The Amazon Echo Show has come quite a way since the launch of the first model back in June 2017. The first-generation Echo Show looked like a miniaturised rear-projection television with its 7-inch touchscreen display and white border. Sadly, it never made it to India. Over a year later, Amazon updated it with a second-generation model, which is the current model. It has a 10.1-inch touchscreen display with speakers now placed on the side. It’s available in black and white colour options and costs Rs 22,999. And now, we have the Amazon Echo Show 5.
The new smart display’s name is quite self-explanatory. If there’s already a 10-inch smart display called the Echo Show, it’s easy to work out that the Echo Show 5 is a smaller version of that. With Google’s Nest Hub on its way to India, the Echo Show 5 is suddenly a very relevant product in the smart speaker/smart display market. At Rs 8,999, the Echo Show 5 is less than half the price of its bigger brother. But does that mean half the features? Let’s find out.
Audio Quality and Response
The Amazon Echo Show 5 is not for the audiophile. The device sports a single 1.65-inch full-range speaker driver on the inside, which is good for the occasional tune and endless Alexa question-response exchanges but not for active music listening. The tiny driver inside tends to emphasise low frequencies, making Alexa sound more muffled (or maybe even older, if your imagination is as fertile as mine) than she is on other Echo devices. Fortunately, the Echo Show 5 comes with a 3.5mm audio jack for audio line-out, which means you can hook the device up to your own set of speakers. The volume of sound emanating from the mono speaker inside is sufficient for a listening radius of around 6 metres but you may find yourself turning it all the way up more often than not.
Amazon has blessed its newest smart display with two microphones above the screen, which is the fewest I’ve seen so far on any Echo device. In comparison, the larger Echo Show has eight microphones in total and the second-gen Echo Plus, seven. Does this reduction in the number of mics make Alexa hard of hearing? Definitely! The Echo Show 5 lights up and listens to you if you call Alexa from say, a four-metre radius. Anything farther and you have to shout to get her attention. Understandably, this responsiveness decreases with an increase in music volume. In summary, the Echo Show 5 is a device you want to keep close to you. You can call out to Amazon Alexa easily if you keep the device next to your bed or armchair but you will have some trouble interacting with it from afar.
Echo devices are not the easiest to set up, especially older non-display models like the second-generation Echo. Connecting to a Wi-Fi network on the Echo speaker was particularly a pain when we reviewed the speaker last year. You can read more about that here. The Echo Show 5, on the other hand, is surprisingly easy to set up. To get started, all you have to do is empty the contents of the blue box, find the Echo Show 5 and its charger and connect the two. Then find a suitable place for your new smart display and connect the other end of the charger cable to a nearby power socket. Ensure the location you’ve chosen is well within Wi-Fi range.
Within seconds you should see the Amazon logo followed by the blue Echo logo on the display. In about thirty seconds, you’ll be asked to select the default language. English India is the first option in the list. You’ll then be asked to choose a Wi-Fi network for the Echo Show 5 to use. An on-screen split keyboard lets you input passwords. Finally, you’ll have to register the device to an Amazon account. If you don’t have one, you’ll have to visit amazon.in to create one; you can’t create one on the device. This, I imagine, will be a bit of a nuisance for first-time Amazon users but, to be fair, who doesn’t have an Amazon account these days?
After signing in, you’ll be asked to set the local time zone and a preferred name for the device (this helps you identify your Echo devices if you have more than one registered to the same account). After that, you’ll be forced to watch a mandatory introduction video about the device. The only way to skip it is by dragging the playback slider all the way to the end. In less than a minute after that, you should see the home screen. It’s the one with a big digital clock in the middle of the screen. In summary, the setup process on the Echo Show 5 is rather easy.
The display on the new Amazon Echo Show 5 is as big as that of say, a OnePlus 5. From the front, the Echo Show 5 looks like a tilted smartphone with curved edges and thick bezels. The display is an LCD touchscreen panel with a resolution of 960 x 480 pixels. In comparison, the larger Echo Show has a 10.1-inch display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. While the Echo Show’s display feels too large for its user interface, the Echo Show 5’s display seems appropriate. Text is readable from a distance of about one and a half metres from the display.
In terms of touch response and finger feel, the Echo Show 5’s display is similar to that of the Echo Show, which is decent but not great. Quite a bit of touch latency can be observed while using the device for everyday tasks like setting an alarm but it’s not really a big bother. The max brightness is sufficient for well-lit rooms and there’s an automatic brightness adjustment feature on offer, which is turned on by default. The only problem is that the lowest brightness setting is still so bright that it can blind you if you wake up in the middle of the night. Also, when the surrounding is dark, the Echo Show 5 appears to turn on some sort of virtual display dimmer, which gives the entire screen a bluish tinge, the colour one tries to avoid at night time in the interest of better sleep.
If there’s anything wrong with it, it’s the highly limited viewing angle of the display. If the Echo Show 5 is placed on a nightstand just next to the bed with its back against the wall, it can be hard to tell what the display reads from the nearest pillow. At an angle close to 170 degrees from the display, you’ll struggle even to tell the time. By default, the display dims itself at night and the clock’s customisable background turns dark blue—almost colourless actually.
Features and User Interface
The features list of the Echo Show 5 is largely identical to that of the larger Echo Show. But there are a couple of things missing in the new entrant. For example, the Echo Show 5 is not a Zigbee-enabled smart home hub. That means you won’t be able to control Zigbee-powered home devices such as light bulbs, locks, switches, plugs, etc. using your new smart display. If you plan to get one master Amazon Alexa device to power your new smart home, the Echo Show 5 isn’t for you. Consider the bigger Echo Show or Echo Plus. Read its review here.
Apart from the obvious difference in display size and resolution, there are two other differences. While the Echo Show sports a 5MP camera, the Echo Show 5 sports only a 1MP camera. If you plan to video-call using your next Echo device extensively, this limitation is something to bear in mind. The other difference is in speaker size. The Echo Show 5 comes with a single 1.65-inch speaker driver. In comparison, the Echo Show is home to two 10W speaker drivers with a passive bass radiator. In addition, it employs Dolby sound processing to produce sound that fills the room. So, if you’re expecting impressive audio quality from your Echo device, the Echo Show 5 isn’t for you.
The user interface on the Echo Show 5 is fairly simple to use although it could have been simpler. Swiping down from the top edge shows you recent notifications along with a few useful shortcuts, like brightness controls, DND, and Settings. Swiping left from the right edge gives you access to recently used actions and more shortcuts. From here, you can access sections like Music, Routines, Alarms, etc. The Communicate feature lets you talk to other known Echo users and broadcast a message on other connected Echo devices. For example, you can ask your children to come downstairs for dinner if you have more than one Echo device connected to the same home network.
Let’s not forget that, like all Echo devices, the Echo Show 5 is powered by Amazon Alexa, the popular virtual assistant. Saying the wake word “Alexa” activates the assistant after which you can ask a question and expect a response. Additionally, you can add more “skills” to Alexa using the Amazon Alexa smartphone app. For example, you could add the Uber skill using the app, which allows Alexa to book a taxi for you when the command is given. Home screen elements like the clock and background are customisable in Settings. When idle, the home screen shows you top news stories and commands to try with Alexa. Sometimes, the tips shown are bogus; in my experience, saying, “Alexa, play 90s Tamil songs” often results in the response, “Sorry, I could not find any 90s Tamil songs.”
Design and Build
If the second-gen Echo Show had a baby, it would be the Echo Show 5. Instead of mindlessly miniaturising the big Show, Amazon has made it a wide-body device while reducing the height and depth. In its current form factor, the Echo Show 5 is a portable, almost pocketable device. With a view of its rear three quarters, the Echo Show 5 should remind you of an old CRT display but a really tiny one. Its overall size and appearance is, to say the least, very agreeable. Like its brethren, the Echo Show 5 comes packaged in a light blue box. Inside the box, you get the speaker, power cable, and some documentation.
The Echo Show 5 is built as well as its bigger brother, which is definitely a good thing. The thick frame around the display is made of solid-state matte plastic and the speaker section behind it is wrapped in fabric. The bottom surface gets a non-slip rubber pad to keep the device in place. At 410g, the Echo Show 5 is considerably lighter than the Echo Show, which is a whopping 1,765g. While the bigger Show is heavy and ungainly in the hands, the Echo Show 5 is just the opposite. The Echo Show 5 sports just the right form factor and appearance for a smart display of its price.
On the back, the Amazon Echo Show 5 has a proprietary round-pin power port, a microUSB port, and a 3.5mm jack for audio line-out. What that means is that the device can be connected to a larger speaker set (or a pair of headphones) using an aux cable. The purpose of the microUSB port, however, remains a mystery. Some say it’s reserved for specialised enterprise experiences and that a typical home user would not be able to take advantage of it. In any case, Amazon could have thrown in a full-size USB-A port for charging devices like, say, a smartwatch or a smartphone.
Above the display, the Echo Show 5 sports three buttons: volume up, volume down, and mics/camera on/off. All three buttons sport debossed signs on the top surface, making volume control in the dark a piece of cake. Interestingly, the larger Echo Show lacks this. In addition, the Echo Show 5 comes with a feature its bigger brother doesn’t: a physical sliding shutter for the camera. Even though there’s a mics/camera on/off button that glows red when the device is muted, there’s nothing like a movable physical shutter to give you that ultimate feeling of safety and privacy. The physical camera shutter comes with a visual indicator to tell if it’s enabled, which is a neat touch.
The Amazon Echo Show costs Rs 22,999 but the smaller Echo Show 5 costs Rs 8,999, which is less than half the price of the former. But that does not mean you end up getting only half the features. You get the same ‘smart display’ type of device but in a smaller form factor but with reduced precision and sophistication. For example, the display is smaller, the camera is low-res, there’s no inbuilt hub, and the speaker inside isn’t as good. But it’s still a legit Echo Show device nonetheless.
In fact, you get some features on the smaller Echo Show 5 that you don’t with the original second-gen model. For example, there’s that all-important physical shutter for the camera, which is a simple but essential feature on smart displays. The debossed markings on the buttons make it friendly for bedside placement too. All things considered, the Amazon Echo Show 5 is for those who want a smart display from Amazon but don’t care that the speaker or display or camera isn’t as good. In other words, it’s the device that gives you the licence to say during a lighthearted tech discussion, “Why, I have one of those Echo Show things myself.”
I’ve personally found the Echo Show too big and bulky, making the Echo Show 5 look all the more pleasantly compact.
While the Echo Show is powered by an Intel Atom x5-Z8350 14nm processor with 2MB cache, the smaller Echo Show 5 is powered by a MediaTek MT 8163 platform with a Quad-core ARM-A53 processor.