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  • Amazon Echo Show 8 (second-gen)

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  • How We Tested Smart Displays

  • What You Should Know About Buying Smart Displays

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  • Other Smart Displays We Tested

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Our Favorite Smart Displays of 2021

  1. Best Overall

    Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen)

    Pros

    • Great tool for communication

    • Appropriately focused on security

    • Excellent entertainment options

    Cons

    • Not a smart home hub

    Skip to the full review below
  2. Best for Google Assistant

    Google Nest Hub Max

    Pros

    • Works with Google Assistant

    • Great streaming options

    • Bright, big screen

    Cons

    • No physical shutter for the camera

    Skip to the full review below
The Amazon Echo Show 8 smart display sits on a tablet
Credit: Reviewed / Nick Woodward

The Amazon Echo Show 8 is the best smart display you can buy.

Best Overall
Amazon Echo Show 8 (second-gen)

The Echo Show 8 is our No. 1 pick because it offers a great mix of value, features, and overall usability—especially if Amazon Alexa is your preferred assistant.

It’s not the smallest or largest Echo smart display, but the 8 doesn’t need to be flashy to be great. The mid-size display takes up just the right amount of real estate without feeling too big or too small for everyday use.

The display has a 13-megapixel camera complete with auto framing and an 8-inch screen that keeps you in the camera’s view and looks good during video calls when using compatible services like Zoom, Skype, and Alexa Calling. It also works as a home security camera (only visible in the Amazon Alexa app). When paired with an Alexa Guard subscription, Echo displays can listen for smoke/carbon monoxide alarms and glass breaking, as well as other home security features.

When it’s not in use, the Show 8 will display a variety of content like the forecast, current headlines, and smart home shortcuts. It also comes with excellent entertainment options, including Netflix, Prime Video, Sling TV, Hulu, NBC, and other services—though there’s still no native support for YouTube (you're stuck using the Show’s built-in browser—an experience that leaves something to be desired).

The device can also stream music directly (and show the lyrics on-screen, karaoke-style) from services like Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio Family. There’s also support for Apple Podcasts, Amazon Kids Podcast, and Audible. It can also show personal results like upcoming reminders, meetings, and more.

Smart home enthusiasts may be disappointed to know that the Show 8 does not function as a Zigbee smart home hub like the Echo Show 10​​, but it does work to control thousands of Alexa-enabled smart home devices like video doorbells, smart thermostats, and smart bulbs. The Echo Show 8 is a powerful, Alexa-enabled smart display that’s just the right size for use in your daily life, making it the best choice for anyone living in an Amazon Echo smart home, as well as those looking to build a system from scratch.

Read our full review of Amazon’s Echo Show 8 (second-gen).

Pros

  • Great tool for communication

  • Appropriately focused on security

  • Excellent entertainment options

Cons

  • Not a smart home hub

The Google Nest Hub Max smart display sits on a kitchen countertop.
Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

The Google Nest Hub Max is the best smart display for Google Assistant.

Best for Google Assistant
Google Nest Hub Max

The Nest Hub Max reigns supreme as the most powerful and feature-filled option for your Google Home ecosystem. The 10-inch device has a 6.5-megapixel camera that automatically pans and adjusts to keep you in the frame. It looks (and sounds) good when making video calls on services like Google Duo and Zoom.

It can be used as a Nest indoor home security camera, too, via the Google Home app. With a paid Nest Aware plan, you can unlock features like Familiar Face detection, as well as smart alerts when people and motion are detected. The paid plan also allows the Hub Max to listen for events like dogs barking and smoke/carbon monoxide alarms.

If YouTube is your primary way to watch content, a Google smart display is going to give you the best experience as it offers native YouTube integration. Other streaming services are also available, such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, YouTube TV, Sling TV, HBO Max, and others. It also supports Chromecast, so you can beam content to your TV.

The Hub Max also supports music streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, Pandora, Deezer, iHeartRadio, and Google Podcasts.

When not in use the lock screen can show a variety of built-in Photo Frames like clock faces, pictures from your Google Photos account like a digital picture frame, and Google’s (totally adorable) weather frog.

Quick Gestures is another standout feature where you can pause/start videos by raising your hand near the side of your face while standing in front of the camera. Google's smart display also has Face Match technology, which means the device can differentiate between up to six users and display customized content. Once activated, you can get personalized content just for you like commute times and upcoming events from your calendar.

Google Assistant works with thousands of smart home devices, including Nest video doorbells and security cameras, and you can view the live stream of compatible cameras on the Hub Max. If you need an all-in-one device to manage your Google smart home, make video calls, and access a bevy of popular streaming services, the Nest Hub Max is your top choice.

Read our full review of Google’s Nest Hub Max.

Pros

  • Works with Google Assistant

  • Great streaming options

  • Bright, big screen

Cons

  • No physical shutter for the camera

Related content

How We Tested Smart Displays

The Tester

Hi, I’m Rachel and I write about smart-home for Reviewed. I live in a home full of smart speakers, home security cameras, smart lights, appliances, and more connected gadgets that work with smart assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. I’ve been using smart displays for several years now and spent hours on end digging through every feature available to help you make the right choice.

The Tests

Because every smart display has its strengths and features, our testing could not be standardized across each device. Instead, we tested smart displays in an actual smart home for several weeks with popular smart home gadgets like smart plugs, smart locks, security cameras, and appliances. We also tested smart displays for privacy settings, streaming services, video calling experiences, and individual features.

What You Should Know About Buying Smart Displays

What Can Smart Displays Do?

The Google Nest Hub Max shows the live view from an outdoor Nest Camera.
Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

Smart displays can also stream the live view from your home security camera and video doorbells.

The features vary by hub and ecosystem, but smart displays are more than just a pretty video portal for your countertop. The devices can show you who is at the front door as soon as someone rings the bell. They can also listen for breaking glass and barking dogs (potentially alerting you to home security threats), as well as provide visual reminders (like that late afternoon Zoom meeting you keep forgetting about).

Smart displays work with a variety of video and music streaming platforms. While the streaming lineup varies by ecosystem, popular services like Spotify, Apple Music, Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube are available.

Smart displays can also serve as digital keypads to disarm your home security system and to manually adjust the brightness and color of your smart bulbs and light strips. Some smart displays can also track your sleep, giving you detailed statistics about your nightly slumber habits.

Baking cookies with the Amazon Echo Show 10
Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

It's easy to follow recipes when using a large smart display like the Echo Show 10 (pictured).

Most smart displays come with adaptive audio controls, so your assistant can hear you from across the room or over loud noises.

Power and Connectivity

Most smart displays plug into any standard electrical socket using the power cord included with your purchase. Battery-operated or not, all smart displays require a Wi-Fi connection for use (most support dual-band Wi-Fi). Bluetooth is also available.

Which Smart Display Should I Buy?

Choosing the best smart display for you and your household often comes down to which smart assistant you rely on to control your smart home—Alexa or Google Assistant. If you already have an Amazon Echo or Google Nest smart speaker in your home, for instance, you’ll want to choose a device that best incorporates it (i.e. one from Amazon or Google) Alexa is the world’s most popular voice assistant and can control thousands of smart home devices similar to Google Assistant. At the time of publication, Apple does not have a Siri-enabled smart display for HomeKit.

Another thing to consider when choosing the best smart display is how it will integrate into your daily life. Do you primarily want a hands-free way to video call with friends and family or to stream videos mindlessly during your workday? Do you want help tracking your sleep or controlling your smart home gadgets? Every smart display offers a little something different in terms of features and usability. Our guide can help you determine which smart display to buy for your home.

Smart displays come in all shapes and sizes, too. Consider your living quarters and what size smart display would work best in your space. A large, motion-tracking display might not be the best choice for a nightstand or desk because it needs plenty of room to move around. That’s what smaller smart displays are for. However, the bigger display is going to be better for making video calls and following around with recipes when cooking in the kitchen.

What About Facebook Portal devices?

While we reviewed the Facebook Portal Plus and Facebook Go displays, the devices didn't make the cut for this guide for a variety of reasons. For one, their primary function is to make video calls and not manage your smart home, and they're equipped accordingly. Portal devices are also short on other features (like streaming services) when compared to Echo and Nest smart displays. But the real kicker is that you need a Facebook or WhatsApp account to set up and use Portal displays, which not only limits usability, but also means implicitly signing on for Facebook’s controversial business practices.

Privacy

The camera privacy shutter is enabled on an Echo Show 10
Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

Smart displays, like the Echo Show 5 (second-gen) (pictured), come with privacy controls for the camera and microphone.

Privacy might seem like a thing of the past, as everywhere you go, it feels like there's some machine watching or listening. But in your own home, you can do a few things to protect yourself, even from naturally invasive smart home devices.

First, make sure to enable two-factor authentication for your smart display account, which sends a code to your mobile device to verify it’s you. That way, if someone tries to hack into your account, you will receive an alert and can quickly take care of the problem. Many devices also allow you to activate email or other push notifications in the settings to alert you if someone has logged on.

Additionally, make sure to use a unique, strong password composed of multiple characters, numbers, and letters. Data breaches can happen, making it all the more important to use different passwords across multiple websites and apps.

Smart assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant are built into smart displays, and you can protect your privacy by regularly deleting your voice recordings and disabling the device's mic and camera when it’s not in use.

All Echo Show displays feature integrated privacy controls like a physical sliding shutter for the camera and a mic mute button on the top of the device. Google Nest displays lack the physical slider, but you can easily access privacy controls for the camera and mic by swiping up from the bottom of the display's screen.

One thing to note is that Echo displays come with Amazon Sidewalk automatically enabled. The goal of Amazon Sidewalk is to create one large, low-bandwidth wireless network that extends the range of certain devices (like Echo devices, Ring cameras, and Tile trackers) that only work when connected to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. The more neighbors who opt-in, the larger and stronger the Amazon Sidewalk network will be. The program only applies to Echo devices and you can opt-out any time.

Looking for more privacy tips? Read our guide to securing your smart home.


Other Smart Displays We Tested

Product image of Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen)
Amazon Echo Show 5 (second-gen)

The Echo Show 5 is the smallest Amazon smart display, making it an appealing option for desks, entryway consoles, nightstands, and other everyday nooks and crannies in your home.

The 5.5-inch screen is roughly the size of a large smartphone and features 960 x 480 resolution with an integrated 2-megapixel camera. The camera is not as high quality as the larger Echo Show displays, so we don’t recommend it as your primary way to video chat with friends and family, but it’ll get the job done for those few random Zoom meetings on your calendar.

Privacy and volume controls are easy to find on the top of the device. Because it has a camera built-in, you can use it as an indoor home security camera and view the live stream from the Amazon Alexa app. As expected, the sound on the Show 5 is not as powerful as it is on larger Echo displays, but it packs enough of a punch that, even at full volume, it sounds pretty good.

The Show 5 is ideal for quickly glancing down and checking in on your calendar, latest headlines, weather forecast, and more. It gets a lot done without taking up much of a footprint. It may look like a glorified desk clock, but it has helpful and entertaining features to keep you company all day long.

Read our full review of the Amazon Echo Show 5 (second-gen).

Pros

  • Integrated camera privacy shutter

  • Great entertainment features

  • Sustainable design with energy-monitoring

Cons

  • No native YouTube integration

  • No audio jack

Product image of Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen)
Amazon Echo Show 10

The Echo Show 10 features an impressive 13-megapixel motion-tracking camera to follow you throughout the room as you cook, make video calls, and more. It uniquely supports Zigbee devices, eliminating the need for a separate hub. It loses points for its extra-large size and range of motion, but if your sole mission is to make video calls on a smart display, the Show 10 is designed just for that.

When the camera is tracking you, it’s responsive and the rotation is smooth and quiet. The integrated sliding privacy shutter gives it a leg up in the privacy department, ensuring you can’t be seen when you don’t want to be.

It’s a great smart display for Amazon Echo ecosystems since it can control all of your Alexa-compatible smart home devices. The Show 10 also serves as an indoor security camera, which is visible in the Amazon Alexa app.

We have a few small gripes, though. Despite the display's motion-tracking abilities, the screen does not automatically tilt up and down and can occasionally get confused when multiple people enter the frame. But considering its big, beautiful screen and motion-tracking capabilities from side to side, the Show 10 offers one of the best video calling experiences in the game while also offering a reliable way to manage your Alexa gadgets.

Read our full review of the Amazon Echo Show 10 .

Pros

  • Integrated camera cover

  • Full Alexa capabilities

  • Rotating touchscreen

Cons

  • Motion can be awkward

  • No automatic screen tilt

Product image of Google Nest Hub (2nd gen)
Nest Hub (second-gen)

Google’s Nest Hub (second-gen) is one of the few smart displays that lacks a camera. That necessarily a bad thing if having one built-in makes you feel uneasy, but that is one reason it ranked lower on this roundup. What it lacks in video calling capabilities, though, it makes up for with other neat features like sensor-based sleep tech that tracks your nightly slumber habits.

The 7-inch display has 1024 x 600-pixel resolution and three far-field microphones. It has a faster machine learning chip than the larger Hub Max, like the Nest Audio smart speaker, to help Google Assistant learn your most common commands and respond to them faster than ever before.

The second-gen Nest Hub supports popular video streamers like Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Sling, and YouTube TV, music services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora.

Whether this display is right for you may depend on how often you video chat with friends and family. Regardless, the Nest Hub (second-gen) packs in a lot of features and smarts for being so small. If you don’t mind losing out on the camera, the second-gen Nest Hub is a more affordable alternative to the larger Hub Max.

Read our full review of the Nest Hub (second-gen).

Pros

  • Modern design

  • Great for entertainment

  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Sleep Sensing works best for singles

Meet the tester

Rachel Murphy

Rachel Murphy

Senior Staff Writer

@rachel_murphy

Rachel Murphy covers smart home for Reviewed. She lives in an actual smart home home full of smart plugs, smart lights, and smart speakers equipped with voice assistants Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. Murphy holds a journalism degree from the University of Central Florida and has over a decade of experience reporting and writing. Previously, she worked as a freelance writer for Business Insider, Mashable, Elite Daily, and other major publications. Prior to her work in online journalism, Murphy worked as an associate editorial producer for ABC News' Good Morning America in New York City.

See all of Rachel Murphy's reviews

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