Amazon’s dock makes the Fire tablet a better Echo Show

The Show Mode Charging Dock for Amazon’s Fire HD 10 and Fire HD 8 tablets is one of those obvious products, something so expected to already be a thing that you’re surprised it didn’t already exist until this month. The $39.99 (HD 8) or $54.99 (HD 10) dock allows you to prop your tablet up and charge its battery at the same time. It also works with the new Show Mode software feature and the existing Alexa voice controls on the Fire tablets to replicate the functionality of Amazon’s Echo Show device.

I’ve been using the Show Mode Charging Dock with a Fire HD 10 in my kitchen for the past week, and I have found it to be a suitable replacement for the Echo Show. It has a larger screen, does all of the same things in terms of functions as the Show, and it has all of the functionality of a Fire HD 10 tablet when it’s not docked. On top of that, at $189.99, the Dock and Fire HD 10 combination costs less than the Echo Show (at least when Amazon is charging the full $229.99 price for the Show), making it an easy option if you’ve been considering the Show.

Using the Dock is as simple as putting the Fire tablet in the included case, plugging the dock into the wall, and then dropping the tablet into place. As soon as the tablet recognizes it’s in the dock, it begins charging and launches the Show Mode home screen, which looks just like the home screen on the Echo Show. There are magnets in the case and the dock that help align the tablet with the charging pins, and you can freely adjust the angle of the dock for better viewing angles.

From there, you can interact with the tablet just as you would with an Echo Show, primarily using your voice with the occasional swipe or touch on the screen. You can ask Alexa to pull up your shopping list, a recipe, play a movie from Prime Video, place a video call to other Alexa devices, and anything else that Alexa can do on other Echo devices. The Fire tablet is just as good at picking up my voice commands from across the room as the Echo Show, and its larger screen means it’s easier to see the results displayed on it.

Once you lift the tablet out of the dock, it reverts back to its standard Fire OS home screen, complete with app icons, books, videos, and other content front and center. I was impressed with how seamlessly it switches between the two modes and doesn’t compromise either one in favor of the other.

The one downside to this setup compared to the Echo Show is audio quality. The tablet’s speakers are far inferior to the loud, powerful speakers built into the Echo Show. You can remedy this by pairing the tablet to a separate Bluetooth speaker, but that introduces more cost and complexity than it’s probably worth. If you are intending to get a Show because you want to listen to music with it, the tablet and dock is not a good alternative. For hearing Alexa’s voice responses, it’s fine.

The Show Mode Dock also requires that you use the included case, which means you can’t use a more rugged option at the same time. The case is a basic snap-on plastic affair with a little connector for the Micro USB charging port, and it won’t protect the tablet much if you are rough with it. But the Fire tablets are already pretty hardy without cases, thanks to their thick plastic shells. And since most people don’t ever take tablets out of their homes anyway, this won’t be a deal-breaker for most people.

Using a dock like this with a tablet has a number of advantages beyond the Show Mode. It lets you easily charge the tablet and keep it in an accessible place in your home, so it doesn’t end up in a drawer or with a dead battery because you forgot to plug it in. That makes it more convenient to use when you want to quickly look something up, watch a video, or read a book on a larger screen than your phone.

The Show Mode Charging Dock may be an obvious product, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a smart, well-executed accessory that lets you get more use and value out of the Fire tablet you already own.

Photography by Dan Seifert / The Verge

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