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Best Smart Displays 2019: Add a Screen to your Smart Home

Best Smart Displays 2019: Add a Screen to your Smart Home

One of the latest trends in the tech world is smart displays. They’re in essence an evolution of the smart speaker, adding a visual element with a screen. There aren’t loads to choose from but enough for us to round-up the best ones. If it’s a smart speaker without a display you’re after, we list

One of the latest trends in the tech world is smart displays. They’re in essence an evolution of the smart speaker, adding a visual element with a screen. There aren’t loads to choose from but enough for us to round-up the best ones.

If it’s a smart speaker without a display you’re after, we list the best ones here.

For all intents and purposes, a smart display is in essence a tablet which runs on mains power that sits in a stand. Typically the display isn’t adjustable and the base will have speakers to provide audio. Other features include microphones so you can use voice control and the device may have a camera, too.

Amazon paved the way in this area with the Echo Show, as it did with the smart speaker. Others have followed since though, with the main alternative being those with the Google Assistant. Third-party models came out first but Google now has the Home Hub as its own-brand option.

In May 2019 Google Home Hub was rebranded to Google Nest Hub, and saw a price drop to £119/$129. In July 2019 the £219/$229 Google Nest Hub Max will also join the range, a 10in smart display with better speakers and an integrated camera. (Here’s our hands-on review.)

Apart from the individual specs of each display, you really need to choose between Alexa and Google Assistant. We can’t outright tell you which to go for as it will come down to things like whether you have other devices in that ecosystem and if the other smart home devices you have, or are planning to buy, are compatible with that system.

Check out the list of compatible apps and partners for Google and Amazon.

Best Smart Displays

1. Google Nest Hub

Google Nest Hub

It might not be flawless but we feel Google’s Nest Hub (formerly Home Hub) with Google Assistant inside is the best all-round option for a smart display so far. It’s an affordable price and the compact, stylish design will ensure it fits almost anywhere in your home. 

There might not be a camera and audio quality isn’t the best, even within Google’s own line-up, but this is reflected in the price.

What Nest Hub does have is an excellent screen on which Google Assistant can show as well as tell. You might find it a little too small for some rooms (we’d like to see a 10in model), but it generally works very well for all manner of tasks including streaming music, watching video and simply providing useful information.

Read our Google Nest Hub review.

2. Lenovo Smart Clock

Lenovo Smart Clock

The Lenovo Smart Clock is a fairly simple concept – a Home Mini with a screen – but slick design, a simple interface, and clever features that manipulate screen brightness to keep it dim during the night and slowly brighten it as a light alarm make the device a surprisingly compelling offering.

The only real downside is the lack of Bluetooth speaker support – the main Home Mini feature missing here – but everything else about this does exactly what you want it to.

Most importantly, at £80/$80 it’s not all that much more than the regular Home Mini, making it all too easy to justify the jump from smart speaker to smart clock.

Read our Lenovo Smart Clock review.

3. Amazon Echo Spot

Amazon Echo Spot

The Echo Spot is another great piece of hardware from Amazon, and the screen adds genuinely useful information for most things you ask Alexa. It’s also £100/$100 less than the latest Echo Show, making it the cheapest way to get an Echo with a screen.

If you don’t want a screen though then the Echo Dot (3rd-gen) is your best bet as the functionality is the same minus the display.

Read our Amazon Echo Spot review.

4. JBL Link View

JBL Link View

It’s the most expensive smart display, but the JBL Link View is the way to go if you want the best audio experience. It might not look like an overly powerful speaker, but we’ve rarely pumped it higher than half way.

We’d like more colours and there can be a bit of lag sometimes, but the Link View is compact despite the huge sound. You also get a camera which might come in handy.

As with the other displays using the Google Assistant, we’d like the software to be better – namely with less reliance on the Home app.

Read our JBL Link View review.

5. Lenovo Smart Display

Lenovo Smart Display

The Lenovo Smart Display is an impressive third-party Google smart display that’s probably a better option than the Google Home Hub for most users thanks to the choice of two larger displays (8in or 10in) and the inclusion of a camera for video calls – though it does cost a good chunk more than Google’s own offering, which holds it back slightly.

The larger screen is seriously welcome when looking up travel, reading recipes, or watching YouTube videos, and it’s also given Lenovo space to fit in a surprisingly solid speaker. It’s hardly world beating, but there’s plenty of bass and enough volume to fill the room, which is more than we expected from a device led by its screen.

Ultimately, the irritations here are mostly on Google’s side, and mostly software – so we hope they might improve over time anyway. Lack of support for the vertical orientation and the frustratingly stripped back touchscreen controls are undeniably annoying, and highlight the occasional failings of the voice controls.

Read our Lenovo Smart Display review.

6. Amazon Echo Show (2nd-gen)

Amazon Echo Show (2nd-gen)

It’s expensive, but the 2nd-gen Echo Show is a good upgrade on the original. If you want Alexa with a screen this is the way to do it. It lets you call other people with Alexa devices, look up stuff online and watch Amazon Prime video. Just remember that it needs to be plugged in, it’s not a tablet.

Audio is decent and the screen is a good size but unless you really want the visual element or ability to call other Shows, you’d be better off with the Echo or the Echo Plus.

Read our Amazon Echo Show (2nd-gen) review.

7. Amazon Echo Show

Amazon Echo Show

This is the original Echo Show and it’s still available for less than the newer model. But this means it’s inferior with less good sound, a smaller screen and a bulkier design.

If you want the calling feature with a decent size display and want to save a bit of money then it’s an option, but if you’re set on an Echo Show you should probably consider the newer one as it’s a better product.

Read our Amazon Echo Show review.

8. Lenovo Smart Tab P10

Lenovo Smart Tab P10

The Smart Tab P10 is ultimately a fairly budget tablet, with lightweight specs, old software, and a simple feature set, masked in part by slick-but-simple design that leaves it looking and feeling more premium than it really is.

The key selling point is the included speaker dock, which automatically activates a dedicated mode for Amazon Alexa, essentially turning the tablet into a makeshift Echo Show while it’s docked. Without the dock the P10 would be fairly unremarkable, so it’s really only worth buying if the idea of a tablet that doubles as an Echo Show really speaks to you.

Unfortunately Lenovo didn’t get here first. Amazon did with its Fire tablets, and with the added bonus that you can buy extra Show Mode Docks for different rooms, not to mention saving money by opting for an 8in model.

Still, it might be worth opting for the P10 if you want full access to Android and YouTube – rather than Amazon’s stripped back FireOS – or if you know you’ll make use of the dock’s built-in speaker, rather than simply connecting it up to another sound system anyway.

Read our Lenovo Smart Tab P10 review.


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Susan E. Lopez

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