The so-called “smart home” and “Internet of Things” are no longer niche categories reserved for the super nerdy. From smart switches to smart bulbs, they’re very much a part of the mainstream norm. And you need some sort of hub to control and access it all. As great as mobile apps may be, they’re still not as convenient and simply saying, “Alexa, what’s the weather going to be like tomorrow?” from just about anywhere in your home. If you’re in the market for an Amazon Echo, I have five reasons why the Echo Show 5 should be right at the top of your list.

1. The Best Value Proposition

Consider this. The Amazon Echo Show 5 sells for $99.99 Canadian. As of this writing, that’s $30 cheaper than the mainline Echo ($129.99), $70 cheaper than the tiny Echo Spot ($169.99), and a third of the price of the 10-inch Echo Show ($299.99). The price difference on the US side isn’t as substantial, but it’s still perfectly evident. Whereas the Echo Show 5 lists for $89.99 US, the main Echo is $10 more ($99.99), the Echo Spot is $40 more ($129.99), and the Echo Show is more than double the price ($229.99).

As much as I like the 2nd generation Amazon Echo, it doesn’t have a display. That means it can’t handle video skills (like video feeds for the Flash Briefing), and isn’t as great for games where video is an option (like Jeopardy!). Sure, the speaker part of the regular Echo might offer better sound quality, but the speaker on the Echo Show 5 is more than adequate in terms of volume. Besides, there’s a 3.5 mm aux-out jack on the back (plus Bluetooth) if you want to connect an external speaker.

2. Smaller, Less Obtrusive Display

Yes, the Echo Spot has an even smaller display, but it’s a tiny round screen that isn’t nearly as useful. Watching any video, particularly 16:9 video, is just plain weird with giant black bars at the top and bottom.

Conversely, the 10-inch Echo Show (2nd generation) has a bigger display, but I find it too distracting on my office desk or in the bedroom. It may be a better option in the kitchen or living room, but I find the 5.5-inch smart display on the Echo Show 5 to hit a Goldilocks zone for my purposes. It’s big enough for the video I want to see — like Reuters news highlights — but small enough to blend into almost any decor.

3. Physical Camera Shutter

Okay, so I can completely understand why safety, security and privacy can be huge concerns for a lot of people. And realistically, if you’re really worried about Jeff Bezos and his minions listening in on your intimate conversations, you’re probably not all that interested in an always-listening Alexa device in the first place. Audio is one thing. Video is another altogether. It’s just a whole other step above.

It’s true that on the larger Echo Show, you can choose to disable the camera. However, that’s through software only. If there’s any kind of glitch or someone hacks into the system, they can theoretically access a live video feed from that front-facing camera. The Echo Show 5 provides greater peace of mind, because there is a physical camera shutter.

See that tiny white circle in the top-right corner? That’s a piece of plastic that slides over — there’s a switch at the top of the device — to cover the camera lens. For my part, I would have preferred if that slider were black, to blend in with the bezel, but making it stand out was clearly an intentional decision too. For audio, there’s a button next to the volume buttons to mute the microphone too.

4. All the Alexa Skills You Need

Yes, I realize you can slide all the way down the scale to pick up the Echo Dot on the super cheap. And, generally speaking, it’ll do most of the Alexa things that you want it to do. However, the speaker probably won’t be as good as the one on the Echo Show 5 and, more importantly, it doesn’t have a display. I really believe that smart screens will become more popular than smart speakers, because they allow for so much more.

Even in instances where audio can do, video can do it better. Even with something as mundane as weather, simply seeing the weather icons and temperatures makes it much easier to digest the information. That’s where the Echo Show 5 really shines, especially at a fraction of the price of the larger Echo Show. And then, on top of it all, you get these customizable clock faces too.

5. Great Smart Home Integration

Many people ask me whether they should get a Google Home or an Amazon Echo device. My response is always the same. The first consideration is your preferred ecosystem. Understandably, Google’s smart speakers work best with Google’s own services. Conversely, Amazon’s smart speakers work best with Amazon’s services. So, whether you prefer Google Photos or Amazon Photos will make a difference.

Cross-compatibility is getting better too. One of my complaints about the Echo Show was that it didn’t support YouTube natively. That still holds true for the Echo Show 5, but there are promising developments in the two companies playing friendlier with one another. YouTube is back on the Fire TV, but not yet on Echo. Hopefully that’ll happen soon too.

Another observation that I’ve made, in general, is that Google tends to process and understand natural language better, and it’s generally better with web searches. On the flip side, Alexa is generally better with shopping (from Amazon) and smart home integration. For example, I can’t control my Belkin WeMo smart bulb with Google Home, but I can with Amazon Alexa. With a device like the Echo Show 5, that grants me control both by voice and a touchscreen.

Echo Show 5: Areas for Improvement

Of course, the Echo Show 5 is hardly perfect. A few gripes that came up during my two weeks of testing include:

  • Camera is poor quality. The 1-megapixel, HDR-free camera might be reasonably serviceable for Drop In sessions, but high quality video this is not.
  • Display isn’t high resolution. With a resolution of just 960 x 480 pixels, the 5.5-inch screen could be a lot better. I wouldn’t want to watch any longer-form (more than a few minutes) video on here.
  • Microphone isn’t as sensitive or precise. The Echo Show 5 only has a two microphone array. Compare that to the four mics on the bigger Show and seven on the main line Echo. This was noticeable in everyday use.
  • Stand isn’t included. If you want the adjustable stand, it’s an optional accessory for about $20 more. It’s not necessary, but having the ability to tilt the device (especially for video calls) would be very much appreciated.

A Smarter Home for a Smarter Tomorrow?

If you want the best possible audio experience (both input and output) with Alexa, you’ll probably want to stick with the Echo or Echo Plus, but you’ll have to do without a display. If you want a much bigger display, you’ll need the 10-inch Echo Show. If you want save some money, just enable Show Mode on your compatible Fire tablet, but recognize its limitations too.

For my money, the Echo Show 5 ticks a lot of “sweet spot” boxes. It’s big enough to be useful, small enough to be inobtrusive, and it’s got the camera and touchscreen for video-enabled Alexa things (plus the alarm clock functions). And dollar for dollar, it’s the best value Echo out there right now.

The Amazon Echo Show 5 is available now in your choice of Charcoal (as shown) or Sandstone. It lists for $89.99 US or $99.99 Canadian.

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