- Smart displays up smart speaker functionality with a screen.
- Smart displays play photos and video, plus they show you answers, weather, calendars, and more.
- There are a variety of options featuring Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant to suit your needs.
A good smart display is more than just a tablet tipped on its side. Like smart speakers, the devices’ built-in assistant, whether it’s Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant can answer almost any question. There’s also the added benefit of video, so you can watch the weather report or see a demonstration of how to make a recipe. Plus, the visual, on-screen functions give you more control over your smart-home devices.
You can also use video calling with some displays. A number of streaming video apps, like YouTube or Netflix, work with several as well. The video and audio quality is good enough for most uses – there are some distinctly better than others in those categories – but it’s not going to replace your television for binging a series.
We’ve tested and researched many smart displays over the years to help pick ones to suit a variety of needs. We also have a smart speaker buying guide that explains what they can do, which devices they support, and what you need to know about privacy concerns.
Here are the best smart displays you can buy:
The Amazon Echo Show 8 is still our top choice for an Alexa smart display, though Amazon has a newer device, the Echo Show 10.
With a nice, bright screen and all of Alexa’s features, most people will get everything they need from the Amazon Echo Show 8. The voice assistant will answer questions, show you the weather, and tell you about traffic. You can use the Food Network app for recipes.
There’s a camera for video chats (unlike the Google Nest Hub), and you can watch videos from services like Hulu and Amazon Prime. Its 8-inch screen isn’t as big as the new Echo Show 10, but it’s also over $100 less.
The Echo Show 8 is only $40 more than the Echo Show 5, but the screen feels much bigger and it has better resolution. It also improves on the sound quality of the littlest display, though it’s probably not going to please audiophiles. Still, it’s a well-rounded choice, especially when it goes on sale.
We haven’t yet tested the Echo Show 10, and we’re not sure if its splashiest new feature — a screen’s ability to swivel and follow you around — is worth the extra price.
Google Nest Hub
The Google Nest Hub is an affordable option with plenty of features.
Thanks to Google Assistant, the Google Nest Hub can field all of your queries, with the added benefit of a 7-inch screen to display videos, news reports, traffic updates, and more. It can be handy for finding a YouTube video to guide you through a recipe or how to fix a clogged sink. The 1024-by-600-pixel resolution isn’t remotely close to what you’d get from a 4K TV, but it’s more than enough for anything you’ll want to watch on its 7-inch screen.
With its highly responsive touchscreen, the Nest Hub has an advantage over a speaker-only product when it comes to controlling the wide variety of smart home devices that work in Google’s ecosystem. A recent update grouped devices on one page, so they’re easier to view.
There’s no built-in camera. That’s an intentional omission for privacy concerns, but it also means that the Nest Hub can’t do video calls. If you want a Google smart display with a 10-inch screen, a camera, and bigger sound, the Nest Hub Max is what you’re looking for, though it is significantly more expensive.
Lenovo Smart Display
The good-looking Lenovo Smart Display features a high-quality screen and fits seamlessly into the Google smart ecosystem.
Though it’s over two years old now, the Lenovo Smart Display is still a worthy option. You can watch YouTube videos or live shows via YouTube TV, along with a decent array of other streaming apps. However, you don’t want to expect too much when listening to music, because the sound quality is lacking.
This display runs Google Assistant, so all you have to do is ask it a question and it can deliver the answers you’re looking for, video included. That also makes it easy to connect with the universe of Google apps and your Android phone. This display also makes it to access your smart-home devices.
Another thing that’s nice about the Lenovo Smart Display is that instead of having the flipped-over tablet look, it looks good on your shelf or table. Its attractive looks and great features made our reviewer consider moving from Amazon’s ecosystem to Google’s, back in 2018.
How to choose a smart display
The first thing to consider before buying a smart display is whether or not you want the device to run Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant. If you have an Android phone and devices in your home connected to Google, you’ll want to choose a display that runs Google Assistant. Another consideration is how much you use Google services like Calendar or Photos. Those integrate well with the displays that run Google Assistant.
For a home that’s already got an Alexa device and Alexa-powered accessories, then you’ll want something from Amazon’s universe. Power Prime users may also want an Alexa display for the ease of ordering items.
Both Alexa and Assistant devices run a large array of apps, but none of them are compatible with the most popular streaming services. For example, Prime Video is only available on Amazon smart devices. Calling up YouTube videos is easy on Google’s devices, but you’ll need to take the extra step of routing it through a web browser on Alexa displays. The list of apps and services available for each device changes regularly, so be sure to double check what’s available for each display before you buy one.
What we look forward to testing
The Amazon Echo Show 10 is brand new, and it’s at the top of our list for testing to see how it stacks up against the previous generation of devices. Using sound recognition and an ability to identify a human form (it does not use facial recognition), the screen follows you as you speak.