Monday 23 September 2019

Tech review: Amazon Echo Show 5

€99 from Amazon or Currys

Amazon Echo Show 5
Amazon Echo Show 5

Amazon's march to get into every home continues.

Its new Echo Show 5 is a smaller budget version of its flagship Echo Show smart screen speaker.

Sporting a smartphone-sized 5.5in touchscreen, it's designed to be a smart speaker you might want to use as a modern clock radio beside your bed, on your desk or even in a small kitchen.

The basics of its operation are the same as other Echo devices. You ask Alexa a question or request it to do something, such as control your lighting, start a cooking timer or play a radio station or podcast.

The screen adds the ability to catch short TV news clips from RTÉ or watch TV episodes from Amazon Prime, which costs an extra €7 per month but is free if you pay €10 monthly for Amazon Prime delivery.

An onboard camera also lets you make video calls to others through the Alexa app.

I'll say up front: One of the best things about this is its price. For what you're getting - a 5.5in touchscreen with camera, microphone, speaker and voice recognition - this feels almost like below-cost selling.

None of the component parts are particularly outstanding in their own right. The speaker itself is very good, but won't hold a room as a main audio device.

And the resolution on that 5.5in screen is modest compared to just about any smartphone. But this isn't really a criticism. It costs less than the cheapest smartphone and you typically hold a phone closer to your face, where you'll notice the resolution more.

One thing I did miss is YouTube. It's a real shame because this is exactly the kind of gadget I might want to grab quick footage of a football goal, a trailer or a YouTube tech review on. You can actually watch it, but only through a web browser not a native app.

You need to keep this plugged in at all times for it to work. It's not like many Bluetooth speakers, which hold a charge for a while once powered up.

The Echo Show 5 really has only two main sources of competition: its own Amazon sister smart speakers and those from Google. Of the latter, Google has only one with a screen, its Home Hub (€139). The only real advantages that this has over the Echo Show 5 are a slightly bigger screen (7in compared with 5.5in) and a proper YouTube app. Other than that, it does many of the same things, albeit using different platforms or apps.

For me, the Echo Show 5 feels much more like a bedroom device than a living room or kitchen one. I can see how someone living by themselves may even consider it a bathroom accessory, although bathrooms typically do not have the electricity sockets that this device requires.

As a smart speaker on a budget, this is very good value. However if you're not too pushed about a screen and would prefer slightly better audio, I'd go for the (slightly cheaper) Echo 2nd Generation or (slightly more expensive) Echo Plus.

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