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

The Amazon Echo Show 5 combines the best parts of the full-sized Echo Show with a smart alarm clock.

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Andrew Gebhart
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Andrew Gebhart

Senior Producer

Andrew loves writing about cool, futuristic technology. He's reviewed everything from vacuum cleaners to beer brewing robots in pursuit of the perfect smart home. He wants the smart home to make him feel powerful, and it's getting there.

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13 min read

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

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Amazon Echo Show 5

The Good

The Amazon Echo Show 5 packs a lot of features into a compact smart display that can easily fit on your nightstand. The sunrise alarms make getting out of bed easy. The new smart home control panel gives you a handy way to control your gadgets with a touch. Plus, you still have access to all of Alexa's voice commands and a few handy privacy features like a physical shutter.

The Bad

The similar Google Nest Hub is better at showing off your pictures, walking you through recipes and organizing your smart home. The Show 5's screen is a little too bright for a darkened room. You can't customize your snooze times, see your commands or set a sunrise alarm outside of certain hours.

The Bottom Line

The Amazon Echo Show 5 isn't quite as good as the Google Nest Hub, but it's a solid smart display that's particularly compelling as a smart alarm clock.

Alexa's as good as ever, with an abundance of voice activated features. In addition, the Echo Show 5 cleverly 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 -- sunrise alarms and a customizable clock face. The camera allows you to make video calls -- neither the Nest Hub nor the 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 your stored voice commands just by asking.

Add it up and the Amazon Echo Show 5 checks the right boxes to be the best entry level smart display on the market, but as far as overall experience, the Nest Hub is still better for the most part. The Echo Show 5 has made strides as far as smart home touch controls, but the Nest Hub still offers a cleaner interface, and it's better at showing off your pics, walking you through recipes, getting directions to restaurants and more. The steeper price of the Nest Hub is also mitigated by frequent discounts.

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

The Amazon Echo Show 5 will wake you up and show you what you need to know

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Crashing 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 isn't going to replace the current second generation Echo Show. That $230 smart display has a 10-inch screen and it can now serve as Amazon's premium model with the $90 Show 5 joining as its entry level complement.

Strangely, Amazon already has a smart alarm -- the $130 Amazon Echo Spot. The Echo Spot does less and costs more, so I expect the Echo Show 5 to simply replace it, but the Echo Spot will remain on the market for now -- just don't buy it.

Smart displays let Amazon, Facebook, Google show you answers to your questions

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In addition to the touchscreen, the Echo Show 5 has physical buttons for volume along the top of the triangular body. You can mute the mic and cut power to the camera with a single button next to the volume controls. You can also slide a physical shutter over the camera and still talk to Amazon's built-in assistant Alexa.

The physical shutter is a nice touch, especially for a device meant for your bedroom. It's also a shot at Amazon's main competition in the smart display category -- Google. The existing Nest Hub doesn't have a camera at all, but the upcoming $230 Nest Hub Max will and it won't have a physical shutter. One button will cut the power to the mic and the camera, but you won't be able to cover the camera and still talk to Google's version of Alexa -- Google Assistant.

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The physical shutter helps with a bedside device.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The Echo Show 5 isn't really aimed at the Nest Hub Max, though. 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 alarm feature, in which the display screen lights up leading up to your alarm time to ease you out of your sleep. The Lenovo Smart Clock lacks a few of the other traditional smart display features, though. You can't watch videos, look at pictures, or interact much with the touchscreen outside a few prescribed functions.

Enter the Echo Show 5, which keeps all the customary smart display tricks of a full-sized Echo Show and added the best parts of the Lenovo Smart Clock like the sunrise alarm. You can buy the Echo Show 5 via Amazon now and it starts shipping to customers on Wednesday, June 26.

Bells and whistles galore

Other than those buttons on the top, the back of the Echo Show 5 has a spot for the power cord and an output jack for a 3.5 mm audio cable. You can plug the Echo Show 5 into your own speakers if you want beefier sound. The fabric cover and the sloping back look somewhat similar to a full-sized 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 need to use the Google Home app for the Nest Hub. Once you're connected, you can swipe down from the top of the Echo Show 5's touchscreen for a detailed settings menu that lets you customize the clock face, play with settings for the alarm and more.

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Pick from a variety of clock faces.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You generally need the Google Home app to change settings on the Nest Hub, so the Echo Show 5 is more self-sufficient. You can also browse the web freely on the Echo Show 5 with both the 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's built-in assistant Alexa responds to all of the same commands as on a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo. You can search the web, make a call, play music, check your calendar, control your smart home gadgets and much, much more. Alexa is a truly robust digital assistant.

After some responses, you'll see additional info on the screen. Search for the weather and you'll see the forecast for your area. Ask about nearby restaurants and you'll see pics. You can also use the touchscreen to watch videos and make video calls. You can call other Alexa devices and check on the feed of connected security cams. If you have a Ring Video Doorbell or the Ring Door View Camera, you can talk to whoever is on your porch with a voice command.

The Echo Show 5 works with various news sites like 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 videos on YouTube with a voice command. You can access them if you go through the built-in browsers, but it feels like a workaround. The popular streaming site is owned by Google and after a famous dispute over a year ago, Google pulled the rights to YouTube from Amazon's smart displays.

New Show, new tricks

All of this is standard fare for Amazon's smart displays so far, but the Show 5 did bring some new tricks with it in addition to the sunrise alarms.

Scroll left from the right side of the screen for a new control panel that includes shortcuts for alarms, watching videos, playing music, controlling your smart home, seeing your skills (basically apps for Alexa) and communicating with other Alexa devices.

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Swipe left from the far ride side for this shortcut menu (note 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 one giant list of all of your groups and devices. Now, hit the smart home button, and Alexa offers better organization. You'll see recently used devices at first. Buttons at the top let you see your devices by any groups you've established or by device category like lights, switches or thermostats.

Find the right device and you can control it with a tap. Tap the name of the device for more detailed options like brightness for a lightbulb. As before, you'll see similar buttons and sliders without needing to navigate the menus if you control a device with a voice command. For example, change the temperature of your thermostat with your voice and you'll see a slider pop up on screen automatically to tweak the temperature further.

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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 could come in handy if your family members have trouble remembering what you've named various bulbs and switches. In the device menu, you'll also see a button to turn off everything -- a nice option to have for a bedside gadget as that'll come in handy when you're ready to go to bed.

The other options on the panel do what you'd expect. Video and music pull up entertainment choices. Alarms let you quickly set a wake up time. Skills & Games shows you a list of options. Communicate lets you make an announcement, send a message, call or drop in on other Alexa devices. The Skills & Games button was not ready at the time of testing. According to an Amazon rep, that shortcut will replace "routines" in the picture above by the time the Echo Show 5 ships on June 26.

As before, you can make voice calls to anyone in your contacts, or video calls through 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 that for a particular device.

If you're worried about privacy, the Echo Show 5 has an answer for that too beyond the physical shutter. You can say "delete everything I said today" to erase your recorded search history -- as on Echo smart speakers, Amazon records after you say the wake word "Alexa" to respond to your commands and gather data to improve the accuracy of the responses. Soon, you'll be able to say "delete what I just said" to erase your last command too. You can also find your search history and control your data more directly in a new privacy menu in the Alexa app.

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You can always hit the mute button if you don't want Alexa listening.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The Echo Show 5 brought with it a number of improvements to Amazon's smart display experience. They've also partnered with the site wikiHow to show how-to videos for a variety of questions. Ask how to solve a Rubik's Cube or how to open a tight jar and Alexa will find the corresponding video. If it's a complex task, you can only access the intro video from wikiHow for now, which is a little disappointing. Google's upcoming breakdowns with how-to videos from YouTube look more robust.

Fortunately, a lot of these upgrades -- the privacy enhancements, the smart home menu, and the how-to videos -- will make their way to the older Amazon Echo Show as well via updates.

A morning show

I love sunrise alarms. I've tested a couple at this point, and they all make getting out of bed in the morning a little easier. With the Echo Show 5, the sunrise animation starts 15 minutes before your scheduled alarm, gradually getting brighter and brighter to help ease you out of your sleep by making your dark bedroom a little less so.

The animation isn't as bright or as effective as on a dedicated sunrise alarm such as the Philips HF3500, but it still works. Strangely, the sunrise feature turns on automatically with any alarm set between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. You can turn off the feature entirely, but you can't use it for an alarm at any other time -- which might be a drawback if you need to get up for a night shift.

When the alarm sounds, the brightness goes away. It doesn't wait for you to turn off the alarm or hit snooze. The Lenovo Smart Clock does the same thing and with both I wished I at least had the option to keep the bright display on while I begrudgingly decided whether to get out of bed or snooze for a few more minutes.

Like the Lenovo Smart Clock, you can smack the top of the Echo Show 5 to snooze. Lenovo lets you customize the smack to shut off the alarm instead. The Echo Show 5 doesn't have that option. Lenovo also lets you customize your snooze time. With the Echo Show 5, it's always nine minutes.

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Whack the top of the Echo Show 5 to snooze.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Otherwise, the Echo Show 5 offers plenty of flexibility as far as alarms. You can pick from a wide variety of clocks and backgrounds. You can set multiple alarms and have them repeat on various days of the week. You can change the alarm tone and have the sound gradually ramp up to continue the theme of easing you out of your sleep. You can't do that on the Lenovo Smart Clock and it works great on the Echo Show 5.

You can wake yourself up with your own music on the Echo Show 5 and not on the Lenovo Smart Clock, but the Lenovo Smart Clock lets you toggle on your good morning routine (a customizable grouped command) with your alarm. That routine will cleverly not trigger if you hit snooze, only when you fully stop the alarm. You can do something similar with the Echo Show 5, but you have to set it up in the Alexa app instead of on the smart display itself.

As long as you have adaptive brightness enabled, the Echo Show 5 will switch to a nighttime clock face when you turn off the lights. I was able to find one with big red numbers. When testing ordinary alarms, I found red or orange numbers were key to hitting the balance between visible numbers without a disrupting glow. Unfortunately, the background of the screen still shines ever so slightly. It wasn't enough to keep me awake, but I did toss and turn a little more than usual when testing the Echo Show 5.

Because it can do more than the Lenovo Smart Clock, I'd recommend the Echo Show 5 as a better smart alarm -- though Lenovo's device is solid if you don't want distracting content or a camera on your nightstand. That said, the Echo Show 5 isn't quite perfect as an alarm, so an ordinary $10 to $20 model from our best list might still be a better fit if you want something simple.

Dueling with the Nest Hub

In addition to the many different clock faces, you can set a single pic or a slideshow of pics as your background. The Echo Show 5 will pull pics from the Amazon Photos app or you can link your Facebook account. You can also have Amazon scroll through a customizable list of stocks, sports scores, news, the weather forecast and more on your screen when you're not otherwise using the Echo Show 5.

The Nest Hub doesn't scroll through as much info. You can pick from a variety of clock faces, a selection of Google's artwork, or your personal photos from Google Photos. Otherwise, the ambient screen shows the time and the weather.

The improved ambient light sensor makes the Echo Show 5 better than the previous Echo Show at showing off your pictures. They tend to glow less and blend into the room more. Amazon clearly tried to catch up with Google on this feature, as the Nest Hub is great at making your personal pictures look like physical photos in a frame. The Nest Hub actually adapts both the brightness and color quality of the pic based on the light in the room. It's remarkable how good it makes your pictures look, and it's still well ahead of the Echo Show 5, despite the marked improvement.

I feel the same way about the smart home touch controls. The Echo Show 5 has made improvements, but I like Google's room-by-room organization more. The Nest Hub's control panel makes it easier to do more tasks with shortcuts and access your devices more quickly.

Similarly, the Nest Hub organizes information more effectively when walking you through the steps of a recipe. Google keeps the ingredient list to the side and breaks up the steps into understandable chunks. Amazon has recently made improvements on this front, but Google Assistant is still a better kitchen helper.

If you give up on cooking and search for a place to eat, Google can actually show you directions to your restaurant of choice on the screen and send them to your phone. The Echo Show 5 can't. When you give the Nest Hub a voice command, you can also see what it hears on the screen so you know if you need to enunciate more clearly. It's another small nicety that the Echo Show 5 doesn't match.

Little body, big sound

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Especially for its size, the Echo Show 5 sounds great when playing music.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

That said, the mics on the Echo Show 5 are a little better than the Nest Hub. Both do well in a quiet room, but the Echo Show 5 heard me from further away and more frequently over background noise. As you might imagine given the size difference, the sound quality of the Echo Show 5 isn't nearly as robust as the full-sized Echo Show, but surprisingly, it still keeps up well with the Nest Hub.

The Nest Hub is a little clearer on complex tracks, but the Echo Show 5 boosts bass and vocals to sound louder and make acoustic tracks pop a little more. The Echo Show 5 distorts slightly on high notes at max volume, but most of the time, it edges out the Nest Hub with a little more punch to the sound.

The verdict

Once upon a time, it was hard to review any smart speaker without comparing it to an Amazon Echo device. That's true now to an extent with smart displays and the $130 Google Nest Hub. Taken on its own, the $90 Amazon Echo Show 5 is a great device with a lot of useful features.

It is the best smart display Amazon has ever made and it brings new features with it that will improve the full-sized Echo Show too via an update. You can delete recorded commands and access a new smart home control panel. You can watch how-to videos and wake up to a sunrise animation. You can use the screen for video calls or close the camera's shutter if you need privacy.

If you're a fan of Alexa and want a smart display for your bedroom, I whole-heartedly recommend the Amazon Echo Show 5. Even if you're not already committed to Alexa as your smart home assistant of choice, the Echo Show 5 is a better bedroom smart display than the Nest Hub. The Nest Hub is still better if you want a smart display for any other room of your house. Nevertheless, Amazon now has a great entry level smart display that doubles as a smart alarm clock. The Amazon Echo Show 5 is an interesting alternative to the Nest Hub, but it doesn't supplant the Nest Hub as the cream of the crop.

Updated at 2:06pm ET with a couple of minor corrections regarding alarm capabilities.

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Watch this: The Amazon Echo Show 5 helps Alexa fit nicely on your nightstand
The Amazon Echo Show 5 helps Alexa fit nicely on your nightstand
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8.0

Amazon Echo Show 5

Score Breakdown

Features 9Usability 7Design 8Performance 8
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