Amazon Echo Show 5 review: This new 5-inch Alexa display costs under $100, makes smarter alarm clock

Amazon Echo Show 5 will fit perfectly on your nightstand. It’s a pretty good smart display and a pretty good smart alarm clock at an attractive $ 90 price tag that’s well below the list price of the next lowest competition – the $ 130 Google Nest Hub (formerly Google Home Hub).

Alexa is better than ever, with an abundance of voice-activated features. Additionally, the Echo Show 5 skillfully combines the best features of the excellent Nest Hub – a smart home control panel and adaptive screen brightness – with the best parts of the new $ 80 Lenovo Smart Clock ($ 39 at Walmart) – sunrise alarms and customizable clock face. The camera allows you to make video calls – neither Nest Hub nor Lenovo Smart Clock have a camera. If you’re concerned about privacy, the Echo Show 5 includes a physical shutter, and a new feature lets you quickly delete stored voice commands just by asking.

Add that and the Amazon Echo Show 5 ticks the right boxes to be the best entry level smart display on the market, but as far as the overall experience goes, the Nest Hub is even better for the most part. The Echo Show 5 has made great strides when it comes to smart home touch controls, but the Nest Hub still delivers a cleaner interfaceand it’s best to show your photos, walk you through recipes, get directions to restaurants, and more. The higher price of the Nest Hub is also mitigated by frequent discounts.

The sunrise wake feature makes the Echo Show 5 a better alarm clock, so if you want a smart display for your nightstand, go with the Amazon Echo Show 5. Otherwise, despite a solid display of Amazon’s latest smart display, the Nest Hub is still the model to beat.

Crashing into the crowd of smart displays

Despite the name, the Amazon Echo Show 5 is not the fifth version of the Echo Show. The number 5 refers to the 5.5-inch touchscreen. Amazon has released two previous Echo Shows, but the Echo Show 5 will not replace the current second generation Echo Show. That $ 230 smart display has a 10-inch screen and can now serve as Amazon’s premium model with the $ 90 Show 5 joining as its entry level complement.

Oddly enough, Amazon already has a smart alarm: the $ 130 Amazon Echo Spot ($ 90 on Amazon). The Echo Spot does less and costs more, so I expect the Echo Show 5 to simply replace it, but for now the Echo Spot will remain on the market, but don’t buy it.

In addition to the touchscreen, the Echo Show 5 has physical volume buttons along the triangular upper body. You can mute the microphone and cut power to the camera with a single button next to the volume controls. You can also slide a physical shutter on the camera and keep talking to Amazon Alexa’s built-in assistant.

The physical shutter is a nice touch, especially for a device meant for your bedroom. It’s also a blow to Amazon’s main competition in the smart display category: Google. The current Nest Hub doesn’t have a camera at all, but the next $ 230 Nest Hub Max will have and will not have a physical shutter. One button will cut power to the microphone and camera, but you won’t be able to cover the camera and keep talking to Google’s version of Alexa – Google Assistant.

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The physical shutter helps with a bedside device.

Chris Monroe / CNET

However, the Echo Show 5 isn’t really aimed at the Nest Hub Max. Its main competition is the current $ 130 Google Nest Hub. Google also just partnered with Lenovo on the Lenovo Smart Clock. That $ 80 gadget includes the sunrise wake function, where the display screen lights up before the alarm time to relieve sleep. However, the Lenovo Smart Clock lacks some of the other traditional smart display features. You cannot watch videos, view pictures, or interact much with the touchscreen outside of some prescribed functions.

Enter the Echo Show 5, which retains all the usual smart display tricks of a full-sized Echo Show and added the best parts of the Lenovo Smart Clock like the dawn alarm. You can purchase the Echo Show 5 through Amazon now, and it will begin shipping to customers on Wednesday, June 26.

Plenty of bells and whistles

In addition to those buttons at the top, the back of the Echo Show 5 has a point for the power cable and an output jack for a 3.5mm audio cable. You can connect the Echo Show 5 to your speakers if you want more powerful sound. The fabric upholstery and sloped back look somewhat similar to a full-size Echo Show, only the Echo Show 5 is much smaller.

Plug it in to get started and the Echo Show 5 will walk you through setup. You can connect it to your Wi-Fi on the touchscreen itself; you have to use the Google Home app for Nest Hub. Once connected, you can swipe down from the top of the Echo Show 5’s touchscreen for a detailed settings menu that lets you customize your watch face, play with alarm settings, and more.

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Choose from a variety of watch faces.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

The Google Home app is typically required to change settings on Nest Hub, so the Echo Show 5 is more self-sufficient. You can also freely browse the web on the Echo Show 5 with both Firefox and Amazon Silk browsers.

For the most part, once you’re up and running, you’ll interact with the Echo Show 5 with voice commands. Amazon Alexa’s built-in assistant responds to all the same commands as a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo. You can search the web, make a call, play music, check your calendar, control smart home gadgets, and so much more. Alexa is a really robust digital assistant.

After a few answers, you will see more information on the screen. Search the weather and you will see the forecast for your area. Ask about nearby restaurants and you’ll see the photos. You can also use the touchscreen to watch videos and make video calls. You can call other Alexa devices and check the feed from connected security cameras. If you have a Ring Video Doorbell or the Ring Door View Camera, you can talk to anyone on your porch with a voice command.

The Echo Show 5 works with various news sites such as Reuters for daily briefings. You can watch shows via Amazon Prime or NBC, and you can watch music videos with Vevo.

You can’t watch YouTube videos with a voice command. You can access it if you go through the built-in browsers, but it seems like a workaround. The popular streaming site is owned by Google and after a famous controversy a year ago, Google has withdrawn the rights to YouTube from Amazon’s smart displays.

New show, new tricks

All of this is standard for Amazon’s smart displays so far, but the Show 5 has brought a few new tricks beyond the dawn alarms.

Swipe left from the right side of the screen for a new control panel that includes shortcuts to alarms, watch videos, play music, control your smart home, see your skills (basically apps for Alexa), and communicate with other Alexa devices.

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Swipe left from the opposite side of the ride for this shortcut menu (note that the routines button will likely be replaced by the time the Echo Show 5 ships).

Chris Monroe / CNET

The smart home control panel has been overhauled. Previously, you could see a giant list of all your groups and devices. Now press the smart home button and Alexa offers better organization. At first you will see recently used devices. The buttons at the top allow you to see your devices based on any group you have established or by device category such as lights, switches or thermostats.

Find the right device and you can control it with a tap. Tap the device name for more detailed options like brightness for a light bulb. As before, you’ll see similar buttons and sliders without having to navigate menus if you control a device with a voice command. For example, change the temperature of your thermostat with your voice and you will automatically see a slider appear on the screen to further adjust the temperature.

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The smart home control panel gives you an overview of your devices.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Having the additional touch controls is a nice extra as a means of getting a quick overview of your home, and it might come in handy if your family members are having trouble remembering what you called various light bulbs and switches. In the device menu, you will also see a button to turn everything off – a nice option to have for a bedside gadget as it will come in handy when you’re ready for bed.

The other options on the panel do what you would expect. Videos and music appeal to entertainment choices. Alarms allow you to quickly set the alarm time. Skills and Games shows a list of options. Communicate allows you to make an announcement, send a message, call or access other Alexa devices. The Skills and Games button was not ready at the time of the test. According to an Amazon rep, that shortcut will replace the “routines” pictured above before the Echo Show 5 ships on June 26.

As before, you can make voice calls to anyone in your contacts or video calls via the Alexa app or Skype. You can also view the camera feed of any other Amazon smart display on your account. The drop-down menu of each has a “do not disturb” button if you want to disable it for a particular device.

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