Worth a thousand words
The smart display category is growing. Each device combines the capabilities of a smart speaker such as an Amazon Echo with a touchscreen for video calls, pictures, directions and more.
Amazon Echo Show (Second Generation)
The first Amazon Echo Show helped kick off the trend in 2017, and the second Amazon Echo Show (pictured) kept everything that was good about the first model and fixed a lot of its issues.
Thanks to Amazon's assistant, Alexa, you can control your smart home, search the web, set a reminder and more with a voice command, 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-gen model features an improved design. It has great sound quality, and you can use it to surf the web with Firefox or Amazon Silk browsers.
Amazon Echo Spot
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.
Amazon Echo Show 5
Like the Echo Spot, Amazon's Echo Show 5 is tailored for your nightstand. The $90 Show 5 still allows you to watch videos and use the touchscreen in a variety of ways. Plus, it has a physical shutter that slides over the camera for extra privacy and you can set sunrise alarms in which the screen starts getting brighter 15 minutes before your scheduled wake up time to ease you out of your sleep.
Facebook also jumped into the smart display category last 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 Portal Plus
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.
Google's smart displays
Not to be left behind, Google debuted a quartet of smart displays at CES 2018 from Lenovo (pictured), JBL, LG and Sony.
Similar to the Echo Show, each Google-equipped smart display has the same smarts as the Google Home smart speaker, along with a touchscreen to illustrate answers.
Google Nest Hub
After letting third-party smart displays test the waters, Google rolled out its own in October 2018 with the Google Nest Hub, which was called the Google Home Hub at the time. The 7-inch Nest Hub costs just $130 and lacks a camera, which privacy-minded consumers might appreciate.
It 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.
Google Nest Hub Max
Google has another first-party smart display on the way as well. The $230 Google Nest Hub Max adds a smart camera to a 10-inch display. You'll be able to make video calls and use the camera for motion alerts, and it can do things like understand gestures to play and pause music and show you notifications when it recognizes your face.
Plus the camera will follow you around when you're on video calls, similar to the main feature of the Facebook Portal.
JBL Link View
The $250 JBL Link View puts the same Google Assistant smarts into a smart display with booming sound quality. If you want a smart display that can rock, the Link View is the best choice.
LG WK9 Smart Display
LG also focused on sound quality for the $300 LG WK9 Smart Display with Google Assistant. It sounds good and works as well as the rest, but the price makes it less appealing.
Lenovo Smart Display
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.
The 10-inch Lenovo Smart Display is the one with the bamboo back. The 8-inch model has a grey back.
Lenovo Smart Clock
Lenovo also has a smaller smart display tailored for your nightstand. The Lenovo Smart Clock doesn't have all of the functionality of the rest -- you can't watch videos, browse recipes or access a smart home control panel. It still has Google Assistant built-in. Plus, it has sunrise alarms and a cool feature where you can smack the top of the clock to snooze. A recent update allows you to set your personal pictures as a screensaver.