Echo Hub hands-on: first impressions of Amazon’s new Alexa smart home control panel

Amazon was retaining shut guard over its new Echo Hub smart controller within the demo room at right this moment’s large {hardware} occasion. But I managed to get a couple of seconds of hands-on with a working tabletop unit earlier than it was whisked away. I additionally put it by its paces on the wall-mounted model, and whereas it responded to touches promptly in some instances, it’s no iPad — and even Fire pill.

Maybe it’s asking an excessive amount of to have a robust pill that controls your complete smart home, mounted in your wall, for underneath $180. The Echo Hub did promptly activate a close-by lamp once I tapped “on.” It swiftly activated a Baby Crying Routine that began lullabies enjoying on an Echo Show 5. It accepted swipes and presses with good response occasions — quicker than the present Echo Show 15, the closest comparable smart show. But once I tried to faucet, swipe, faucet once more, and work together with it such as you would a smartphone or pill, it began to get very confused the quicker I moved.

But for the smart home control use case, my first impressions are it is a compelling system, particularly at this value.


The Sanus tabletop mount.
Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

The new smart home-focused widgets make it simple to work together with to do issues like view a digital camera reside view, modify a light-weight, or run a routine with a faucet. These three new widgets could be added to the Home display screen: one is restricted to the room the system is in, one is for any related cameras (it could possibly present a current snapshot from Ring cameras at launch), and one mirrors the favorites within the Alexa app. A sidebar opens up widgets for controlling units in different rooms (additionally known as Groups within the Alexa app) and for working Routines; plus shortcut buttons alongside the underside present entry to system classes (cameras, local weather, lights, locks, and energetic media).

The widgets are interactive; you’ll be able to faucet on them to show off a light-weight, modify a thermostat temperature, and so on. And that’s one faucet, not two or three, making this usable as a smart home controller. You don’t must wake it as much as get to the controls; they (ought to) seem as you strategy so you’ll be able to faucet and go.

The first new widget reveals units within the room the Echo Hub is assigned to.
Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

The new digital camera widget can show as much as 6 cameras and reveals current snapshots (Ring solely at launch).
Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

I didn’t get to do that shift from ambient mode (displaying a clock or photos) to the widgets, as there have been at all times too many individuals crowded across the factor, however I did attempt the new Adaptive Content characteristic on a close-by Echo Show 8 (which wasn’t as in style!). This has an analogous operate, displaying completely different content material when you find yourself additional away, after which adapting that when you find yourself up shut. It adjusted moderately shortly as I approached.

The Echo Hub could be very small and light-weight. Its profile is slim sufficient to look unobtrusive in your wall, however you’ll be able to nonetheless simply entry a mute button and quantity up / down controls. Cable administration for a wall mount is more likely to be the most important problem right here, until you could have ethernet wired into your partitions and might take benefit of PoE.

Spot the distinction. From the entrance, the new Echo Show 8 and the Eco Hub look very related.
Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

While it’s clearly designed to be wall-mounted, utilizing it on a tabletop appears like a great various, though it’s important to pay $29.99 for a Sanus stand (the identical firm that makes the Show 15 equipment).

Outside of the new smart home widgets, the remaining of the software program is all Echo Show. You can add any Echo Show widget right here, however the smart home widgets are for the Hub solely (for now). The swipe down from the highest motion brings up the Show menu, and if you faucet on a digital camera, you get the identical reside view display screen you’ll be aware of on the Show units.

Tapping on some of the smart home units within the widgets does deliver up a facet display screen for deeper controls, although. So, in the event you’re utilizing it for smart home control, you are able to do so all from the principle display screen, making the method faster. Echo Show units don’t historically do transitions all that effectively, so it is a good UI implementation.

While I need to spend a while with this system in my home and put it by its paces with my over 100 units related to Alexa, my first impressions are that this shall be a helpful addition to the Echo lineup for smart home customers. It shall be available for preorder quickly and transport later this 12 months. We’ve acquired extra particulars on the Echo Hub on this submit.

Correction, Friday, September, 22nd, 8:45AM: A earlier model of this text mentioned the digital camera widget can solely present Ring cameras. After publication, Amazon reached out to make clear that the digital camera widget can embrace any digital camera suitable with Alexa, however can solely present current snapshots from Ring cameras at launch.

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