These Smart Displays Let You Take Command of Your Smart Home
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Not long after people started to adopt smart speakers , companies like Amazon and Google came out with the next logical thing: smart displays, which are effectively smart speakers with touchscreen displays. You may think that’s all to them, but the best smart displays today have so much more to offer.
Smart displays haven’t completely gotten the respect they deserve. This is partly because they so closely resemble digital photo frames , which are some of the most maligned gadgets of the last 20 years. But as this technology improves — and the number of smart home gadgets in our home increases — the world is coming to realize that the best smart displays actually have a fair amount of utility, especially when it comes to video calls and orchestrating dozens of smart devices .
First and foremost, smart displays are hubs for the smart home . Sure, you can control your favorite smart home gadgets with voice commands much like smart speakers, but there’s something convenient in tapping on a smart display’s touch screen and checking to see who’s at the door. Best of all, important details like the time, date, temperature and notifications are just a glance away. You can’t do that with a smart speaker.
Going beyond that, many smart displays feature built-in cameras for video phone calls to family members. You’ll even find some that function as an extra home security camera , capable of detecting motion when you’re not home and informing you about the event. There’s even a smart display that can track and monitor how you sleep at night and then provide you with tips on how to improve it.
Because these devices are placed prominently in your home, we want to make sure you buy the best smart display for your needs. To that end, SPY.com has tested all of the top options from brands like Amazon, Google and Facebook.
The Best Smart Displays At a Glance
1. Best Overall: Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen) — $249.99 at Amazon
2. Runner Up: Google Nest Hub Max — $229.99 at Target
3. Best For Night Stands : Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen) — $99.99 at Target
4. Best Digital Photo Frame: Amazon Echo Show 15 — $199.99 at Amazon
5. Best For Social Networking: Meta Portal Plus — $299.00 at Amazon
6. Best For Kitchens: Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) — $49.99 at Amazon
7. Most Portable: Meta Portal Go — $149.00 at Amazon
8. Best Value: Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) — $89.99 at Amazon
SPY Smart Display Reviews: Comparing the Best Smart Displays of 2022
You should know that there’s a limited variety of smart displays to choose from. Part of that reason is that they typically cost more than smart speakers, which is understandable when you’re effectively getting the functions of a smart speaker with extra features like video displays. They also come with the benefit of a touchscreen display and built-in cameras.
If you’re researching the best smart display of 2022, there are two dominant platforms to choose from: Amazon Alexa and Google Home . (Sorry Apple users, there’s technically no HomeKit-supported or Siri-powered smart display yet.) Facebook — don’t make us say Meta — also has an impressive smart display, but its primary purpose is video calling, not controlling your smart home. Choosing a platform will mainly hinge on what smart home ecosystem you’re currently using, Amazon or Google Home.
For example, it’s a no-brainer decision to stick with an Alexa-powered smart display if you’re already a fan of Amazon’s ecosystem. Conversely, if you use the Google Home smart home ecosystem, then stick with a Google Assistant smart display because it integrates better with Google Calendar, YouTube, Gmail and other Google services. If you’re more interested in keeping in touch with relatives, then the Meta Portal from Facebook is an excellent option.
Knowing that, we’ve put these smart displays through an in-depth testing process and used many of them on a long-term basis to get a feel for how they benefit our everyday lives.
1. Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen)BEST OVERALL
Best For: Power users that crave cool features and the best-sounding smart display. No other smart display comes close to matching its innovative features. In fact, it’s one of the few that bridges multiple product categories into one cohesive device.
Buy This If: You want the best smart display of 2022, especially for integration with other Amazon products. It’s not the newest Amazon smart display (that would be the Echo Show 15), but on balance, it’s the best overall option.
Full Review: Amazon Echo Show 10
The Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen) is a smart display on steroids. When it comes to making an impression, no other can compare because it’s the only smart display that can track you 360-degrees around a room during a video call. We love this level of freedom whenever someone drops in for a quick chat.
Secondly, it’s the best-sounding smart display because it once caught us off guard when it snarled like a dog. You can actually have the Echo Show 10 play a dog barking sound whenever it detects motion with its built-in camera when you enable Alexa Guard Plus. And yes, it puts out the serious bass and crisp-sounding tones that audiophiles crave.
Speaking of home security, we also love that you can access the camera at any time through the Alexa app — with the ability to pan the room. It comes in handy for situations when we’ve second-guessed ourselves by forgetting to close a nearby window, or simply wanting to check up on our pets.
2. Google Nest Hub MaxRUNNER-UP
Best For: Peace-of-mind security to watch over your home when you’re not there. Google’s largest smart display doesn’t only double as a Nest Cam , but it’s also smart enough to know who’s looking at it.
Buy This If: You care about home security and prefer Google Home to Amazon Alexa.
Even though it’s been out since fall 2019, the Google Nest Hub Max remains a polarizing option, worthy enough to make our list of best smart displays. It was actually the first smart display to bridge multiple product categories, only recently eclipsed by the aforementioned Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen).
It’s a versatile security camera because it functions like any other Nest Cam, providing us with motion detection alerts when we’re not home. Furthermore, we like enabling the familiar faces feature because when you glance at the Nest Hub Max, it’ll display notifications and alerts that are only relevant to you. When someone else looks at it, they won’t see your stuff.
We also absolutely love its 10-inch display because it realistically emulates the look of an ordinary picture frame with its Ambient EQ mode , which adjusts the display’s color temperature and contrast for that realistic look.
3. Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen)CONTENDER
Best For: Privacy peepers that don’t want cameras seeing inside of the home; replacing your alarm clock.
Buy This If: You’re looking for a smart display to put on your nightstand. It’s one of the few without a camera, but it provides useful sleep monitoring and tracking.
At first glance, it doesn’t look like Google changed much with the Nest Hub (2nd Gen) over its predecessor. Even though it shares a recycled design, one that’s still compact enough to fit on nightstands, it features Google’s Soli technology, which uses a radar-sensing system to monitor you sleeping in bed.
Think of it like a wearable-free sleep tracker , one that accurately knows how much good sleep we get each night. You’d be surprised by what kind of useful statistics it’ll populate from the information it gathers about your sleep. It even knew when we got out of bed because one of our cats slapped us in the face in an attempt to get a midnight snack.
Beyond its sleep-tracking abilities, its size makes it an ideal picture frame by your bedside — plus, you can access all of your smart home gadgets through its display.
4. Amazon Echo Show 15BEST DIGITAL PHOTO FRAME
Best For: Showing off your favorite memories on a sizable screen for all to see. Not only is it the largest smart display out there, but it’s a command center that all household members can access.
Buy This If: You want a large screen and full smart home hub. You want to mount your smart display on the wall.
Full Review : Amazon Echo Show 15 Smart Display
The Amazon Echo Show 15 begs to be wall-mounted. That way, you can use Amazon Photos to automatically show the latest photos you’ve captured on your mobile device. It helps that it’s one of the sharpest screens around, paired with exceptional viewing angles and vibrant colors. You might mistake it for an actual picture frame .
Furthermore, we love that it acts as a command center for the entire household. With its customizable widgets, you can quickly see calendar events, turn on the lights and even set it to automatically stream video of who’s at the front door when they ring the doorbell. We can’t stress enough how handy making a digital post-it note is.
5. Meta Portal PlusBEST FOR VIDEO CALLING
Best For: Diehard social networking users, especially of Facebook and Instagram. No other smart display can match its integration with the world’s most popular social networking service.
Buy This If: You want to stay in touch with relatives and loved ones at a distance.
Facebook is the biggest, most widely used social networking platform on the planet. If you live and breathe all things Facebook (or if you want to stay in touch with older loved ones who feel that way), then the Meta Portal Plus is the best smart display for you.
That’s because it integrates many of Facebook’s services, including the ability to video chat with our friends with its tilting 14-inch HD touch screen. For personal use, we love how its built-in camera can track us around the room while on a video call. We also like how it can support multiple users as well, so you can quickly switch between profiles with a tap of a button.
Impressively, it’s also all business with services like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Webex Meeting all accessible through the smart display.
6. Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen)BEST FOR KITCHENS
Best For: Anyone who spends a lot of time in the kitchen. Ditch your timers because this smart display can do so much more with your dinnertime prepping.
Buy This If: You want a capable smart home display to live on your kitchen countertop.
It’s unbelievable what a compact-sized smart display like the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) can do in the kitchen. We’ve been using one religiously to help set multiple timers for something we’re baking in the oven, asking Alexa about some unit conversions, and even telling us how many calories are in the dish we’re preparing.
Even though its 5.5-inch screen is the smallest out of the bunch, it comes in handy when watching a video when both our hands are occupied with tasks such as washing dishes or chopping onions. A quick request from Alexa courtesy of voice commands is all it takes. Even better, we recommend using the Samuel L. Jackson skill for some funny remarks from the celebrity.
7. Meta Portal GoMOST PORTABLE
Best For: Outdoor family events when you need a second screen to control your smart home.
Buy This If: You want a truly portable smart display with a built-in rechargeable battery and modest size.
You never know when a smart display can come in handy for fun outdoor events. That’s what we learned using the Meta Portal Go because it was the perfect companion for all of our adventures.
Specifically, we loved using it as a karaoke machine of sorts because when we asked Alexa to play a song, it also displayed the accompanying lyrics on its 10.1-inch display. Don’t let its portable size fool you because we were impressed with the mighty bass and sound quality it was able to deliver.
Parties will never be the same again with this versatile smart display.
8. Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen)BEST VALUE
Best For: All-around option perfect for anywhere in the home. It’s not too big, nor is it too small. You could argue that it’s just right with its size and price.
Buy This If: You want an affordable but reliable smart display
It’s no surprise that the best cheap smart display comes from Amazon. There’s no compromise with the Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) because you’re getting an excellent smart display perfect for controlling your smart home, conducting video chats and even playing some music while you relax.
Even though it doesn’t have the most charming design on our list, it makes it up in the audio department with its punchy audio that can fill large spaces in the home. We also recommend having it on your desk while you work because we loved how we’re able to get up from our seats and its built-in camera always managed to keep us in frame with its tracking.
How We Chose the Best Smart Displays
We can go on and on about why smart displays are so useful, but we thought it would be helpful to break down exactly how we arrived at the above rankings. Rather than rely on our editors’ personal preferences, we objectively compared each of these smart displays according to set criteria: design, audio quality, voice recognition, display quality, and additional smart features.
How do we test smart displays? We tested each smart speaker in this roundup for a minimum of two weeks — with a few that became long-term additions in our everyday lives (think years). Over the testing period, we tried out all of the display’s various features and widgets. We also tested the set up and installation process and checked to see how easily it integrated with other devices in our smart home system. Finally, we wanted to see how effectively each device responded to voice commands and queries, which can be a pain point with smart displays and speakers.
All smart displays can play music, access voice assistants and have touchscreens for more interaction beyond simple voice commands. In determining the best smart displays, we looked at the following criteria below after testing each one out.
- Design: Who says a smart display needs to look like a tablet/phone that’s been fashioned into some kind of speaker? Better designs consist of natural materials that complement the surrounding decor.
- Sound quality: Given that smart displays play music, having clear and crisp audio helps when you’re watching video content or even taking a video call.
- Voice recognition: Since voice commands are critical, having accurate voice recognition will reduce the number of times you may need to bark commands at a smart speaker. We tested this by saying the appropriate phrase to initiate each speaker from a distance of 6 feet. Additionally, we added a little background noise from a nearby smart TV to see if each smart display could still recognize our commands. You should also know that you’ll have fewer accidental triggers with Google Assistant displays because you need to say “Hey Google.”
- Display quality: While crunching the numbers pertaining to their size and resolution can tell us how pixel-dense each display is, we also looked at other contributing factors such as view angles, contrast and general luminance to determine which has the superior display.
- Unique features: While there are features we consider standard with all smart displays, there are some that tack on unique features that help them to be more noteworthy. We’re talking about cool features like the ability to track you while moving around a room during a conference call.
Features to Look For in the Best Smart Displays
While it seems like new use cases pop up every day, there are a handful of key tasks that the best smart displays perform very well. These include:
- Smart home management: One of the main reasons you should want a smart display is if you have or are planning to build out your own network of smart home devices. The best smart displays make it easy to control and manage more than 100,000 different devices from top brands, including light bulbs, thermostats, televisions, speakers, plugs, robot vacuums and more. Smart displays can even function as a de facto security camera for whatever room it’s in, allowing you to get a live view at any time.
- Communication: Every smart display on this list has the ability to function like an intercom system when connected to a network of other virtual assistant-enabled devices. But the majority also have the ability to video conference and are equipped with better webcams than what you’d typically find in a laptop. While the services supported will vary depending on which smart display you buy, Zoom is one service that is supported by every device, making these hubs a viable choice for remote work meetings.
- Media streaming: Most of the smart displays on this list have the ability to connect to many of the best streaming services , including Netflix, Spotify, Prime Video, Youtube, NPR, and Hulu.
- Digital photo frame: Yes, we may have just explained that the digital photo frames of old were one of the dumbest single-purpose gadgets of all time. But as an extra feature in a smart display that has a superior software experience and higher-resolution display than ever before, screen, it’s nice to have.
- Virtual assistant integration: A smart display without a virtual assistant such as Google Assistant or Alexa is not a smart display at all. Being able to use voice commands isn’t just a convenient alternative for controlling smart home devices, checking your calendar, setting alarms or playing music, it’s actually necessary. Because you can’t pick up a smart display like you would a phone or a tablet, trying to use the touchscreen for everything would get very annoying, very fast.
In fact, this brings us to a very important discussion …
The Difference Between Smart Displays and Tablets
Although it’s essentially a touchscreen with a big speaker attached to it, a smart display is not a tablet. We’ve already explained why smart displays rely so heavily on voice assistants, and as such, they have a completely different software experience than you get with the best tablets . But smart displays tend to have less-powerful components than a tablet which means that the best smart displays tend to be more focused on what they can do in order to provide the best experience possible.
So instead of a touch-based interface that lets you install any app you want, you get a touchscreen full of very streamlined options and instead must rely on voice commands and simple touchscreen prompts. Instead of installable apps, you will find integrations or installable skills from your favorite networks, platforms and services.
And yes, you could just buy a cheap tablet (and a stand). And if it’s an Amazon tablet, you could get all of the same functionality thanks to Show Mode. But what you won’t get are things like the dedicated controls, privacy shutter and bigger speaker. There’s also not a single Android tablet that offers the same optimized software experience that you get with Google’s smart hubs.
So now that you understand what the best smart displays can and can’t do, let’s take a look at some of the best options you can buy right now.
About The Author: John Velasco
John Velasco is the Tech Editor at SPY.com , and he has tested hundreds of smart home products during his decade-long career reviewing gadgets. Since joining SPY.com, he’s reviewed the best home security cameras , flagship smartphones and Amazon’s first smart TV . Previously, John worked as the smart home editor at Digital Trends. He’s also worked for Android Authority covering Android-related news as the editor-at-large, and at PhoneArena as the senior editor. John has been covering mobile and smart home tech for over a decade, and he is also passionate about virtual reality, drones and electric bikes. Currently, he resides in New Jersey with his fiancé and cats.More from SPY