​Amazon Echo Show 5 review

Less is more with this discreet device

​Amazon Echo Show 5
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And so the Echo Show shrunk – and the Amazon Echo Show 5 was born, representing yet another way to get Alexa into your home.

The Show 5 is more discreet, but still brings the benefits of giving Alexa a screen, whether it's for asking questions or controlling your smart home devices. New control panels mean that Alexa isn’t just a voice assistant – and perhaps Amazon is accepting it’s not practical to ask everything.

The Echo Show 5 costs just $90, making it cheaper than the Echo Spot – and one of the most affordable smart displays. But is it worth your money? We’ve been living with it to find out.

Echo Show 5: Design and features

Amazon Echo Show 5 review

We have to admit being slightly taken aback by the size of the Echo Show 5, and after living with the full 10-inch Show for so long, its 5-inch sibling seems tiny. The promo pictures don’t do it justice. Smaller than most smartphones, it’s really dinky.

It retains the cubic rear of the full-size Show, helping pack in a bigger 4W speaker, and there’s a 3.5mm jack too. More on that in a bit.

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The standard buttons are on the top – volume up and down and a mute switch, which kills power to the microphone and camera, so Alexa is pretty much shutdown at the source. However, this is now joined by a new camera shutter, which physically covers the lens and kills power to the camera (but allows you to retain use of the microphone).

This is crucial. We’ve been using our Echo Spot as a bedside device (music, alarms, weather, morning routines), but there’s no need for a camera to be present. This enables the Show 5 to be a better companion in those kinds of places.

The screen itself is punchy and bright, and shows off the nice array of wallpapers and clock faces. That screen adapts to the brightness of the room too, meaning it will dim when the lights go out – quite important on a gadget you're likely to put by your bed.

Amazon Echo Show 5 review

The speaker in the back is also a big upgrade on the Echo Spot, and is surprisingly rich and punchy. It’s not going to fill a room (the bigger Show can be felt upstairs) but it’s great for a bedroom or desktop. Beyond the larger Echo Show, the obvious comparison is going to be with the Lenovo Smart Clock, but Amazon has it beat on sound quality here.

There are two microphones on top; however, whether it's this positioning or the quality of the mics themselves, summoning Alexa is a tad less reliable here than other Echos.

The whole thing is powered by a MediaTek MT 8163 chipset which is a downgrade on the bigger Show – and that does come through in the usability. There’s a sluggishness when opening skills and using features such as the new smart home panel.

We should also add that, unlike the larger Echo Show, the smaller Show 5 doesn’t have the Zigbee radio built in, so you can’t use it as a smart home hub.

Echo Show 5: Alexa and usability

Amazon Echo Show 5 review

One of the best new features of the Show 5 lets you swipe in from the right to open a menu with controls for a lot of Alexa's functionality. Here you can open smart home controls, quickly activate lighting groups, view cameras and whatnot. It’s an excellent addition, one that changes the way you interact with Alexa for the better.

And it’s not just smart home. You can access Prime Video, routines, music, alarms and messages – all at your fingertips.

When it's idle, the Echo Show 5 rotates a weather forecast, upcoming events in your calendar and leftfield news headlines, which we've always enjoyed on the bigger Show. They tend to be more light-hearted than the standard dreary news, and that excuses why sometimes they're a little dated.

You can change what appears in this carousel and choose from a handful of different clock faces. The Photo clock face is neat, but you'll need to connect to Facebook or Amazon Photos to source your images. To be honest, it made us long for the much-smarter photo carousel on the Google Nest Hub, which benefits from Google's superior AI.

Amazon Echo Show 5 review

Of course, Alexa still underpins the entire Echo Show 5, and despite the new touchscreen controls, it’s all about voice.

We’re not going to get into Alexa here – read our full guide if you need that information – but we will touch on some of the nuances of using it on a screen device. We’ve long criticised the lack of screen apps and the quality, and slow progress is being made. But having touchscreen controls makes it more relevant – and we can see the Show 5 being used much like a smart home panel from the likes of Control4.

There’s really neat functionality with the Ring Video Doorbell, where you can access the feed and talk to callers direct from the device. And you can also view your smart home cameras too.

Amazon Echo Show 5
Amazon Echo Show 5

But there’s still no YouTube access – despite the rift between Amazon and Google healing slightly in recent months – so asking for videos will mean taking from Vimeo and others. It's also, well, a lot smaller than the Echo Show and even the Google Nest Hub, something we've really noticed in use. While we might lament Amazon's inferior photo software, we're not convinced the Show 5 is a great digital photo frame, owing to its diminutive proportions.

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But as a smart alarm clock, the Show 5 benefits from those dimensions – and really shines. Two members of Team Ambient are using the Show 5 right now, one has it on a nightstand and the other placed a bookshelf, and it feels at home on both. In fact, we can see ourselves having several of these around the house.

However, it does make us wonder why the Echo Spot still exists.

Echo Show 5
The Echo Show 5 could be our favourite Echo speaker to date. Its diminutive size is much nicer to have in your home than the full-size Show, and the new control panels means there are more ways to use Alexa. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all. The speaker is lacking for big rooms, there’s no Zigbee onboard and Alexa can be a little hard of hearing. But it’s a great balance of discreet integration, top control and better privacy that makes it highly recommendable for smart homes.
  • Small and discreet
  • On screen controls
  • Better sound than Echo Spot
  • No Zigbee
  • Too small for entertainment
  • Visual skills still sparse

TAGGED    amazon    speakers

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