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Amazon Echo Show 5 review: Not just a smart alarm clock

Amazon Echo Show 5 review
Amazon Echo Show 5 review: Not just a smart alarm clock
MSRP $90.00
“Amazon’s Echo Show 5 is so much more than a smart alarm clock.”
  • Compact size fits anywhere
  • Attractive design
  • Versatile features
  • Enhanced privacy controls
  • Entry-level price
  • Sluggish smart home touchscreen control
  • Alexa calling isn’t easy enough yet
  • No Google Photos or YouTube

Despite its name, the Amazon Echo Show 5 ($50) is the third generation of Alexa-enabled devices to pack a screen. Designed for desktops, bedside night stands, kitchens, side tables, and shelves, it’s the most compact Echo Show yet, with a 5.5-inch screen, integrated HD camera, and a number of feature enhancements. If you need something larger, there’s always the Amazon Echo Show 8 and Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen) for consideration, but there’s also its true successor in the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2021), which is most notable for its new camera and features.

We won’t blame you if your head is spinning, especially given how Amazon rapidly developed its smart displays. Amazon, Google, and partners are all experimenting with designs, features, and price points to find the sweet spot that will drive users to scatter these devices around the home. That begs the question of whether the Echo Show 5 has a place within the pack.

Google’s Nest Hub ($90) and Lenovo Smart Display 7 ($100) are two of its closest rivals, offering similar features in compact sizes. In contrast, Amazon has developed the Echo Show 5 to be a true entry-level device. Priced well below $100, the retail giant is repeating a strategy previously tested with the audio-only Echo Dot, but this is obviously a more capable device.

You may not buy three or five at a time as stocking stuffers, like you did with Echo Dot, but the Echo Show is cheap enough to treat yourself and pick up a second as a valued gift. It could be your next bedside companion too, especially once you uncover some of the neat things Alexa powered smart displays could do.

A smart display you’ll be happy to put on display

It’s taken Amazon a few attempts to craft the Echo Show into a form factor that few would call ugly, but this new model nails it. Available in a choice of charcoal or sandstone, the slab-like designs of previous generations have been replaced by dinky dimensions, gentler curves, and flowing lines. It doesn’t quite boast the flair of Nest Hub, but swept corners, an angled, material-wrapped rear, and a grippy, rubberized base makes Echo Show 5 both pretty and practical.

While all Echo Show devices have included a privacy button to disable the integrated camera and microphone array, the Echo Show 5 goes a step further with a chunky camera shutter that slides across the lens. For a device that will be installed in potentially millions of bedrooms around the globe, it’s an obvious and very noticeable attempt to alleviate user privacy concerns. Slide the shutter to reveal a bright orange tab, while the lens aperture switches from black to white, and a notification pops on screen. You’ll always know when privacy protection is enabled.

Better still, the shutter ensures you can keep talking to Alexa, or family and friends during drop-ins, Skype and Alexa video calls with the camera obscured. It’s a simple addition to Echo Show’s privacy features, but it’s welcome.

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If you’ve been used to a larger 7- or 10-inch smart display, the Echo Show’s 5.5-inches initially feels like quite a step down. Fortunately, the display is crisp and colorful, boasting a 960 x 480 resolution that’s more than sufficient for photos, videos, and the Alexa user interface. Menus are well laid-out and easy to read while across the room, and information like the time, date, and weather is clear at a glance.

We still prefer a larger display for the kitchen, though. Google Nest Hub’s recipes and YouTube videos look fantastic on a higher-resolution 7-inch screen, while photos really come to life in family spaces. But on the bedside cabinet, Echo Show 5’s compact dimensions are ideal.

Alexa at its best

It’s no secret that a smart assistant with a screen is an altogether more engaging and useful smart assistant. That’s certainly the case with the Echo Show 5, which proves itself to be a surprisingly versatile device, with alarms, reminders, entertainment, smart home routines, and more. If you’ve been mulling over the similar-looking Lenovo Smart Clock, then pause. Echo Show 5 does a whole lot more.

While you’ll mostly instruct Alexa by voice, you can swipe left on the screen to access a feature panel for easy on-screen feature navigation. We found the touchscreen display to be highly responsive, but some features, such as smart home control, took a couple of seconds to pop up after selection — longer than desired.

Amazon Echo Show 5 placed on top off wooden table.
Terry Walsh/Digital Trends

We love the ability to customize the home screen with alternative backgrounds, photos, and a selection of rotating information. It’s a big step up from the limited customization features on the Lenovo Smart Clock and helps to make life with the Echo Show 5 feel more personal.

An ambient sunrise feature can gently brighten the display 15 minutes before your wake-up alarm is triggered. It works well to gently prepare you for the inevitable wake-up call. Sure, you can groggily tell Alexa to stop the alarm, but you can also give the top of the display a thump (we tried tapping) to set a snooze timer. Spend a little time configuring Alexa Routines, and you can start your day brighter with your favorite music, lighting scenes, set the thermostat, catch up on the latest news and get the low-down on your schedule for the day.

Varied music and video selection but still no YouTube

This Echo’s speaker is an engaging bedroom companion for music and radio, with plenty of low-end, and Alexa’s verbal responses to your commands can be heard clearly across the room. Given Amazon’s continued spats with Google, you won’t find dedicated YouTube or Google Photos apps on board — and let’s be clear, both are missed — but with support for Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Prime Video, and more, you have alternatives. It wouldn’t be our first choice for watching an episode of Jack Ryan, but if you don’t have a bedroom TV, it’s a reasonable option.

It’s Amazon’s friendliest and most versatile smart display yet.

Any Amazon Echo device can control your smart home with voice commands, but life is so much easier with a screen. When voice commands don’t work, or you can’t remember a device’s exact name to control it, you have a fancy touchscreen controller on hand as a backup. While it takes a few nervy seconds to pop up, you can access and control all of the lights, thermostats, cameras, and other smart home devices that Alexa knows. Depending on the device, available features may be limited – we could only switch the color of our Philips Hue lights using voice commands, for example, but touchscreen controls are definitely a useful backup.

On the flip side, smart home security systems like the Ring Video Doorbell 2 offer enhanced features for the Echo Show. When a visitor calls, you can see and communicate with them through the smart display — no longer is there a need to rush to the door half-dressed to greet the UPS guy.

Alexa and Skype calling, messaging and more

The Echo Show 5 offers a full array of Alexa voice, video calling, and messaging features alongside Skype. Whether you choose to go full video or just voice, the ability to communicate without pulling out your phone is liberating. With an exotic assortment of Alexa-enabled devices popping up like smoke alarms and smart thermostats, you can now yell at the kids from any room without the excuse of not being heard.

Amazon Echo Show 5 displaying useful information.
Terry Walsh/Digital Trends

While we found conversations to work well using the integrated speaker, twin-mic array, and 1-megapixel camera, finding the right contact using voice can be a challenge, particularly when using Skype. It’s still early days for Alexa calling and while we think it’s a breakthrough feature, Amazon has more work to do on making external calls effortless.

Warranty information

As with all Amazon Echo devices, this new model is protected by a one-year warranty.

Try these new features

Alexa keeps getting smarter, thanks to frequent updates that expand her toolkit. While there are some fundamental features you should definitely know about, there are new tricks that become available each month.

Wellness Tips

Working from home has its challenges, especially when it relates to health and wellness. Alexa can help by providing some useful wellness tips. To hear them, just say, “Alexa, what is my wellness tip of the day?”

Group conversation for all of your devices

Grabbing someone’s attention in another room can be challenging, especially if you have kids who routinely crank the music in their rooms. You can now conduct group conversations using Alexa’s Drop In feature, where you’ll be able to connect to other Echo devices. Essentially, it’s very similar to an intercom system.

Get your reminders on all devices

You can always stay up-to-date with your reminders thanks to a new feature that will play them across all of your Alexa devices. In order to enable this, you need to select the Announce on all devices under Settings > Reminders within the Alexa app.

Daily Music Pick

Tired of the same playlist or carousel of songs playing on your Alexa device? Then check out the daily music pick feature that will provide daily music recommendations from Amazon Music. All you need to say is “Alexa, play the Daily Music Pick” and a new artist will automatically choose a song, album, or playlist.

Our Take

Echo Show 5 is the perfect desktop companion for Alexa fans, especially when you consider its current $50 cost (originally $90). We love its cute, compact form, which is a big step forward from previous generations. Our initial concerns about the reduced screen size quickly dissipated in use. It’s the ideal size for a bedside cabinet or at your desk.

Importantly, it’s so more than a “smart alarm clock.” While alarms, reminders, timers, and basic information like weather and news reports may be the most popular uses, the Echo Show 5 is a capable home companion, with decent entertainment chops, enhanced smart home features, and hands-free communications.

Aside from the dinky form factor, thoughtful improvements like new privacy features, customization options, and Sunrise settings make the Echo Show 5 Amazon’s friendliest and most versatile smart display yet.

Is there a better alternative?

Google fans concerned about the lack of YouTube and Google Photos may prefer to opt for the pricier Lenovo Smart Display 7 ($80) or Google Nest Hub ($90), while Alexa users seeking a larger screen can still purchase the Echo Show 8 ($105) or third-generation Echo Show 10 ($250). However, for desktop or bedside locations, the Echo Show 5 offers fantastic value.

How long will it last?

We’ve found Echo devices to be robust and well-supported with feature updates. Of course, Amazon’s been playing the customer support game for many years and they do it better than most. No concerns here.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Amazon Echo Show 5 is an easy pick-up for Alexa fans and a great entry-level device for those considering their first smart display.

Editors' Recommendations

Terry Walsh
Terry Walsh is a British-born technology writer living in Canada, whose first computer was a cherished 48k ZX Spectrum…
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