The race to be everywhere in your home is on, and as it stands, the competition is between Google and Amazon to rule the roost. With Amazon Echo and Google Home, smart speakers are the hottest trend in tech.
That's not the only way these two companies want you to interact with their digital assistants though. In 2017, Amazon launched Echo Show, which was, in essence, an Echo with a display - and now has a much more accomplished update in the 2019 Echo Show. Google's response is the smart display - and it's not going solo, it's doing it with partners.
What smart displays are available?
Google offers two smart displays made by the company itself, but there are also options from other third-party companies, including JBL and Lenovo. Here are the options if you're after a Google smart display.
Google Nest Hub (formerly Google Home Hub)
The Google Nest Hub adopts the design of other Google Home devices, presenting a neat little 7-inch display for you to get chatty with. It doesn't have a camera, which sets it apart from many of the devices on this list and it's also one of the most affordable out there. It's a great experience, from a device we love.
Google Nest Hub Max
A bigger, smarter and more powerful model of the Google Nest Hub, offering a larger 10-inch display and a built-in Nest Cam. It does everything the smaller Nest Hub does, but with the addition of video calls, gesture controls and Face Match. It's a fantastic device that doubles up as am excellent security camera, and it offers a better sound experience to the smaller model too.
Lenovo Smart Display
The Lenovo Smart Display takes that 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 isn't great, but the experience overall is pretty good.
JBL Link View
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. JBL offers a great 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.
Lenovo Smart Display 7
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.
KitchenAid Smart Display
Yes, KitchenAid - best known for it's wondering mixers - has a smart display that's water-resistant so it can be easily cleaned. The device was announced back in January 2019 but it has yet to see an official release date. It has a 10-inch display and an IPX-5 rating and while the interface is going to be the same, it offers exclusive access to Yummly Pro for recipes, so might have the edge. The price is expected to be between $200-300.
LG WK9 ThinQ Google Assistant Touch Screen Speaker
LG has also joined the fray with the WK9 ThinQ speakers. That gets an 8-inch touchscreen, Google Assistant and Chromecast built into a device with two speakers which, in this instance, are enhanced by Meridian Audio.
What is a smart display?
Let's start with what they're not: tablets. Google has been clear that this is a new product category - these are essentially smart speakers with a display built-in, 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 like a Chromecast, sending content to it from a variety of sources - 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.