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.
I called the second-generation Echo Dot "the Echo most people should buy." If you already have one, the only reason to upgrade to the new model is for its superior sound. The third-generation Dot is also prettier. It still looks like a hockey puck, but it now has softer edges and it's wrapped in your choice of charcoal, sandstone, or gray fabric. But if you're buying a smart speaker for all the things it can do besides playing music, the second-gen Dot is still around (though who knows for how long), and it costs $10 less.
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.
Your message has been sent. There was an error emailing this page. You don't need to live in a smart home to benefit from a Wi-Fi-connected smart speaker. Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, and other digital assistants can help you in dozens of ways, and you don't have to lift a finger to summon them--just speak their names. If you already know you want a smart speaker, scroll down for our top recommendations.
Google keeps secrets when it wants to (e.g., the Google security flaw it discovered earlier this year), so all the "leaks" leading up to today's announcement of its new Google Home Hub smart display were likely engineered to dissuade people from pre-ordering Amazon's second-generation Echo Show, which goes on sale next week. We like the new Echo Show--a lot. We haven't laid hands on the Google Home Hub yet, but the following five features are the ones we find the most interesting. JBL is the biggest loser here, considering that it sells its 8-inch smart display, the JBL Link View, for $250. Lenovo's 8-inch Smart Display, meanwhile, is priced at $200, and its 10-inch model sells for $250.