Upgrading Alexa With New Echo and Echo Show 8

Amazon Echo and Echo Show 8
January 27, 2021

As loyal readers know, I have a number of Alexa devices in my house. Plus a variety of smart switches and plugs. The dream of home automation I saw in the Jetsons as a kid is now possible. Today I’m going to talk about some new devices I got recently. While I got some special pricing due to Black Friday, I have received nothing else for writing about them. And yes, I’ll include links to purchase each item from which I receive a puny commission.

If you would have asked me at the beginning of November if I would be purchasing new Alexa devices, the answer would have likely been no. Right before Thanksgiving, two of my first generation Echos stopped responding. I talked to support and none of us had a good answer. They listen, but don’t answer. Just in case they start working again, I already have some neighbors interesting in them. The fact that their failure came at the time that Black Friday sales were starting convinced me it was time to upgrade a few things.

One of them sits on a shelf a bit above eye level and I use it often for music and for questions/commands. So I replaced it with the Echo (4th generation). Given that my walls are a light blue, I got the twilight blue color as it fits my decor perfectly. Now that it is in use, I’ve found two very important ways it is a big upgrade for me. First, it sounds really good and has more bass than the first generation Echo it replaced. The second improvement is somewhat invisible as it is the software and hardware improvements within the Echo. A fun one for me is that it can be set to English and Spanish. This let’s me practice my Spanish skills.

I was also replacing an Echo that sat in the kitchen. For this one, I thought having a screen would come in very handy so I got the Echo Show 8. Yes, it sounds great too. I’ve added a number of photos that provide a background slideshow. It also scrolls through news headlines, recipes and other content I might find interesting. If someone comes to my door, it can display the video from the Ring video doorbell. When I have it play music, I can even see the lyrics on the screen. While I haven’t done any video calls with it, that will likely happen in the near future.

Another fun feature with both of the new devices is that they support celebrity voices. Several months ago I purchased the Samuel L. Jackson voice. With either of the new devices, I can use one of the standard wake words (Alexa, Echo, Amazon or Computer) and get the regular voice or I can say “Hey Samuel”. If I request Samuel, his voice replies. Yes, some of his replies include words that aren’t so family friendly. You have an option to keep his replies clean if you like.

I figured since I was upgrading, I should also automate more of the lights in my house. I did this by purchasing a 4-pack of Kasa Smart Plugs. So many of the light switches are in inconvenient locations so using these plugs makes it easy to turn lights on and off. Heck, I can even switch them on and off with my phone.

Did I need any of these things? Probably not. But I consider it a great investment in convenience, entertainment and usefulness. For those who have old Echos or you haven’t jumped in yet, these devices are a great start.

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Foster D. Coburn III is author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences. His first Web site was built in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013.

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