The best smart display has a built-in display and can offer a visual interpretation of the responses a voice assistant serves up. As well as providing the answer you requested, the best smart displays will also supply additional knowledge related to the query.
If you ask for the weather report on a smart display, not only will you be given an audible description of the current climate, you’ll also get a more in-depth answer on the screen, such as the wind speed and an hour-by-hour guide to the temperature. It’s not just the weather either, the same is true for everything from sports scores to when the voice assistant answers your burning questions.
Unlike the best smart speakers, smart displays can also be used to watch movie or TV streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+, or display lyrics to songs on music streaming services, so you can sing along. It doesn’t stop there, they can also be used to follow along with recipes while cooking or double as a digital photo frame, showing off your favorite snaps.
Smart displays can also be used to control your smart home devices; so whether you want to raise the temperature a few degrees on your smart thermostat, dim your smart lights or switch on any appliances connected to smart plugs and switches, just ask your smart display. They can also be used to make audio calls to friends and family, while some have cameras built-in so you can make video calls too.
As you’d expect Google and Amazon offer an array of smart displays, although Apple has yet to unveil a smart speaker with a screen. However, you can also pick up smart displays made by third-party brands including Lenovo, and even social media firm Facebook, which offers the Portal range of devices.
With such a wide range of designs to choose from, you may be left confused as to which is best for you. So, we’ve put some of the most popular models to test, rating the screen quality, style, and voice-assistant smarts to identify which is the best smart display for 2022.
The best smart display 2022
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The Google Nest Hub Max is the best smart display you can buy right now. The 10-inch screen is clear and sharp, and offers a notable upgrade to the Google Home Hub's 7-inch display.
The 1280 x 800 resolution may not sound like much, in a world of 4K TVs and 1920 x 1080 PCs, but it's plenty of pixels for the relative size of the Nest Hub Max's screen. The audio is much better than you'd get with the average tablet or iPad, too
There's a 6.5MP front-facing camera primarily for video calling, but it also doubles as a makeshift security camera, allowing it to record clips of movement in the room around it - although you will need a Nest Aware subscription for this.
The Nest Hub Max isn't perfect - we found we were limited of the smart home routines we could set up from the display, but the design and audio capability of the Nest Hub Max make it the deserving recipient of the number one slot on this list.
Read our full review: Google Nest Hub Max review
The highlight of the latest Echo Show 10 is its rotating screen that can follow you around the room so it’s always within your gaze, whether you’re following a recipe, making a video call, or watching Prime Video.
There’s a 13MP camera too, which has since also been added to the Echo Show 8 (2nd generation), that uses the rotating screen to pan and zoom during video calls, so you’re always in the center of the frame.
Alexa was responsive when it came to recognizing voices thanks to the array of built-in microphones and was quick to respond even when we were on the other side of the room.
The support for third-party streaming apps is still limited, even though you can now watch Netflix on the smart display, and we found the speaker was too bassy. It’s also the most expensive smart display on the market, but if you're keen on watching cooking tutorials or making video calls to other Amazon smart displays, it deserves a spot in your home.
Read our full review: Amazon Echo Show 10 review
The Lenovo Smart Clock is a great addition to the bedroom, as a bedside smart display that aims for small and effective functionality over the larger screens of the Echo Show 10 or Google Nest Hub Max.
It has a compact four-inch screen, with various clock face designs to choose from, and a sufficient 480 x 480 resolution – as well as a USB port for easily charging your phone at night. Your own phone charger is probably a bit faster, but it's an appreciated addition nonetheless.
Like Google's smart displays, Lenovo makes use of the Google Assistant here, meaning you can issue voice commands and ask the voice assistant for the news, traffic and weather information, certain apps and services, as well as whatever trivia you wish to know. We found it simple to use, and were impressed shouting 'stop' would end the alarm in the morning, preventing any fumbling with the touchscreen before your eyes are open.
Unlike the Nest Hub Max, there's no built-in camera, which may be an issue for some, and there's no ability to watch movie streaming services on the device, which other Google smart displays offer.
Read our full review: Lenovo Smart Clock review
In a first for a smart display, the Google Nest Hub (2nd generation) can actually track your sleep using built-in Soli radar technology to monitor the smallest of movements, such as the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe when getting some shut-eye.
There are plenty of handy features to help you wind down at night, and wake up the next morning, meaning the Google Nest Hub (2nd generation) will most likely be at home in your bedroom. Although, we found the sleep tracking isn't as accurate as a wearable.
Aside from the sleep tracking, the Google Nest Hub (2nd generation) is similar to its predecessor, the Google Home Hub. It's compact and has a 7-inch ‘floating display’, as well as Google Assistant built-in, and a distinct lack of camera - so it's not suitable for video calls. The audio is also underwhelming topo, but as long as you don't plan to use it as your main speaker, you'll find it a great addition to your bedroom.
Read our full review: Google Nest Hub (2nd generation)
The Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd generation) isn't the best smart display out there – with low resolution and lack of YouTube support, but it is the most affordable you can buy that has a camera built-in.
Boasting a camera that's twice the resolution of the Amazon Echo Show 5 (2019), like its predecessor, it has a physical camera shutter so you can be sure once and for all that you aren't be recorded or watched by accident – something that's increasingly on consumers' minds as various data and privacy scandals rock the tech industry, from social media to hardware gadgets for the home.
Like other Amazon smart displays, the camera can double as a security camera too. However, with such an affordable price tag, there are some compromises to be made. There's no YouTube support, the screen is distinctly low resolution and the audio is weak. However considering the price, and the fact it's unlikely to be your main screen, we think these are acceptable.
Read our full review: Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd generation)
How we test smart displays
To evaluate the best smart displays we assess the picture quality of the screen when watching streaming services, viewing recipes and even getting the weather and news reports. We also assess the sound quality of the speaker and how effective the smart displays are when making video calls, including the camera’s ability to keep you in the center of the shot if you move.
We also evaluate each model on its ability to pick up your voice when issuing commands to the voice assistant, privacy features that help ensure the smart display is constantly watching and listening, as well as how compact and durable the design is.
Best smart display FAQs
What to consider when buying a smart display
There’s a number of considerations to make when it comes to choosing the right smart display for you.
Start by working out which voice assistant you want baked into your smart display. If you’ve already got Amazon Echo or Google Nest speakers in your home, then it makes sense to opt for a smart display that features the same voice assistant built-in. However, if you’ve yet to settle on the voice assistant for you, Alexa vs Google Assistant can help you decide.
Where you plan to use the smart display is also important, as screen sizes, and subsequently overall footprint, vary wildly between models. Those with small screens and smaller dimensions are best suited to bedrooms, while larger screens with higher resolutions will come in handy in rooms such as the kitchen so you can glean information from recipes for example with a quick glance from the other side of the room.
If you intend to use the smart display as a way to listen to music, then consider the number of speakers, and the sound output and quality they offer. Those with smaller speakers are best suited to background music, while larger smart displays will offering a louder, more room-filling sound.
Some smart displays also feature a built-in camera for video calls, although if you’re using it in a bedroom, you may feel more comfortable with a smart display that doesn’t include a camera.
What can smart displays do?
Just like the best smart speakers, smart displays offer access to a voice assistant. So whether you prefer Alexa or Google Assistant - there are no smart displays with Siri built-in yet - a smart display can take commands from you. However, they build on smart speakers but letting you see as well as hear the information the voice assistant is offering up. Often, there will be expanded information on the screen as well.
For example, if you ask for the weather report, while the voice assistant might provide the current temperature as an audible response, on-screen you’ll also be able to see an hour-by-hour breakdown, as well as additional information such as real-feel temperature and wind speed.
As you’d expect, the speakers in a smart display mean it can be used to listen to your favorite album, playlist, or track through music services including Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer. Smart displays also have a Bluetooth connection so you can play music stored on your smartphone through its speaker, too.
However, some smart displays can also be used to watch movie streaming services, such as Netflix or Prime Video, on the screen. However, it’s worth noting that the smaller display and lower resolution means this won’t be the same experience as watching the service on your TV but is great if you want some background viewing while you’re cooking. Not all smart displays are compatible with all streaming services, however.
Many have cameras built-in so you can make video calls from smart displays, helping you stay in touch with friends and family, while the screen can even be used in place of a digital photo frame to show your favorite photos.
Just like smart speakers they can also control your smart home devices too.
What’s the difference between a tablet and a smart display?
With screen sizes that ape those of the best tablets, you may be wondering just what is the difference between the two devices?
First off is the portability. Tablets have a built-in battery that means you can take them with you and use them on-the-go. However, apart from the Facebook Portal Go, which was recently announced but has yet to go on sale, there are no battery-powered smart displays on the market right now. Instead they are mains-powered and can’t be moved around when in use.
Next up, consider the functions they offer. Smart displays let you access a voice assistant, and provide access to some streaming services, and let you send messages, while others with a built-in camera let you make calls. However the ability to play games on a smart display is limited to those that are controlled by voice, and also there’s no way to check your email or create word documents and as we’ve mentioned only some streaming services are supported. You also can’t use the built-in camera of a smart display to take pictures in the same way you can on a tablet, either.
Finally, many tablets have a better resolution than smart displays too. For example the Amazon Echo Shoe 10 has a resolution of 1280 x 800, whereas the latest entry-level iPad 10.2 has a similar-sized screen but offers 2160x1620.
Which is better Alexa or Google Assistant?
If you're new to the world of smart displays and smart speakers, deciding which voice assistant you should plump for may leave you feeling perplexed. Both Alexa and Google Assistant are simple to use and effective at answering your burning questions, providing useful information such as weather reports and sports scores, and even controlling your smart home devices. But is Alexa or Google Assistant better?
Alexa can control a wider array of smart home devices and offers a wide range of communication options for staying in touch with friends and family. However Google Assistant is better if you want responses in different languages or help translating phrases.
It’s also worth considering the devices you already own and the music and video services you subscribe to, as Google Assistant may be a better fit - especially if you’re regularly using an Android smartphone. Read our article Alexa vs Google Assistant: which voice assistant is best for you, for an in-depth look at the subject.
Smart displays vs speakers
Finding it hard to choose a smart device for your home? There's now a huge number of gadgets making use of smart and voice functionality, and it can hard figuring out what you actually need or will be useful to you.
Smart speakers hit the market first, with the Amazon Echo rolling out to invited Amazon Prime members in 2014, and slowly building up momentum. By the time the Google Home launched in 2017, there was plenty of appetite for the devices.
If you're largely going to be using a device for music and audio functionality – including chatting to / ordering around a voice assistant – you'll likely be fine with a smart speaker. It's only if the screen functionality is going to be useful that you need to bother with the smart display option.
The display is useful in a number of ways: for cooking tutorials and how-to videos, accessing security camera feeds, watching video lyrics onscreen (as with the Echo Show and Amazon Music) or for easily spotting the time on a clock face. Controlling and connecting to other smart home devices through a centralized portal is also far easier with a screen, and you get far more connectivity features in these kinds of devices.
But if you think you don't want the screen attached, you can check out out best smart speakers guide instead.
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