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Amazon Echo Show vs. Apple iPad: which is the better kitchen computer?

Amazon Echo Show vs. Apple iPad: which is the better kitchen computer?


The fight for your kitchen counter is heating up

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Amazon’s new Echo Show is shipping this week, giving yet another platform for Alexa to exist on. The Echo Show is a lot like prior Echo devices in that you can control it entirely with your voice and it can hear you from across the room. But the Show is the first Amazon Alexa device with a screen, giving it a number of new capabilities. You can read our full review for more on what’s good and not so good about it.

The original Echo has already found a home in many kitchens

Many people have found the original Echo to be very useful in the kitchen, as it can easily be used to set timers, perform unit conversions, and add things to a shopping list. The Echo Show is even better: it can do all of those things, but now you can see your timers or shopping list on the screen. You can also use it to pull up a recipe, watch a video on YouTube or Amazon Prime Video, listen to music, or make a video call to another Echo Show or a mobile device.

Apple’s iPad has also found its way into many kitchens. It’s useful for just about all the aforementioned things, plus making video calls, performing calculations, and many other things you might want to do while in the kitchen. It’s also a full-fledged tablet that can be used in many other places, but for this article, I’m going to focus on how it works in the kitchen.

So, which is the better device for your kitchen? Let’s break it down.

Starting with the price, the Amazon Echo Show sells for $229.99. It’s the most expensive Echo device yet, but it’s still less expensive than the cheapest iPad, which sells for $329. The iPad gives you a larger screen — 9.7 inches vs. 7 inches — but it doesn’t stand on its own and requires a case or some sort of mount to prop it up. The Echo Show, on the other hand, is ready to be plopped on your counter right out of the box.

iPad 2017
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Further, while the Echo Show’s two, 2-inch speakers have no trouble filling my kitchen with music or audio, an iPad needs a Bluetooth speaker or some other speaker plugged into its audio jack to really be heard well from a few feet away. That’s another cost you’ll have to consider with the iPad that you don’t have with the Echo Show.

Both devices can play video, but the iPad has far more in terms of options. In addition to the Prime Video and YouTube options that the Show has, the iPad can stream video from Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, iTunes, Google Play Movies, DirecTV Now, HBO Go / HBO Now, and countless other services. If you primarily want a device to play TV or video in the background while you cook or do dishes, the iPad has a clear advantage. You’ll still likely want some sort of external speaker, however, especially if you hope to hear dialogue over the sound of a running faucet.

An iPad has many more video options available

The Echo Show fares a bit better with music services, as it can play Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and Sirius XM, as well as audio books from Audible. An iPad can, of course, play music from any one of those, as well as from services such as Apple Music, Google Play Music, YouTube Music, and many others. But hands-free mode only works with Apple Music (via Siri), so it’s easier to control the Echo Show with your voice. And again, the Show’s built-in speakers give it a strong advantage over the iPad when it comes to listening to music in a bustling kitchen.

For recipes, the Echo Show currently supports AllRecipes, which you can use to call up recipes entirely with your voice. You can hear instructions on how to make a recipe, watch a video of it, or search for other options within AllRecipes. The iPad has many more recipe apps available to it, including the option to just open Safari and look up recipes on the internet. It also has a larger screen, which may be easier to see at a distance.

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

But when it comes to looking up recipes, the Echo Show’s hands-free controls really shine here. While the iPad has many more recipes at its disposal, all of them require you to use your fingers to open an app, search for the recipe, and then navigate it while cooking. That’s not easy to do if your arms are elbow deep in a turkey or your hands are covered with sticky dough. The Echo Show can be controlled entirely by voice, so you can just ask it for a recipe and then have it read back to you. You can use Siri to perform basic unit conversions and add items to a shared Reminders list for a shopping list, but that’s about it. The Echo Show’s eight far field microphones are also much better at picking up a voice from across the room than the iPad, which anyone that has tried to use “Hey Siri” in vain can attest to.

Hands-free control is the Echo Show’s killer feature

If you’re looking for a computer to live in your kitchen and you’re debating between using an iPad or the new Echo Show, it really comes down to what you plan to use it the most for. Are you going to want to use it for watching video from any service you can think of? Do you have a huge library of favorite recipes in Epicurious or Paprika that you hope to access? The iPad might be a better choice for you, at until the Echo Show gains support for more services.

But if you want a device that can easily set timers, perform unit conversions, play music, and pull up the occasional recipe or two, all while never needing to be touched with your hands, the Echo Show might be the better pick. Just don’t expect it to ever leave the kitchen, as it’s not a tablet and not designed to be ultra portable.