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Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen, 2021) review: Amazon’s smallest smart screen

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
75
inc VAT

Not much of an upgrade, but the Echo Show 5 is still a good-value smart screen

Pros 
Better camera quality
Small and unobtrusive
Good value
Cons 
Not the best sound quality
No 3.5mm audio output
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Amazon has an Echo speaker for every need and every budget, it seems, and the new Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) is an able demonstration of that fact. It’s the smallest smart screen in the Echo range, sitting below the Echo Show 8 and the innovative Echo Show 10 both in size and price, and it takes its place alongside four non-screen-based Echo speakers.

And yet, despite the presence of so many alternatives, there are plenty of reasons you might want to consider grabbing yourself an Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen).

READ NEXT: Our guide to the best smart speakers you can buy

Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) review: What you need to know

The Echo Show 5 is exactly what you’d expect to be: it’s an Amazon Echo speaker with a touchscreen bolted on the front; in this case, that display measures 5.5in across the diagonal with a resolution of 960 x 480.

The screen isn’t big enough for watching movies and TV shows on, although you can do that if you want. Instead, the Echo Show 5 is intended to be an alarm clock or desk radio with smart features, and it performs these functions well.

I’ve been using the older model on my desk for some time now and I use it for listening to the radio, viewing the camera feed from my video doorbell when couriers call, and as an intercom to the rest of the house.

This is the second-generation Echo Show 5, which brings some changes, none of which is particularly significant. The aperture surrounding the camera is now square instead of circular, and a quick glance at the rear reveals there’s no longer a 3.5mm output jack. It’s also available in a new colour (blue), and the camera has seen a resolution upgrade: it’s now 2MP, up from 1MP (720p).

Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) review: Price and competition

You probably won’t be surprised to discover that the price has gone up to £75, although given the difference is a mere £5, that’s not too bitter a pill to swallow.

At this price, competition is minimal. Google doesn’t make a smart screen device with a display of this size, so if your preference is for Google Assistant over Alexa, you’ll have to opt for the larger Nest Hub, which comes with a 7in screen.

The most recent model costs a similar amount at £70 and comes with innovative features such as sleep tracking, but it doesn’t have a camera, so you can’t use it for video calls like you can with the Echo Show 5.

If you’re prepared to drop the display, there’s even more choice. Our pick of the budget smart speakers is the Amazon Echo Dot at £40, while the Google Nest Audio is our favourite in terms of sound quality for under £100.

Buy the Nest Audio from John Lewis


Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) review: Design and key features

Measuring 148 x 73 x 86mm (WDH), the Echo Show 5 is exactly the same physically as its predecessor. It has a small, 5.5in touchscreen facing you, and this is tilted at a slight angle for easy viewing. It’s bolted onto a fabric-covered speaker housing at the rear, and there’s a rubber base at the bottom to prevent it from slipping around.

The Echo Show 5’s display is bright, crisp and colourful and, although the resolution is nothing special at 960 x 480, it’s perfectly sharp at the sorts of distances you’ll typically be viewing it from. The touchscreen works well, too, although I find I don’t typically use it much beyond setting up alarms and adjusting settings.

Inside, there’s a 1.65in full-range driver that pipes audio out from a grille on the bottom edge of the display – be careful not to block this or it will sound muffled. On the top edge are three buttons for mute, volume up and volume down, plus a privacy shutter that blocks the camera. Amazon says engaging this electronically cuts off power to the speaker’s microphones at the same time.

When uncovered, the newly upgraded camera delivers a mild boost to visual quality, but image quality is still middling. If video call quality is important to you, you might want to consider spending a little more on the Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen), which comes with a 13MP camera that can pan and zoom to follow you around the room.

READ NEXT: Our guide to the best smart speakers you can buy

Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) review: What can you do with it?

All of this goes together to produce a smart screen that works pretty much as well as all the other smart speakers Amazon produces. Using Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, it can answer questions, play music, control smart devices, make calls and – if you have multiple Echo devices – it can act as an in-house intercom system as well.

The main thing that the screen and camera add is the ability to make video calls, either via Alexa’s own video call system or Skype (alas Zoom isn’t supported in the UK yet). Other than that, you can use the display to follow recipes and show off any pictures you have stored in Amazon Photos, although the integration isn’t nearly as slick as the Nest Hub for Google Photos.

Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) review: Sound quality

As for sound quality, that’s not bad either given the size of the driver and its housing. It’s absolutely fine for radio shows, podcasts and calls, with plenty of body and clarity, and it’s a lot better than your average laptop speaker.

However, once you move onto music, you’ll soon find it lacking, particularly at the low end. There’s plenty of mid-range body, which helps with vocals, but bass frequencies sound limp and lack both depth and energy.

So, while classical and lightweight acoustic tracks sound acceptable, if you fire up something a little more demanding, like Kraftwerk’s “The Robots – 2009 Remaster”, you’re going to be disappointed.

READ NEXT: Our guide to the best smart speakers you can buy

Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) review: Verdict

None of this means that the Echo Show 5 is a poor product. As a smart alarm clock for the bedroom, or a compact radio for your home office, it works brilliantly, and it’s unobtrusive enough to fit anywhere else around the house that might be missing an Echo speaker.

It’s barely an upgrade, however – even the improved camera doesn’t add much – and it doesn’t move things on from the previous model. If you don’t need a camera, and you’re not wedded to Alexa, I’d choose the Nest Hub instead.

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