The best smart display of 2021

Cupertino, December 20, 2021
Google Nest Hub on the nightstand
Google
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What to look for in a smart display in 2021

Shopping for a smart display is incredibly easy these days. Companies like Google, Amazon and even Facebook produce incredible products and you will be well served by most of the displays that currently cover store shelves.

However, all of these products are aimed at a specific audience. Some are built with massive screens and premium cameras for clear video calls, some are removing the cameras for an affordable price, and still others are trying to become a businessman. Before you embark on a journey to find a smart home screen, there are a few things you should consider.

First of all, do you need a camera built into the smart display? If you plan to use this for a video calling device, you will need a good camera, but it comes at a higher price. On the other hand, if you want to turn your display into a smart home hub, you probably won't need a room and can save a lot of money.

It is also important to determine the current smart home ecosystem. Many smart displays play well with either Google Assistant or Alexa, but it would be a shame to choose a shiny new gadget just to make sure it won't connect to the rest of your setup. Supported voice assistants and smart home ecosystems are listed above and centered on the spec sheet, which makes it easier to make sure it fits your needs.

After answering these questions, take a look at our favorite smart screens. Whatever your needs, one of these highly acclaimed products will definitely serve you well.

Google Nest hub on the table with pots
Google

Pro

  • Accessible
  • Accept quick gestures
  • Built-in voice control

The second Google iteration of Nest Hub is without a doubt the best smart display on the market. It won't be for everyone, because Nest Hub doesn't have a video chat room, but if you don't mind the omission, there's a lot to love about the little gadget.

One of the biggest improvements to the second-generation Google Nest Hub is the inclusion of Soli and Sleep Sensing technology. It also uses shortcuts and voice commands for touch-free operation.

Apart from these exceptions, it does everything you would expect from a smart display. You can watch videos from Netflix and YouTube, listen to music on Spotify, or use it as a digital photo frame with a vibrant seven-inch display.

Despite the long list of features of the Google Nest Hub, you'll be glad to know that it's still as affordable as ever - the best smart display around can be had for $ 100.

Amazon Echo Show 8
Amazon

Pro

  • Accessible
  • State-of-the-art room
  • Mechanical shutter for privacy

If you're looking for an accessible smart display that makes it easy for you to access video chats, look no further than Amazon Echo Show 8 (second generation). Significant improvements have been made to the video features of the smart display, and the Echo Show 8 now has a 13-megapixel (MP) live camera. There is also a mechanical shutter that slides in front of the camera for a little more privacy.

Compatible with Zoom, Skype or any device with the Alexa app, there are plenty of ways to connect with family and friends around the world. Its automatic framing capability is a bit lackluster, but this is a minor complaint about a robust and modest device.

Amazon hasn't stopped with camera enhancements for its second-generation smart display either. A new processor allows for a more responsive touch screen, although the Echo Show 8 is still best controlled by voice via Alexa. However, this is a great smart display for music, streaming and as a smart home hub.

The best smart budget display

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Amazon Echo Show (second generation)

With a price almost half that of the competition, anyone in the market for a smart display should take a closer look at the Echo Show (second generation).

The best smart display for video calls: Facebook Portal +

Facebook Portal Plus on the table
Facebook

Pro

  • Premium room
  • Gigantic 14-inch screen
  • Elegant design

Versus

  • Popular applications are missing
  • Facebook branding

The Facebook + portal was created for video calls. Its 14-inch HD adaptive screen captures facial expressions and shades unseen on smaller devices, and its 12 MP camera is among the best in any smart display. Its touch screen is also one of the easiest to use, with a clean user interface for touch controls and voice commands for hands-free operation.

The biggest disadvantage for Portal + is the Facebook (or Meta) branding. The company has recently had data and privacy breaches, although the company says it is making changes to better secure personal information.

The Portal app library is also missing compared to other smart displays - notable absences include Instagram, WhatsApp and even Facebook itself. Don't expect to do anything with this smart display other than video chat, though thankfully you can do just that.

The best smart display for video calls

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Facebook Portal +

If you look beyond Facebook branding, there's a lot to love about Portal + and its gigantic 14-inch screen.

Echo Show 10 on the kitchen counter
Amazon

Pro

  • Built-in Alexa voice assistant
  • Motorized screen for automatic framing
  • Zigbee integration

Versus

  • Weak audio
  • Design volumes

There is no shortage of great products for those who love Amazon Alexa, but none is better than the third generation Echo Show 10. The star of the show is a 10.1-inch HD screen that is motorized, allowing it to rotate and watch you around a camera. Its motorized base is a bit bulky and you'll need enough space to comfortably fit the Echo 10, but that's a small price to pay for added utility.

The built-in Alexa facilitates action control and can even act as a Zigbee smart home hub to build an entire smart home ecosystem. You'll also be treated to apps like Netflix, Amazon Music and Spotify, though its sound is a bit lacking in price.

The best smart display for Amazon Alexa

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Amazon Echo Show 10 (third generation)

Alexa is the driving force behind Echo Show 10, and a stacked spec sheet puts this smart display ahead of the competition.

Google Nest Hub Max on the counter
Google

Pro

  • 10-inch vibrating screen
  • Make Match for personalized information
  • Supports Duo, Meet and Zoom

Versus

  • Skype support is missing
  • Expensive

Google Nest Hub Max is one of the most expensive products in the Google Nest range and for good reason. Its sleek design features a superb 10-inch touchscreen in the center, though it's backed by a 3-inch woofer for incredible sound and a 6.5MP camera for clear video calls. It also allows you to use Quick gestures to control the action if you prefer not to use voice commands with the Google Assistant.

Video calls via Google Duo or Zoom are both possible on Nest Hub Max, but its app library also consists of Spotify, Pandora, Netflix and YouTube TV. It doesn't have perfect application support, but Nest Hub Max has a deep catalog of other popular software.

And when you're not using one of its dozens of apps, you can turn Nest Hub Max into a digital frame to show off your favorite memories.

The best smart display for Apple Homekit: Apple iPad

Person using iPad with case
Apple

Pro

  • fickle
  • Live HD display

Versus

  • Expensive
  • Requires a dock
  • Not really a smart display

Oddly enough, no smart display on the market is compatible with Apple Homekit. However, if you don't mind taking a few extra accessories, you can easily turn a standard iPad into a makeshift smart display.

The standard 10.2-inch tablet already looks a bit like a smart display - and its True Tone Retina display is actually one of the most beautiful screens on this list. It is also capable of streaming music or videos through any of the apps in the Apple App Store catalog, making it an extremely versatile "smart display".

Because the iPad can't support itself, you'll need to look for additional support, although our list of the best iPad supports makes this an easy task.

It won't look as nice on the kitchen counter as Echo Show 10 or Google Nest Hub Max, but if you're building an Apple Homekit smart home, there's no other option. But with its A13 Bionic face, 12MP ultra-wide front camera and stereo speakers, the iPad will not be without features.

The best smart display for Apple Homekit

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Apple iPad

Although it's not really a smart display, an iPad is the only option for those who stick to the Apple Homekit.

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