For the better part of the last 20 years, my family has had a television in our kitchen. It was the cheapest 19-inch flat screen I could find at the time – a Sharp 720p model – and we upgraded to our Tivoli One cable and speaker connection for better sound. It worked fine – no complaints. But when Amazon asked me if I wanted to try swapping that ancient rig for something a little more modern, like the Amazon Echo Show 15 with its latest Fire TV update, I figured why not is? Three weeks into the experiment, here’s how it’s going.
You will need a suit…
If you’re also planning to replace the whole TV thing for the kitchen, be prepared to spend a little more than the $250 price tag on the Echo Show 15. Out of the box, it will only mount on a flat wall surface. If you’re lucky enough to have a kitchen with a white wall that can be seen from different angles, you just saved some money. But I had no luck and had to ask Amazon representatives for help. They kindly sent a($32), which allowed me to sit the Echo Show on the countertop where the TV was.
The Tilt stand is a reasonable budget option, giving you the ability to tilt the screen from vertical to tilted back. Turn the whole unit in whatever direction makes sense and you’re good to go. However, if I decided to add a permanent addition to the Echo Show (and I still might), I would spend a little more and go for one of several sub-counter devices that can suspend the Echo Show and you giving your full. freedom of movement including angle, tilt, and rotation (when not in Fire TV mode, the Echo Show 15 also works in portrait orientation).
One thing to remember if you decide to wall mount: viewing angles on LCD panels are not the best. As these devices go, the Echo Show is better than most. But if you can’t find a wall spot that will offer a more or less vertical viewing angle from the highest traffic kitchen spots, you’ll want a device with adjustable angle and tilt.
… and remote
The other thing you’ll need if you want the Fire TV experience is a Fire TV remote. I was able to use an existing second-gen Fire TV remote, but Amazon (as I do) recommends the latest($30) or Voice Remote Pro.
Why? The Echo Show 15 is a touchscreen device, but the Fire TV interface wasn’t designed for touchscreens, so there’s a limit to what you can do with a single touch. The first-level home screen is easy enough to navigate, with its large tiles for shows, movies, and third-party apps, but it gets a lot harder when you get into the apps themselves. If you don’t have a remote, the Echo Show takes pity on you by providing a virtual on-screen remote. But, trust me, the thing is a pain to use. Besides, if this is a TV replacement, why would you want to walk to it every time you wanted to change something? Physical distance is essential.
Pro tip: you can save yourself $30 and use the Fire TV app on your phone as a remote.
Wait, what about Alexa?
As an Echo product, Amazon’s voice assistant is front and center as the main way you are encouraged to interact with the Echo Show 15. Before the introduction of the Fire TV experience, this made sense: all the elements of the frame can be easily . controlled by voice command. To some extent, Alexa can also assist with Fire TV activities, but as with the touchscreen option, you quickly run into limitations.
Getting Alexa to turn off your favorite app like Disney+ or Netflix is a cinch, and you can even find out what show you want. Play, pause, and volume control are all so accessible via voice. But the act of browsing for content — scrolling through tiles and show descriptions — or any kind of in-app navigation is impossible. As long as you think of Alexa as a magical, voice-controlled shortcut genie, you won’t be disappointed.
The Echo Show 15 offers a bright, crisp screen that works well for almost any casual viewing you want to do. Newscasts, cooking shows, game shows, and reruns of your favorite shows all fit perfectly on the device’s display.
Its 1080p Full HD resolution is also more than adequate when you consider how small it is, and as for the missing HDR capability? Sure, HDR would be great, but since you can’t get this feature on a regular TV smaller than 32 inches, its absence is not a violation.
Ready to cut the cord?
With the addition of the Fire TV interface and remote control, the Echo Show 15 feels a lot like a regular smart TV. Just make sure you are prepared for the ways it is no like television. For example, with the exception of a Micro-USB port on the back (which is strictly for use with an Ethernet adapter), there are no inputs or outputs of any kind.
Our Tivoli One speaker, which provided better sound for the old Sharp TV, is now sitting idle – no analogue output from the Echo Show. Our cable box also falters – no HDMI input, no way to connect it – or any other devices.
If you have gone 100% streaming, this may not matter. After all, the Fire TV interface supports almost every streaming app you could ask for.
You may be able to put together a lot of channel-specific apps to do. I was able to add the CNN, CTV, and CBC apps, but that’s still a long way from the channels I can normally access. Additionally, while the Fire TV interface offers a live TV guide view, it doesn’t appear to be able to pull in data from apps that require subscription authentication, such as CNN and CTV.
If you want to receive your local TV stations for free, over the air via antenna, this also becomes more difficult. With no antenna input or built-in tuner, the only way to OTA the Echo Show is through an OTA receiver that supports Wi-Fi streaming and has the Fire TV app available. There are a number of those, including models from Tablo, SiliconDust, and AirTV, but you’ll need to factor that extra cost ($100 to $200) into your calculations.
Oh, and one more thing: the Echo Show might be Fire TV-viewable, but it’s not a true Fire TV device — you can’t throw a mirror or screen mirror on it like a Fire TV Stick (at least, not not crazy. – a complex, multi-step, app-based solution) – and there’s still no support for cloud gaming services, including Amazon’s own Luna.
Is it instead of a kitchen TV?
Despite its shortcomings as an actual TV, I think the Echo Show 15 – once you add the remote and maybe a mount – works very well as a kitchen TV replacement. While the Fire TV interface isn’t as intuitive as Apple TV or Roku, it’s still fully capable of giving you access to all of your favorite subscription and free streaming apps, and that’s probably the point. you need for most people.
The onboard speakers aren’t particularly powerful and the sound quality is only average, but that’s true of almost any small-sized TV as well. You can’t connect the frame to a wired speaker, but Bluetooth is an option, so you may already have a wireless speaker that will work as well or better than a wired unit.
Also, my family agrees: the Echo Show 15, with its matte picture frame styling, is much more attractive than our vintage mid-2000s Sharp.
A few more thoughts on the Echo Show 15
OK, the Echo Show 15 can replace a kitchen TV, but how was it, in general, to live with this smart screen in one of the busiest rooms in the house? I have a few ideas.
It can drive you crazy
One of the main selling points of the Echo Show 15 is its always-on display that can show you a collage of helpful information panels, like an Amazon Photos slideshow, smart home shortcuts (lighting, cameras, thermostats, etc.), and Alexa. – driving reminders for the family.
But the constantly changing and moving display is distracting. I’m the type of person who freezes when a show or movie is playing (don’t even try to talk to me before you hit the mute or pause button); The “show” of the Echo Show serves a powerful tug.
That camera is great
I’m still under the impression that you can only video chat with other people who have Echo devices equipped with a camera, or who have the Alexa app on their phone or tablet, but I’m very impressed with the Echo Show’s built-in camera.
Our kitchen is reasonably well lit, but I’d hardly call it “bright” and yet the camera image is at least as good as what I’m used to getting from the built-in camera on my MacBook Air 2021. In in addition, its ability to automatically follow and zoom to keep the current speaker in the frame works very well.
It leaves you wanting more
Because of its size and shape, the Echo Show 15 feels like a tablet – a sensation reinforced by its touch interface. Again and again, I wanted to use it as a tablet, starting with the home screen widgets. That’s especially true with Amazon Music, which gives you music recommendations but doesn’t let you interact with the full Amazon Music app. Want to browse for a specific song, playlist or album? You’ll have to touch your phone or try your luck by asking Alexa.
Others have pointed out that Amazon’s Echo Show devices don’t really offer much beyond what the screenless Echo devices can do, so this is hardly a new complaint. It’s just that that limitation feels even more unfair on the super-generous screen of the Echo Show 15. If Amazon gave this device the full Fire TV tablet treatment, it would be much more capable.