Amazon’s Echo smart displays are great for showing off family photos, streaming videos, flipping through recipes and scanning weather forecasts, but I don’t love them for smart home control. Yes, you can ask Alexa to turn on the lights or adjust the temperature, but drilling down on your various devices on the actual display requires too many taps and swipes.
That’s why I’m intrigued by the latest buzz from the Amazon grapevine: a slimmed-down, Alexa-enabled screen that would be mounted on a wall and function more like a control panel than an all-purpose smart display.
The rumored panel, which could come in 10- or 13-inch sizes, would be “far slimmer” than current Echo Show displays (such as the Echo Show 5 pictured above), and it would let users see their agendas, take charge of smart devices, and play music and videos, according to Gruman.
Doesn’t sound too different from Amazon’s current Echo Show devices, right? Well, here’s the key difference: Gruman reports that the rumored panel (which might cost somewhere in the $200-250 range) would act as a “digital command center” that competes with devices such as Control4’s professionally installed control panels.
Ideally, the unconfirmed Echo display would give you more of a birds-eye view of your smart devices, letting you see which lights are on, which doors are locked, and what temperature your thermostats are set at, all at a glance. Instead of having to navigate your way to a particular light group—a sluggish, tedious process on my Echo Show 5—the wall-mounted Echo could let you control a given device with just a tap or two.
The idea of a wall-mounted Echo that’s focused on smart home control is an enticing prospect; less enticing, however, is the prospect of threading a power cable inside the wall.
In any event, Amazon isn’t saying a peep about a new Echo command center, and Gurman notes that plans for the rumored display “could change or be scrapped altogether.”
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.