I honestly love the rivalry between Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The two tech giants behind those digital assistants frequently trade blows in the form of new features. Google had to play catch-up for awhile as Amazon and the came to market first, but then Google pulled out ahead in the the newer smart display category with the success of its lower cost over Amazon's clunky first attempt with the original Echo Show. Finally, with the , Amazon strikes back.
The new $90 Echo Show 5 gives Amazon an entry-level smart display that costs even less than the $130 Google Home Hub). A lot of its announced features look to be specifically aimed to counter the strengths of the Nest Hub. The approach makes sense. In a head-to-head post pitting the , we called the Nest Hub the easy winner.Hub (formerly called the
Google doubled down on those strengths when it announced a new, bigger and smarter display called the Google Nest Hub Max earlier this month. The Max is $230 and due out later this summer. The Echo Show 5 took the opposite approach, going smaller and cheaper and trying to combine the coolest features of the current Nest Hub with the upcoming $80 -- a similar trimmed down smart display with Google Assistant.
The Echo Show 5 will start shipping next month and could be the entry-level smart display to beat, but taking the Nest Hub off of that perch won't be easy. Below, we'll look at how it stacks up favorably and where it could still fall short. Obviously, we won't know for sure which device is better until we can test the Show 5, but the announced features give us a pretty good indication.
How the Echo Show 5 could beat the Nest Hub:
- The $90 price -- That's nicely positioned between the $130 Nest Hub and the $80 Lenovo Smart Clock. The Nest Hub is often on sale, but the Echo Show 5 combines many of the unique features of the Smart Clock and the Nest Hub to potentially offer the best of both worlds for a competitive price.
- Sunrise alarms -- Set an alarm on the Show 5, and the screen will naturally brighten as it gets close to your wake-up time to ease you out of your sleep. I really liked similar features when I earlier this year. The Lenovo Smart Clock has this option, but the Nest Hub doesn't. The Echo Show 5 can also play videos. The Nest Hub can do this, but the Lenovo Smart Clock can't.
- An HD Cam -- Neither the Nest Hub nor the Lenovo Smart Clock has a video camera; the Echo Show 5 does. The Nest Hub Max will, but that's much more expensive. The absence of a camera on the Nest Hub and the Lenovo clock are part of their appeal for people with privacy concerns. Amazon addresses that in the Show with a physical camera shutter, as well as a dedicated button that will disconnect both the camera and the microphone.
- More compatible smart home cams -- You can use the Echo Show 5 to check on your baby monitor and chat with your . Google's products can currently only show footage from Nest cams.
- More options for video calls -- The Echo Show 5 can directly call other Amazon devices or the Amazon app on someone's phone. You can also start a video call using Skype. The Nest Hub surprisingly does allow you to make video calls -- the recipient just won't be able to see you since it doesn't have a camera. However, you're limited to the first party video chat app Google Duo.
- Delete recordings with a voice command -- Perhaps the coolest new feature for the Show 5, especially for those with privacy concerns, you can give a voice command to delete all of your commands for the day. Amazon's also working on a feature to erase the last thing you said with a command. You can delete commands in the Google Home app, but not with your voice.
How the Nest Hub should still be better than the Show 5:
- YouTube -- Amazon announced a variety of ways you can watch videos on the Show 5, but nothing's better for the quick videos ideal for a small screen than the Google owned YouTube. The Nest Hub has access, the Echo Show 5 doesn't.
- How To content -- The Show 5 will be able to play videos from wikiHow, which should make it better at walking you through any number of tasks. I'm unimpressed. Again, Google has YouTube with a wealth of How To videos and Google is that should make watching them on a smart display more interactive.
- Smart home controls -- Amazon is introducing better smart home controls for smart displays along with the Show 5. You'll be able to control devices in more detail and see an overview of your whole home in groups. The Nest Hub has done this since launch and Google's control panel clearly organizes your smart home gadgets in a helpful manner. We'll see what the software is like once we get our hands on an Echo Show 5, but I'm skeptical that Amazon will overtake Google here as the Google Home app still offers a better overview than the Amazon Alexa app.
- Looking at family pictures -- The Nest Hub is a great gadget for looking at family photos. Google can curate an album for you and the adaptive brightness of the screen makes every picture look great. They genuinely look like physical photos in a frame and Google can scroll through these pics as your screensaver. The Show 5 will have similar functionality and include photos from Facebook, which is a nice perk. You have to use Google Photos for the Nest Hub. Amazon even talked about better adaptive brightness, but the Nest Hub is great at this, so even if the Show 5 improves over the current Echo Show, I'd bet it still won't be as good as the Nest Hub as the Nest Hub actually adapts both the brightness and the warmth of the picture to match the room.
- A bigger screen -- The Nest Hub has a 7-inch screen versus 5.5 inches for the Show 5. One of the advantages of the current Show over the Nest Hub was screen size and sound quality. The Show 5 will definitely lose the first and might lose the second advantage too with a significantly smaller body.
- No cam -- I put having a cam as an advantage for the Show 5, and it is, for some people. The physical shutter is a nice touch, but if you're really worried about privacy, you might be more comfortable with the Nest Hub or the Lenovo Smart clock, both of which forgo the camera entirely.
- Recipes -- The Nest Hub offers really helpful step-by-step recipe guides. The Amazon Echo Show has similar functionality, but it's not as robust. I haven't seen any indication that the Echo Show 5 will catch up here.
Smart displays let Amazon, Facebook, Google show you answers to your questionsSee all photos
is a nice touch -- a spot to control and manage your data. Google is rolling out something similar for Google Assistant -- a . It's nice seeing both companies make an effort on this front, but it remains to be seen which will do it better.
I recommend the Nest Hub over the earlier iterations of the Amazon Echo Show for almost everybody interested in a smart display. The Show has been good enough for those already committed to Alexa, but the Nest Hub is generally a better device. At the very least, the Echo Show 5 could muddy that recommendation down to finer personal preferences as far as what you're looking for in an entry level smart display. If the Show 5 surprises me and beats the Nest Hub in a couple of categories where it's still the underdog, it could come out ahead.