The Amazon Echo Show 5 is a long overdue compromise for diehard Echo users. The original Echo Show is a bit large and not suitable for desks and nightstands. Their smart alarm clock, the Echo Spot, uses a round screen which diminished video capabilities. So a device that finds that sweet spot in the middle is a welcome addition to the ever-growing Echo lineup.
Perhaps the biggest surprise at launch of the Echo Show 5 is its price. At just $90, it is the cheapest video device they sell. But despite being a clear upgrade to the Echo Spot, there are some minor gripes along the way.
Nice Compact Design
As the name implies, the screen is 5.5 inches with a 960 x 480 resolution. That’s around the size of a smartphone but with considerably less pixels. The clock looks great as well as most of the skills, but you do notice the diminished quality when viewing pictures or video. It’s clear this was an area Amazon tried to keep costs down on.
Despite that, Amazon does provide a number of attractive wallpapers for your clock. Adaptive brightness is included so that the screen can adjust to the lighting in the room. A sunrise feature will slowly brighten your display as it gets closer to your alarm.
The back retains some bulkiness that includes an impressive 4W speaker inside. It’s adequate for casual listening and surprisingly has some decent bass. But at high volumes with heavier music (hard rock), it can sound muffled. Still an upgrade over the Echo Dot and better than I expected it to be.
If premium sound is something you require, the Show 5 has both Bluetooth and a 3.5MM audio jack in the back. This allows you to sync or connect to better speakers in the home.
The 1MP camera in front is fine for video calls. There aren’t advanced HRD features, but I thought the picture it produced was adequate. They do offer a photo booth feature for selfies, but I don’t see many people using that over their phones.
Two microphones sit on top ready for your voice commands. Unfortunately, I found them to be less responsive than the ones on my Echo Dot (which has 7 microphones). Not a dealbreaker by any means, but a minor annoyance from time to time.
Love the Privacy Upgrades
With many people using these devices in the sanctity of their bedroom, privacy has become a concern. Amazon has addressed this with some unique design choices.
A mute button which sits next to the volume buttons will not only turn off the speaker, but disconnects power to the microphone and camera as well.
There is a built-in shutter for the camera for the more paranoid types (like myself). This feels like a feature every device should have moving forward. Finally you can feel comfortable using it in the bedroom. No longer do you have to resort to buying a 3rd party accessory or resorting to black tape.
Love the Interface, Hate the Sluggishness
The Echo Show 5 seems to put more emphasis on physical interaction than previous devices. Swiping to the left opens up a control panel that gives access to common functions. Here you can manually play music, toggle smart home controls, and set alarms. A great addition for times when you can’t use your voice (like when people are sleeping).
Unfortunately I found the screen to be sluggish. This is likely due to Amazon downgrading to the MediaTek MT 8163 chip to reduce costs. The larger Echo Show has a better chip and is thus more responsive.
Same Alexa You Are Used To
At the heart of it all, it’s your standard Echo device. You have access to Alexa and all her capabilities. The tens of thousands of skills work well and you can control all your smart home devices with your voice.
Video skills haven’t caught on as much as I hoped when Alexa went video. But I don’t think that’s a huge issue with the Echo Show 5. It doesn’t feel designed to watch the latest season of Bosch. You can still do that, as well as see lyrics from your favorite songs or browse the web on Firefox. But the screen size limits your need for that stuff.
What lacks most is access to Google services. No YouTube for video and perhaps more importantly, no access to Google Photos. While Amazon has pushed their photo service, it’s not on the same level as Google. This makes it harder to use as a digital photo frame like you would your Google Nest Hub.
A common complaint is the influx of “Alexa Tips” (or ads as some people call them) that constantly pop up. You can turn these off, but to do so you have to turn off the rotating slides. That means it’ll just show the clock. While that’s how I use the device, I can see how people would want to rotate through weather, stocks, and more without being bombarded by their tips.
Plenty of Uses for the Echo Show 5
The alarm clock functionality is the most impressive part. Besides the sunrise feature mentioned above, the Echo Show 5 lets you customize your alarm. You can use your voice, celebrity voices, or choose your favorite songs from Amazon Music or Spotify.
My favorite use is connecting it with security cameras in the home. This is a simple process, especially with Ring. When I hear the doorbell in the morning, I can glance over to my Show 5 and see who’s there. Even communicate with them through the microphone. I can see this being a nice baby monitor or way to check on that noise you heard on the patio late at night.
Amazon’s Best Video Echo Device Yet
The Echo Show 5 is essentially a smart alarm clock that feels like a natural upgrade from the Echo Spot. While the cute round design of the Spot was nice, it didn’t make sense when it came to photos or videos. I’d be surprised if we saw another version of the Spot.
Despite some minor gripes, I think this is Amazon’s best video Echo offering when you factor in the low price. It’s better (and cheaper) than the Lenovo Smart Clock. It can hold its own against the Google Nest Hub depending on what features matter to you.
There’s nothing groundbreaking with the Echo Show 5. It it does most everything you want from an Echo device. The small, discreet design provides flexibility. And the added privacy protections provide some peace of mind. A great addition to the home, especially at this price.