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(Pocket-lint) - Google Assistant Smart Displays are an excellent way to add a visual element to your home control.

The displays may not have taken off dramatically with third-party makers since first launching in 2018, but there are some very capable options available in 2021 for those who crave the smart assistant on their bedside table, kitchen or elsewhere.

They also offer an excellent alternative to the Amazon Echo Show range, which crucially lacks YouTube support and, as we've often noted in our reviews, still runs on a relatively clunky operating system.

Since these speaker-tablet hybrids offer something quite different to typical Google Assistant devices, it's worth delving a little deeper and detailing exactly what you can expect if you pick one up.

In this guide, we'll be doing exactly that. Read on to discover the top Google Assistant Smart Displays available now, and how they can help take your home control to a new level. 

Best Google Smart Displays available (2021)

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Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen)

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Now in its second generation, Google has revamped the original Nest Hub with features that make it the perfect bedside companion. It still has the same 7-inch display for you to interact with, whether it's checking the weather, casting YouTube or Spotify or setting an alarm, but this is now bolstered by Sleep Sensing.

This gives you nightly reports on your slumber, with all the data available also synced over to Google Fit for your perusal. There's still no camera present - welcome news for those who do place this in their bedroom - and it also retains the very reasonable price tag.

It also features full compatibility with the Matter and Thread standards, which could prove crucial to its longevity.

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Google Nest Hub Max

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The Nest Hub Max is bigger and more powerful than the Google Nest Hub, offering a larger 10-inch display and a built-in Nest Cam.

It does pretty much everything the smaller Nest Hub does - besides Sleep Sensing - with the addition of video calls and Face Match. It's a fantastic device that doubles up as an excellent security camera, and it offers a better sound experience to the smaller model, too.

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Lenovo Smart Display

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The Lenovo Smart Display takes the Google Assistant experience and offers it in two sizes, at 8 or 10.1-inches.

The 10.1-inch model has a sharp display, but the interesting thing about this device is the design. The rear of the 10-inch model is finished in bamboo and curves towards the speaker end so it can stand vertically - which you can use for video calling, but not a lot else (the UI doesn't rotate).

With a speaker at one end, the sound is good but not great, and the experience overall is pretty good.

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JBL Link View

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Similar to the smaller Lenovo Smart Display, the JBL Link View has a pair of 10W speakers and an 8-inch touchscreen. It also has a 5-megapixel front-facing camera with HD video recording. 

The Link View offers some excellent overall sound quality, but the display isn't quite as glorious as the larger Lenovo display, even if the design is a lot easier to live with.

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Lenovo Smart Display 7

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Launching in October, the Lenovo Smart Display 7 is an updated model of the Lenovo Smart Display listed above, offering a 7-inch display and several design enhancements.

Stereo speakers have been added for a better sound experience, while the display sees thinner bezels around it and an ambient light sensor added for more realistic images.

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What is a Google Smart Display?

Since debuting these devices, Google has been clear that this is a new product category. Essentially, they are smart speakers with a built-in display, bringing a visual element to Google's home product lineup. 

The advantage of having a display built-in means Google Assistant can show you results as well as speak them to you, which - in many instances - is very useful. Whether that means showing you a recipe, directions to a location in Google Maps, or bring up photos you've got saved. These aren't elements well-communicated by audio alone. 

As you'd expect, you can also use the screen to watch videos from YouTube or watch the news, or use it as a Chromecast, sending content to it from a variety of sources. And yes, you can watch Netflix on them.

The interface is basically a visualisation of Google Assistant and it's the same across all devices. Most run on the Android Things platform and all behave in the same way. Of course, if you use Google, it knows all about you, can recognise your voice and give you a very personal service.

Writing by Conor Allison. Originally published on 9 January 2018.