The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you’ll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.
- The Amazon Echo Show ($ 230) and the recently launched Lenovo Smart Display ($ 200 for the 8″ screen, $ 250 for the 10″ screen) are meant to directly compete with one another, so we compared their hardware, designs, app libraries, and their ability to function as a smart home hub.
- The winner was clear: The combination of Lenovo’s hardware and the built-in Google Assistant makes the Smart Display the better overall smart speaker with a screen.
- That’s not to say the Echo Show didn’t put up a good fight.
- Until very recently, the Echo Show was easily the best smart home hub with a screen, but now it has some catching up to do.
For the past couple of years, Amazon has been the leader of the smart home world, and Google, Apple, and the rest of the tech world have been followers. The Amazon Echo launched over a year before the Google Home (and three years before the HomePod), and has since released a whole line of Echo devices in every shape and size.
But Google’s been catching up fast; it released the Google Home Mini to compete with the Echo Dot, and the Google Home Max to capitalize on the fact that one of the original Amazon Echo’s weaknesses was its so-so speaker. When Amazon launched the Echo Show, an Alexa-enabled device with a screen, last summer, it was only a matter of time until Google followed suit.
That’s especially true because release of the Echo Show elevated the two tech giants’ public tiff into a war. The Show originally launched with the ability to play YouTube videos by asking Alexa, but then Google disabled the feature, which prompted Amazon to vow to pull items from the Google-owned company Nest from its site.
After a year of speculation, Lenovo released the Smart Display, an Echo Show competitor with Google Assistant built in. It might not be Google-branded, but the Smart Display can do anything a Google Home smart home hub can, and more.
The Amazon Echo Show and Lenovo Smart Display are meant to directly compete with one another, so we compared their hardware, designs, app libraries, and their ability to function as a smart home hub.
The winner was clear: The combination of Lenovo’s hardware and the Google Assistant makes the Smart Display the better overall choice. Its higher resolution screen makes it a better device to watch videos on, and a built-in Chromecast and access to YouTube give you access to video that’s worth watching. Despite being extremely powerful, the Smart Display doesn’t scream “tech” and won’t stick out on a kitchen counter or bedside table.
That’s not to say the Echo Show didn’t put up a good fight.
Amazon’s library of free, third-party skills is impressive, and Alexa was the most intelligent smart assistant in a pop quiz we conducted a few months ago. Until very recently, the Echo Show was easily the best smart home hub with a screen, but now it has some catching up to do.
Hardware: Lenovo wins this round because it focused on making the parts of the Smart Display that really matter — the screen and processor — a lot better than the Echo Show’s.
A smart home hub isn’t the type of gadget you upgrade often, so you’ll want yours to be built with hardware that’s powerful today, and designed to last through years of software updates and improvements without breaking a sweat.
You can find a breakdown of the Echo Show‘s and Smart Display‘s hardware below, and it’s clear that Lenovo was the company who built a smart home hub meant to last a long time. It has a higher resolution screen, a faster processor, and better speakers.
The Echo Show and Smart Display are equally matched when it comes to camera resolution and memory, and the Show has more storage space and microphones. Amazon doesn’t release the official specs of its products, but iFixit noted its components during its product breakdown.
The Smart Display comes in two sizes: an 8″ model whose screen has a resolution of 1280 x 720, and a 10″ model whose screen has a resolution of 1920 x 1200. Both are HD. I enjoyed watching 1080P video on the 10″ screen. These screens are both big enough and offer a high enough resolution for you to fully enjoy HD video, and I appreciated the level of detail I could see when watching YouTube shows on the 10″ Smart Display.
The highest compliment I can give to the Smart Display’s screen is that once I started watching videos on it, I didn’t want to stop. That’s a feeling I generally have only when watching something on my iPhone or iPad. Stick the Smart Display in a kitchen, and there’s a good chance you won’t need to use your phone for entertainment while you’re eating breakfast or cooking dinner.
It’s kind of ironic given its name, but the Echo Show’s worst quality is its screen. The 7″ display has a resolution of 1024 x 600, which means the Echo Show’s screen is same size and resolution as the one in company’s entry-level Fire Tablet.
It’s understandable that you would make the concession of a using a lower resolution screen on a portable device, where thickness and especially battery life are valid restrictions, but that isn’t the case with the Echo Show. The Show’s display looks OK, but HD video looks grainy enough that you wouldn’t want to watch it for long stretches of time. For a device whose marquee feature is its screen, the Echo Show’s feels like an afterthought.
Processor: A fast processor is the second most important component of both of these devices because it determines how well apps run today, and what types of apps could come to them in the future. The Smart Display wins this round, too, since its 8-core 1.6Ghz processor is a lot speedier than the 1.44Ghz 4-core model that’s in the Echo Show.
Camera: The Smart Display and Echo Show both have a 5-megapixel camera for video chatting, but Lenovo built in a privacy shade that you can close when it’s not in use. Digital privacy is becoming more important than ever, so Lenovo takes this round.
Storage: The Echo Show wins this round since it has 8 GB of storage and the Smart Display only has 4 GB, which means it can hold more apps at once. Amazon’s library of Alexa skills is its biggest strength, so it’s good to see the company built the Echo Show with this in mind.
Speakers: There are two speakers in both the Echo Show and Smart Display, but there are some differences between them. The 10″ Smart Display and Echo Show both have 2″ speakers, and the 8″ Smart Display has 1.75″ speakers. Speaker size — especially when we’re dealing with ones that are this small — does make a difference when it comes to audio quality and volume. I tested the 10″ Smart Display, and found it sounded better than the Echo Show overall.
Microphones: Amazon’s Echo Show has the same eight-microphone array that has allowed other Echo devices to pick up Alexa requests, even in a loud room, and it works very well. Lenovo’s Smart Display only has four microphones, and while I didn’t have any problems with Google Assistant missing my requests, I’m going to give Amazon the nod here.
Winner: The Smart Display’s higher resolution screen would have won it the hardware category on its own, but the fact that it also has a faster processor and better speakers makes it even more definitive.
Design: The Smart Display’s modern-looking design makes the Echo Show look old and tech-y by comparison. Its big display draws the eye, and it can be repositioned vertically to make it easier to use when making video calls.
Unlike most tech, both the Echo Show and Smart Display demand to be looked at. That means you’ll have to keep them out in a prominent part of your house, like a kitchen counter, bedside table, or desk, so aesthetics count.
The Smart Display has a very modern, sophisticated look with its big bright screen, aluminum finish, and gray or bamboo back plate. This is a design I’d expect from Apple or Microsoft. It’s not perfect, though; the screen’s bezels are pretty thick, and sticking the speakers on one side makes it look a little lopsided from the front.
All of the Smart Display’s tech is hidden in a triangle-shaped bulge in the back of the display. It’s hidden when you look at the Smart Display head on, but it can look a little awkward when viewed from above. That design choice makes sense, though, once you realize that it gives you the ability to turn the Smart Display upright when making video calls. Lenovo knew it had to stick this hub’s hardware someplace, and that design choice turned lemons into lemonade.
The Echo Show on the other hand, which comes in black and white, looks thick and kind of dated. Its display is smaller, and sits on top of its speakers, which looks symmetrical, but gives it the appearance of an ATM, not a modern smart home hub. It can only be placed horizontally, which honestly isn’t a big deal, but it’s kind of a drag once you know about the flexibility the Smart Display offers.
I’m confident Amazon is designing a thinner, modern-looking Echo Show because it just released a “Show Mode” charging dock for its Fire HD tablets. The dock switches the tablet into an Echo Show-like state — much like how 2-in-1 laptops have a computer and tablet mode — and it looks a lot better than the current Echo Show does.
Winner: The Smart Display’s sleek, modern design helps it stand out without looking overly techy.
Apps: Amazon’s year-long lead over Google comes in handy in this category. The Smart Display can only run a handful of apps, but the Echo Show has access to tens of thousands of skills.
Nice hardware and a good design are both important when choosing a smart home hub, but it’s also important that it can actually do interesting, useful things.
One of the biggest strengths of the Amazon Echo is that Amazon built it around an open platform. Developers both big and small are free to create “skills” that an Echo device can learn to improve its functionality. These skills are free, and run the gamut from recipe apps that can help you cook better to grocery apps that lets you add items to a shopping list using your voice. Some skills require you to use a particular app on your phone, while others are standalone.
The benefit to having so many skills is that if you spend a little time searching through Amazon’s library, you can customize the Echo Show to have the exact features you want it to. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite Alexa skills to help you get started, but it’s possible to fall down a rabbit hole and start using your Echo Show for things you used to rely on your phone for, which is great because Alexa makes them hands-free.
Lenovo’s Smart Display adopts a different approach: use only Google’s apps, and a handful of others. Thankfully, Google’s apps cover a lot of ground. If you ask the Smart Display for music or videos, it’ll bring up YouTube. Asking for directions — by foot, bike, or public transit — will bring up Google Maps.
If you ask the Smart Display to add something to your calendar, it’ll work if you have Gmail. And if you have Gmail, you can use the Smart Display to add, remove, or check on events from your Google Calendar. There are some extra apps you can get, like Spotify, but the Smart Display simply doesn’t have as many software options as the Echo Show. If you’re fully invested in the Google ecosystem, you might not even notice, but if you live outside of it, this will be a problem.
Winner: Amazon’s rich ecosystem of free, third-party skills is a huge advantage it earned by making a smart home hub way before its competition. By building a library of tens of thousands of skills, the Echo Show’s lead here probably won’t be matched for quite some time.
- This inflatable paddleboard is relatively affordable and easily stowable — making it a perfect introduction to the popular water sport
- 18 of the best Korean skincare products worth trying — according to K-beauty-obsessed Reddit users
- I prefer not to clutter my kitchen with extra appliances, but Cuisinart’s new $ 86 hybrid grill is an exception to my rule