One of the latest trends in the tech world is smart displays. They're in essence an evolution of the smart speaker, adding a visual element with a screen. There are plenty to choose from now in various shapes, sizes and prices - not just from Amazon and Google, either.
For all intents and purposes, a smart display is in essence a tablet which runs on mains power that sits in a stand. Typically the display isn't adjustable and the base will have speakers to provide audio. Other features include microphones so you can use voice control and the device may have a camera, too.
Having a screen, as you might imagine, means you can interact in a different way and make use of more features. For example, it works like a digital photo frame, you can watch videos and read recipes. Some also have cameras built-in for video calls and security.
Amazon paved the way in this area with the Echo Show, as it did with the smart speaker. Others have followed since though, with the main alternative being those with the Google Assistant. Third-party models came out first but Google now has the Nest Hub range as its own-brand option.
Apart from the individual specs of each display, you really need to choose between Alexa and Google Assistant. We can't outright tell you which to go for as it will come down to things like whether you have other devices in that ecosystem and if the other smart home devices you have, or are planning to buy, are compatible with that system.
Best Smart Displays 2020
1. Google Nest Hub Max
The Google Nest Hub Max is the best smart display we've tested to date.
It brings along a larger, more useful display as well as a camera which is far more useful than simply making video calls. It can recognise different users, be used as a security camera and supports gestures for playback.
Futhermore, the audio performance is excellent so well worth the upgrade if you want to listen to music. The JBL Link View has better audio but we prefer the Max as an all-round device.
Read our full Google Nest Hub Max review
2. Amazon Echo Show 8
It may not have the Zigbee hub that's built into the more expensive - and larger - Echo Show, but this model offers the best compromise of features, screen size and audio quality.
And at this price, those aren't compromises you'll ever regret making: Alexa is just as capable here as she is on the most expensive Echo Show, able to show the video feed from compatible cameras, show you lyrics for many songs from Amazon Music and more.
Read our full Amazon Echo Show 8 review
3. Amazon Echo Show 5
It may cost the same as the Lenovo Smart Clock, but it includes a couple of key features you might want, such as Bluetooth and a camera. The screen is a little small for watching video, but it's a great size for a bedside table.
Just remember there's no Google here: Alexa has many skills but they don't tie into any Google services.
- Privacy cover for camera
- Works with Ring and Nest cameras
Read our full Amazon Echo Show 5 review
4. Google Nest Hub
It might not be flawless but we feel Google's Nest Hub (formerly Home Hub) with Google Assistant inside is an excellent option for a smart display so far. It's an affordable price and the compact, stylish design will ensure it fits almost anywhere in your home.
There might not be a camera and audio quality isn't the best but this is reflected in the price. What Nest Hub does have is an excellent screen on which Google Assistant can show as well as tell.
You might find it a little too small for some rooms, but it generally works very well for all manner of tasks including streaming music, watching video and simply providing useful information.
If you can afford it, get the much better Nest Hub Max.
Read our full Google Nest Hub review
5. Lenovo Smart Clock
The Lenovo Smart Clock is a fairly simple concept - a Home Mini with a screen - but slick design, a simple interface, and clever features that manipulate screen brightness to keep it dim during the night and slowly brighten it as a light alarm make the device a surprisingly compelling offering.
The only real downside is the lack of Bluetooth speaker support - the main Home Mini feature missing here - but everything else about this does exactly what you want it to.
Most importantly, at £80/$80 it’s not all that much more than the regular Home Mini, making it all too easy to justify the jump from smart speaker to smart clock.
Read our full Lenovo Smart Clock review
6. JBL Link View
It's the most expensive smart display, but the JBL Link View is the way to go if you want the best audio experience. It might not look like an overly powerful speaker, but we've rarely pumped it higher than half way.
We'd like more colours and there can be a bit of lag sometimes, but the Link View is compact despite the huge sound. You also get a camera which might come in handy.
As with the other displays using the Google Assistant, we'd like the software to be better - namely with less reliance on the Home app.
Read our full JBL Link View review
7. Lenovo Smart Display
The Lenovo Smart Display is an impressive third-party Google smart display that's probably a better option than the Google Home Hub for most users thanks to the choice of two larger displays (8in or 10in) and the inclusion of a camera for video calls - though it does cost a good chunk more than Google's own offering, which holds it back slightly.
The larger screen is seriously welcome when looking up travel, reading recipes, or watching YouTube videos, and it's also given Lenovo space to fit in a surprisingly solid speaker. It's hardly world beating, but there's plenty of bass and enough volume to fill the room, which is more than we expected from a device led by its screen.
Ultimately, the irritations here are mostly on Google’s side, and mostly software - so we hope they might improve over time anyway. Lack of support for the vertical orientation and the frustratingly stripped back touchscreen controls are undeniably annoying, and highlight the occasional failings of the voice controls.
Read our full Lenovo Smart Display review
8. Amazon Echo Show (2nd-gen)
It's expensive, but the 2nd-gen Echo Show is a good upgrade on the original. If you want Alexa with a screen this is a good option. It lets you call other people with Alexa devices, look up stuff online and watch Amazon Prime video. Just remember that it needs to be plugged in, it's not a tablet.
Audio is decent and the screen is a good size but unless you really want the visual element or ability to call other Shows, you'd be better off with the Echo or the Echo Plus. And if you do want a screen but a more affordable price, look to the Echo Show 5.
Read our full Amazon Echo Show (2nd-gen) review
9. Lenovo Smart Tab P10
The Smart Tab P10 is ultimately a fairly budget tablet, with lightweight specs, old software, and a simple feature set, masked in part by slick-but-simple design that leaves it looking and feeling more premium than it really is.
The key selling point is the included speaker dock, which automatically activates a dedicated mode for Amazon Alexa, essentially turning the tablet into a makeshift Echo Show while it's docked. Without the dock the P10 would be fairly unremarkable, so it's really only worth buying if the idea of a tablet that doubles as an Echo Show really speaks to you.
Unfortunately Lenovo didn’t get here first. Amazon did with its Fire tablets, and with the added bonus that you can buy extra Show Mode Docks for different rooms, not to mention saving money by opting for an 8in model.
Still, it might be worth opting for the P10 if you want full access to Android and YouTube - rather than Amazon’s stripped back FireOS - or if you know you'll make use of the dock's built-in speaker, rather than simply connecting it up to another sound system anyway.
Read our full Lenovo Smart Tab P10 review