ByFields Corrielus 2019-06-25 969
Of course, the $89.99 Echo Show 5 is not just an intelligent alarm clock. It is a fully functional smart display. It can do almost anything the larger Echo Show from Amazon can do, just in a smaller package. It also has some updated features that fix my complaints with the Echo Spot. The Echo Show 5 is the best smart alarm clock currently available, even if you just yell at Alexa to dampen your alarm or tell you the weather of the day.
The Echo Show 5 is literally a smaller version of the Echo Show Amazon released last year. It has a rectangular wedge shape that accommodates a 5.5-inch screen and a single small speaker. The original size Echo Show obviously has more speakers that are better and louder, but you would never want to put one on your bedside table. (I suspect Amazon may rename the larger one to "Echo Show 10", but right now it's still the Echo Show. Not confusing at all!)
Compared to the smaller Echo Spot, the design of Show 5 allows for a much more practical (and larger) screen. However, the design is much less entertaining and unique than the split softball shape of the spot. This fun costs you 40 US dollars more and the spot is a worse device in any other metric. So I don't think it's worth it. You can get Show 5 in any color you want as long as it's white or black.
The Show 5 retains the small footprint of the spot and it's easy to find space on a bedside table, desk, shelf or coat. It doesn't take up much more space than a traditional alarm clock, and it's much more convenient to use it in more places than the original size echo show.
The 5.5-inch screen is not distinguished for its pixel density: It's only 960 x 480 pixels, which means your phone will definitely have a much higher resolution. But it's perfectly fine for the kind of things it displays and easy to see from anywhere in a room. It also automatically adjusts the brightness to the amount of light in the room and gets reasonably dark at night so it doesn't shine in your eyes when you try to sleep. The screen is the main difference between the Echo Show 5 and an Echo Dot, but it makes the show much more practical than a bedside clock.
Likewise, the 4-watt speaker isn't good for toasting the music at a house party, but it's surprisingly full and powerful when you hear casual music or podcasts, and Alexa's voice is clear and easy to hear. It sounds better than the Echo Spot and Lenovo Smart Clock and even better than the larger Nest Home Hub. You can output the sound of Show 5 to another speaker via a 3.5mm cable or a Bluetooth connection, but I doubt most people will need this.
Amazon uses only two microphones to get voice commands, unlike the four in the larger show or the seven in an audio-only echo. I didn't notice any problems with Show 5 hearing my voice commands even when music or videos were playing.
Like the other echo devices with screens, the Echo Show 5 has a built-in camera for video calls to other echo devices, the Alexa app or Skype. It's not a great camera - it's only 1 megapixel in size and doesn't have advanced HDR features - but if you really want to use it for a fast video chat, it's perfectly sufficient. (I doubt there will be much use for the photo booth features that Amazon also offers with the camera.)
What Amazon has added is a hardware switch that physically blocks the camera. This is a small thing that makes a big difference: When you bring an Internet-connected device with a camera into your bedroom, you want the best possible security that it won't record if you don't want it. A physical shutter that blocks the lens is the best way to do this. Actually, I tried to throw an eye over the echo spot that lacks a physical shutter because I don't always trust a software switch that turns it off. I hope that in the future Amazon will include the physical shutter for all its echo devices with cameras.
Show 5 offers the same features as the larger show, including many of the same video sources (Amazon Prime Video, NBC and Vevo), Alexa capabilities and voice control. The same Firefox and Silk web browsers are even available. This distinguishes it from the similar-looking but frustratingly limited Lenovo Smart Clock, which uses its display only to display the time.
Of course, YouTube isn't supported, as Amazon and Google don't fight in the schoolyard anymore, but they don't sit at exactly the same lunch table either. You can access YouTube via one of the integrated web browsers. But this is a miserable experience and you can't play clips via voice control. With this smaller device, however, it's less of a loss because I don't think it's very convenient for watching videos at regular intervals. As mentioned earlier, your phone already has a better - and probably larger - video viewing screen.
On the Show 5 screen, you can see the time or weather information at a glance. Amazon has designed a range of customizable dials for this. You can also use the Alexa app to create your own custom picture for it, or play a slideshow of all the photos you might have in a Prime photo account or on Facebook. Unfortunately, your phone does not have access to Google Photos. I automatically upload all my photos there. This means it will never compete with Google's Nest Home Hub as a digital photo frame for me. The Show 5 can also retrieve video feeds from ring or Amazon cameras and supports bidirectional audio.
The software is very similar to the larger Echo Shows, but Amazon has added a new DeepL access area where you can find frequently used information. If you move from the right edge of the device to the left, you'll find buttons for music, alarms, smart home controls, video, Alexa capabilities, and a new communications node that lets you communicate with everyone on the device. Most of the time, it's easier to use voice commands for most of these features, but it might be a good way to keep the person you're sharing a bed with from getting annoyed when you want to turn off the lights.
Due to its compact size, you can place the Echo Show 5 almost anywhere. I could see a lot of people using it as an attached clock radio on their desk or in a study. The most obvious place to use it is a nightstand as an alarm clock, and Amazon has added some features to make it more useful there. Not only can you ask Alexa to set an alarm with your voice, but you can also choose from many different alarm tones, including Disney and SpongeBob for kids and Tara Reid's character from Sharknado warns you to stand up and stay away from the windows. (Yes, really.) Or you can ask Spotify or Amazon Music for a specific track to play.
A new Alexa Sunrise feature gradually brightens the screen when the alarm goes off. With your voice you can fall asleep or stop the alarm. You can also tap Show 5 at the top to turn off the alarm, similar to what you can do with the Lenovo Smart Clock or a traditional alarm clock.
Overall, I think Echo Show 5 is the best implementation of an Amazon Smart Display yet. It still has the same limitations as the larger Echo Show - no Google services, no real apps, no Netflix, no proper YouTube support, etc. -but the smaller size means you probably wouldn't be using most of these things anyway. Because of the significantly lower cost compared to the $230 show, it's easier to accept that it's good and no longer good with a limited number of features.
It's also currently the best intelligent alarm clock with a range of features, loud and clear audio, and user-friendly voice commands. At $90 (and with Amazon's penchant for selling echo devices, probably often less), the Echo Show 5 is cheaper than Amazon's Echo Spot and only $10 more expensive than the far less impressive Lenovo Smart Clock. The combination of affordable price and good workmanship makes it easy for me to stand on my bedside table.
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