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

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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.

8.0 Overall
  • Features 9
  • Usability 7
  • Design 8
  • Performance 8

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).

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.

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 compliment.

Strangely, Amazon already has a smart alarm -- the $130 Amazon?Echo Spot ($130 at Amazon). 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.

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 ($100 at Crutchfield). 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.

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