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My Favorite Things an Amazon Echo Show Can Do

There are a ton of tricks that smart displays can do. But not all of them are created equal or are worth doing on this style of advice.

The basics are easy—just about anyone knows how handy it is to ask any smart speaker or smart display to tell you the weather or play music. And you should! It's their best use case, especially since smart displays like the Echo Show can give you more weather details onscreen. But that’s not all these handy devices do, and for the price you should get the most out of any smart display you buy.

Amazon’s Echo Shows have their own special tricks and ways to activate them. Here are my three favorite uses for an Echo Show and how to fix my least favorite feature. Do you think you would prefer another system? Don't forget to check out our guides to the Best Smart Speakers and How to Set Up Your Smart Home.

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Play With Widgets

Widgets are my favorite casual feature of Echo Shows. They’re little squares with shortcut content that you can customize, ranging from a sticky note or calendar to managing your smart home, quick access to certain music, and so much more.

Originally, they were only on the massive Echo Show 15, but they're now available on the Echo Show 8 and 10 as well. On the Echo Show 15, the widgets are constantly onscreen thanks to the large real estate, and there's a widget panel that can fit up to 10 widgets. For the Echo Shows 8 and 10, they appear in the slideshow that rotates onscreen. You can display up to four widgets on the Echo Show 8 and up to six on the Echo Show 10.

I love using mine to put a calendar view, my smart-home favorites, and the weather in an easy-to-see place. They're great for customizing your smart-home control if you want your device to focus on that; the Echo Hub (8/10, WIRED Recommends) depends entirely on widgets as a smart-home-focused device.

Check on Your Kids and Cats

Echo Shows also have a camera at the top of the screen that can be used for both video calls and as an indoor security camera–well, sort of. There are two main features under this umbrella: Live Feed, which allows you to view live feeds happening from an Echo Show device, and Home Monitoring, which you can use with other smart-home devices and set up routines.

You can ask any Echo Show to give you the live feed of another Show device, as long as you know the name of the device (or you can just choose it from the device list if you don't want to use voice commands). This is an easy way to quickly check in on say, pets and kids, without a full-blown security camera. The device will alert anyone in the room that someone is using the Echo Show to monitor the room, so it's not as discreet as a true security camera.

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Meanwhile, Home Monitoring also allows you to set up routines, like turning on lights when the Echo Show sees someone in the room. To do this, toggle Home Monitoring on the device under the Settings and Camera menus. After that's done, you can monitor the feed from the Alexa app. Also on the Echo Show's device settings are two features: Video Delay and Audio Alert. Video delay will blur the first few seconds of video, which is ideal to use in tandem with Audio Alert, which plays a sound to alert others in the room you're streaming the video. You might want this on if you want to give someone in your home a warning. If you don't want to alert anyone, leave it toggled off.

The downside of an Echo Show as a security camera is that it can't save video for you to check later; all video is processed on the device and isn't sent to the cloud for you to review. If you want something like that, get a real indoor security camera.

Display Family Photos

One of the best uses for a smart display is as a digital photo frame. The Echo Show's photo mode isn't as nice as our recommended digital photo frames, but it's still a nice feature.

Photo Mode is easy to toggle on, as it's available as its own icon in the drop-down menu. Go into Settings and select Clock & Photo Frame to choose the frame you want. Amazon has several options of preloaded art and photos you can use that match the dimensions of the Echo Show's screen; I set mine to Seasonal to see photos of cherry blossoms and painted landscapes of spring scenery.

If you want it to be a true photo frame with your own photos, you'll need to upload images to Amazon Photos. You can create albums (called Collections) to show certain sets of photos, daily memories that create a “curated selection” from your photos, or use all your uploaded images in the slideshow. My biggest tip is to upload only landscape-oriented photos; vertical images won't be cropped or fill the screen. I prefer using the art modes offered for my photo display, but if you're game to upload your photos to Amazon Photos and manage your Collections, it's a nice enough experience for a device that's already in your home.

Get Rid of Clutter

My least favorite feature on an Echo Show? The spam.

Amazon now adds sponsored content slides to your Echo Show slideshow—the last thing any of us want to see. The easiest way to avoid it is actually turning on Photo Frame mode, since it gets rid of everything except for pretty pictures. Ads be gone, just like that! The only downside of this is that you also won't see things like your handy widgets or the time if you like using your Echo Show as a clock.

There's also a lot of clutter in an Echo Show slideshow that you can get rid of. Head into the Settings menu and select Home Content. Here, you'll find nearly 50 options you can toggle on and off. All of these options are on when you first set up your device, and it's full of Amazon-focused items promoting various features on the device or other Amazon products and content. It's, simply put, insanely annoying. I turned off everything except weather information and my calendar info, and while I still see an ad every four to six slides, I prefer that to seeing dozens of slides I didn't ask for.

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