Smart displays can do a lot — these are our top six favorite ones

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Whether you’re just starting out with your smart home or have been building it up for a while, a smart display (or two) can be the perfect addition. A smart display is essentially a Google Assistant or Alexa speaker with a screen attached to it, allowing you to perform your usual array of voice commands while also watching YouTube videos, following recipes, and more. The smart display we recommend the most is the Nest Hub Max, but if it isn’t catching your fancy, we have five other options that are also worth a look.

Best Overall: Nest Hub Max

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If you want the very best smart display that money can buy, you’ll want to check out the Google Nest Hub Max. This is the latest smart display to be released under the Google Nest brand, and it’s darn impressive.

Right off the bat, the Nest Hub Max makes a strong first impression with its 10-inch 1280 x 800 HD display. It’s nice and crisp for watching videos, and the Ambient EQ light sensor allows the color temperature of the display to automatically change based on the lighting of the room that it’s in — making it look almost like a picture frame at times. The Nest Hub Max sounds just as impressive, thanks to its stereo front-facing speakers and a 3″ subwoofer that gives all of your music a resounding thump.

Looking above the display, you’ll find that the Nest Hub Max has a camera. This can be used for a variety of things, including Google Duo video chats, home security monitoring, facial recognition, and hand gestures.

The way Google handles the Nest Hub Max as a Chromecast target is often more confusing than it needs to be (Netflix isn’t supported for no apparent reason), but at the end of the day, this is the best smart display around.

Pros:

  • Huge, gorgeous display
  • Camera supports video calls and home monitoring
  • Audio quality is killer
  • Gesture controls are fun
  • Fabric design looks great

Cons:

  • It’s definitely not cheap
  • Chromecast functionality is finicky

Best Overall

Nest Hub Max

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  • $229 at B&H

The best overall smart display.

The Nest Hub Max is the best smart display you can buy. It has a gorgeous screen, booming speakers, and a powerful camera.

Best for Alexa: Echo Show (2nd Gen)

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There’s no denying how good the Nest Hub Max is, but if you prefer Alexa over Google Assistant, the Echo Show (2nd Gen) is a better fit. This is Amazon’s flagship smart display, and it’s a force to be reckoned with.

Just like the Nest Hub Max, the Echo Show has an excellent 10-inch HD display that makes everything from movies to YouTube videos look phenomenal. The Echo Show’s speakers are also top-notch, and if you ask us, even sound better than the Nest Hub Max’s. They’re loud, clear, and kick out an insane amount of bass. Whether you’re listening to a podcast or the latest album from your favorite band, these speakers will do your content justice every single time.

Elsewhere, the Echo Show benefits from exquisite build quality, an easy set-up process, and a camera for video calls.

Amazon’s touchscreen interface for its smart displays doesn’t feel as elegant or well-integrated as Google’s does, but for anyone in Camp Alexa, this is the smart display to get.

Pros:

  • The speakers are outstanding
  • 10.1-inch display is a joy to look at
  • Clean and simple design
  • Webcam for video calls

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Alexa’s presence on a display still needs some work

Best for Alexa

Echo Show (2nd Gen)

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  • $230 at Amazon

The best Alexa smart display.

Prefer Alexa over Google Assistant? The Echo Show is a big, powerful, and expensive smart display that’s absolutely worth a look.

Best Value: Echo Show 5

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It’s clear that the market has strong options out there for big and expensive smart displays, but what if you’re all about stretching your dollars as far as possible and getting the best deal that you can? Enter the Amazon Echo Show 5.

This is essentially a scaled-down version of the Echo Show (2nd Gen), opting for a much more compact 5.5-inch display in a considerably smaller body. Where the regular Echo Show makes a statement in the room that you place it, the Echo Show 5 seamlessly fades into the background and can fit just about anywhere.

The speakers on the Echo Show 5 obviously aren’t the best out there considering its form factor, but they do sound quite a bit better than you may be expecting. You also get a camera for video calls, and the Echo Show 5 adds the nice touch of being able to hide it with a physical camera shutter for those times when you want some increased privacy.

Alexa commands and the touchscreen display work exactly the same on the Echo Show 5 as they do on the Echo Show (2nd Gen), meaning there’s no feature-disparity despite the dramatically lower price.

Pros:

  • Can fit in just about any room
  • Shockingly good speakers
  • Video camera w/ physical shutter
  • Unbeatable price

Cons:

  • Alexa display wonkiness

Best Value

Amazon Echo Show 5

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  • $90 at Amazon

The best value smart display.

Without a doubt, the Echo Show 5 provides the best value in the smart display market. It’s tiny, powerful, and extremely affordable.

Best Cheap Google Display: Nest Hub

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Switching back over to Team Google, we have the Nest Hub. This is a smaller, more affordable version of the Nest Hub Max, and if you want to save some cash while still getting a quality smart display, this is a fantastic option.

The Nest Hub comes with a 7-inch LCD display, and it’s one of the best-looking ones you’ll find in this price range. It has great colors, is very sharp, and has the same Ambient EQ feature of the Nest Hub Max that allows its color temperature to change according to the light of the room it’s in. Google Assistant works incredibly well on the Nest Hub, with its two-mic array proving to be accurate and responsive even when talking to the Nest Hub from across the room.

We also have to give Google praise for the Nest Hub’s design. It’s easy to fit in pretty much any room of your home, and the fabric back with the matching plastic border proves that a lot of thought and love went into creating the gadget.

You do make some sacrifices with the Nest Hub to reach that lower price, with the two biggest ones being so-so audio quality and the lack of a camera of any kind. This means you won’t be able to conduct video calls on the Nest Hub, but for folks that are especially focused on their privacy, that could be seen as a benefit.

Pros:

  • One of the best-looking screens around
  • Beautiful design
  • Nice and compact
  • Excellent microphone performance

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have a video camera
  • Iffy speakers

Best Cheap Google Display

Nest Hub

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  • $129 at B&H

The best cheap Google smart display.

With its stunning 7-inch display and beautiful design, the Nest Hub is the best cheap Google Assistant smart display out there.

Best Small Display: Lenovo Smart Clock

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The Lenovo Smart Clock is a very niche entry in the smart display category, but it’s so cute and endearing that we just had to include it.

This is a Google Assistant-powered display, but its interface is a bit different compared to things like the Nest Hub or Lenovo Smart Display below. You can see the time, weather, calendar appointments, etc., but you can’t use the screen to watch YouTube videos or follow recipes. It’s much more limited in these regards, but that’s by design.

Lenovo designed the Smart Clock to do less because it’s best thought of as a super-powerful alarm clock. The teen-tiny 4-inch display means you can place the Smart Clock anywhere — including your cramped nightstand by your bed. You can quickly snooze alarms by slapping the top of it, the fabric body looks gorgeous, and the built-in speaker is fine for casual music listening. This is also the only smart display on this list with a USB-A port on the back, allowing you to plug in a cable and charge your phone while you sleep.

It likely makes more sense for the majority of people to spend a little bit more money on something like the Echo Show 5 or Nest Hub, but if the concept of the Lenovo Smart Clock speaks to you, we think you’ll be really, really happy with it.

Pros:

  • It’s. So. TINY.
  • Google Assistant commands are accurate and fast
  • Snooze alarms by slapping the top of it
  • USB-A port for charging your phone

Cons:

  • Low-resolution display
  • Lacks a lot of common smart display features

Best Small Display

Lenovo Smart Clock

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  • $80 at B&H

The best small smart display.

The best way to think about the Lenovo Smart Clock is like an alarm clock of the future. It’s small, simple, and does its job well.

Best Kitchen Display: Lenovo 10.1″ Smart Display

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Rounding out our list, we have the Lenovo 10.1″ Smart Display. This is one of the first Google Assistant smart displays that was ever released, and while its age is getting up there, it continues to be a really solid purchase for some people.

Design-wise, the Lenovo Smart Display is pretty unique. It has a bamboo back with a wedge that it props up on, allowing you to stand it up horizontally or vertically (though the screen only switches to a vertical layout for Google Duo calls).

The 10.1-inch display looks really good, the speakers are extremely loud, and there’s a camera that can be covered up completely with a physical shutter.

Because of all this, the Lenovo Smart Display is kind of the perfect option if you want something to use in the kitchen. It’s a lot easier to clean up if it gets dirty compared to the fabric-clad Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max, the speakers are easy to hear even over a roaring dishwasher, and the large screen is a perfect canvas for step-by-step recipes.

Pros:

  • Large, crisp screen
  • Insanely loud speakers
  • Video camera with a privacy shutter
  • Unique bamboo back

Cons:

  • One of the oldest smart displays on the market

Best Kitchen Display

Lenovo 10.1″ Smart Display

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  • $250 at B&H

The best smart display for the kitchen.

Need a smart display for the kitchen? The Lenovo Smart Display, with its plastic/bamboo design and loud speakers, is a perfect fit.

Bottom line

The smart display market is stronger than it’s ever been, and if you want to buy the very best one that you can, the Nest Hub Max is an easy choice.

Why? Almost everything about the Nest Hub Max is kind of perfect. Its display is large and beautiful, the speakers sound incredible, and the camera is the most capable one we’ve seen yet in a smart display. Not only is it awesome for video calls, but having it also function as a security camera and allowing for fun hand gestures is just icing on an already tasty cake.

There’s no denying that the Nest Hub Max is expensive, but if you can afford the price of admission, it’s worth every single penny.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

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Joe Maring is Android Central’s News Editor. He loves talking about all things tech, but he has an especially strong interest in smart home gadgets. He also likes coffee and goes to Starbucks far too often. Have a tip? Send an email to [email protected] or hit him up on Twitter @JoeMaring1