Released earlier this month, the Amazon Echo Show 5 is a 5.5” smart screen and speaker with built-in support for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.
Costing £79.99, the Show 5 joins Amazon’s existing 10” Echo Show (£219.99) and Echo Spot (£119.99) in the retailer’s smart display range.
Like the Echo speaker, the device can be used to play music, podcasts and audiobooks from Audible, find out information from the web and control other smart home devices such as light bulbs and plugs, but the inclusion of the screen also allows it to play films and TV shows from Amazon Prime Video plus news from major brands such as the BBC and CNN, show you step by step recipes, display song lyrics, make calls, set alarms and be used as a monitor for compatible home security cameras.
Vodafone customers can also pair the device with their account to make and receive calls as if from their mobile, Skype customers can use the in-built camera to make video calls, and users with more than one Echo Show 5 can also make announcements around the home or use the ‘Drop In’ intercom-like feature.
The one big content omission is YouTube which can only be accessed by first launching the Show 5’s web browser and then tapping a bookmark to bring up the mobile version of YouTube.com.
Compared to the rest of the Show 5 experience, this feels clunky and time consuming but hopefully this week’s ending of its long running dispute with Google will allow Amazon to more deeply integrate the streaming service’s thousands of ‘how to’ guides, unboxing videos and trailers into its range.
Setting up the Echo Show 5 is a simple task – connect the power lead, enter your WiFi password directly on the device’s touch screen and then log in to your Amazon account. If you have a Prime or Amazon Music subscription, the device will automatically be able to play your content in response to your requests.
You can also add extra ‘Skills’ – basically apps for Alexa – via the Amazon website to expand the number of services you can access.
The Show 5’s design is simple and effective – the 5.5” screen is angled slightly upwards to ensure it’s easy to view, the rear is covered in a soft fabric coating (the black fronted model comes with a charcoal covering, the white version with sandstone), the power and a 3.5mm audio connection live around the back and the top edge of screen houses two microphones, a button to disable them, volume buttons and a slider for switching off the camera.
Amazon has provided a series of physical cues to confirm when the mic and camera are disabled, pressing the mic off button causes it to glow red, while the camera slide physically covers the lens as well as being marked with a red indicator.
In addition, enabling or disabling either input is also confirmed by an on-screen message and an audio confirmation and, impressively, if the Show 5 loses power while the mic is disabled, it remembers that state when power is restored.
The recipes feature – in which Alexa is able to read out the instructions and the user can navigate through the steps simply by asking her to move on, eliminating the potential for getting messy fingerprints on the screen – really impressed.
However, if you’re planning to use it in the kitchen it’d probably be a good idea to pay out for the optional stand to help protect the fabric cover from any liquid spills.
The device has a nice solid feel and is sufficiently weighty that it won’t move around when you tap the screen which is bright and vivid, copes well with bright light sources and displays text which is clear and easy to read.
When you wake Alexa, a thin bottom strip of the display glows several shades of blue, mimicking the LED lights on the Echo and Echo Spot speakers.
I found the Show 5 offered a good viewing and listening experience; the speaker provides decent sounding music, and video content – subject to the source material and your broadband speeds of course – looks sharp, well defined and judder-free.
While no-one’s going to want to do all their viewing on a 5.5” screen, the device is a useful way of being able to drop in on your favourite Prime shows and films or keep up to date with the news in rooms where you might not want or be able to accommodate a TV.
In addition, the ability to stream radio stations through skills such as BBC Sounds and TuneIn, or music from Amazon’s own streaming service as well as Spotify, Apple Music, means buyers can access a huge range of content.
The Show 5 is a genuinely interesting device – depending on the needs, wants and comfort level of the user, it can either be a karaoke machine, an interactive cookbook, a radio, an alarm clock that wakes you with a favourite song, or a highly advanced AI powered hub capable of controlling an array of smart home devices.
Some people will use it for all those things while others will find a single use that works for them and, initially at least, stick with it before potentially venturing on to the next level.
Amazon have done well here to create a user experience where no matter how much or little of the device’s capabilities that you’re using, there’s no sense of ‘not doing it properly’ and the relatively low asking price means even those who stick to using just a few features should get good value from their purchase.
The Amazon Echo Show 5 is available from Amazon.co.uk* and selected third party retailers.