The Echo Show 5 turned out to be the perfect tiny smart display for my desk after all

A closeup of an Echo Show 5 (3rd Gen) on a desk
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Amazon and Google often like to portray the best smart displays as the types of gadgets you’d want to use in the kitchen or next to your bedside table. While both of these use cases do have some merit to them, in my experience, I’ve found that incorporating a smart display into your desk setup can be a whole lot more useful. 

From getting answers to simple questions to checking on your home security cameras or even watching a video here and there during your downtime, it can be very convenient to have another display on your desk that’s separate from your computer — especially since you can control a smart display with your voice while keeping your hands firmly planted on your keyboard.

I first decided to add a smart display to my desk setup after realizing there was loads of wasted space beneath my ultrawide monitor. I had used one of Google’s Nest Hub smart displays in a similar way in the past, which is why I decided to upgrade to the larger Nest Hub Max and put it under my monitor in the center of my desk.

Although I typically prefer a smart display with a larger screen, there’s one with a much smaller display that has always caught my eye: the Echo Show 5. I held off on buying a second generation Echo Show 5 after reading reviews which noted that its performance just wasn’t up to snuff when compared to the Echo Show 8.

Earlier this year, though, Amazon sent over the new Echo Show 8 (3rd Gen) for review and alongside it, they also included the new Echo Show 5 (3rd Gen). I’ve been using the Echo Show 5 for the past two months, and now I really think it's the perfect tiny smart display for your desk.

Echo Show 5 (3rd Gen): was $89 now $65 @ Amazon

Echo Show 5 (3rd Gen): was $89 now $65 @ Amazon
The Echo Show 5 packs in the same functionality as Amazon’s larger Echo Show 8 in a tiny package. At 5.8 x 3.6 x 3.2 inches, it’s the perfect size for your nightstand and its 5.5-inch touchscreen lets you control your smart home devices, listen to music, play games, watch videos and more. The latest Echo Show 5 also has a larger built-in speaker, up to 20% faster performance, a better microphone array and other improvements that make upgrading from the previous model well worth it.

From smart display to touchscreen monitor

The Google Pixel Tablet underneath an ultrawide monitor on a desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As someone who’s constantly trying out new standing desks, office chairs and gadgets in general, my desk setup remains a work in progress that’s gone through several iterations over the past years. As I noted before, it all started when I set up a Nest Hub Max underneath my ultrawide monitor.

Shortly after this though, Google announced the Pixel Tablet and when the Universal Stylus Initiative reached out to see if I wanted to try one out, I jumped at the offer. After all, this new device was the first of its kind: an Android tablet/smart display hybrid. While I still consider the Pixel Tablet to be one of the best Android tablets you can get today, the same can’t be said for its smart display functionality which is why Google recently announced that it would begin selling the device without a dock.

It was hard to go back to the larger bezels on the Nest Hub Max after using the Pixel Tablet for a week, so instead I decided to try something new. My ultrawide monitor already serves the purpose of a dual monitor setup but I wondered what it would be like having a smaller, touchscreen monitor under my main display. To that end, I picked up a mini monitor and added it to my desk setup. While it was great while it lasted, that cheap touchscreen display died after only a few months. 

A portable monitor underneath an ultrawide monitor on a desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I was surprised by just how much I liked having a smaller monitor under my larger one, so once again, instead of going back to the Nest Hub Max, I got a portable monitor with a touchscreen from UPERFECT to replace it. I’m two months into using it so far and I haven’t noticed any issues at all. This is likely because UPERFECT has a lot more experience designing and manufacturing all manner of portable monitors like the dual display one I’m currently in the process of testing out.

Although this new touchscreen monitor was able to fill the gaping hole underneath my main display, there was still one thing missing from my desk. With a pair of the best computer speakers and mid-size PC on top of my desk, there just wasn’t enough space to try and cram either a Nest Hub Max or a Nest Hub on the edge of my desk. Fortunately, I had the Echo Show 5 on hand.

The best of both worlds

An Echo Show 5 (3rd Gen) on the corner of a desk next to a multi-monitor setup

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Since my touchscreen monitor is positioned directly underneath my main display now, I decided it would make more sense to have a smart display off to the side of my desk instead of at the center. The Vari Curve Electric Standing Desk I’m currently using as my main desk has two grommets on either side for running cables. While the grommet on the right is filled with cables from my PC, there was still some space in the one on the left, so I used that to run the Echo Show 5’s power cable to the surge protector under my desk.

The backside of the Echo Show 5 (3rd Gen) on a desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Getting everything set up only took a few minutes and honestly, the hardest part of the entire install was plugging in the power adapter under my desk and running the other end of it up to the top of my desk. Once this was done, I now had an always-on-display that shows the time, date, weather and more that I can easily glance over at when my other screens are occupied.

Viewing feeds from a security camera on the Echo Show 5 (3rd Gen)

(Image credit: Toms' Guide)

I mentioned checking in on my security cameras before and the Echo Show 5 is perfect for this. Whether I want to look at the one on the side of my garage to see if someone has pulled into the driveway or check in on my sleeping toddler while working at night, this is one of the handiest features of the Echo Show 5 and other smart displays like it. Although I have a Nest Doorbell I can’t check on this device at my front door, I also have a Eufy security camera pointed at my front porch for when I want a wider view.

Even though it may seem like the right idea to stick to one particular ecosystem when building out your smart home, I’ve found that having devices from both Amazon and Google has proven beneficial. I tend to rely on Google for straight information whereas Alexa is a lot better and faster at controlling my smart lights and other smart home devices.

Smart displays don’t get nearly enough credit

A wide shot of an Echo Show 5 (3rd Gen) on a desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Though the hype around smart homes seems to have died down a bit in recent years, these inexpensive, little devices can really help make your life a lot easier. For instance, with a few of the best smart speakers, you can play music across your entire house for a fraction of the cost that you would pay to have wired speakers in every room. I’ve also found that you can do a whole lot with smart bulbs from using one with a motion sensor to have your pantry light up as soon as you open it to using coloring changing bulbs in the laundry room to keep track of whether or not you flipped that last load.

Smart displays are antoher beast entirely. People like to think of them as something you put in your kitchen for recipes or on your bedside table to act as an alarm clock. However, I use the Echo Show 15 in my kitchen as a TV, as a calendar to keep track of my schedule and let everyone else know when I have meetings and even as a photo booth when friends and family come to visit.

I thought having a second, touchscreen monitor underneath my main display would be enough at my desk setup but old habits die hard and it’s been great being able to ask Alexa for help again throughout the day. 

If you were on the fence about the Echo Show 5 like I was, Amazon has made some significant improvements with this latest model and while it’s still not nearly as powerful or feature-packed as the larger Echo Show 8, it’s now more responsive, faster and has an improved microphone array to better hear your commands. The Echo Show 5 has earned a place in my desk setup, and I don’t think I’ll be swapping it out for another device anytime soon.

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Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.