Amazon Echo Show 5 2nd Gen Review: A compact but simple smart display
Quick verdict: If Alexa is your smart home companion of choice, the Echo Show 5 2nd Gen delivers a simple visual and voice experience – and that's all.
- Compact size
- Range of colour choices
- Physical privacy shutter
- Works well with most smart home devices
- Lacks YouTube app
- No more 3.5mm audio jack
- Small display isn't great for video calls
- Obstinately wants US speech
- Amazon Sidewalk is more creepy than useful
- No huge reason to upgrade from the 1st gen model
As the name suggests, the Amazon Echo Show 5 2nd Gen is an upgraded model of Amazon's original smaller, highly affordable smart display. Amazon has only tweaked around the edges with the 2nd gen model of the Echo Show 5, so if you've already got one there's not much of a reason to upgrade.
However, if Amazon's Alexa assistant is your smart home control assistant of choice, it's a nicely affordable – if rather basic – way to get started with smart home automation.
- Small, low resolution display
- Range of colour choices
- Where did the audio jack go?
The Amazon Echo Show 5 2nd Gen doesn't radically depart from the design of the original Amazon Echo Show 5. Like that original smaller smart display, it features a 5.5 inch display with a resolution of just 960x480 pixels. What that means, in essence, is that it's not a particularly high resolution display, although its smaller size does hide that fact slightly when you're using it for video watching.
It is available in 3 different colour finishes, which you mostly won't see from the front. The colour choice relates to the mesh wrap at the back, available in either Charcoal (Black), Deep Sea Blue (Blue) or Glacier White (White), which adds a colour to the mix relative to the first generation model.
Despite being a small smart display, the Amazon Echo Show 5 2nd Gen impresses in terms of the quantity of physical controls on the device. You get standard physical volume buttons, plus a specific mute button for the microphone, which also kicks in a permanent red line at the base of the display to let you know that Alexa isn't listening. It also has a dedicated physical camera shutter switch that makes it very obvious that the onboard 2MP camera is either enabled or disabled as suits your needs.
One of the more disappointing aspects of the Amazon Echo Show 5 2nd Gen is that it lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack for private audio listening. It's disappointing because the original Echo Show 5 had a headphone jack, but presumably to save money, Amazon's dropped it for the newer model.
- Easy to set up
- Amazon Sidewalk is more creepy than useful
- Controls aren't intuitive
- Improved camera
Setting up the Amazon Echo Show 5 is a relatively simple affair that guides you through getting it onto your local Wi-Fi, signing in with your Amazon account and applying any updates that may be needed along the way.
Amazon's new feature that you'll have to contend with during set-up – so far only rolled out in the US – is what it calls "Amazon Sidewalk".
Amazon Sidewalk is essentially a neighbourhood wireless mesh of devices that share out a portion of your broadband connection to every other Alexa-equipped device it can find. The consumer benefit idea is that if one of your devices has flaky Wi-Fi connections due to range, it could instead glom onto your neighbour's connection for more robust performance. You're not sharing access to your Wi-Fi devices, but it does raise some pretty serious questions about both security and the data that Amazon is tracking this way. You can – and I'm going to argue that you should – switch it off on set-up.
Like every other Echo, the Amazon Echo Show 5 2nd Gen relies on Amazon's own Alexa voice assistant for most of your interactions, supplemented with on-device touch controls. Here, there's a bit of a challenge, simply because the Amazon Echo Show 5 2nd Gen's smaller display means that controls are on the smaller side, and not always all that intuitive. It's also not helped by the fact that response can be a little slow for the onscreen controls, even on a relatively quick broadband connection.
The benefit of opting for a smart display over a smart speaker lies in the way that you can interact with a visual element, and here the Amazon Echo Show 5 2nd Gen offers an interesting array of choices, especially in comparison to the similar smart displays available with the Google Assistant onboard.
On the plus side, Amazon's ownership of Ring means that you can use the Amazon Echo Show 5 2nd Gen as a full display for any Ring doorbells or cameras you have once you pair both services. Amazon Prime Video is naturally supported and works reasonably well, although watching a full movie on a small 5.5 inch display from any distance isn't a terribly compelling prospect.
However, where Alexa doesn't quite match up to Google Assistant remains consistent, and not at all surprising. You can ask Alexa simple questions and it will present both audio and limited visual information, but it's not quite as rich an experience as you'd get from Google. You also don't get integration of Google services, and even YouTube access is limited to a browser-based access model, which makes going full-screen more fiddly than it should be.
The largest upgrade from the original Echo Show 5 is a bump in onboard camera quality. The original model had a mediocre 1MP front-facing camera, and Amazon's doubled up for the Amazon Echo Show 5 2nd Gen with a 2MP model. It's not stunning in quality, and if video calls or home monitoring are important for you, you'll get much better results out of the 13MP camera on the $199 Echo Show 8 2nd Gen model instead.
The Amazon Echo Show 5 2nd Gen can be expanded by adding "Skills" to it, and there's quite a wide range of these from simple games to smart device control for a wide array of IoT brands. Here, Amazon's dominance in the US helps in terms of supported brands, although actual set-up is better managed through the Alexa smartphone app than on the Amazon Echo Show 5 2nd Gen.
On the audio side, the Amazon Echo Show 5 2nd Gen's 1.7" speaker can get quite loud, but at the top end there's some very noticeable distortion. Amazon's own Amazon Music service is supported, but it'll rather annoyingly pester you to subscribe to the full-fat Amazon Music Unlimited service when you ask it to play music. Amazon Prime subscribers already get a version of Amazon Music, but it's a cut-down service here in Australia. This isn't the case in the US and it's annoying to have the distinction hit you in the wallet every time you want to listen to a new artist.
Should you buy the Amazon Echo Show 5 2nd Gen?
- Buy it if you want an Alexa-powered affordable smart display.
- Don't buy it if you've got the prior generation Echo Show 5.
Buying into any smart assistant powered device, whether it's a smart speaker or a smart display, is pretty much like picking a sports team. You make your choice and it's smartest to stick to one course. As such, the Amazon Echo Show 5 2nd Gen makes the most sense if you're already in the Echo/Alexa camp, or if you're looking for a low-cost way to start with a smart display in your home.
However, the competition here is pretty fierce. The Google Nest Hub 2nd Gen is a little pricier, but not by much, and it's a more capable smart display overall than the Amazon Echo Show 5 2nd Gen.
Pricing and availability
Images: Alex Kidman
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