Amazon’s Echo Show 5 is the Perfect Bedside Companion

Information when you want it, none when you don’t

Key Takeaways

  • I was skeptical that I needed Amazon’s Echo Show 5 when I bought it a few months ago, but it has turned out to be the perfect bedside companion. 
  • The speakers won’t win any awards from audiophiles, but it’s great for listening to podcasts.
  • The Show 5 has a light sensor that reliably turns off the display when it senses it’s bedtime.
An Amazon Echo Show 5 on a tabletop with a handle near it for scale.

Sascha Brodsky / Lifewire

I have a serious problem with smart speakers and displays.

My home is festooned with too many bleeping gadgets from Amazon, Google, Apple, and even a speaker that was formerly powered by Microsoft’s Cortana. So, with a certain amount of skepticism, I bought the Amazon Echo Show 5 a few months ago when it was on sale. Did I really need this thing?

The Show 5 is designed to be a bedside clock on steroids. It turns out that the Show 5 is a fantastic bedside companion that’s thoughtfully designed to deliver news, information, and entertainment without causing you to lose too much sleep. 

"I enjoyed getting little news updates and bits of trivia streamed into my brain while sipping my coffee in bed."

Won’t Replace an iPad

The first thing to know about the Show 5 is don’t expect too much from it. The 5-inch low-resolution screen and sluggish processor aren’t going to replace your iPhone, and don’t even think about watching movies on the thing, even though you can technically download Netflix and tune in. 

It turns out, though, for doing lots of things from bed, the Show 5 is all you need. The speaker won’t win any awards from audiophiles, but it’s great for listening to podcasts. News headlines stream on the display throughout the day, and you can tap on one or tell Alexa to play it to watch and listen to a story. 

I enjoyed getting little news updates and bits of trivia streamed into my brain while sipping my coffee in bed. I even made a video call from the thing, and the quality was more than acceptable for a quick chat. 

There’s undoubtedly something insidious about the way Amazon is wending its way into every part of your life. Now, you aren’t even safe while you’re in bed. But some privacy concerns are alleviated because the Show 5 has a sliding privacy cover to block the camera. 

To Sleep, Perchance to Watch Netflix?

My biggest fear about the Show 5 is that it would interfere with already fractured sleep habits. I’m sensitive to any kind of light in the bedroom, so I was worried that the screen would keep me awake. Not to worry, it turns out.

The Show 5 has a light sensor that reliably turns off the display when it senses its bedtime. Very faint numerals show up on the display so you can make out the time, but they don’t throw off enough light to disturb even the most fastidious vampire.

I own a Google Nest Hub, and while the two displays are superficially similar, they serve very different tasks. The Nest Hub has a larger, sharper screen that’s perfect for looking up recipes on the kitchen counter. I also find the Google voice assistant helpful in looking up general queries for information, while Alexa is better at searching for things like music. 

One excellent but troubling feature of the Nest Hub is that it incorporates sleep sensing that claims to help you sleep better. It tracks your sleep and supposedly gives you personalized insights. I’m not sure I want Google to know so much about my sleep habits, even though it claims it will keep the information private. 

On the other hand, the Nest Hub is too distracting a gadget to have next to my bed. It’s an all-purpose information source that’s great for watching short videos and dozens of other tasks. But the Echo Show 5 succeeds because it's smaller and less intrusive. 

My one gripe with the Show 5 is that the sound quality isn’t great. The sound is tinnier and lacking as much bass as the most recent Amazon Echo Dot. If only Amazon were to make the same device with sound as good as Apple’s HomePod Mini, I’d upgrade in a second.

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