Best smart displays for 2021
Thanks tolockdowns, voice assistants are — and thanks to the countless major smart home devices releasing regularly, they’re getting more powerful, too. Smart displays bring an even more compelling angle: they offer video chat, touch controls, a screen for streaming and much more. I for one have already sent an to my mother-in-law so she can drop in to read to my kiddos every couple of days this new year — even though she lives 10 hours away.
But which smart display is best for you?
The smart display industry has flourished in recent years, with theand the (formerly the Google Home Hub) at the forefront of the screen wars. Amazon’s new adds the element of motion to the category.
It makes sense that there are almost aon the market: They’re a great combo made up of the always-listening voice assistant (like you’d find in a ) and a touchscreen for watching videos, controlling devices, adding things to your to-do lists and more. The even adds in that can display personalized bits of information whenever this smart device recognizes you.
There are plenty of considerations that go into which smart display is right for you. Do you want one that offers video chat and video calling? Or that connects with Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Home app? Does it need to be able to control your smart light bulbs and smart plugs? Is audio performance a factor (in case you need music for a dance party)? These are all factors you should keep in mind.
If you’re looking to upgrade your current smart speaker, or you’re just starting yourand you find the touchscreen appealing, here are the best smart displays available now. We’ll update this list periodically.
You can often find the Nest Hub (formerly called the Google Home Hub) on sale for $100 or less, making this Google smart display device an affordable entry point for the category. It’s also the smartest and best overall, making the lower price even more appealing.
Thanks to the built-in Google Assistant, the Nest Hub responds to all of the same voice command options as the Google Home Mini smart speaker. The touchscreen is a little small at 7 inches, but the adaptive brightness makes pictures look particularly great. Google will even customize a slideshow of family pics as your screensaver.
You can also control your smart home devices, like your smart doorbell, with an intuitively designed control panel. Unlike most of the other smart displays (and unlike its new big brother, the Nest Hub Max), the Nest Hub doesn’t have a camera, but that might be a bonus if you have privacy concerns and want to put it on your bedside table. The colorful fabric design on this Google assistant smart display allows the device to blend in anywhere, though the touchscreen comes in particularly handy if you want step-by-step help through a recipe in the kitchen.
Read our Google Nest Hub review.
For a long time, the Nest Hub occupied pride of place on this list, thanks to its photo display aesthetic, pleasant user interface and more naturalistic voice assistant. But as we venture ever deeper into the coronavirus pandemic, the Echo Show 8’s camera — and its ability to video chat — becomes a more important deciding point for would-be customers. And that’s one feature the Nest Hub simply doesn’t have. Add that to Amazon Alexa’s growing smarts, and the Show 8 has been upgraded to share the “best display” honor with the Nest hub.
With the Show 8, Amazon’s Alexa will respond to your voice control and voice commands, plus you can use the screen to play games, browse recipes, watch movies and Prime Video trailers, control your smart home and more. The 8-inch screen on this Amazon Alexa smart display device is small enough to stay out of the way, but big enough that you won’t have to squint. It also includes a physical camera shutter for privacy.
In addition to the usual tricks, Amazon included its recent sunrise alarm feature, which helps ease you out of your sleep with a screen that starts getting brighter 15 minutes before your scheduled wake-up time. You can watch new how-to videos, or make a video call with a tap.
Google Assistant still makes better use of the touchscreen than Amazon — in particular, the cooking directions and smart home controls are better — but the Echo Show 8 is close enough if you’re already invested in Alexa, and it actually has a camera for video chatting, which the Nest Hub doesn’t. In short, the Show 8 is Amazon’s best smart display yet.
Read our Amazon Echo Show 8 review.
If you want a 10-inch touchscreen powered by Alexa, the $250 Amazon Echo Show 10 is the latest and greatest in smart display technology. With a motorized base, the Echo Show 10 can follow you around the room during video calls or while you’re watching video content on the device. The 10.1-inch HD display looks good, and the Echo Show 10 comes with a 13 MP front-facing camera with a physical shutter for privacy. Amazon also added adaptive color to this model.
You can use the Echo Show 10 as a smart home security camera and view it remotely in the Alexa app. Group video calling is supported for up to seven people, and Drop In lets you make a call directly to your display from anywhere with the Alexa app. Occupancy and vacancy based routines can trigger other smart home devices when the Echo Show 10 senses someone entering or leaving the room.
This is Amazon’s priciest display and the most feature-filled. Even though motion features can be disabled and the camera has a physical shutter, we think most people will still get by just fine with the Echo Show 8 for considerably less money. Still, if you’re after Amazon’s boldest smart display yet, this is it.
Read our Amazon Echo Show 10 review.
Smart displays let Amazon, Facebook, Google show you answers to your questions
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Smart display comparison
|Best overall||Best Alexa display||Best full-sized display|
|Google Nest Hub||Amazon Echo Show 8||Amazon Echo Show 10|
|Cost||$129 (£119, AU$199)||$100||$250|
|Screen Size||7-inch (177.8 mm)||8-inch (203.2 mm)||10.1-inch (256.5 mm)|
|Resolution||not listed||720p (1280 x 800)||720p (1280 x 800)|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||7.02×4.65×2.65 inches (178.5x118x67.3 mm)||7.9×5.4×3.9 inches (200.7×137.2×99.1 mm)||9.9×9.0x6.7 inches (251.46×228.60×170.18 mm)|
|Weight||1.1 lbs. (480 grams)||2.29 lbs. (1038 grams)||5.64 lbs. (2,560 grams)|
|Wireless Connectivity||Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth 5.0||Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth||Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth|
|Voice Assistant||Google Assistant||Alexa||Alexa|
|Calling and Messaging||Direct dial (US, UK, and Canada, outgoing calls only), video calls with Google Duo||Alexa Messaging, Skype, direct dial (US and Mexico)||Direct dial, Group calling with Alexa, Zoom, Skype|
|Smart kitchen features||Step-by-step recipe assistance with YouTube tutorial videos||Food Network GO; Step-by-step recipe assistance; Amazon Meal Kits integration||Food Network Kitchen; Step-by-step recipe assistance; Amazon Meal Kits integration|
|On-screen smart home controls||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Built-in Camera||No||Yes (1MP)||Yes (13MP)|
|Microphones||2-mic array||2-mic array||2-mic array|
|Speakers||Full range speaker (80 dB SPL @ 1KHz, @ 1m)||2x full range 2-inch 10W speakers||2x 1-inch tweeters 3-inch woofer|
|Streaming Music Services||iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube Music||Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, Apple Music||Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, Apple Music|
|Streaming Video Services||YouTube, YouTube TV, Google Play Movies, CBS All Access, HBO Now||Amazon Prime Video, NBC, Vivo, Hulu, Netflix||Amazon Prime Video, NBC, Vivo, Hulu, Netflix|
|Compatible smart home cameras||D-Link, EZVIZ, Nest Cam, Netgear Arlo, Skybell Video Doorbell, Smartcam, Swann, TP-Link Kasa Cam, Vivitar||Amazon Cloud Cam, Amcrest, August Doorbell Cam, Blink, Canary, D-Link, EZVIZ, Logitech Circle, meShare, Nest Cam, Netgear Arlo, Ring Video Doorbell, Toucan, TP-Link Kasa Cam, Wyze Cam, Zmodo||Amazon Cloud Cam, Amcrest, August Doorbell Cam, Blink, Canary, D-Link, EZVIZ, Logitech Circle, meShare, Nest Cam, Netgear Arlo, Ring Video Doorbell, Toucan, TP-Link Kasa Cam, Wyze Cam, Zmodo|
|Other notable features||Ambient EQ automatic adaptive screen brightness; Digital picture frame via Google Photos with Live Albums; Live TV with YouTube TV; Send directions to your phone or chosen recipes from your phone to the display; Digital Wellbeing mode for parental restrictions and downtime hours||Sunrise alarms; Customizable clock faces; Customizable alarm tones; YouTube access via Silk or Firefox browsers||Zigbee hub; Adaptive color and brightness; 360 rotating screen with motion tracking; YouTube via Silk or Firefox browsers; Sunrise alarms; Customizable alarms; Customizable motion settings|
|Color options||Charcoal, Aqua, Chalk, Sand||Charcoal, Sandstone||Charcoal, Glacier White|
|Availability||US, UK, Australia and 12 others||US, UK, Australia and 7 others||US and UK|
|Expected ship date||Available now||Available now||Available now|
: At $229, the Nest Hub Max ups the Google Assistant’s screen size from 7 to 10 inches and offers better sound quality than before. The real story, however, is the addition of a sophisticated camera that can track movements and gestures, or identify faces to show you personalized info on the screen. It’s an impressive combination of hardware and software, but it comes with . For most people, we think the original, camera-free Nest Hub is a lot closer to the smart display sweet spot.
: The Echo Show 5 is the cheapest of Amazon’s displays, and it features most of the perks of the Show 8. Its resolution is lower than the Show 8 and its screen is smaller. While it features a tap-to-snooze alarm feature that makes it perfect for a bedside alarm, its sound quality isn’t close compared to its bigger siblings.
: The original Echo Show helped popularize the smart display back in 2017 and the current second-gen Show improved on it in every way with better design, sound quality and a more useful screen. It’s a good premium counterpart to the attractive $90 entry point of the Echo Show 5. The second-gen Show has great sound quality and a 10-inch screen. The touchscreen just isn’t as useful as similar models with Google Assistant.
If you want a 10-inch touchscreen powered by Google Assistant, the Lenovo Smart Display looks elegant and features the same smarts as the Nest Hub. Lenovo actually offers three different models with 10, 8 and 7 inch screens. The 10-inch $250 smart display has a bamboo back that’s particularly well suited for the kitchen.
: The $180 Facebook Portal makes great video calls. It can track and follow any individual in frame so you can move freely as you talk. Otherwise, it has the Alexa app built-in, but it isn’t as smart as the rest. Of course, Facebook has recently faced numerous privacy scandals, so putting one of its cameras in your home takes a big leap of faith.
: This $50 smart alarm trims out a lot of the functionality of smart displays. There’s no camera and you can’t watch videos. You can customize alarms and scroll through screens with weather and commute info. Thanks to a recent update, you can also look at personal pics and the Smart Clock will scroll through selected albums from Google Photos as your screensaver. It’s cute and tailored for your nightstand, but it’s more of an upgraded alarm clock than a full smart display.