Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) vs. Facebook Portal: Which should you buy?

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen)
Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) (Image credit: Russell Holly / Android Central)

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen)

With its large display and powerful speakers, Amazon's new Echo Show is designed to look nice and do everything, even in noisy rooms. However, it only really works well if you're all-in on the Amazon experience.

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen)

Killer sound

Ridiculously good speakers
The full Alexa experience
Built to be more capable over time
Very few third-party services work well
Camera could be better

Facebook Portal

Facebook has done a great job integrating its own features into the Portal, and offering Amazon's Alexa features to fill in the gaps is a huge plus, but the mix between the two is a little clumsy and the lack of the full Alexa experience is a little disappointing.

Facebook Portal

Video powerhouse

The best video chat experience money can buy
Great Facebook integration
Amazing price
Speakers are just OK
Alexa integration is extremely limited

Facebook isn't the first company that typically comes to mind when you think about virtual assistants, but for a ton of people around the world it is the first name that comes to mind when thinking about chatting online with friends. While video chat has been a part of smart displays from the beginning, connecting that experience to something people actually use has been a challenge. In this respect, Facebook has the upper hand. But there's a lot more to the smart display experience than video chat and pictures, which is something Amazon has had a lot more time to learn.

Displays for days

Amazon is the OG when it comes to smart displays, and while it made some mistakes with the original Echo Show, those flaws were corrected and then some with the second version. On the heels of that second version, Facebook has stepped up with its own display that features plenty of advanced features to help it stand apart. And at the same time, Portal includes Alexa to help make it easy for people who already own Amazon hardware to appreciate this new offering.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Facebook PortalAmazon Echo Show (2nd Gen)
Microphone4-mic array (2 front, 2 rear)4-mic array (front)
Camera12MP fisheye5MP
Speakers2 x 10W (front-firing)2 x 10W (read-firing) + Dolby tuning
Assistant"Hey Portal" and partial AlexaFull Alexa
WiFi802.11a/b/g/n/ac802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Streaming videoFacebook Watch, Food Network, YouTubeAmazon Instant Video, YouTube, Hulu
Streaming musicPandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify, NewsyAmazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Podcasts
ChatFacebook MessengerAlexa Video, Skype

If video chat is what you want to do with your smart display, Facebook Portal is the best there is. You get access to your Facebook Messenger contacts list, which for most people is massive, but the software on the camera is what really sells the experience. Facebook uses a 12MP camera with a fisheye lens to show a massive area with a lot of detail, but then uses software to follow you around as you walk and talk. The microphones make it easy to filter out background noise, and the camera zooms in on your face with ease. There's nothing else on sale today that even comes close, even on much more expensive systems than the competing Echo Show.

What the Echo Show does better than anything else happens with the two big speakers in the back. Amazon has tuned these Alexa speakers beautifully, and as a result, they're as loud as they are clear. Facebook Portal has a pair of 10W speakers facing forward, and yet they are neither as loud nor as clear as the rear-mounted speakers on the Echo Show. Since the Show has its speakers on the back, it's able to take up considerably less space than Facebook Portal while still offering a 10.1-inch display. It all comes down to design decisions, which Amazon corrected from one generation to the next. Facebook has yet to benefit from this experience yet.

For all of the video chat features on Facebook Portal, you use the custom "Hey Portal" command when you don't want to tap the screen. These work well, but the commands only work with a handful of things on the platform. For everything else, you use Alexa just like you would on an Echo Show. Unfortunately, this version of Alexa is nowhere near as complete as what you would get on an Amazon Echo Show. This means you can't access Amazon Instant Video, can't access Skype, and can't access many of the Alexa-exclusive features with a competing Facebook counterpart. What you do get is a browser, which allows you to access sites like YouTube an Instagram since those don't exist as native apps. Why Facebook can't manage an Instagram app for its own devices is kind of a mystery, but the workaround is alright.

Which should you buy? Ultimately, it depends on how you want to use your smart display. If you're a big Facebook Messenger fan and you think you'd enjoy a better way to video chat, Facebook Portal is absolutely right for you. If you're looking for a killer kitchen assistant with a powerful smart home platform attached, Amazon does it best on the Echo Show.

Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter