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Smart Home

Google Nest Hub vs. Amazon Echo Show

Which smart display is right for you?

The $230 Amazon Echo Show sounds great when it plays music. The $150 Google Nest Hub, previously called the Home Hub, makes your personal pictures look fantastic in ambient mode. The flagship smart displays from two tech giants look very different -- the Echo Show dwarfs the Nest Hub in size -- but they serve many of the same purposes.

Both smart displays respond to the same voice commands as an ordinary smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or the Google Home. Both use a screen to show extra info when you ask a question. You see a detailed forecast when you ask about the weather, or you can browse pics of a restaurant if you're looking for a place to eat. You can also use the screen on both devices to watch videos, control smart home devices, make video calls and check on the feed from your security cam.

Both of these devices have been out awhile, which means they're well established by now. So it's a good time to figure out, once and for all, which company makes the better smart display.

Read moreThe Amazon Echo Show 5 is Alexa's best smart display

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The Amazon Echo Show and Google Nest Hub each house a digital assistant: Alexa and Google Assistant. These assistants have their strengths and weaknesses. Alexa, for instance, works with a wider variety of devices and sports more features, whereas Google responds more intuitively to commands. Despite a pretty even split here, though, the Google Nest Hub boasts enough distinctive features to make it our recommendation for a smart display.

First, Google's display manages a large number of smart home gadgets more elegantly, organizing them into an easy-to-understand control panel for touch controls. Organization goes a long way, it seems, as the cooking assistance offered by the Nest Hub (step-by-step recipes, simultaneous music and video streaming and so on) gains a slight edge over the Echo Show for its intuitive interface.

Speaking of streaming video, the Echo Show boasts a significantly larger display than Google's (10 versus 7 inches), but it's hard to beat the presence of YouTube (owned by Google) on the Nest Hub. Finally, a few nice design touches, such as how the Nest Hub adapts the brightness and warmth of the photos it displays to match the room, really bring together Google's product as the more aesthetically pleasing device.

Since the two devices are close on most fronts, you should go with the Amazon Echo Show if you prefer Alexa. You should also go with the Echo Show if you want a smart display that sounds good when playing music. However, if you're a Google fan or if you're on the fence, the Google Nest Hub is the better choice.

It costs less, and it's better at controlling your smart home, walking you through recipes and showing your personal pictures. You probably don't need your smart display to be your main screen for watching TV or your main speaker for listening to music. Smart displays are best at showing you what you need to know to keep your hands free in the kitchen. The Google Nest Hub is great at that, and it's the better smart display as a result.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Amazon Echo Show is much bigger than the Google Nest Hub, so some discrepancy in sound quality is understandable, but it's a big gap. The Echo Show sounds great -- on par with full sized smart speakers like the Amazon Echo. The Nest Hub has trouble matching even small smart speakers like the Google Home Mini in sound quality.

Unlike speakers, though, the microphone hardware of the Nest Hub puts up a good fight. Both displays use microphones well and will generally hear your commands from across a large room. The Echo Show still beats Google slightly as it more frequently can hear commands from an adjacent room and over background noise.

Of course, at the end of the day, the Google Nest Hub has no camera, which means only one-way video chat. Add full video chat to the Show's 10-inch screen, and you have clear winner. If you're looking for a smart display to use for video chat, the Echo Show is the only pick. Of course, with no shutter to cover the Echo Show's camera, and mounting anxiety about privacy issues and facial recognition technology, not everyone will opt for the Show.

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