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Amazon introduces $90 “mini” Echo Show with HD and new privacy shutter

The new 5.5-inch screen is still big enough to perform Show’s main functions. Amazon wants you to have one in every room in the house.

Amazon introduces $90 “mini” Echo Show with HD and new privacy shutter
[Photo: courtesy of Amazon]

Honey, Amazon shrunk its Echo Show smart display! The company announced a much smaller 5.5-inch display version of the device–just more than half the size of the original 10-inch screened version of the device.

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The new Echo Show 5 takes up much less real estate on the nightstand or countertop than the original Show. It fits more easily into the “alarm clock” motif than its predecessor.

But the new Show 5 has an HD display, and it’s still large enough and bright enough to display the important information and content.

The price of the device his shrunk, too. It’s $89.99, compared to the $229.99 Echo Show (second generation).

[Photo: courtesy of Amazon]
The rear portion of the original Show protrudes out to make room for a large speaker, and the sound of the device is impressive. The Show 5 shares the same design, but it’s smaller, so the speaker in the back is only 1.5-inches, and the sound, while respectable, sounds small and boxy by comparison. You can stream the major music services through the device, including Apple Music and Spotify.

Some new privacy features have made their way into the mini Show (and soon to all Echo devices). Most importantly, the Show 5 now gets a physical shutter to cover up the camera lens on the front of the device. (The older Show used a switch to electronically shut off the mic and camera.) There’s a new Alexa Privacy Hub screen where users can control what sounds and images the Show remembers or forgets. Another new feature lets users instruct the Show to “forget everything I said today.” Soon, Amazon will release another feature that lets users tell Alexa “forget what I just said.”

These things should make it somewhat easier to manage what Alexa knows and remembers about me, but they still leave most of the burden on me, the user. I still have to continually tell Alexa to forget my voice commands–day after day, week after week. As far as I know, there’s no voice command saying “Alexa don’t remember anything you see or hear in this house–ever.” And even with the new physical shutter, chances are that after about three weeks, the Show’s camera will watch unimpeded by default.

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[Photo: courtesy of Amazon]
While there are plenty of “skills” that let Show play video like news summaries and talk show clips, one of the most useful things Show does is play how-to videos. This is especially true in the kitchen for cooking videos. The Show remains slightly hobbled by an inability to play YouTube videos on demand, as its rival the Google Hub can do. To watch (Google-owned) YouTube videos on the Show, you have to access them via a web browser. Amazon, however, seems to be trying to fill this gap by letting you call up WikiHow videos on the Show.

A radically smaller Show seems like a good idea because it does many of the same things the older Show does without sacrificing too much. And the smaller footprint will free up valuable space for other things, especially on the nightstand. The Show 5 doesn’t sound nearly as good, but I mainly use my Show’s speaker to play white noise, and I’m pretty sure the Show 5’s speaker is still good enough for that.

Oddly, it’s the price of the Show 5 that gives me pause—$89.99 is a major drop from the older Show’s $229.99. “With Echo Show 5, we’ve made it even easier and affordable for customers to add a smart display to every room of their house,” says Alexa VP Tom Taylor in the press release. Call me paranoid, but coming from a big tech company like Amazon (which has a burgeoning ad business of its own), what I hear is “we’re willing to take a hit on profit margin in order to get more of these boxes with mics and cameras in your home.” In the Facebook era, I’ve been trained to think that if it’s not about the money, it may be about my personal data.

On the other hand, if you’re relatively unconcerned about data privacy–a defensible point of view–then the Show’s price might simply be a good deal. The Echo Show 5, which comes in charcoal or sandstone colors, goes on sale at the end of June.

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