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Amazon Echo Show 8 vs. Google Nest Hub

Amazon is directly challenging Google's best smart display with a similarly sized, similarly priced model. Here's how the two devices stack up.

While we expected Amazon's fall hardware event to be filled with surprises, it was especially strange to see Amazon announce the Echo Show 8 on Wednesday. The Echo Show 8 will combine voice-activated help from the company's famous assistant Alexa with an 8-inch touchscreen for scrolling through pictures, watching videos, controlling your smart home and more. It'll have a camera with a physical shutter and a new integration with Food Network TV to help you master your kitchen. 

The device was a surprise because the company's previous model, the Echo Show 5, is only a couple of months old. That model has a 5.5-inch screen and is tailored for your nightstand with customizable alarms. It's a good smart display if you want a small touchscreen in your bedroom, but Amazon wasn't content to rest on its laurels.

Read: The best smart displays of 2019   

Google has had the best smart display on the market for awhile now with the Nest Hub (formerly called the Google Home Hub). The Nest Hub has a 7-inch screen and features great smart home controls, adaptive brightness, cooking help and voice assistance. It was well ahead of Amazon's smart displays when it came out, but the Show 5 helped close the gap significantly. 

The Show 5 split the difference between the Nest Hub and the smaller, simpler Lenovo Smart Clock -- a Google Assistant-equipped smart alarm. The Show 8 will be closer in size to the Nest Hub -- an 8-inch screen instead of 7 with the Nest Hub. It will also have a retail price of $130, the same as the Nest Hub. It has a camera (the Nest Hub doesn't), and the integration with Food Network TV might help it catch up or even pass the Nest Hub as a kitchen helper.

Game on.

We won't know for sure which one is better until the Show 8 releases on November 21, but here's how they stack up as far as features and specs.

James Martin/CNET

All popular smart displays since the very first Amazon Echo Show combine the voice-enabled assistance of smart speakers with a touchscreen display for watching videos, scrolling through pictures, making video calls and more. The Show 8 keeps this core intact, as well as the improvements to the formula that Amazon has made with each subsequent iteration.

The first Echo Show didn't have any touch controls for smart home devices. The Show 8 will have a full control panel you can access with a swipe so you can quickly find and manipulate any of your compatible gadgets. The first Echo Show didn't have a physical shutter to cover the camera. The Show 8 will. It'll have full web browsers built in so you can access any site your heart desires. The Nest Hub still doesn't that.

Google's lineup of smart displays have long been better as kitchen assistants. Going through a recipe on the Nest Hub is seamless and intuitive. You can also multitask while you work. The Show 8 will look to challenge that supremacy through Amazon's new integration with Food Network TV. 

Food Network Kitchen will be a subscription service you can access on the Show 8. You'll be able to watch live and on-demand episodes from Food Network TV. You can save recipes from the episodes, and ask questions about the recipes as you work. If you forget how much thyme to add, just ask Amazon's assistant Alexa, and it'll pull the info from the Food Network episode and respond.

This feature sounds pretty awesome. I've generally found Google's smart displays work best in the kitchen, and this interactive video content could be truly helpful when you're trying to learn how to cook. Read more about the Amazon Echo Show 8.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Amazon didn't announce a price for a Food Network Kitchen subscription, but it'll definitely be more than the free recipe help provided by the Nest Hub. Amazon has made strides with its own native cooking guides, but Google still has the edge here. 

The Nest Hub has held the crown as the best smart display for awhile, and it won't relinquish it easily. The Amazon Echo Show 5 debuted a new, intuitive smart-home control panel that will make its way to the Show 8, but the Nest Hub has a similar control panel with better organization. 

All smart displays can scroll through your personal pics as a screensaver, but the Nest Hub is great at this, thanks to awesome light sensors that adapt both the brightness and the color warmth of the pic based on the ambient light in the room. As a result, the Nest Hub makes your pics look like physical photos in a frame. Amazon's newer smart displays have added better light sensors, but the Nest Hub still holds the crown here, too.

The Nest Hub doesn't have a camera, but that might be a good thing if you're worried about privacy -- though the physical shutter on the Show 8 is a nice touch. The Nest Hub shows you what it hears when you give a voice command, and in general its touch controls and user interface are great. Plus, though its list price is still $130, the Nest Hub is often on sale for much less. Check out the Google Nest Hub review.

The smart display category continues to grow. The Show 8 will help fill out your midrange options alongside the Nest Hub. If you want more premium smart displays with a bigger screen, check out the second-generation Amazon Echo Show or the Google Nest Hub Max. If you want something smaller for your bedroom, the Echo Show 5 and the Lenovo Smart Clock feature sunrise alarms -- the screen gets gradually brighter leading up to your alarm time to ease you out of your sleep. Check out our list of best smart displays for more on each of these options. 

As it stands, the Nest Hub is our top pick overall. The Show 8 could change that when it debuts this fall, and the Food Network TV integration could help that cause. But that subscription needs to be reasonably priced and great in its execution if the Show 8 is going to take the top spot.