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It’s not exactly a phone or even really a traditional tablet, but a smart display is an extra screen to have on hand and one that can certainly come in handy around the house. It’s a voice-assistant enabled additional option for productivity that can help to control devices in your home, connect you with friends and family, and provide an easy way to stream music and entertainment.
The kitchen is one area where a smart display can show off the convenience it offers. Thanks to its constant WiFi connection and voice-command readiness, these units act as a great hands-free sous-chef when finding recipes, even featuring the ability to read them to you out loud as you’re cooking, without needing to expose your phone or laptop to messy ingredients. It also makes multitasking that much easier, acting as a permanent communication station for talking with friends and family while cooking. With the Amazon Echo, you can even be cooking and ordering more groceries in real-time, as soon as you realize you’ve run out of ingredients.
What Are the Best Smart Displays?
The latest smart displays all come with cameras that make them great for video chatting. Some smart display cameras can even stay tracked on you as you run around the room, always keeping you in frame and in focus, so the person on the other end never loses sight or sound. The best smart displays are also ideal as a streaming device too, playing music, movies, podcasts or news, or keeping the kids entertained while you cook.
But these all-in-one units go way beyond the kitchen. If you’ve already got the inner workings of a smart home, or are looking to get one started, a smart display can be a command center wherever it’s set up, giving you full access to adjusting things like lighting, locks, and security cameras. More and more smart-home capabilities are becoming available as time and tech move forward, and getting a designated display is a great way to always have a central control panel at the ready to customize and control your futuristic living space.
1. Echo Show 8
Amazon has released several smart products over the last few years, varying in size and capabilities. But the newest Echo Show 8 is everything you’ll need. The device features the power of Alexa’s voice-assisting capabilities, with a nicely-sized eight-inch HD touchscreen display for streaming and video chatting. Two, two-inch speakers on the back provide solidly balanced audio for warm and rounded sound as well.
Since it’s an Amazon product, you get all the integration with their other apps, such as Prime Video and Amazon Music, as well as calling other Echo users. The 13MP camera features auto-framing too, so you’ll be clear and in view when you’re speaking to your family members.
Some common privacy concerns are taken care of too. No more putting a piece of tape over the camera when not in use, as the Echo Show 8 has a simple but really practical slider to cover the lens. There’s also a mute button up top for those times you don’t want Alexa listening in on your conversations.
Setup is incredibly easy, and this hooks up to your smart-home flawlessly, acting as a control panel for your lights, doorbell, music and whatever else you’ve got connected.
2. Google Nest Hub Max
The Nest Hub Max is a good option for Google Home users. It features a 10 inch HD touchscreen and stereo speakers for powerful sound.
Since it’s got Google Assistant built-in, you can ask your new device hands-free to make a video call, check your calendar, access your notifications and access a bunch of other voice commands.
You can also connect the Google Nest Hub Max to your Google Home ecosystem and use it to control your smart lights, smart thermostats and other Google Assistant compatible devices. Plus, you can also display your family vacation photos on our Hub Max through Google Photos and, with Ambient EQ each picture will be well-lit, adjusted automatically according to your room’s lighting.
Additional features like Face Match help maintain your privacy. Your Hub Max will recognize your face and tailor notifications just to you, including syncing with your calendar for additional personalization.
Other than that, it can do what every good smart display does, including streaming movies, TV shows and music from your favorite apps. It’s also easy to install and can sit on your nightstand, bookshelf or living room coffee table.
The Portal+ is the newest iteration of the Portal by Meta and boasts a wide, 14-inch screen.
The camera follows you as you move around, even knowing when to zoom out when you step back. Its “SmartSound” feature has a similar effect, focusing on whoever’s talking, and muting background noise to a minimum. You’ll even be able to sync your calendars for scheduling and use this smart display to directly video call your family and friends through Messenger, Whatsapp or Zoom.
One feature that sets this smart display apart from the rest is Story Time, which lets you read along to children’s books and bring the stories to life through music, animations, and augmented reality effects.
Alexa is also built-in here too, and the unit is compatible with a ton of apps for streaming, or just displaying photos when not in use. The crisp screen is also worth the upgrade.
4. Monster Smart Home 16 GB Digital Photo Frame, High Definition 1280p
Monster’s Smart Photo Frame is refreshingly easy to use. While other frames can present small but endlessly annoying issues, like odd sizing or file formatting, Monster’s proved to be pretty user-friendly, making it a great gift for someone who may not be tech-savvy.
The 10.1-inch HD display is crisp and makes even old photos look good, with 1280×800 resolution, and a bunch of various file formats for photos (and movies), including jpeg, png, avi, mp4, even the less common bmp.
WiFi capability works with a 2.4GHz network, but it’s not necessarily needed to get started. For adding photos, there’s multiple different ways: The frame has a built-in flash memory of 16GB, with the slots for a USB drive or SD card too. Cloud storage is also included, and a capacitive touchscreen that provides a clear menu with options, while there’s even more controllable settings in the Monster app.
As a nice bonus, this is also a clock with alarm functions, and is connectable to smart home systems like Alexa and Google Assistant.
5. Echo Show 15
For Alexa-enabled homeowners who prefer a bigger screen than the Echo Show 8, go with the wider, wall-mountable Echo Show 15. It’s got a 1080p 15.6-inch display for all the entertainment you want.
With Alexa, you can access your calendar, stream moves, listen to music and more, all by using voice commands. You can even connect this Echo device to the rest of your smart home and use it to check on live view from your smart video doorbell or check on your smart home cameras.
There’s also a photo frame feature, which lets you display pictures from Amazon photos or even your Facebook albums when your Echo Show 15 is not in use. Plus, you can personalize your display to include the widgets you want, from notes and reminders to calendar invites.
Like the Echo Show 8, there are privacy features, including a mic/camera off button and a built-in camera shutter. You can even delete your voice recordings if you’re uncomfortable with them being stored on your new Echo device.
Since the Echo Show 15 looks best when mounted, you’ll get all the necessary items including screws and even a drill plate to set it up. Though this is easy enough, it might not be the most accessible to individuals that don’t own a drill or other tools. In that case, the Echo Show 15 can be placed on a compatible stand as well (sold separately).