How to pick the smart display that’s right for you

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Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, or the Apple HomePod remain a good fit for most homes if you enjoy listening to music above all else. But some of the smart assistants that power them have found their way into smart displays, a new form factor that brings about some exciting changes.

Whether you’re tied up in Amazon or Google’s ecosystem of apps, smart displays let you do more hands-free than any smart speaker can. Boiled down, they are equipped to take on tasks usually reserved for your smartphone or tablet. In addition to listening to music, you can control your connected home tech, hop into a video call, or follow along with a recipe on the screen, to name a few examples.

This category of smart devices is set to grow, with Android Things-powered options on the way from the likes of LG, Sony, and JBL. But for now, we’re focused on helping you decide between three options: Amazon’s Echo Show, the smaller Echo Spot, and the Lenovo Smart Display by Google. And the good news? They’re all pretty great.

AMAZON ECHO SHOW

This rather unassuming smart display features a seven-inch display and is tied in heavily with Amazon’s services. If you have experience with the Echo speaker, the Echo Show works in all of the same ways with its far-field microphones and Alexa integration. But it’s a little more expressive, what with its touch-friendly display. Any and all info that you request pops up on its screen for you to see.

Despite this added layer of engagement, the Echo Show demands very little from the user. There’s no app store, and setting it up doesn’t involve shifting around home screen icons. It simply sits at the ready for your requests, though it can entertain by playing movies and TV from Prime Video, video clips from its partners, like CNN, as well as video chatting.

The Echo Show and the smaller, cheaper Echo Spot feature “Drop In” video calling, which lets you hop into a video chat unannounced with a trusted contact. Before you get too alarmed, know that this has to be enabled by both users, but it essentially just allows either party to automatically open up a line of communication without syncing up a time and place. This function works between any Echo device, Fire tablets, as well as iOS and Android phone users who have the Alexa app installed.

If you want to give your phone a boost, the Echo Show is certainly louder and better-sounding. We found that it outperforms the Echo speakers, but it’s not as good as something like the Sonos: One. This smart display can play tunes from your phone via Bluetooth, however, the Echo Show’s audio cannot be piped through a different audio source, unlike the Echo Spot with its 3.5mm jack.

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