Jul 22nd, 2020

Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are leading the way in the “smart home” battle and leaving Apple and Samsung behind thanks to years of dedication to the various services. As for the differences between what you get with Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant, there really aren’t all that many. Both platforms integrate extremely well with the most popular smart home products, including Philips, LIFX, Samsung, and others. Both allow you to switch up the “hot phrase”, although Google pulls ahead with the ability to set the phrase to whatever you would like. While Alexa pulls ahead with the plethora of “Skills” that you can install, Google pulls back in line thanks to the IFTTT support that is available. These are two pretty-evenly matched voice assistants, and it really comes down to which voice assistant you prefer to use over the other.

Whether you’re just starting out or are a “smart home veteran”, chances are you’ll want to either try or pick up a new smart display. As the years have passed, new displays have been unveiled, with many different use-cases for each one. While the world still waits for Samsung to decide what it’s doing for smart speakers, the two primary options fall in either Amazon’s Echo voice services or Google Assistant. Luckily, there are great options for both, so let’s check them out.

Best Amazon Smart Displays

Amazon Echo Show 5

If you’re looking to get started or want something for your nightstand, then you can’t go wrong with Amazon’s Echo Show 5. This sports the smallest display, outside of the Echo Spot, measuring in at 5.5-inches. You can use this to interact with all of your smart home products, and install any Alexa Skill to make your Echo even smarter than it is out of the box. The built-in Privacy Shutter disables the camera mounted on the front, or you can turn off the camera and microphone with a dedicated button.

The Good

  • Best for on a side table
  • Personalize with Amazon Photos
  • Control privacy with a built-in camera shutter

The Bad

  • Too small to watch videos
  • Must install Skills to unlock full potential
  • Speaker may sound tinny

$60 from Amazon

Amazon Echo Show

This behemoth of a smart display is the way to go for those who want the best that Amazon’s Echo lineup has to offer. There’s a 10.1-inch display, to go along with the dual 10W speakers with Dolby processing for incredible sound quality. With a display this big, it’s a perfect companion for the kitchen or a common area where you make video calls with your friends and family. The built-in Zigbee Hub can detect and connect to compatible smart home products, removing the need to have different hubs for different lights, cameras, and more.

The Good

  • Vibrant 10.1-inch display
  • Built-in Zigbee Hub
  • Dual 10W speakers with Dolby processing

The Bad

  • Can’t just be placed anywhere due to the size
  • Lack of 3.5mm audio port

$180 from Amazon

Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus Tablet

It had been a few years since the Fire HD 8 had been updated, but we are extremely thankful that they have finally seen some attention. There are two models of the 8-inch Fire Tablet, with the HD 8 Plus taking the cake as a pseudo-smart display thanks to the included wireless charging dock. When placing the tablet on the dock, your Fire HD 8 Plus automatically turns into an Echo Smart Display with all of the same features as others. Then, you can just take the tablet off the dock and use it as a traditional tablet with access to all of Amazon’s applications and services. Just remember, there is no Play Store on Amazon’s tablets, so you’ll have to use the Amazon App Store.

The Good

  • Wireless charging via Charging Dock
  • Can recharge 100% in less than 4 hours
  • Charging dock turns tablet into Smart Display

The Bad

  • Only 3GB of RAM
  • Google Play Store not built-in

$109 from Amazon

Facebook Portal

Regardless of the privacy concerns that come with using Facebook, the company has released some pretty solid smart displays that integrate quite nicely. These are powered by Amazon Alexa but have deep integration with Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp messaging applications. Out of the bunch, the Facebook Portal looks like one of those smart picture frames, but there’s a whole lot more under the hood that the Portal can do. Facebook also offers the Portal in several different sizes, along with the Portal TV so you can use your television as the display while this accessory provides all the smarts.

The Good

  • Amazon Alexa built-in
  • Can make video calls with Messenger or WhatsApp
  • 4 microphones built-in

The Bad

  • Thick bezels
  • No audio input

$105 from Amazon

Best Google Smart Displays

Google Nest Hub

While it’s touted as the “best digital photo frame” the Nest Hub offers so much more than just showing off your pictures. Naturally, you’ll be able to take full advantage of the greatness of Google Assistant, all in a compact and unique design. On the back, you’ll find a built-in mute switch, but won’t find a camera which is great for those with privacy concerns. Another huge benefit is that you can pair the Home Hub with other Assistant-enabled spears so that your music or podcasts can be playing in every room of your home.

The Good

  • Great integration with Google Photos
  • Automatically adjusts to the color and lighting in a room
  • Multi-room audio available

The Bad

  • Only two built-in microphones
  • Touch controls can be finicky

$90 from Google

Google Nest Hub Max

The Home Hub Max is the big-screened Assistant that you’ve always wanted. There’s a 10-inch display, with a fairly-slim bezel surrounding it which houses the various sensors, including the 6.5MP camera for video calls. Naturally, you’ll want to watch a video or two on here, so just ask Assistant to start playing it, or Cast it from your phone to the Home Hub Max. And when it comes to sound, you won’t be disappointed with the dual 10W speakers paired with the 30W woofer.

The Good

  • Gorgeous 10-inch display
  • 6.5MP camera built-in
  • Stereo speakers

The Bad

  • Quick Gestures are tough to master
  • No auxiliary input

$229 from Google

Lenovo Smart Display 7

Unveiled back at IFA 2019, the Lenovo Smart Display is set to take over your home with its unique designated impressive package. As the name suggests, you’ll get a 7-inch display, but there’s also ambient white balance tuning so that the display will blend in with the surroundings and not stick out like a sore thumb. The Smart Display 7 has a few advantages over the standard Home Hub thanks to the included 2MP camera, Bluetooth 5.0, and dual 5W speakers for better audio. If you can get past the speaker facing you, then this is the perfect smart-home companion.

The Good

  • Dual 5W speakers
  • Microphone and camera buttons for privacy
  • Bluetooth 5.0 built-in

The Bad

  • Speaker placement is a bit awkward
  • Only 4GB of onboard storage

$100 from Best Buy

Lenovo Smart Tab M8 with Google Assistant

Also unveiled at IFA 2019, the Lenovo Smart Tab M8 offers a way for you to get both a smart display and a tablet, all in a single package. The tablet measures in at 8-inches, and only has a 1200 x 800 resolution to go along with a middling MediaTek processor and just 2GB of RAM. But the Smart Tab M8 has a great 5,000mAh battery and Lenovo includes a charging dock that transforms the Smart Tab M8 into a Google Assistant Smart Display.

The Good

  • Dual, Dolby Atmos-tuned speakers
  • Up to 18 hours of battery life
  • Smart Charging Dock included

The Bad

  • Just 2GB of RAM
  • Touch controls can be finicky

$100 from Walmart

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