A minor upgrade to Amazon’s compact smart screen, the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) is a great way to bring Alexa to your bedside table.
Alexa-centric homes are spoiled for choice when choosing the perfect smart speaker or screen for every nook and cranny of the house. For many people, the $119 Echo Show 5 (2nd gen)’s vivid 5.5-inch screen would be the perfect addition to their bedside table, kitchen bench or home office desk.
If your budget will stretch, the $199 Echo Show 8 (2nd gen)’s extra screen real estate would probably be appreciated in the kitchen. The bedside is perhaps the perfect spot for the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen). That said, the one key improvement over the 1st Gen model is a feature that you probably don’t want in the bedroom if you’re concerned about privacy.
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With the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen), very little has changed compared to its predecessor. Some would argue that this isn’t a bad thing. It’s hard to improve on such a great design – debate about the merits of Alexa versus Google Assistant aside (I’m on Team Google).
The Echo Show 5’s flexible alarm clock can wake you with traditional alarm sounds, with the option for the screen to slowly grow brighter like the rising sun. Alternatively, you can opt to wake to streaming music, internet radio, news bulletins, a summary of your day or your own custom morning routine. You can even belt the screen on the top with your hand to snooze the alarm and buy yourself a little longer in bed.
During the day, the screen can show the latest news and weather reports. By default, it inundates you with inane celebrity news items, but this is easily adjusted. It can also scroll through your photo library if you import photos into Amazon Photos, pulling you further into the Amazon ecosystem.
As with all Echo devices, the Show 5 puts Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant at your beck and call. She can answer your queries, play video, check your calendar, control smart home gear and call your friends.
The latter brings us to the biggest difference between the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) and Google’s closest equivalent in the Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen). Not only does the Echo Show 5 feature a front camera, but with the new 2nd Gen model, you can view a live feed from afar.
Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) Specs
5.5-inch 960×480 pixel touchscreen
147.72 mm W × 85.95 mm H × 72.91 mm D
1 × 1.7-inch
802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5 GHz)
Charcoal, Glacier White and Deep Sea Blue
Amazon has done away with the 3.5 mm audio output on the back, which allowed you to connect the smart screen to an external speaker. It’s a feature that helps Amazon speakers stand out from their Google rivals but, realistically, it probably won’t be missed. It’s still possible to connect an external speaker via Bluetooth.
Also, keep in mind that the micro-USB port on the rear of the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) is a “service port” and isn’t for charging devices. It’s a shame Amazon couldn’t include a full-sized USB port for charging your smartphone without the need to tie up another bedside power point.
Across the top of the unit, you’ll find the standard three buttons: volume up and down, along with microphone mute, which also disables the camera. When mute is engaged, an orange line appears across the bottom of the display.
Alternatively, you can slide across the physical lens cover to disable the camera but not the microphone, so you can still talk to Alexa.
With the 2nd Gen model, the front camera quality steps up from 1 to 2 megapixels. This makes a big difference to the picture quality for the person on the other end of a video call. Apart from this, the 2nd Gen model doesn’t upgrade the processor, screen or speaker, although they’re all still adequate for the job at hand.
The little speaker delivers a decent punch for its size when it comes to sound quality, but – like many other Echo devices – it’s bass-heavy. This impacts the audio quality and makes Alexa sound a little overblown and muffled. It’s fine for a clock radio but won’t cut it for rocking a larger space.
With the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) you’ve got access to Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, TuneIn and iHeartRadio. Along with subscription music, these also let you tap into podcasts, internet radio and live radio simulcasts.
The screen is crisp and vivid, with excellent horizontal and vertical viewing angles regarding picture quality. You can watch Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and some catch-up services but not YouTube (unless you launch the Silk or Firefox browser). There’s also no Chromecast equivalent for streaming video from other devices.
Not that you’d spend much time watching movies and TV shows on a tiny 5.5-inch 960×480 pixel display. You’re more likely to use it for watching news bulletins and perhaps recipe walk-throughs in the kitchen.
Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) communications
Of course, the other use for that screen is making video calls, either around your home or to family and friends further afield.
You can use Amazon’s smart ecosystem as an intercom, making household announcements such as letting everyone know that dinner is ready. You can also make audio and video calls to other Amazon Echo devices and the Alexa smartphone app – either within the house or beyond.
While the upgrade to a 2-megapixel camera helps with picture quality, it’s not sharp enough to support the auto panning and zoom available on Echo Shows with a sharper front camera. Of course, you also miss out on the Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen)‘s somewhat creepy ability to turn to follow you as you move around the room.
As with the 1st Gen mode, Amazon’s optional “Drop-In” feature can automatically answer incoming video calls from select family and friends. This is handy if your hands are full in the kitchen, but the idea is still unlikely to sit well with many people. This is wisely disabled by default.
With the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) comes the additional option to enable the ability to remotely tap into the camera’s live video feed from afar using the Alexa app. Thankfully, you can’t grant permission from afar. This feature needs to be enabled on the Echo Show 5 itself, requiring entering your Amazon password.
When someone is watching the live feed, “A household member is viewing your camera” appears on the screen alongside a stop button. The person watching you can also hear you and speak to you. There’s the option to add an announcement chime and blur the first few seconds of the video, but these really should be enabled by default.
Thankfully, closing the camera slider disables the camera and thus the remote video features. There’s also a “Do Not Disturb” mode. The idea of someone tapping into your camera from afar is likely to be of particular concern if the Echo Show 5 lives on your bedside table.
Remote video access makes more sense if you want to use your Echo Show devices as a basic home security camera network. You can also create Alexa routines triggered when someone enters the room, or it has been vacant for a set amount of time, but these aren’t yet available in Australia.
If Alexa rules your home then the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) has a lot to offer. Especially when the $119 price tag is $10 cheaper than the 1st Gen’s initial price. That said, you’ll find the 1st Gen for less than $100 at the moment, which might be a great deal if you don’t care too much about the front camera.
If you use the camera for video calls and remote surveillance, then you’ll appreciate the 2nd Gen’s upgrade to the 2-megapixel camera. Thankfully, those Drop-In and remote access video features, which are most likely to impact your privacy, are disabled by default.
Would I buy it?
Yes, assuming I was an Alexa-centric household.
Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen)
Apart from a boost to the camera, the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) is a minimal upgrade which sticks to the tried and true formula for a smart bedside clock radio.