Google surprised everyone at CES last January when it announced partnerships with various companies, including computer builder Lenovo and home-audio stalwart JBL, to build Google Assistant-powered smart speakers with touchscreens. Lenovo, a company with no real experience building home audio gear, came to market first with the Lenovo Smart Display (we reviewed the 10-inch model and liked it--a lot). The JBL Link View is even better--at least from an audio perspective. The JBL Link View competes more directly with the 8-inch Lenovo Smart Display, which Lenovo was kind enough to loan for a look-see. It should come as no surprise that the biggest difference between the two speakers is that JBL provides true stereo drivers and a 5-inch, rear-mounted passive radiator that pumps the bass even when the speaker isn't placed against a wall (the better to bounce sound back toward you).
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.
So you've decided to bring Alexa into your life. Now comes the hard part: Which Amazon Echo is right for you? We'll go over all the models, including the brand-new second-generation Echo, Echo Plus, and Echo Spot that Amazon just announced. Amazon pioneered the concept of a smart speaker, an audio device with a voice-activated digital assistant that can do everything from play music (from Amazon Music or Spotify, Pandora, and certain other services if you're a subscriber), to recite the day's news, deliver weather and traffic updates, and--perhaps most importantly--control virtually every element of your smart home. More recently, Amazon made it possible to make outgoing calls from an Echo to any phone number in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
The new second generation Echo Show is bigger with a better display, but is size enough to keep Amazon ahead of stiff competition from Google? Since the original Echo Show launched last year the software has been refined, but the experience is broadly the same. The Show is a voice-first Alexa speaker, with touch interactivity as an additional input rather than the core experience. If you never wanted to touch the screen beyond the initial set-up,you wouldn't have to. When you do go to touch it, swipes and taps work as you might expect from a modern smartphone.