and annoyances. It is a colossal and inexplicable failure by a company that has almost unlimited resources and could/should have done so much better.
My original and more detailed Echo Show 15 review can be seen here, and Amazon’s product page for the Echo Show 15 is here.