Smart assistants have moved in a new direction, adopting displays to forge a new category of device. It's a space that Amazon opened up in 2017 with the original Echo Show and where the Echo goes, Google Home often follows.
The Google Home Hub is Google's own smart display, so we're throwing that into the mix alongside the Lenovo Smart Display and the new Echo Show, to see which of these smart screens you might want to put in your home.
- Echo Show: 246 x 174 x 107, 10.1in display
- Lenovo: 311.37 x 173.87 x 12.5-136.02mm, 10.1in display (also in 8in)
- Google Home Hub: 178.5 x 118 x67.3mm, 7in display
With a display front and centre, the challenge is to come up with something that doesn’t just look like a tablet on a stand. Amazon's second-gen Echo Show moves the speakers to the rear sides, rather than under the display for a better look - but one that's not too far removed from the Google Home Hub.
Lenovo is distinctly different, with the speaker grille at one end of the device - so it's wider than the Echo Show, but with a wedged back. This makes it a little quirkier in design, but the 10-inch model gets a bamboo finish on the back that's really nice. There's also a smaller 8-inch version, with a grey back.
Smaller than the Echo Show and Lenovo is the Google Home Hub. With a 7-inch display, it's much more compact than the others, but takes a design that's slightly softer than the others too. We think it's the nicest looking, with the display sitting slightly raised from the surface, for a smaller footprint.
Of the three, we're not totally sold on the Lenovo: having the speakers at one end means the design looks slightly unbalanced and it takes up more space than it needs to, even on the 8-inch model (263.21 x 142.21 x 12.5-111.36mm) which is still wider and deeper than the Echo Show.
Display and hardware
- Echo Show: 10.1in, 5MP camera
- Lenovo: 8 or 10.1in, 5MP camera
- Google Home Hub: 7in, no camera
We've mentioned the difference in display sizes, so we'll move quickly on to resolution. Amazon isn't sharing what the resolution is for the Show, but Lenovo has confirmed that it has 1920 x 1200 pixels on the 10-inch model (224ppi), while the 8-inch model is 1280 x 800 (188ppi), while the Google Home Hub is 1024 x 600 (198ppi).
In reality, the Lenovo Smart Display is the best looking of the lot. Side-by-side with the Echo Show, Lenovo looks more vibrant, with higher quality visuals - although bear in mind what you're using this device for - if it's just for looking at weather icons, that might not matter.
The Google Home Hub has a lower resolution, but the smaller size means it's not hugely different. Slightly softer, yes, but not by a huge margin. Of the three, the Lenovo is definitely the best quality.
The Google Home Hub has no camera, but both the Echo Show and the Lenovo Smart Display feature a front camera for Alexa Calling/Skype or Google Duo respectively. The Lenovo has a mechanical privacy cover on the camera.
Sound quality and connections
- Echo Show: 2x 2in drivers, bass radiator, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect
- Lenovo: 2in driver, 2x passive tweeters, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect
- Home Hub: Full range speaker, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect
Of the three devices, the Amazon Echo Show easily sounds the best. The new arrangement of sideways firing speakers creates a wide soundstage and there's appreciable bass. The Lenovo Smart Display sounds a little thin by comparison and we'd pick the Echo Show for music every time.
The Google Home Hub is a little smaller and again, doesn't have the sound quality to compete. That's a major difference: while we'd pick the Echo Show as a regular music player, the others aren't so well suited.
There's wider support for services beyond just asking the virtual assistants for music. All support Spotify Connect, so you can send the music from the Spotify app on your phone to the speaker. The Google devices - Lenovo Smart Display and Google Home Hub - both also support Chromecast, so you can play a wide array of entertainment services on them directly.
In this sense, they are a little more flexible than the Echo Show: while the Echo Show will play you Amazon Music or Amazon Video with smartphone control, the Google platform is a lot more accommodating, supporting services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer and YouTube for video.
User interface and smart home control
- Echo Show has a Zigbee controller
- Lenovo and Google have the same interface
When it comes to user interfaces, Google has standardised the smart display interface. It's based on Google Assistant and the Google Home Hub and the Lenovo Smart Display are the same visual user interface. When updates are made to the system, both will get it at the same time.
It's visual and engaging and we think it has the edge on the Echo Show - it just looks more engaging and little details, like transcribing what you're saying as you say it, really helps keep track of things. Google is also a little smarter than Alexa, often being able to provide a better answer and show you those things too.
Native support for YouTube also makes the Google devices better.
The Echo Show user interface is powered by Alexa and is still pretty smart, but feels like it's playing catch up. It's slightly more generic, often using a graphical background because it doesn't always seem to know what to display.
The Echo Show does have a Zigbee controller built-in, however, which means it can natively control a wide range of smart home devices without the need for separate hubs or apps. This makes it great as a home control device.
We also find that talking to Alexa feels more natural and Google Assistant: Alexa is a better hotword than "Ok Google" or "Hey Google" and we've found that family members take to Alexa more naturally than Google Assistant because of this.
- Echo Show best to talk to, best for music
- Echo Show best for smart home control
- Google devices offer better UI and wider support
- Google Home Hub most affordable
The Echo Show second-generation corrected a lot that was off about the first-gen device: it's now a better design and the sound quality is boosted, so it fits its position as the top Echo device. The Echo Show is a great smart home controller thanks to wide compatibility and that Zigbee controller.
Talking to Alexa is more natural than Google and in a home with other Echo devices, the Echo Show makes perfect sense.
The Lenovo Smart Display doesn't sound as good as the Echo Show and neither does the Google Home Hub, so if playing music is something you want to do a lot, then the Echo Show is the best choice.
Lenovo offers a big display and with YouTube support, it makes sense as a kitchen assistant if you have a little more space, as it's the largest device on comparison. It also offers video calling, something that the Google Home Hub doesn't do.
While the Lenovo and Google Home Hub offer the same user interface and experience, the Home Hub's design is really nice. It's great as a controller to sit in a more compact space, ready to respond, but if music is a priority, you're better getting it to control other speakers.
Of the three, the Google Home Hub is the cheapest, but you'd expect that from the size.