Sunday, August 1, 2021
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Echo Show 5 (2021, 2nd gen) Review


The Echo Show 5 has a screen smaller than most current phones which makes it a slightly odd prospect for a smart home display. But it’s really aimed at those who want one on their bedside table (a nightstand, if you prefer) where a large screen isn’t really necessary.

It turns out that a 5.5in display is more than adequate for viewing photos, checking the weather, seeing football scores, and checking out album art. Even lyrics for a bit of karaoke, if you’re that way inclined.

If you fancy using Alexa in the kitchen for following recipes hands-free then you may like the larger  Echo Show 8 better, but the Show 5’s lower price could make it a tempting option.

In fact, it’s a good option anywhere where great sound quality isn’t required, because the Echo Show 5 delivers what is best described as basic audio. Fine for radio, podcasts and – for undemanding users – pop music, but more discerning ears will want better.

What’s new in the Echo Show 5 2nd-gen?

  • Higher-resolution 2Mp camera
  • View camera remotely
  • New Deep Sea Blue colour
  • Climate Pledge Friendly

You might be looking and wondering how this is different from the original Echo Show 5. And it’s a fair question.

There’s only one big difference, and that’s the camera. Instead of a 720p camera, the 2Mp sensor in the new model allows for HD video and that means you look a bit better in video calls.

It isn’t a patch on the quality you get from the new Echo Show 8’s upgraded 13Mp camera and doesn’t have the nifty pan and zoom feature that tracks you and keeps you in the centre of the frame.

Echo Show 5 (2021) 2nd gen review

Also note that there’s no support for Zoom on the Echo Show 5, just regular Alexa calling to other Alexa-enabled devices. Zoom is supported on the larger Echo Show 8 (and 10).

The other big difference is that the new Echo Show 5’s camera’s feed can be viewed remotely, either via the Alexa app or from another Echo Show. This means it works like a security camera of sorts: there’s no motion detection or alerts but you can see the live feed when you want to.

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You can also use the Echo Show 5’s speaker and mics to talk and listen in this mode (just like a video call, really).

The only problem here is the angle, since the camera points upwards and gives you a great view of your ceiling and not a lot of the rest of your room. That’s fine when you’re actively chatting with someone, but much less useful when you want to check what’s happening when you’re not there.

Echo Show 5 (2021) 2nd gen review

Amazon sells an adjustable stand to overcome this problem, which costs £19.99/US$19.99.

The 2021 Echo Show 5 has a couple of other differences. It comes in a new darkish blue colour, which doesn’t extend to the screen bezel – this is black, just like it is on the Charcoal version. Only the white model has a white screen bezel.

Echo Show 5 (2021) 2nd gen review

Finally, it has lost the 3.5mm audio output from the original, which won’t be an issue for many people: it still has Bluetooth which you can use to stream music from a phone or even pair it with a Bluetooth speaker for better (or louder) sound.

Features & Design

Just about everything else is exactly the same as the original Echo Show 5. That means the same 960×480 pixel screen resolution, the same 1.6in speaker which is heard through a grille in the bottom edge, and the same shutter for physically blocking the camera’s view – useful if you do want it to use in a bedroom.

On top are three buttons: mic mute, volume up and volume down. Unlike other Echo speakers, there’s no function button to stop timers or call up Alexa.

Echo Show 5 (2021) 2nd gen review

That’s partly because of the touchscreen. And the Echo Show’s interface is just as easy to use on the 5.5in screen as on the larger models. Swipe down from the top to get shortcuts for brightness settings and the home screen, and swipe left from the right-hand side to see different shortcuts for communication, music, smart home, video, alarms and more.

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Aside from the lack of support for Zoom video calls, everything else you can do on other Echo Show devices you can do here: watch Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube. As ever, YouTube is only available via Amazon’s Silk web browser. Firefox is no more, having been removed from the Echo Show recently.

Echo Show 5 (2021) 2nd gen review

On the small screen it’s tricky to use the desktop version of YouTube, but it’s possible, and you can ask Alexa to make searches for you instead of typing (though the split on-screen keyboard is surprisingly accessible).

Alexa has the same capabilities as any other Echo device, with the bonus of the screen for showing extra information in some of her responses, timers, and in certain Skills – especially games such as Tenable. It can also show the video stream from supported cameras, such as Ring and Nest (including doorbells) and many more.

If there’s a criticism, it’s that it uses the same MediaTek MT 8163 processor that the original model used in 2019. There’s a noticeable delay in responses when you swipe or tap on the screen, and a few seconds’ wait to load Netflix and other services. Animations – even the familiar blue bar for Alexa – can stutter from time to time, too.

Then again, you can’t really expect better: you’re getting a smart display for less than the price of the regular Echo smart speaker that has no screen.

Echo Show 5 (2021) 2nd gen review

Another thing to point out is that the Echo Show 5 doesn’t have a Zigbee hub like its bigger-screened siblings and, without the more powerful Amazon AZ1 processor, won’t support the more natural-sounding Alexa voice and other enhancements which will come to devices such as the fourth-gen Echo speaker.

Price & Availability

You can buy a 2021 Echo Show 5 from Amazon for £74.99/US$84.99.

In the US, you can get a bundle for an extra $10 which includes a Blink Mini indoor security camera, but there’s no similar deal in the UK. Regardless, the Echo Show 5 remains one of the most affordable smart displays.

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At the standard price the new Echo Show 5 is £5/$5 cheaper than the first generation when it launched, but this is now available for less. In the UK, John Lewis and AO.com now sell it for just £52, while in the US you can pick one up for $59.99 from Best Buy.

The other problem, if you’re not already invested in the Amazon Echo ecosystem, is that Google cut the price of the Nest Hub so it costs only £79.99/$89.99. And there are deals where you can get it for £59.99/$69.99. With its 7in screen, full access to YouTube, Google Photos and other Google services, it’s arguably a better proposition than the Echo Show 5 for those that don’t specifically need Alexa.

The newer 2nd gen Nest Hub is £89.99/$99.99, so is less of a threat, but nevertheless, both are good value smart displays.

More alternatives can be found in our roundup of the best smart displays.

Verdict

The 2021 Echo Show 5 is a very minor update to the 2019 first-gen model. If you already own one, you won’t be tempted to upgrade, but it does offer a few extra features for the same price.

However, if you don’t care about being able to see its camera feed remotely or the slightly improved quality, you can find the original model at discounted prices.

Specs

Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd gen): Specs

  • 5.5in, 960 x 480-pixel screen
  • 1.65in speaker
  • 2Mp camera with shutter
  • 148 x 86 x 73 mm
  • 410g
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • MediaTek MT 8163 processor
  • One-year warranty
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