If you’re looking for a plug-and-play smart display, Google and Amazon are pretty much your only options, but the two companies came to similar goods from very different angles. The ecosystem you’ve chosen to support largely determines how effective a smart display is, making recommendations difficult. If you’re a member of Team Apple, you’ll have to hold out hope that Tim Cook will one day reveal a Siri smart display.
Because of how stiff both products are, you will be expected to adjust to them rather than the other way around. The Amazon Screen only works with Alexa and steers you toward Amazon products, whereas the Google Screen only works with the Google Assistant and steers you toward Google products. There are several partners out there who offer different functions like cameras and music, but these items are not as infinitely customizable as a smartphone. Adherence to an ecosystem will frequently be required of smart displays.
The 10th Echo Show
Since these smart displays all run the same Amazon or Google software across all screen sizes, with perhaps one additional headline feature, the individual hardware doesn’t matter all that much. The 10-inch Amazon Echo Show 10, which costs $249.99 and includes a really amazing rotation feature, is what I tested for the majority of the time. In addition, there are the portable $64.99 Echo Show 8, the $39.99 Echo Show 5, and, if you really want to go all out, the $249.99 Echo Show 15, which resembles a wall-mounted picture frame.
The Echo Show 10’s “Smart Motion” feature, which allows it to spin, is its main selling point. The display is fixed to a large, bulky, circular base that looks like a speaker. Although you might anticipate given the size, there are only three little speakers in the base instead of a subwoofer that can shake the entire. The Echo Show 10’s entire body can rotate 360 degrees thanks to a weighted turntable that occupies a sizable portion of the bottom and has a powerful electric motor.
The screen can be “locked” and “unlocked” by the motor at different moments. You can move the screen at any point by grabbing it; doing so will turn off the motor and enable it to spin freely. The Show 10 is immobile because of its astounding 5.5-pound weight. If you speak to it, the motor will switch on, turning the screen to face you. You may use the front camera to monitor you as you move around the space, or you can use a remote control to operate it like a 360-degree security camera.
On the one hand, any additional functionality, such as the use of a 360-degree remote camera, is quite welcome. On the other hand, the touchscreen experience is slightly diminished by being mounted on a spinning base. Even when the screen is meant to be locked in a single position, it never feels like a solid object when your finger taps on it since the mechanism that allows the screen to rotate around has a lot of backlash. It will wiggle in one direction or another whenever you poke it.
Additionally, I’m not totally certain that Smart Motion functions properly. The most forgiving reason I can offer for why you can always leave the rotating feature on is that it prioritises pointing the camera at you rather than the screen (perhaps because it’s designed for video calls?). If you’re looking at the display from a distance, that works just great. However, up close, only the camera in the upper-right corner is pointed in your direction, and the screen is perhaps 10 degrees away. I’ve had to turn off Smart Motion while using the touchscreen up close because it’s not at the right angle for touchscreen use.
I also played around with the Echo Show 15 for a while. The picture-frame form factor is one that I truly enjoy and would like to see more businesses embrace. However, wall-mount installation requires some effort, particularly if you want it to appear as pristine as the press image. You’ll need an electrical outlet directly behind the screen, most likely built into the wall, to avoid having a wire protrude from the bottom. You’re on your own to figure out how to make the 1.5-inch-thick power brick for the Echo Show 15 work with the device’s flat-against-the-wall physical factor.
The Echo Show 15’s display, however, is a serious drawback because it looks dreadful. The Echo Show software features nearly every UI element with a gradient background of some form, and all of them exhibit noticeable banding on the Show 15 display.
The Hub by Nest (s)
The 7-inch, $99.99 Nest Hub (2nd Gen) and the 10-inch, $229.99 Nest Hub Max are Google’s smart displays. The Nest Hub Max is the only Google display with a front camera and respectable music speakers, while the Nest Hub 2nd Gen is the only device that performs sleep monitoring using a radar “Project Soli” sensor (again, the hardware isn’t that important).
A large ecosystem of third-party Google smart display devices once existed, but support has diminished. The LG WK9 ThinQ Xboom, KitchenAid Smart Display, JBL Link View, Sony, and Lenovo Smart Displays have all reportedly been discontinued or cancelled (the LG and Sony) (everything else). The only third-party product that is still in use appears to be the Lenovo Smart Clock 2, a 4-inch bedside alarm clock-sized Google display that costs $39.99. Given that Google doesn’t offer a tiny display, it’s encouraging to see that a device in this category is being developed.
Compared to the Nest Hub 2nd Gen, the Nest Hub Max is significantly more expensive, but you also get a usable audio speaker. The Max is a very capable music player because of its two 18 mm 10 W tweeters and one 75 mm 30 W woofer, which are both an improvement above the Nest Speaker’s one 19 mm speaker and one 75 mm woofer. The Nest Hub 2nd Gen eliminates the music speaker configuration and settles for a single 43.5 mm driver, which isn’t much more effective than a Nest Mini speaker that measures 40 mm. Although adequate for voice responses, I wouldn’t want to listen to music on that.
The ambient light sensor setup, which matches colour and brightness for the lighting in your environment, is undoubtedly the standout feature of both Google products. The Google displays are the only ones that are tuned so effectively and shift so aggressively that they blend into your lighting surroundings instead of being a large square display that blasts light into the room, even though Amazon has a feature that appears to be similar. The amount of light that a computer display or TV emits makes them almost always distracting, yet the Google Smart Displays are remarkably discrete. That also adheres to the programme design. While Google smart displays are simple reminders that they are there, Amazon screens are visually distracting billboards.
Google is the winner, in our opinion
If I had to choose a winner, it would be the Nest Hub since it has a real ecosystem of good apps and isn’t just a gigantic billboard for advertisements like the Amazon display is. However, you can turn off most of those advertisements in the settings of the Amazon display.
The Nest Hub would also be my choice because everybody in the ecosystem should be concerned about Amazon’s recent firings of Alexa employees. You must have faith that investments will continue to be made in your preferred ecosystem.
It may come as a surprise to you that I cite Google as an example of market stability, but the corporation does have plans for a third iteration of these items, so it seems like they’ll be there for a while. Since Google has promised to support these goods for at least five years, they should have a respectable lifespan.
Pointing out some of the drawbacks
While Google and Amazon’s smart displays make good use of speakers and microphones and are Big Tech systems that came out of their voice assistants, the “display” component of these smart displays occasionally seems to be an afterthought.
The idle mode, which activates when you aren’t actively utilising the displays, serves as a good illustration. Google’s smart display is typically only a clock or picture frame. If you approach it and prod it, it will expose additional buttons and functions, but it will rapidly revert to idle mode, where it will just display the time, the weather, and/or a photo gallery. Although it isn’t as helpful as it could be, option No. 3 is significantly less intrusive than option No. 2.
In comparison, Amazon’s idle mode makes your home feel like a digital billboard along a highway. Slideshow advertisements for Amazon products will play continuously. You will see “suggestions” like “what time does Whole Foods close” if you don’t disable choices like “visit local places.” (Whole Foods is owned by Amazon.)
Additionally, it displays new Amazon Music albums or recommended Amazon purchases. Fortunately, you can disable these advertising by going to the settings. On the other hand, the Google platform is less intrusive for the default experience.
Neither system includes an always-on “single pane of glass” interface like Home Assistant or Action Tiles, if you’re interested in smart home capabilities or a means to watch camera feeds. It’s unfortunate that neither interface offers much in the way of customisation to draw attention to and make your most-used features easily accessible. Amazon offers a “widget” drawer that can be opened for a brief period of time, but that is of no assistance with the “glanceable information” I’m worried about. On one of these gadgets, you’d imagine you could show a calendar, notes, the weather, or a camera feed, but that’s never an option.
Given that smart displays from both Google and Amazon have occasionally used Android-based OSes, the lack of customisation is particularly puzzling. Both firms basically threw out the coding, which already included an infinitely customizable home screen with widgets and app icons.
The timer functionality is the most useful aspect of any display. Setting a timer on a display with a countdown is pretty useful if you need one.
The fact that smart displays are appliances rather than smartphones or tablets is perhaps their biggest issue. Therefore, the response is frequently “no” when you inquire about whether your selected service or hardware will function with the display. Both companies have websites that promote the upcoming “Matter” smart home specification—supported by Apple, Amazon, and Google—as the solution to these compatibility problems, but there are already other smart home standards available, making it difficult to determine which one could resolve the issue.
Matter hasn’t been released yet, and the politics of lock-in disarmament are complex, so it’s difficult to predict whether it will have any impact. The Google Cast ecosystem, for example, may be replaced with a more open video-casting protocol thanks to Matter, but will Google truly give up that competitive edge when the time comes? We’ll see, but the majority of these compatibility difficulties look more like political choices than technological hurdles that need to be cleared with a new smart home standard.
A short glance through the documentation that Google and Amazon both publish on compatible products and services could help you make your decision. Back in the world of “today” Many of these categories have an absurdly large number of useless apps. A respectable list of music services would contain around 20 entries, while Google’s listing contains hundreds, like “104.3 the Hippo! The Central Coast’s Classic Rock Leader!” The majority of the useless apps in Amazon’s Alexa “skills” marketplace were created for the voice-only Echo devices.
It’s important to note that Google and Amazon arrived at the position of “ecosystem supplier” via quite different paths. Due to years of developing Android and running web productivity apps, Google was initially a major ecosystem corporation. Since speakers and smart displays are relatively new, almost every Google Assistant command sends data to a vast collection of excellent online and mobile apps. You can typically access your data from somewhere else with a wonderful interface as long as a feature isn’t in the midst of a Google shutdown-and-reboot cycle.
Amazon is an online retailer that first developed its voice assistant before having to cope with storing and accessing its data. Sometimes it’s unclear where this information will go or how Amazon intends to use it. Alexa, for example, includes a to-do list capability. Where can I get an Amazon Notes app? Can I get to it over the internet? Is it compatible with other services integration? The Alexa app must serve as a repository for information that has no meaningful service behind it because the typical response is “no.”