Smart Display Buying Guide

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Products featuring built-in smart assistants continued to sell at a blistering pace in 2019, further cementing their roles in our everyday lives and all but guaranteeing a world where interacting with a hyper-intelligent digital ghost is just the norm. One of the products driving those rocketing sales is the very en vogue voice-interactive Smart Display. Featuring all the positive aspects of a smart speaker, but with the added benefits of an interactive screen, smart displays have emerged as one of the most popular tech trends of 2019. We’ve put together a list of favorites for our first-ever smart display roundup. Enjoy!

Lenovo 10.1" Smart Display

The biggest difference between a smart speaker and a smart display is the screen, and the Lenovo 10.1" Smart Display has one of the largest on our list—not to mention the highest resolution. Measuring 10.1" and featuring a resolution of 1920 x 1200, Lenovo’s 10.1" Smart Display offers a bright, crisp screen that is arguably the best on our list. The display is backed by Google Assistant, which I contend is the top overall digital assistant. With the Lenovo 10.1", you can stream video content from sites like YouTube and Hulu, get answers to almost all your questions, and make video calls (though, at the time of this writing, only through Google Duo). The overall design, too, is pretty sharp, though future models will hopefully have a little less bezel around the screen. If there is a drawback, it’s that the audio quality is just OK—especially compared to some of the other units on our list. However, if the screen size and quality is the most important thing to you, the Lenovo 10.1" is definitely worth checking out.

Lenovo 10.1" Smart Display
Lenovo 10.1" Smart Display

Now, if you’re looking for—or are OK with—something a little bit smaller, definitely check out the Lenovo Smart Display 7. It’s more compact than the Lenovo 10.1" Display, but it has the same great Google Assistant functionality, arguably better sound, and looks really sharp. Personally, I would love to see the next version of the Lenovo 10.1" adapt some of its design features, especially the fabric speaker panel and built-in stereo sound. For more information, check out our hands-on review.

Lenovo Smart Display 7
Lenovo Smart Display 7

Google Nest Hub Max

Google's Nest Hub Max is one of the other big-boy displays on our list. It measures 10" and has a screen resolution of 1280 x 800. Similar to Lenovo’s display, the Next Hub Max is a Cast device, so you stream video content from sites like Netflix and Hulu. It has a front-facing camera for Google Duo video conferencing, and, no surprise here, it’s backed by Google Assistant. Where the Nest Hub Max stands apart from Lenovo is its use as a Nest security camera, which you can access through the Google Home app, and its speaker performance, which is considerably louder. The Nest Hub Max’s design is also very good. It’s very modern and the gray fabric base is a nice touch. I wouldn’t mind seeing a little less bezel in future models, but overall it’s a good, clean aesthetic that definitely merits top marks.

Google Nest Hub Max
Google Nest Hub Max

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Generation)

The 2nd-generation Amazon Echo Show feels a bit chunkier than the Lenovo Smart Display or the Google Home Max, but that added girth comes with a ton of new touchscreen features and a powerful speaker system beneath the hood. Spec-wise, the Echo Show’s display is similar to the Next Hub Max’s. It measures 10.1" and has a screen resolution of 1280 x 800. You can access the display using the Echo Show’s touchscreen controls, or with your voice, using Amazon’s smart assistant, Alexa. Alexa can play music from supported services like Spotify and Amazon Music, stream content from Prime Video, answer trivia questions, control other compatible smart devices, and perform tens of thousands of various skills. Services that don’t recognize Alexa voice commands—for example, YouTube—can be accessed through the Echo Show’s built-in web browser—something you won’t find on any of the Google Assistant devices. In terms of sound quality, the Echo Show is one of the best performers on our list. Its dual-driver setup produces powerful, clean audio that can easily fill a room, making it especially great for music lovers. As I mentioned above, the design of the Echo Show feels a bit chunkier than the Nest Hub Max and Lenovo Smart Display, especially its front border, which looks a bit like an outdated picture frame. However, I will say that the fabric wraparound on the back and sides does look great and adds a nice modern aesthetic to the the Echo Show’s overall design.

Amazon Echo Show
Amazon Echo Show

Facebook Portal

Of all the smart displays on our list, the Facebook Portal is arguably the best for making calls and video conferencing. It supports WhatsApp and Messenger, and uses cool features like its auto-panning Smart Camera and AR effects to enhance every call. The Portal also works well as a digital picture frame, allowing users to display photos from Facebook or Instagram. The Portal’s voice assistant is a little weird because it really uses two. The first is Alexa, which is a solid and capable assistant that can do just about anything except make WhatsApp or Messenger calls, which is where the second assistant comes in. This other assistant, which, for lack of a proper name, is just called the “Hey Portal” voice assistant, can do some of the things Alexa does (answer general inquiries, launch some apps, etc.), but users will most likely only call its name when they want to make a video call. Using both assistants works well enough; it’s just a little odd in terms of interface. As far as the design goes, the Portal is a sleek-looking display with a 10" touchscreen and 1280 x 800 resolution. The display is nice and bright, and streamed content from sites like YouTube looks plenty clear. Audio on the Portal is probably the weakest of the bunch, which is why I view it more as communications tool than anything else. But it does that very well—definitely better than any other device on our list, and its seamless integration with Facebook and Instagram make it an appealing choice for people who frequent those sites.

Facebook Portal
Facebook Portal

JBL Link View

The final entry on our list is also the best sounding. JBL’s Link View smart display uses a pair of 10W, 2" drivers to deliver high-quality stereo sound that’s strong and consistently clear. It also features a bright, 8" touchscreen that pairs well with the enhanced audio. Google Assistant is the brains behind the A/V brawn, and with its help, the Link View functions similar to the Lenovo Smart Display. You can ask it questions, stream music, and play video content—though, playback options aren’t as robust as other Google devices. The Link View probably looks more like an alarm clock than any other device on the list, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The overall footprint is nice and compact, and its straightforward design of screen centered between two fabric speaker grilles is quite handsome. Anyone looking for a smart display that’s more speaker than screen (but still wants some screen) should definitely check out the Link View.

JBL LINK VIEW 8" Virtual Assistant Speaker
JBL LINK VIEW 8" Virtual Assistant Speaker

Planning on picking up a smart display in the future? Shoot us your questions or comments down below.

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