Amazon Echo Show 5 review: The most appealing Echo Show so far

Posted: 16 October 2019 1:40 pm
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Close up of Amazon Echo Show 5 smart speaker in a kitchen

The most functional Amazon smart display yet, the Echo Show 5 is also the cheapest.

Quick verdict:

The Amazon Echo Show 5 is smaller than its predecessors but packs all the same punches with a touchscreen, built-in Amazon Alexa and smart home controls. While the smaller size sacrifices some speaker quality and display space, the added camera blocker and lower price makes the Echo Show 5 the most appealing Echo Show model yet.

Price: $129

Where to buy it: Amazon

The good

  • One of the cheapest smart speakers with a touchscreen display
  • Physical camera shutter for more security
  • Decent sound quality
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Smart home features
  • Customisable alarm functions including sunrise alarm

The bad

  • Small, low-resolution screen isn't great for long-form video content
  • Navigation isn't intuitive
  • No YouTube app
  • Limited video functions
  • No support for Google services
  • Sunrise alarm only works during specific hours

The Amazon Echo Show 5 smart clock arrived earlier this year as a smaller version of the Echo Show and Echo Show 7. While a new version, the Echo Show 8, has already been announced, the Show 5 is still a worthy contender for consumers who want an affordable Alexa-integrated speaker.

Many of the most appealing features of the Show 5, such as the added camera shutter, alarm functions, video call capability will likely be matched or exceeded in the new Show 8. However, the main selling point of the Show 5 over the new Show 8 is the price. At $129 it's one of the cheapest smart displays available in Australia.

Design

  • Smaller than previous versions of the Echo Show
  • One of the cheapest smart speakers with a touchscreen display
  • Physical camera shutter
  • Low resolution
  • Screen too small for long-form video content
  • Sunrise alarm is limited
  • Available in white and black

The Amazon Echo Show 5 is a smaller version of its predecessor, the 10-inch Echo Show. The name doesn't come from being the fifth version of the Echo Show (it's only the third version), but because the screen is 5.5 inches. It's the smallest Echo Show yet as previous versions had 7-inch and 10-inch displays.

The display screen has 960 x 480 resolution, which is worse than most smartphones. With the 5.5" screen you won't be able to see much more on the display than you would on your phone. Overall, the display size works for basic functions, but it's too small for actually watching movies, TV shows or anything other than quick news clips or music videos.

The display brightness adjusts automatically based on the light in the room and time of day. The screen automatically dims at night, but I still had to ask Alexa to turn off the display before bed as it was too bright to sleep comfortably.

Close up of Amazon Echo Show 5 smart speaker in a bedroom

There is a sunrise feature that makes the display slowly brighten before the alarm goes off to slowly wake you up and mimic the sunrise. However, it only works between 4 am and 9 am so if you want to sleep in and be woken by the sunrise, you'll have to find another option.

The touchscreen is the mean feature separating the Show 5 from the Amazon Echo. With the touchscreen, you can browse the Internet, albeit awkwardly, flick through photos, watch videos or change the clock face. You can also customise the alarm sounds.

Close up of the back of a white Amazon Echo Show 5 smart speaker

In addition to the front display, the Show 5 has a rounded back wrapped in a fabric casing. Overall, it takes up about the same amount of space as a traditional alarm clock.

It comes with a power cable that needs to be connected to the battery port at the back at all times. If you move your Show 5 from room to room, you'll have to give it a minute or two to start up. It also has a Micro USB port at the back so you can charge a phone if you have a Micro USB to Micro USB cable, or a Micro USB to Lightning cable. There's also a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The top of the Show 5 has plus and minus volume buttons, a button that mutes the microphone and a physical camera shutter, which is one of the biggest add-ons from previous Echo Show devices.

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Performance

  • Navigation not intuitive
  • Decent sound quality
  • Limited video functions
  • No YouTube app
  • Integrated music streaming with Amazon Music and Spotify
  • Smart home features
  • Customisable alarm functions

The Show 5 works similarly to other Alexa-enabled devices. You can use simple commands to ask Alexa for the weather, play music through a connected service such as Amazon Music or Spotify or look up a recipe. However, anything outside Alexa's integrated skills is tricky to access and limited.

The interface on the Show 5 isn't intuitive and there's no physical home button. Instead, you can pull a menu down from the top side of the screen to find a shortcut back to the main screen. While Alexa can help you do quite a bit, she can't navigate menus so you have to do it using the touchscreen.

Close up of a black Amazon Echo Show 5 smart speaker

Some features can only be activated by voice, while other features are only accessible through the hands-on menu. There's limited integration between the two types of navigation. However, there is a quick access panel for essentials like setting alarms, playing music and controlling smart home items.

While using one of the skills, you can't search for something else without first closing the skill, which makes switching between uses a cumbersome process. For example, if you're looking at a recipe and want to search for a new one, you'll have to close the recipe you're using and then open the skill again.

Arguably the primary feature of the Echo Show 5 is the clock. You can set customisable clock faces using on-screen navigation and set a one-off or recurring alarm with a simple voice command. The alarm can be snoozed by asking Alexa or hitting the top of the clock like a traditional alarm clock. As I mentioned, there's also a limited sunrise alarm option.

You can also set reminders and timers with voice commands, which is particularly useful while cooking.

One feature that works well is called "routines" and allows you to connect with other smart home devices and control them from your Show 5. It's particularly useful for multi-room set-ups and comes with unique options for specific devices, like the Ring Door View Cam.

Close up of the back of a black Amazon Echo Show 5 smart speaker

However, the connection with other smart home devices isn't always seamless and I needed to reconnect the same devices through the Alexa app several times. This meant I ended up needing to use my phone in combination with the Show 5 regularly, which pretty much defeated the purpose of having a hands-off smart speaker.

Unfortunately, the Show 5 doesn't have an integrated YouTube app, so you can only access videos by browsing the Internet through Amazon Silk or Mozilla Firefox, which isn't exactly seamless. Alexa has a limited ability to search through websites such as YouTube, so you'll need to use the touchscreen keyboard, which again defeats the purpose of having a hands-off smart display. You might as well watch the videos on your phone, it will be easier to search for them and the resolution will likely be better.

The Echo 5 can also display photo slideshows, but only using photos uploaded to the Alexa app or Facebook.

Video

The Echo Show 5 has a 1-megapixel built-in camera, designed for making direct video calls to other Echo devices.

The biggest change to the camera from the previous Echo Show devices is the physical camera shutter. It's a significant addition, especially if you want to use the Show 5 in your bedroom.

Close up of a white Amazon Echo Show 5 smart speaker

When you close or open the shutter, an alert on the screen tells you the shutter status just in case you didn't know which way was open or closed. You can't use voice commands to close the shutter so you'll have to remember to manually activate the shutter after each use.

Like previous Echo devices, the Show 5 includes the optional "Drop In" feature. Drop In allows your close friends or family to video call you without you having to press accept to answer the call. As soon as they call you, as long as Drop In is enabled for both your device and their device, your camera will activate after five seconds.

Closing the camera shutter isn't enough to disable Drop In calls, as the calls will still come through with only audio enabled. To disable the feature entirely, you'll have to adjust your settings in the Alexa app.

Sound

The reduction in size from previous versions of the Echo Show means the Show 5 has a smaller 1.65 x 4W speaker. It's still loud enough for a bedroom or home office speaker. I used it a bit in the kitchen and it was loud and clear enough to hear over the sound of cooking.

It's not designed to be your primary living room speaker, but it's loud enough for what it's meant to do. If you want more volume, you can add an additional speaker using the 3.5mm audio jack at the back.

The Show 5 also has two microphones instead of the four, but it seems to pick up voice commands just as well as its larger predecessors.

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Verdict

  • Affordable
  • Functional alarms and reminders
  • Camera shutter makes previous models unappealing
  • Limited apps
  • Display screen isn't usable for watching TV shows or movies

If you're looking for an Alexa integrated smart display, the Echo Show 5 is hard to beat. At $129, it's one of the cheapest smart speakers with a touchscreen display currently available on the market.

The Show 5 is close to ideal as a smart clock, but if you want to venture into other uses like watching videos, you'd be better off using your smartphone or tablet. If you'd prefer a larger screen, the 10-inch Amazon Echo Show might be more appealing, but keep in mind this older version has a higher price tag and doesn't have a physical camera shutter.

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Specifications

Product name
Amazon Echo Show 5
Assistant
Amazon Alexa
Wi-Fi connectivity
802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Size
148mm x 86mm x 73mm (5.8" x 3.4" x 2.9")
Weight
410 grams
Display
5.5" touchscreen
Camera
1MP camera with built-in shutter
Speaker information
Full range 1.65" built-in speaker
Bluetooth
Yes
Price
$129
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Images: Amazon

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