These smart speakers have a screen, too. Combining the capabilities of a smart speaker such as an Amazon Echo with a touchscreen for video calls, pictures, directions and more, smart displays are gaining momentum as a category.
The Amazon Echo Show helped kick off the trend. The $230 Show features the full power of Amazon's assistant, Alexa. With a voice command, you can control your smart home, search the web, set a reminder and more, just like you would with an Amazon Echo smart speaker.
Beyond what an ordinary Echo can do, you can use the Show to make video calls and see pictures. Alexa will show you information to help illustrate the answers to your questions. Plus, specific skills from Uber, Starbucks, CNN and others take advantage of the Echo Show's touchscreen.
The second Amazon Echo Show kept everything that was good about the first model and fixed a lot of its issues. It looks much better, it has great sound quality, and you can use it to surf the web with Firefox or Amazon Silk browsers.
A smaller smart display meant to double as your alarm clock, the Echo Spot squeezes a lot of the same functions as the Echo Show into a much more compact frame. At $130, the Spot also sounds surprisingly good for its size.
Facebook also jumped into the smart display category this year with the $200 Facebook Portal (pictured) and $350 Portal Plus. Both focus more on video calls than the rest, as the cameras can automatically follow you as you move around a room. They're a great fit if you have small kids and out-of-town family that want to keep up with the action as they play.
Despite having Amazon's assistant Alexa built in, they don't have as many features as the other smart displays. They're video chat devices first and foremost.
Facebook will gather data about the length and frequency of your video calls when you use the Portal or Portal Plus. Supposedly, it won't gather data for ads from the content of your calls, but Facebook has had its share of issues with trust this year.
After letting third-party smart displays test the waters, Google rolled out its own in October 2018 with the Google Home Hub. The 7-inch Google Home Hub costs just $150 and lacks a camera, which privacy-minded consumers might appreciate.
It features the same smarts as the Lenovo Smart Display and introduced a smart-home control panel you can access by swiping down from the top of the screen. The Home Hub also has great adaptive brightness. You can set a slideshow of family pictures as your ambient mode and the Home Hub will make them look great in any room.
Lenovo was the first Google Assistant display to hit the market, and it proved to be a great flag bearer. The stylish Lenovo Smart Display makes great use of its 10-inch display and has an elegant bamboo back. The 10-inch model we tested costs $250, but Lenovo also has a model with an 8-inch screen and a gray back that costs $200.
With both models, you can take advantage of Google Assistant through voice commands. You can make video calls or watch videos on YouTube. The Lenovo Smart Display works best in the kitchen. Pick a recipe to cook and Google will walk you through the steps with helpful instructions. You can even multitask and Google will save your place.