The Best Smart Displays Of 2020

The Google Nest Hub and the Amazon Echo Show are two of the best options. 
Chris Monroe/CNET

With the Google Nest Hub (formerly the Google Home Hub) and the more recent Amazon Echo Show 8 leading the way, the smart display industry has flourished over the past year. Nearly a dozen smart displays have hit the market, and it makes sense why: They combine the always-listening voice assistance of a smart speaker with a touchscreen for controlling your smart home devices, adding things to your to-do lists, watching videos and more. The newest that we’ve tested, the Google Nest Hub Max, adds in a face-tracking camera that can display personalized bits of info whenever it recognizes you.

If you’re looking to upgrade your current smart speaker, or you’re just starting your smart home and you find the touchscreen appealing, here are the best smart displays available now.

The Google Nest Hub

Chris Monroe/CNET

You can often find the Nest Hub (formerly called the Google Home Hub) on sale for $100 or less, making it an affordable entry point for the category. It’s also the smartest and best overall, making the lower price even more appealing. 

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Thanks to the built-in Google Assistant, the Nest Hub responds to all of the same voice commands 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.

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You can also watch videos from your living room or any other room and 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 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.

Amazon Echo Show

Chris Monroe/CNET

With the Show 8, Amazon’s Alexa will respond to your voice control and voice commands, and 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 is small enough to stay out of the way, but big enough that you won’t have to squint. Plus, it 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. 

Lenovo Smart Display

Chris Monroe/CNET

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 two different models: the 10-inch version and an 8-inch model for $85. The 10-inch smart display has a bamboo back that’s particularly well suited for the kitchen.

The Lenovo Smart Display was actually the first smart display to debut with Google Assistant built-in and it’s still one of the best. You still get Google’s smart-home control panels and recipe guides, and the Lenovo display has a camera for video calls and a physical shutter to cover it if you want privacy. 

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JBL Link View

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If you want a smart display that can double as a speaker, with quality audio, for a party, look no further than the JBL Link View. Like the Lenovo Smart Display, it has Google Assistant built-in, and the same basic interface as the Lenovo model and the Nest Hub. It’s currently on sale at Best Buy for $100, though it only has an 8-inch screen, and the design is a little clunky.

Nevertheless, it has all of the same great touchscreen features as the other Google Assistant models and when you start playing music, the JBL Link View shines. The sound quality is a little bass-heavy, but it’s loud and full enough to get a room rockin.

Smart Display Comparison

 Best overallBest Alexa displayBest full-size displayBest sound quality
 Google Nest HubAmazon Echo Show 8Lenovo Smart Display 10-inch / 8-inchJBL Link View
Cost$129 (£119, AU$199)$90$150 / $85$100
Screen size7-inch (177.8 mm)8-inch (203.2 mm)10.1-inch (256.5 mm) / 8-inch (203.2 mm)8-inch (203.2 mm)
Resolution1,024×600720p (1,280×800)1080p (1,920×1,200) / 720p (1,280×800)720p (1,280×800)
Dimensions (WxHxD)7.02 x 4.65 x 2.65 inches (179 x 118 x 67 mm)7.9 x 5.4 x 3.9 inches (200.7 x 137.2 x 99.1 mm)6.8 x 12.3 x 0.5-5.4 inches (174 x 311.37 x 12.5-136 mm) / 5.6 x 10.4 x 0.5-4.4 inches (142 x 263 x 12.5-111 mm)13 x 6 x 3.9 inches (332 x 152 x 100 mm)
Weight1.1 lbs. (480 grams)2.29 lbs. (1038 grams)2.6 lbs. (1.2 kg) / 2.2 lbs. (1 kg)2.9 lbs. (1.3 kg) net weight
Wireless connectivityWi-Fi (802.11b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth 5.0Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz), BluetoothWi-Fi (802.11ac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz), BluetoothWi-Fi (802.11b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth 4.2
Voice assistantGoogle AssistantAlexaGoogle AssistantGoogle Assistant
Calling and messagingDirect dial (US, UK, and Canada, outgoing calls only), video calls with Google DuoAlexa Messaging, Skype, direct dial (US and Mexico)Direct dial (US, UK, and Canada, outgoing calls only), video calls with Google DuoDirect dial (US, UK, and Canada, outgoing calls only), video calls with Google Duo
Smart kitchen featuresStep-by-step recipe assistance with YouTube tutorial videosFood Network GO app; Step-by-step recipe assistance; Amazon Meal Kits integrationStep-by-step recipe assistance with YouTube tutorial videosStep-by-step recipe assistance with YouTube tutorial videos
Onscreen smart home controlsYesYesYesYes
Built-in cameraNoYes (1MP)Yes (5MP)Yes (5MP)
Privacy shuttern/aYesYesYes
Microphones2-mic array2-mic array4-mic array (2 front, 2 rear)2-mic array
SpeakersFull range speaker2x Full range 2 inch 10W speakers.75 10W full range Speaker 2x Passive Tweeters2x 10W speakers with 2-inch (51 mm) full range drivers
Streaming music servicesiHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube MusicAmazon Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIniHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube MusiciHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube Music
Streaming video servicesYouTube, YouTube TV, Google Play Movies, CBS All Access, HBO NowAmazon Prime Video, NBC, VevoYouTube, YouTube TV, Google Play Movies, CBS All Access, HBO NowYouTube, YouTube TV, Google Play Movies, CBS All Access, HBO Now
Compatible smart home camerasD-Link, EZVIZ, Nest Cam, Netgear Arlo, Skybell Video Doorbell, Smartcam, Swann, TP-Link Kasa Cam, VivitarAmazon 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, ZmodoD-Link, EZVIZ, Nest Cam, Netgear Arlo, Skybell Video Doorbell, Smartcam, Swann, TP-Link Kasa Cam, VivitarD-Link, EZVIZ, Nest Cam, Netgear Arlo, Skybell Video Doorbell, Smartcam, Swann, TP-Link Kasa Cam, Vivitar
Other notable featuresAmbient EQ automatic adaptive screen brightness; Digital picture frame via Google Photos with Live Albums; Live TV with YouTube TV; Send directions to your iOS or Android phone or chosen recipes from your phone to the display; Digital Wellbeing mode for parental restrictions and downtime hoursSunrise alarms. Customizable clock faces. Customizable alarm tones. YouTube access via Silk or Firefox browsersLive 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 hoursLive 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
Color optionsCharcoal, Aqua, Chalk, SandCharcoal, SandstoneBamboo/grayBlack
AvailabilityUS, UK, Australia and 12 othersUS, UK, Australia and 7 othersUS onlyUS only
Expected ship dateAvailable nowAvailable nowAvailable nowAvailable now

The Rest

Google Nest Hub Max: At $229, the Nest Hub Max ups the Google Assistant’s screen size from 7 to 10 inches, and it 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 privacy concerns. For most people, we think the original, camera-free Nest Hub is a lot closer to the smart display sweet spot.

Amazon Echo Show 5: 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. But it does feature a tap-to-snooze alarm feature that makes it perfect for a bedside alarm. Its sound quality isn’t close, though, compared to its bigger siblings.

Amazon Echo Show (2nd gen): 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.

Facebook Portal and Portal Plus: The $149 Facebook Portal and the $249 Portal Plus make great video calls. They can track and follow any individual in frame so you can move freely as you talk. Otherwise, they have Alexa built-in, but they aren’t as smart as the rest. And of course, Facebook has recently faced numerous privacy scandals, so putting one of its cameras in your home takes a big leap of faith.

Lenovo Smart Clock: 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.

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LG WK9: LG’s smart display sounds great, has a camera and has the same Google Assistant smarts as the other third-party displays. It originally cost $300, which was way too much, but you can now regularly find it for less. Still, the audio doesn’t sound quite as good as the JBL Link View, and the 8-inch screen is surrounded by an ugly exterior. The WK9 doesn’t distinguish itself enough to be worth your consideration.


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