When it comes to smart speakers, the first products that come to mind for most people are likely one of Amazon’s Echo devices. Amazon introduced and popularized the category with the original Echo speaker in 2014 and then did the same for smart displays with the original Echo Show in 2017. We’ve had plenty of time to see these products and their product categories mature, and the Echo Show (2nd Gen) felt long-overdue when it launched in 2021.
Once you get to a certain point, there aren’t that many opportunities to drastically change or improve upon the established form factor(s). The Echo Show line is the perfect example here. With the exception of the newer Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen) and Echo Show 15, the rest of the Show line has retained a design consistency for the past few years. When Amazon released the Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen), the Echo Show 5 Kids, and the Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen), they all looked pretty similar to each other, to their predecessors, and to the Echo Show (2nd Gen) from 2018. But I think there’s a good reason for this consistency: it’s a design that works.
Even though I own a first-generation Echo Show 5, I wasn’t the one who initially tested that device for Android Central, so I was understandably very excited to conduct this Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) review. With so many similarities to the first-generation Show 5, I was curious if I would like this device just as much. It turns out that no, I didn’t. I actually liked it more.
Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen): Price and availability
The second-generation Echo Show 5 was introduced in mid-May 2021, along with a second-generation Echo Show 8 and an all-new Echo Show 5 Kids device. The Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) is available for the same price as its predecessor — $85 — though it’s frequently discounted throughout the year.
The updated smart display has an improved camera and now also comes in a stunning Deep Sea Blue color in addition to the Charcoal and Glacier White variants. It is currently available directly from Amazon, as well as other retailers like Best Buy and B&H.
Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen): What’s good
It’s not every generation that we see major changes to the form factor of one of Amazon’s devices, and that’s certainly the case with the Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen). However, if you sit the newer speaker side by side with its older sibling, you won’t notice many differences. Actually, the only noticeable differences are the only real updates to the device at all — the color options and the camera.
I’ve long been a fan of Amazon’s blue colorways, like the Twilight Blue offerings on the Echo (4th Gen) and Echo Dot (4th Gen), and I adore the blue hue on the latest Echo Frames (2nd Gen), so it’s no surprise here that I’m a big fan of the Deep Sea Blue version of the Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen). This darker blue is eye-catching, but at the same time, it doesn’t stand out. It does a nice job of blending into its surroundings, such that it won’t clash with most people’s home decor.
The Echo Show lineup was among the first connected home devices to deliver video calling experiences that weren’t tied to one’s phone, but the cameras on the first generation of these devices were not of the highest quality. Both the Echo Show 5 (1st Gen) and Echo Show 8 (1st Gen) had measly 1MP cameras, which got the job done but didn’t deliver the best calling experience. Now that the product line has matured into its second generation, we finally get a significant spec bump to the camera. In fact, it’s literally twice as good as before, now at 2MP.
I know what you’re probably thinking, “big deal,” right? Well, it kind of is a big deal. Sure, it’s not as good as the 13MP cameras on the Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) or Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen), but it’s an improvement, and one that your video calling pals just might notice the next time you call them up.
I tried a video call from both my first-gen Show 5 and the Show 5 (2nd Gen) with my colleague Michael Hicks, and during the calls, he told me that he actually had a difficult time telling the difference between the two cameras. He conceded that the newer device looked slightly sharper, but it wasn’t an Earth-shattering difference. Had I not told him which device I was calling from, he wouldn’t have been able to guess on his own.
The camera cutout on the top right corner is also slightly different, sharing the rectangular shape on the Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) instead of the more circular cutout from the last time around. In addition to offering improved video call quality, the camera on the Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) can be used as a bonus home security camera. It won’t replace a fancier setup that might allow you to pan and zoom, but it is a nice bonus that doesn’t cost you anything extra to use. You can remote view your space from anywhere in the world you have an internet connection through the Alexa app on your smartphone. You just need to set up Home Monitoring during the initial speaker setup or whenever you’re ready to do so at a later time.
You can use the Show 5 to monitor for sounds like smoke alarms or breaking glass with Alexa Guard, and soon Amazon will enable the service to listen for other sounds such as babies crying, dogs barking, or people coughing or snoring. You’ll then be able to create automation or Alexa Routines based on those sounds, like having Alexa turn on the baby monitor if your little one sounds upset, or play loud music to scare away potential intruders if your Show hears Rover barking loudly.
Since this is a smart speaker, you’re probably wondering how it sounds. Honestly, it’s not that bad. Granted, it has a small 1.65-inch speaker that Amazon says is “full-range,” and in reality, is only slightly larger than the one found in the Echo Dot (4th Gen). However, that little speaker is capable of putting out a lot of sound for its size. It doesn’t come across as rich or dynamic as the full-size Echo (4th Gen) or even the larger Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen), but the sound is crisp and clear, and the mids and highs come through pretty nicely for a rear-firing speaker. It’s not as impressive with the lows and bass as those other Echoes I mentioned, but it gets the job done when sitting next to you on your desk; just don’t expect it to deliver room-filling immersive sound.
Finally, I love the diminutive size of the Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen). Some may see this as a drawback, but I like that I can place this speaker just about anywhere I want in my home without it hogging counter space from other knick-knacks and devices. It’s the perfect glanceable sidekick, and as such, it has been a productivity enhancer for me. I don’t view it so much as an entertainment portal, so its smaller, lower-resolution screen and less powerful speakers aren’t negatives, in my opinion.
Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen): What’s not good
I know that in the previous section, I said the camera upgrade was a “pro,” but that upgrade isn’t going to impress everyone. The 2MP camera may indeed be “twice as good” as the 1MP shooter found in the first-gen Show 5, but it pales in comparison to other smart display cameras. The Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) and Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen) both sport very impressive 13MP cameras, and even the Nest Hub Max has a 6.5MP camera. It’s almost as if the video calling feature is a throw-in on the Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) and not a tent pole feature like it is on the larger competitors.
This next complaint I have also falls under the header of “you should know what you’re getting into,” but a screen this small is not the ideal form factor for watching longer-form content. I know that it’s roughly the same size as many smartphone screens which we all use to watch Netflix or YouTube on, but the difference with those is that we can hold them or put them in any orientation we like that is most comfortable to us. Watching a half-hour sitcom or two-hour movie on a tiny five-inch screen that is sitting at a fixed angle on a desk or end table doesn’t hold quite the same appeal. It’s much better suited for showing short video updates, displaying relevant content to your queries, or as a digital photo frame.
Speaking of its fixed orientation, if you want to change the angle of the display or rotate it, then you’ll need to purchase a special stand. The good news is that if you already have a first-gen Show 5, the stand for that will work on its replacement just fine.
Finally, I’m a little sad to see that Amazon took away the 3.5mm audio output jack from the Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen), though I understand why it did so. I’m sure it saved the company money on its bottom line, and I’m sure Amazon has data that most people didn’t use it much on previous devices (or even know it existed). Nevertheless, it’s always a bummer when features are removed, and ports are taken away. It used to be that you could plug in a pair of wired headphones or connect it to a larger, more powerful speaker, but alas, no more. There is still a micro-USB port on the back of the device, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was for.
Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen): Competition
While the number of smart displays has slowly been increasing, there aren’t that many in the same size category of the Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen).
The Lenovo Smart Clock 2 is probably the device that most closely matches the size and capabilities of the Show 5. Its display is only four inches, but it includes a wireless charging dock for your smartphone or wireless earbuds.
Google’s own Nest Hub (2nd Gen) is another great option if you prefer the Assistant ecosystem. The newer Nest Hub sits between the Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) and the Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) with a seven-inch display but offers a comparable experience to both. It also lacks a camera, but it does have a special Soli radar sensor that can help track and monitor your sleep patterns. Unfortunately, it’s priced around $15 more than the Show 5.
Finally, if you’re considering the Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen), you should also take a look at some of Amazon’s other Echo devices like the Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) or the Echo Dot with Clock (4th Gen). The former device offers a bigger and better screen and camera setup, while the latter gives you the benefits of an LED clock and timer without all of the extra frills and cost that a full display entails. Alternatively, if you don’t mind the lower-specced camera, you can still find the first-gen Echo Show 5 at many retailers at a slight cost savings.
Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen): Should you buy it?
You should buy this if …
- You want a smaller smart display
- You want the ability to look in on your home when away
- You don’t need the best screen or camera
You shouldn’t buy this if…
- You need a primary video-calling device
- You want the best sounding speaker
- You need a 3.5mm audio output jack
The bottom line here is this: The Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) isn’t a device that’s going to wow you with impressive specs, but it is the Echo Show device that you’ll probably get the most bang for your buck from, at least on an everyday basis.
Don’t think of it as a competitor to its larger siblings like the Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) or Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen). Even though you can, you probably won’t be spending a lot of time watching streaming videos or movies on this device. Instead, think of the Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) more like an Alexa-powered alarm clock on steroids — one that can show you updates throughout the day, serve as a nice digital photo frame, and do everything that you’d expect from one of the best Echo Show devices.
Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen)
Bottom line: The Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) may not be a significant upgrade, but it’s still a fantastic value. It’s the perfect sidekick device for your bedside or work desk.
Review Changelog, October 2022
This article was originally published in July 2021. It was updated in November 2021 with the following changes:
- Updated pricing.
- Updated competition section.
- Added changelog.
It was updated again in October 2022 with the following changes:
- Fixed formatting and photo errors introduced by site migration.
- Rewrote introduction with new information.