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Amazon's Echo Show 5 puts Alexa on your nightstand

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor

Amazon's (AMZNfirst-generation Echo Show was a solid product with a, well, unfortunate design aesthetic. Okay, I'll just come out and say it. The thing was ugly. Amazon turned things around with its 2nd-generation Echo Show, but with a 10-inch screen, the thing was huge.

That's where the company's new Echo Show 5 comes in. Packing a 5.5-inch screen, the Show 5 is a smart display designed to be unobtrusive enough to fit on your nightstand or the kitchen counter. It offers all of the functionality you'd expect from an Echo device, including voice controls and music streaming, as well as the ability to watch video content.

And at $89, it's a relatively inexpensive entry into the smart display market that's certainly worth checking out.

A better alarm clock

The Echo Show 5 is ideal for your nightstand. Its compact design puts more emphasis on the display and features a rounded rear with a cloth exterior. It's not going to blow away guests with its looks, but that's almost preferable, as the little device easily blends in with your existing decor.

The rear of the Show 5 houses its power port, a 3.5mm port to connect the smart display to beefier speakers if you want a more robust audio experience, and a micro USB port. Up top are the volume buttons, a mute button, and a slider that physically covers the Show 5's onboard camera with a shutter.

The rear of the Echo Show 5 features a power port and 3.5mm audio jack so you can connect the smart display to more powerful speakers. (Image: Amazon)

The addition of the physical shutter should help ease the anxiety of users who fear that internet-connected cameras can spy on them at will. Lenovo and Google (GOOGGOOGL) simply eliminated the camera on their own Smart Clock, which is an even better option for the more camera-phobic out there. But if you still want to video chat with family members and friends, the shutter provides a kind of security blanket against potentially malicious exploits.

A new look on the inside

As with previous Echo Shows, the 5 allows you to customize its home screen to provide you with a rotating carousel of items including the weather, headlines, sports scores, personalized reminders, stock prices, and more. If seeing the score of another night's disastrous Mets game scrolling by doesn't exactly get you in the mood to take on the world each morning, you can personalize your home screen via the Show 5's onboard settings menu.

The Show 5's display is as crisp and colorful as its stablemates' and looks far cleaner than the screen found on Lenovo's Google Smart Clock, which has a similar physical footprint.

Swiping down from the top of the screen pulls up the display brightness slider, as well as the Home button, Do Not Disturb option, and Settings button. Swipe in from the left side of the screen, and you'll find a new shortcuts menu.

From here you can make video calls to other Echo Show users, access music, find video content, set alarms, create routines, and organize your smart home devices. There's also a section that gives you tips on the various ways you can use Alexa — including telling it to play country music, asking for the weather forecast, and more.

The Show 5 can stream content from Amazon's video library, but the screen is so small that it's not exactly a great place to binge watch "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." It's more suited for quick tutorial videos or looking up recipes in a pinch.

The Echo Show 5 is meant to blend into your existing decor with ease. (Image: Amazon)

The Echo Show 5 offers decent audio quality for its size. But don't expect it to rival the sound from Amazon's 2nd-generation Echo, which packs a larger, more powerful speaker. Still, if you're looking to blast some tunes while folding your laundry, the Show 5 is a fine option.

Of course, the Echo Show 5 is nothing without Alexa. The built-in digital assistant is getting smarter all the time and lets you control your smart home devices, video, music, and more. Alexa still has hiccups every once in a while — sometimes it will mishear what you say — but inadvertent activations haven't been an issue so far.

If you're nervous about Amazon having access to your previous voice commands, Amazon has also added the ability to tell Alexa to delete your logs. Amazon is clearly responding as consumers become more aware of potential privacy issues related to the use of voice assistants.

That's not to say it's no longer collecting copious amounts of data on users, but it's a move in the right direction.

Should you get it?

The Echo Show 5 is a slick, attractive, intelligent device. It's the perfect nightstand companion, especially with its physical camera shutter, and allows you to control all of your Alexa-compatible smart home devices from the comfort of your bed. And at $89 it's far less expensive than the larger 10-inch Echo Show, which tops out at $229.

If you're looking for a smart display that doubles as an intelligent alarm clock, look no further than the Echo Show 5.

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Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@yahoofinance.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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