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Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd generation) review

Is the new version of Amazon’s smallest smart display better than the first generation?

Amazon Echo Show 5 (2021)
(Image: © TechRadar)

Our Verdict

The Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd generation) is an affordable smart display that brings the benefits of seeing as well as hearing Alexa to those on a budget. It’s simple to use, it’s got an improved camera, and it comes in a new blue finish. While it’s a great device for those looking for a first smart display, it doesn’t offer enough upgrades to warrant trading up if you have the original Echo Show 5.

For

  • Affordable
  • Can double as a home security camera
  • Lets you see and hear Alexa

Against

  • No YouTube app
  • Audio lacks bass
  • Low-resolution video

Two-minute review

The Echo Show 5 (2nd generation) is the new version of Amazon’s smallest smart display, arriving almost two years after the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2019). While it may look identical to its predecessor, there have been some incremental updates to the entry-level device, which enables you to both hear and see Alexa’s responses to your commands. 

The camera has been boosted to 2MP – that’s double the resolution of the previous iteration – which makes video calls look sharper and clearer, and there’s now a Deep Sea Blue color option, alongside Charcoal and Glacier White or Sandstone – depending upon which territory you’re in. 

As with any Amazon Echo device, Alexa is built in and offers a hands-free way to set timers, shop online, follow recipes, have your burning questions answered, and get the lastest weather and news. However, the addition of a screen means you can see the information Alexa serves up, and even glean a little extra information along the way. For example, if you ask for the weather forecast it’ll announce the day’s temperature but also display an hour-by-hour breakdown on-screen, along with the wind speed and real-feel temperature. 

Like the other Echo Show devices available, the Echo Show 5 still uses a ‘voice first, touch second’ approach, although shortcuts for making calls, announcements and drop-ins, as well as for playing music and video services, setting routines and controlling smart home gadgets, can be quickly accessed by swiping left from the home screen. 

When you’re not directly interacting with Alexa, you can choose what’s displayed on the screen: slideshows of pre-set illustrations or photos from your Amazon and Facebook accounts, or useful information such as upcoming events, weather forecasts, sports scores, popular recipes or reminders.

This is Amazon’s most affordable smart display, so the lack of features such as a camera that automatically pans and zooms –  you’ll need to upgrade to the Amazon Echo Show 8 for that – and the ability to double as a smart home hub are offset by the affordable price tag.

We’re impressed that the Echo Show 5 (2nd generation) is $5 / £5 / AU$15 cheaper than the first-generation Echo Show 5 was when it launched, and it’s a good buy for those on a budget, or if you want a secondary Echo with a screen for a room that’s not used very often. However, with few upgrades over the previous iteration, it’s not worth upgrading if you already have the Echo Show 5 (2019). 

Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd generation) price and availability

  • List price: $84.99 / £74.99/ AU$119 

The Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd generation) is priced at $84.99 / £74.99/ AU$119, which is $5 / £5 / AU$15 cheaper than the first-generation Echo Show 5, which cost $89.99 / £79.99 / AU$235 when it launched in June 2109. The Amazon Echo Show 5 (2019) is still available for $79.99/ £64.99 / AU$99.

In the US, Amazon is also offering the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2021) Kids Edition for $94.99. This bright multi-colored version has parental controls enabled by default, and comes with one year of the Amazon Kids+ Family Plan, which offers access to thousands of child-friendly books, movies, TV shows, apps and games. 

Amazon also offers two other smart displays: the Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd generation), which is priced at $129 / £119.99 / AU$165 and has a 13-megapixel that can pan and zoom so you’re always in the center of frame during video calls. This is joined by the Amazon Echo Show 10, which costs $249.99 / £239.99 / AU$399.99 and has the same camera as the Echo Show 8, along with a rotating display that follows you around the room, so it’s always within your gaze.

Amazon Echo Show 5 (2021)

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Design

  • Compact 5.5-inch display
  • 2-megapixel camera
  • Lacks a 3.5mm headphone socket

The Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd generation) retains the same compact footprint as the previous iteration, measuring just 5.8 x 3.4 x 2.9 inches / 14.8 x 8.6 x 7.3cm. The familiar wedge-shaped back houses the 1.6-inch speaker and is wrapped in a mesh fabric covering that comes in Charcoal, Glacier White, and Deep Sea Blue, while the 5.5-inch display, which has a 960 x 480 resolution, sits on the front at an angle.

The smart display features a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, which can be used for video calls or even to check in on your home when you’re not there – that's twice as many pixels compared to the camera on the original Echo Show 5. On top of the device are physical volume buttons, a mute button for Alexa, and a shutter that can cover the camera for those concerned about privacy.

On the rear of the Echo Show 5 (2nd generation) is the power port along with a micro USB port. Disappointingly, the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd generation) is missing the 3.5mm headphone socket its predecessor had, which enabled you to connect headphones for private listening.  

To ensure that the Echo Show 5 (2021) is as environmentally friendly as possible, Amazon has constructed the device entirely from post-consumer recycled fabric. It also boasts Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly badge – part of an initiative by the retailer that’s designed to make it easier for consumers to shop for sustainable products. 

Amazon Echo Show 5 (2021)

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Performance

  • Video calls look sharper
  • Camera’s live feed can be viewed in Alexa when you’re not home
  • See and hear Alexa’s information

The big difference between the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd generation) and the previous iteration is the upgraded front-facing camera. We put the Echo Show 5 to the test by making several video calls to other Echo Show devices in our household using Amazon's drop-in function, as well as calling Echo Shows outside of our home and using Skype to video-chat with others on smartphones and PCs. 

All of the call recipients reported a slight improvement in the quality of the video compared to when we called them on the first iteration of the Echo Show 5. However, the video quality doesn’t come close to when using an Echo Show 10, with its camera that can automatically pan and zoom to ensure you’re always in the centre of the frame.

Just like the other Amazon Echo Shows, the camera can also double as a home security camera, allowing you to check in on your home through the Alexa app when you’re not there, or keep an eye on the kids in the playroom when you’re cooking dinner by using another Echo Show in the house. 

As we’ve already mentioned, Alexa on the Echo Show can do everything it can on other Echo devices, from providing the day’s news and weather to updating you on the sports scores and setting timers and alarms. We found the screen particularly useful when we used the Echo Show 5 in the kitchen to follow a recipe on a cookery website, as Alexa read the ingredients and method out to us while also showing the information on-screen.

However, Alexa can’t change settings for you, and can only load the main menu, and not sub-menus. On top of that, unlike the Echo Show 10, the Echo Show 5 also can’t act as a Zigbee smart home hub.

Amazon Echo Show 5 (2021)

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Music and video

  • Stream Prime Video and Netflix
  • Audio is lacking powerful bass
  • No YouTube app

As with all Amazon Echo devices, you can access a wide range of music services on the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd generation), including Apple Music and Podcasts, Deezer, Spotify and TuneIn, alongside, unsurprisingly, Amazon Music.

However, with just one 1.6-inch speaker on board, the sound quality is lacking – it didn’t go that loud in our tests, and the bass was weak. This certainly won’t be your go-to speaker when you want to enjoy your favorite tracks, but it will suffice if you just want to play background music or listen to podcasts while you’re cooking or doing the housework, and the voice integration for all of these services is smoothly executed. 

You can connect the smart display to your smartphone or tablet over Bluetooth to play music stored on that device through the Echo Show 5, but as we’ve mentioned there’s no 3.5mm socket, so you can’t use headphones for private listening – this is disappointing as the previous model did offer this feature. 

You can watch Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, as well as other video content, on the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd generation), but the resolution is low, and the viewing experience is similar to watching on your smartphone. As is the case with audio, if you just want videos running in the background the experience is fine, but this is never going to be your main screen.

There’s no YouTube app – instead, Alexa offers up videos from WikiHow when you ask it “How to chop an onion” for example. YouTube isn’t completely off-limits, however – Amazon’s Silk browser ensures that you can view websites, including YouTube, on the device; so you can watch YouTube videos this way, but it’s long-winded. BBC iPlayer in the UK, and Hulu in the US can also be viewed this way. 

Should I buy the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd generation)?

Buy it if…

You want to see and hear Alexa
With a screen, the Echo Show 5 means you can see and hear responses from Alexa – we found the extra information served up on the screen extremely handy – it’s ideal if you’re engaged in cooking or other activity and need to work hands-free.  

You’re on a budget
If you want a smart display but you’re on a budget, the Echo Show 5 is the most affordable option that Amazon offers. 

You want better video calls
With double the amount of pixels of the original Echo Show 5, this smart display is a good option for those who have the previous version but want better-quality video calls, but can’t stretch to the Amazon Echo Show 8.   

Don’t buy it if...

You don’t need a screen
The addition of a screen to an Amazon Echo device comes with a considerable price hike. If you want the benefits of Alexa but don’t need a screen, then consider an Amazon Echo or Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker instead.

You like to watch a lot of YouTube videos
You can watch YouTube videos in a browser on the Amazon Echo Show 10, but the process isn’t as hands-free as other things you can do on the Amazon Echo Show 10. If YouTube is your first love, then look for a Google smart display, which has the app built in

You want a smart display for personal listening
With no 3.5mm headphone socket, this Amazon Echo Show isn’t suitable if you want to use headphones for private listening – consider an Amazon Echo Show 5 (2019) instead as this does have a headphone socket.  

First reviewed: June 2021

Carrie-Ann Skinner

Carrie-Ann Skinner is Smart Home & Appliances Editor at TechRadar and covers smart home devices such as smart plugs and smart lights, as well as large and small appliances including vacuum cleaners, air fryers, and blenders. She’s also a keen baker and can often be found rustling up cake in her spare time.