Show Mode on an Amazon Fire HD 8/10 Tablet compared to the Echo Show

Amazon has launched a new software feature for their Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 tablets called Show Mode that essentially turns the tablets into an Amazon Echo Show. This new mode works best in conjunction with the new Show Mode Dock that Amazon simultaneously announced, but the dock is not required. All the same hands-free Alexa features are available whether you have the dock or not. Here’s an overview of everything Show Mode on a Fire tablet has to offer and how it compares to the capabilities of the Echo Show.

All screenshots in this article are of the Fire HD 10 tablet being used in Show Mode.

Amazon’s tablets have had Alexa capabilities ever since the voice assistant arrived on tablets in late 2016. There has always been a minor visual component to Alexa on tablets, called Alexa Cards, but this new Show Mode takes it to another level by completely swapping out the main interface with one that can be entirely controlled with your voice. The new voice-friendly interface, called Show Mode, can be toggled on and off through a switch in the tablet’s notification pane. You can also toggle it with your voice by saying “Alexa, launch/exit Show Mode.”

Show Mode is only available on the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 tablets. The only real difference between the two tablets, as far as Show Mode is concerned, is that the Fire HD 8 needs to be plugged into power for hands-free Alexa to work while the screen is off, whereas the Fire HD 10 accepts hands-free commands at all times. Amazon’s least expensive tablet, the Fire 7, does not have Show Mode. As mentioned, Amazon also sells a Show Mode Dock to compliment the feature. I’ll be giving the dock a full review in a separate post, but its main purpose is to automatically switch between Show Mode and regular tablet mode, while also providing a convenient stand with wireless charging.

At $109.99 for the Fire HD 8 with Show Mode Dock or $189.99 for the Fire HD 10 with Show Mode Dock, you’re getting a whole lot more bang for your buck going that route than with if you were to buy an Echo Show at $229.99. However, there are several differences and downsides to Show Mode when compared to the Echo Show that you need to take into consideration when deciding between the two.

First of all, the Show Mode interface is, for the most part, identical to the Echo Show interface. The two don’t just kind of resemble each other. They are exactly the same. Since both devices run variants of Android under the hood, the Echo Show and Show Mode on a tablet probably share the same code base. If I don’t go over some specific Alexa feature in this article, it’s safe to assume it’s because the feature is identical on both types of devices.

A big selling point of the Echo Show is its video calling capabilities. Show Mode on a tablet shares almost all ofthe same calling features as the Echo Show. When someone calls you, whether it’s through video or audio only, a tablet in Show Mode rings along with all your other Echo devices. You can accept the call on the tablet and its front-facing camera can be used for two-way video calls. You can also initiate a call from a tablet in Show Mode to another Echo Device you own or to a person on your Alexa contact list.

The key difference between a tablet in Show Mode and the Echo Show is that you cannot drop-in on the tablet. Drop-in is the feature that allows you to automatically start a call without the receiving party needing to answer it. If, for example, you have an Echo Show in one room and a tablet in Show Mode in another room, you cannot tell the Echo Show to drop in on the tablet. You can, however, tell the tablet to drop-in on the Echo Show or have the Echo Show call the tablet, but the tablet needs to manually answer the call. All other Alexa calling and messaging capabilities work with Show Mode, but keep in mind that a tablet in Show Mode cannot be on the receiving end of a drop-in call.

I must mention that the video framerate being broadcast by my Fire HD 10 during an Alexa call was horrible. While everything was buttery smooth to the person using the tablet in Show Mode, the video feed coming from the tablet that the other part was seeing was unwatchable. A static image or no video at all would have been better. Audio was perfect during all calls, but the tablet simply could not output a smooth video feed during a call.

I tried this between a tablet and an Echo Show, a tablet and an Echo Spot, and a tablet and the Alexa app. In all cases, the video coming from the tablet was very bad. I’m hoping this is a bug that will be fixed and not just a limitation of the Fire HD 10 tablet. These calls were made over the same network. Calls between the Echo Show and Echo Spot were perfect, as were calls between the Echo devices and the Alexa app, so it doesn’t seem like it was an issue with the connection.

Another capability available on the Echo Show that is not available on a tablet in Show Mode is Alexa Announcements. A tablet in Show Mode cannot receive an Alexa announcement. If you make an announcement from any Alexa device, the tablet in Show Mode will sit silently while the announcement plays out of your other Alexa devices. An announcement can be initiated from a tablet in Show Mode to other Alexa devices, but the tablet cannot receive one.

Music is among the most common uses of an Alexa device and Show Mode on a tablet is almost identical in that regard to the Echo Show and other Alexa devices. The one difference is that a tablet in Show Mode cannot be placed into a group with other Alexa devices for multi-room audio. Tablets running Show Mode can only play music locally on themselves.

The speakers on the Fire HD 10, and I assume the Fire HD 8 as well, are pretty bad for music. I’d go as far as to say that the speaker in the Amazon Echo Dot sounds slightly better. You can pair a Fire tablet to Bluetooth speakers or connect it to wired speakers and still use Show Mode, but if playing music is a something you’ll be doing often, you might be better off with an Echo Show instead.

Another downside of a tablet in Show Mode is that you cannot ask to switch to a different profile in your household, like you can with all Echo devices, including the Echo Show. Switching profiles allows multiple people in the same house to easily access their own content, like music playlists or 3rd-party accounts, like a Pandora account. Alexa being used on a tablet in Show Mode is locked to the account that is logged into the regular tablet interface.

All other Alexa capabilities not mentioned above are pretty much identical on a tablet in Show Mode as they are on an Echo Show. Things like flash briefings, local searches, movie times, traffic requests, alarms, timers, reminders, shopping/To-Do lists, podcasts, audiobooks, Kindle books, weather requests, security camera viewing, watching movies or shows from Amazon video, smart home control, and the thousands of Alexa skills all work identically through Show Mode on a tablet as they do through an Echo Show.

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31 comments
  1. Tom says:

    I myself dont know why they bothered to do this. Show mode is useless.
    I own a Show, my biggest disappointment Amazon product. I used it some when It could do youtube video, but since they lost youtube, I have no use for this except my kitchen timer. I dont have anyone to video chat with. so what else is there to use it for. There has been no excitement, no love, for the item since they put it out. They are not doing anything for it, Its stale and dead in the water over all. I love Amazon product, but this one just has not gotten any love from them since they put it out.

    • DeedleTech says:

      Absolutely! I loved it for the Youtube experience. In fact that was what it was 90% used for in my house. There is zero reason why these two childish companies can’t get an agreement going. To me it crippled the product. I also hated when(on my Firetv 2) they “upgraded” the youtube app on the Fire TV and forced you to use the silk browser for any youtube-ing. Because it lost the ability to cast from my phone from youtube directly to the FireTV2. So I sideloaded an older Youtube.APK for the Fire Tv and its back the way it should still be and I’m still able to cast from my phone. Again, crap that shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place.

      • Tom says:

        Yes, I agree, Neither of them is hurting the other. Both are being hurt by this childish battle. And both there customers are loosing out from it.

        Yea, 90%+ was youtube for me as well. Like I said, now, its basically a kitchen timer.

    • Peter Stirland says:

      I watch YouTube all the time on my Fire HD 10.

    • Ray says:

      I’m not sure I understand. I just picked up a Fire HD 8 tablet on sale (thanks for the heads-up, Elias!), and the first thing I did was to download vTube, an app that plays YouTube videos. Am I missing something?

      Love that shot of Elias and Jeff Bezos! Cracked me up! :D

  2. MikeS says:

    @Tom – Sorry to hear the Show isn’t doing it for you. But, if you want to feel better about the Show, try buying a FireTV Cube. It’s probably bad enough right now that the Show will seem much better in comparison!

  3. Ian King says:

    My interest in the Amazon tablet as a Show device would be IF it continued to ALSO function as a tablet while in the Show mode. For example, I’d love to be able to use voice commands and also be able to listen AND see Evernote notes. I believe such a function is not possible with the Echo shoe, buu I can imagine would be possible with a tablet. Is such a function possible? Or are the ordinary tablet capabilities disable when it is in the Show mode?

  4. Douglas Pollock says:

    I love my Amazon Show. Now I can take it with me on my tablet when I travel.

  5. PSL says:

    Not mentioned is how the behavior of Show Mode on the tablet differs when it’s charging and when it’s not. Show Mode, when plugged in, has a screen timeout of 10 minutes (cannot be changed, normal tablet screen timeout setting is ignored). When not plugged in and in Show Mode, the screen timeout is 1 or 2 minutes (cannot be changed)
    This becomes annoying considering, in my brief testing of it, when you wake the screen back up (by touch or voice) it goes back to the home screen. Whatever card of info it was displaying (say music with lyrics) has to be brought back up from the notification tray.

    One other thing I noticed… at one time when testing (plugged in), the front camera seemed to work as a proximity sensor if the screen timed out. You could wave your hand or just move close to the tablet and it would wake the screen back up. I unplugged it still in Show Mode and this stopped working. Even after plugging it back in, it would no longer work and I’ve not gotten it to work again.

    One last thing, it seemed to go into a sort of night mode after about 10pm.(Not sure if this was a glitch or is consistent behavior, needs further testing) By this I mean… when in Show Mode, regardless of being plugged in or not, the screen timeout shortened to the 1 or 2 minutes. Also, the clock displayed on the blank screen (only available when plugged in) dims.

  6. Richard says:

    Is this only available in the US? I’m in the UK, I got a new update but don’t see the Show mode in the notification panel and asking Alexa to bring it up doesn’t do anything.

  7. Senior Bezos says:

    Love the video chat screen grab!

  8. Jeck says:

    I just bought the HD8 stand and have been giving that a go. I think it has a ton of potential but comes up lacking. I do however think they’re still working on the code. I have noticed that there are differences between the 8 and 10 even. For example, the proximity sensing that someone brought up above, only works on the 10. I can’t get the calling to work at all. All of my devices say “offline” in the Alexa app. Whenever I try to make a call it says something like “I couldn’t find a contact or device with that name”.

  9. tampa8 says:

    First a great review of the comparison. Since I don’t use the calling feature part of the allure of the Show would not apply to me. In fact overall the visual side of Alexa has little appeal what hooked me on Alexa was all the voice/listening things it does. (Music, questions, home security, lights etc etc)

    That said playing with Show on my HD8 tablet did bring out at the least one thing. I do like that I can tell it show my nest cameras with no other interaction needed. The picture is excellent. So for Cams I see a good use of Show. I can’t agree enough with the others not having Youtube is a major deficiency for using Show if it had it I would add that to a good use of it. I will say given time and trying things having Show on the HD8 may prove a nice plus but not enough to make be get a Show.

    As one of the posts above I found a few buggy things or wishes already. I could not understand why the screen would come back on till I realized the camera was acting like a sensor, but that is not consistent sometimes it works as of late it does not. I too would like to be able to set how long before the screen goes off but that is something that can be added if they want to.

  10. Joseph says:

    The video skill that works great on SPOT & SHOW ——— CBSN does not play 24/7 Video news feed on the tablet

  11. Joe says:

    I got the dock for the Fire Tablet 8 inch but the microphone on the tablet would almost never pick my request over the other Echos in other rooms. So I am boxing it up and sending it back for a refund. This might work if you had it in a bedroom and no other’s were around. I had a Clock app running which is what should come up when this is docked in show mode.

    • Jeck says:

      Just out of curiosity, how would the clock app come up? Are you referring to the stock clock within show mode or a separate clock app?

    • Randall says:

      It might not be the dock. There’s a setting for Alexa ESP that, in its default setting, prioritizes other nearby dedicated Alexa devices over the tablet. If you toggle that setting, the tablet should respond first.

      • Nick says:

        You can also change the wake word to Amazon in settings so you can have a dot right next to it with wake word Alexa and have the benefits of both.

        • tampa8 says:

          Where do you see that setting to change a tablet’s wake word?

          • PSL says:

            Just go to the main settings (not in show mode) and click on Alexa. There you’ll find the Wake Word options

        • Adam Hochman says:

          Does anyone know how to set the alarm to wake to music (ie Pandora station)? I can set the alarm in Show Mode but when I go to the Alexa app to try to wake to music it say alarms are not supported (?). I’m trying to use the Fire in Show mode as a replacement for my alarm clock on my nightstand (in addition to other things of course).

      • tampa8 says:

        Tell us where that setting is?

  12. tampa8 says:

    No such settings on my HD8 tablet settings. Three choices, push or not push button to talk, Restrict Access to various Amazon services, or turn on or off Alexa.
    In the Alexa app itself neither of our tablets has the choice to change the wake work and nowhere for any device do I see ESP behavior. Do others have these?

    • PSL says:

      Oh you’re on the HD8, those options may not be available. The HD10 always had a hands-free Alexa option, even before the new Show Mode update. So that’s why it had those options. This seems to be an oversight on Amazon’s part, giving the Show Mode update to the HD8 without the other options.

      Only thing I can suggest is to change the wake word on your echo devices. You have more options there anyway, such as using “echo” as the wake word. This is what I do. The tablet is the only one that responds to “alexa”

      • tampa8 says:

        Appears that is the case though note I did have the hands free option prior to Show being added. For me the ESP is no problem I don’t use Show or even Alexa enough on the tablet to worry about it when I am in the house near other devices. More used out of the house. Even at that if I want to use I can push the button and not use a wake word.

    • Deb Shinder says:

      I have an HD8 and I have the options to change the wake word and ESP setting.

      • tampa8 says:

        Thanks. I contacted support they had me go to safe mode, turn off all alexa features on tablet and delete the alexa app. Then turn off the tablet and go back to normal mode and reinstall the app and then sync the device. That did it. Sync is usually a few seconds this time it was longer, and when done all settings are now there.

  13. Adam Hochman says:

    Does anyone know how to set the alarm to wake to music (ie Pandora station)? I can set the alarm in Show Mode but when I go to the Alexa app to try to wake to music it say alarms are not supported (?). I’m trying to use the Fire in Show mode as a replacement for my alarm clock on my nightstand (in addition to other things of course).

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