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- The Amazon Echo Show 5 is the smallest Alexa smart display.
- It exceeds in being a smart alarm clock, and it can you give control of your smart devices.
- The small display and mediocre speakers don’t make it ideal as an entertainment device.
Petite and seemingly made for a nightstand, the Echo Show 5 is Amazon’s smallest smart display. It’s meant to function as a very smart alarm clock while giving you the ability to control your smart home, video chat, see pictures of cute animals, and stream video.
It all works in theory, but the Echo Show 5’s small screen and lackluster sound may not meet some people’s expectations. If your smart home is built around Alexa, adding the Echo Show 5 could makes sense — it’ll make controlling all your devices easier.
But if you just want a smart bedside clock, you might want to check out our coverage of the best smart displays to consider other options.
A decent bedside companion with sleep sounds and a sunrise alarm
With its 5.5-inch screen, compact wedge design, and single speaker, the Echo Show 5 was designed to live in your bedroom. And while it works as a decent smart alarm clock, it won’t blow you away as anything beyond that.
The Echo Show 5’s single four-watt speaker is acceptable for casual listening but nothing to write home about. You’ll get similar audio quality with the fifth-gen Echo Dot. The Echo Show 5’s mediocre speakers really turn up when you play sleep sounds. During the pitter-patter of the City Rain setting, my husband asked why the bedroom sounded like a soccer stadium. Close to the device you could hear a light drizzle, but from further away it sounded like a dull roar.
If you prefer to mute the device’s microphone at night, it’s worth noting that it’s difficult to make the screen go completely dark. Night mode changes the face to a clock, but the display still beams a light glow. You can tell Alexa to turn off the screen, but if you press the mute-microphone button, the screen turns back on. You can’t turn the brightness up via voice or the app, and when it’s dim, it’s really dim. Turning it back up might prove frustrating, depending on your eyesight.
It’s nicer to wake up to the Echo Show 5 than to fall asleep with it. If you set an alarm between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m., it can serve as a pseudo-sunrise alarm clock, brightening a yellowish screen over the course of 15 minutes. It isn’t quite as bright as a dedicated sunrise alarm clock, which may not be enough to wake everyone, either.
You can tap the top of the clock to snooze your alarm. There are also routines so Alexa can tell you the weather, news, and traffic. For alarm sounds, there are over 20 options, including some free “premium” options, from Keith Morrison and other members of “Dateline” to “Blue’s Clues.”
The Whisper Mode feature is also useful for a bedside device. If you speak softly to Alexa, the device whispers back. It’s nice for when you’re turning the lights off at night, for example. And Alexa integrates with such a large number of smart-home devices that if you do have smart bulbs, there’s a good chance you can use voice commands to control them.
While you can accomplish many tasks with voice control, there’s a pull-down menu along the top with icons for settings, brightness, music, video, and communication. There are some settings, like privacy controls around voice recordings, that you’ll need to change in the app.
Multiple layers of privacy protection
With any smart display, but especially one designed for the bedroom, privacy features should be robust.
Along the top of the device, there’s a button to disable the microphone for when you don’t want Alexa listening. The button glows red and a red bar appears at the bottom of the screen to let you know it’s activated. There are also volume buttons and a privacy shutter for the 2-megapixel camera. The shutter is white, and the slider is orange when it’s in place.
Even if you do make regular use of the mute button, Alexa still remembers your requests by default. You can ask the device to forget your most recent question, everything you asked that day, or everything you’ve ever asked. You can say, “Alexa, delete everything I’ve said,” and it will erase all your recordings.
You can adjust the privacy settings in the app, including erasing your query history. The app warns Alexa won’t function as well, and it offers the same caveat if you choose not to save any voice recordings. You can also opt out of using your voice to train Alexa. A 2021 study found some third-party skills available on Alexa devices may make the device more vulnerable to privacy and security issues.
A small screen that leaves some to be desired
Beyond using it as an alarm clock and weather display, the Echo Show 5 doesn’t have a ton of great uses for the screen. While it will show you a picture of a wallaby if you ask, and you could watch a cooking video in a pinch, the display is small and the 960-by-480-pixel resolution is low when compared to the larger Echo Show devices. Vertical YouTube videos were especially painful to watch.
Technically, you can use the Echo Show 5 to make video calls, but I found it a bit awkward. On a video call, I wanted to be close enough to see the other person on the 5.5-inch screen, but I had to sit back about 16 inches to get my full head in the frame. The device’s wedge design also means the camera is angled slightly up. It made it difficult to keep the camera at eye level to achieve a more flattering angle.
The main issue I had with the Echo Show 5 was Alexa itself. Some questions elicited answers from questionable sources, like citing a movie website when I asked about a cooking substitution. When I asked Alexa, “Where is your content from?” the device told me where Allen Iverson is from.
It also relies on crowd-sourced responses from “Alexa answers contributors.” While the information seems correct, I often double-checked the answer, defeating the purpose of asking Alexa in the first place.
When I first started up the Echo Show 5, I chose one of the included sets of photos for travel as the wallpaper. But for every desert pic with a camel, I seemed to see an advertisement for an “Avatar” theme or screen urging me to try a “Price Is Right” game. To slow the frequency of these interruptions, I deselected almost every option in settings under Home and Clock and then Home Content. There’s also a Photo Frame mode, but this removes the clock and weather display.
There’s an Echo Show 5 for kids, but it’s probably unnecessary
The Echo Show 5 may seem like a device that can “grow” with kids, offering younger ones some entertainment features while using the Amazon Kids setting to set some restrictions. There is an Amazon Echo Show 5 Kids edition that costs $10 and has the parental controls enabled by default.
The Amazon Kids mode keeps the device fairly locked down. Try to play “Work It” by Missy Elliot, and Alexa will tell you that the explicit filter is on. Make a request to open YouTube, and you’ll seem to stump the device: “Hm, I don’t know that one.” Ask where babies come from, and Alexa will suggest talking to a grown-up.
But it also limits what adults can do with the machine as well. Some settings are disabled, like “do not disturb.” You’ll need your Amazon password to override it. While that’s great for keeping kids from accidentally changing settings, it might get tiresome for you. Luckily, you can use the app to turn Amazon Kids on and off.
If you don’t like the idea of having cameras and microphones in your kids’ rooms, the Echo Show 5 isn’t a good choice. While there is a mute button and a camera shutter, older kids will be able to figure out how to turn them off pretty quickly.
Amazon Echo Show 5 specs at glance
Should you buy it?
If you need a compact alarm for a small space and want extra capabilities, the Echo Show 5 is an OK choice. It’s frequently on sale, and if you like your other Echo devices, it makes sense for smaller spots where you still want a display.
Normally, we’d say the Alexa features make it more than just a great alarm clock, but between the many ads and Alexa’s strange sources for its answers, that doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment.
The Echo Show 5’s small screen makes watching videos a lackluster experience, and you might want to upgrade to the Echo Show 8 if you’re going to use the display primarily for entertainment purposes.
While we don’t expect Amazon to shutter its device services, the company has cut jobs and investment in Alexa and other devices. It’s something you might want to consider when deciding whether to purchase a new Amazon device.
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