The second-generation Echo Show is better than the first in every respect, ranging from its industrial design to its audio and video performance. It's the best smart display today, but that could change as soon as tomorrow if Google announces its own smart display and it turns out to be great. Sonos, meanwhile, still has the best smart speakers for music (the Sonos One and the Sonos Beam). While the second-generation Echo Show is powered by the same system-on-chip as the first-generation Echo Show (a quad-core Intel Atom x5-Z8350), the new model is outfitted with a larger, higher-resolution display; better loudspeakers; a more attractive enclosure; an integrated ZigBee smart home hub; and even the option for hardwired ethernet. Alexa is also becoming a better digital assistant, a development that will improve every Echo model.
Smart speakers are great, but smart displays are even better. They can do everything a smart speaker can do, but they can also show you things: Videos, lyrics, maps, commute conditions, weather reports, live TV, art, photographs, who's at the front door or sneaking through your backyard. When you don't want to use your voice, a smart display lets you control lights, your thermostat, door locks, and other smart home devices with touch instead. Two players dominate the smart display market today: Amazon, with its Echo Show, powered by its Alexa digital assistant (we won't consider the smaller Echo Spot here), and Google, with its Google Smart Home Hub, powered by its Google Assistant. After in-depth comparisons on seven eight counts, one emerges as the clear winner.
The Amazon Echo kicked off the smart speaker trend a few years ago, but it's no longer alone. There are dozens of smart speakers already on the market in 2018 and a ton more are coming. You need to decide which voice assistant you prefer (there are now four--Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and Cortana) and what features are most important to you. Does it need to play Spotify? Does it need to connect to your other speakers and smarthome gadgets?
Getting a review unit late, as is the case with the Google Home Max, gives me the benefit of reading a lot of people's opinions of a product before I formulate my own. And reviewing a lot of similar speakers before I evaluate the one at hand gives me a broad base of experience upon which to formulate mine. Based on those two fronts, the Google Home Max has been praised just a wee bit overenthusiastically.