Echo Show 5 Review: Alexa with display goes mini

Mala Bhargava | Updated on August 15, 2019 Published on August 15, 2019

This one is handy on a desk, your bedside, or even the kitchen

If there’s any format out there for a smart speaker, you can bet Amazon is going to explore it. The Echo line-up of Alexa devices is growing steadily and soon there’ll be few gaps left to fill and plenty of options for customers to pick the shape and size they like best based on their needs.

The latest Alexa speaker is the Echo Show 5, the mini version of the much larger Echo Show second generation. If you missed that, the ‘Show’ nomenclature should tell that there’s a screen involved for those who are not comfortable with the voice-only route and for those who like the additional features a screen can bring. In some ways, the Echo Show 5 (as it has a five-inch screen) is like its round sibling, the Echo Spot, but better as you can watch videos that aren’t force-squeezed into a circle.

Clock-like screen

The Show 5 is the size of a small phone from the front. Amusingly, most smartphones will outsize it, making you wonder why you need that smaller screen around. But then phones aren’t smart speakers even when they use the companion apps — they need too much touching. From the back, the device has a big bulge to house the speaker part of the package. It connects and sets up very easily, like all the other Echo speakers or even faster because of the touch screen on which you can quickly enter the information it wants — your Wifi and Amazon account — by touch. Once Alexa says it’s ready, you can go ahead and command her — weather, songs, jokes, news, stories, books, shopping lists, horoscopes, cricket scores, etc. Just ask. But because of its small size, the Show 5 actually makes a nice bedside gadget like a super alarm clock. You can even touch it to snooze the alarm in the morning. It has many clock faces to choose from and of copurse, you can set all the alarms you want or even set up a ‘Routine’ to initiate a sequence of actions.

One of the places this gadget will fit well is on a desk or on the countertop in a modern kitchen where it can be used to set timers, see recipes, play casual songs or ‘Drop in” to see what other screen-enabled family members are up to. It can be used for full-fledged video calls, regular voice calls and a way of leaving messages. If you’re worried about the camera showing you, just use the dedicated button on the top of the device to bring up a physical shutter in front of the lens. Both the camera and the screen don’t have the highest specs but don’t end up looking too bad at all.

But the one thing the Show 5 is not the best option for is as a dedicated music speaker. It’s really more of a miniature smart display. The sound quality on the Show 5 is actually a slight disappointment. It’s a bit muffled and contained, seeming to centre into the speaker with little spread to its soundstage. There’s certainly bass present, but it sounds a little distorted, especially at higher volumes.

Using the audio controls in the app will let you make some adjustments but after much fiddling, the sound wasn’t good enough purely for music. It needed more clarity and spread. For everything else, it works fine, though it’s unlikely to be a great choice for watching YouTube videos or movies either, other than temporarily. It’s not at all bad for short clips and supplementary visuals for news and other content.

The Echo Show 5 looks like it could have been portable and battery-powered, but sadly it needs to stay plugged into electricity. That said, it isn’t much of a problem to pull it out of its socket and go to another room and plug it back in, giving it a few minutes to fire up and join the network.

You can control smart lights and other compatible devices through the Echo Show 5. Swiping on the screen gives a row of easy shortcuts to connected devices. Overall, it’s a fun little smart display but somewhat overpriced.

Echo Show 5
  • Price: ₹8,999
  • Pros: Handy desk display or smart alarm clock, one-glance information to supplement voice commands
  • Cons: Sound is muffled and lacks clarity, too small for medium or long videos, slightly overpriced

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Published on August 15, 2019
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