Smart speakers have come along way since the old guard of Amazon Echo and Google Home. There are cheap, mini speakers like the Echo Dot and Nest mini, and traditional speaker companies like Bose and Sonos with Google and Amazon’s assistants integrated into their speakers and soundbars. And now, the newest category to sprout, smart displays: speakers with a touchscreen, vying for a spot on your table.
Smart displays like the Amazon Echo Show, the Google Nest Hub Max and the Lenovo Smart Display are provide a visual element so they can show you the weather or play videos from YouTube or Prime Video. They can video call thanks to their built-in camera, too. These screens would also make them a good choice for an alarm clock except for a few things: One, they’re big and won’t fit on most nightstands. Two, they’re expensive. And three, they have built-in cameras and, even though you can turn them off, it’s fair to not want a camera in your bedroom.
As a result, Amazon, Google and Lenovo to release a new breed of smart displays; they’re shrunk down, lack a camera and are much more affordable. They also have some pretty neat features that you’d want in a smart alarm clock, such as auto brightness and dimming depending on the time of the day, or features that allow you to quickly snooze or stop the alarm.
If you’re in the market for a smart alarm clock, these are the five best options that you should consider.
Lenovo Smart Clock
The Lenovo Smart Clock is basically a smaller and more affordable version of Google Nest Hub (both come integrated with Google Assistant), but it also comes with unique features that make it ideal for a nightstand. It has an extra USB port on the back so you can plug in a charging cable for your phone or smartwatch. It also has a "Sunrise Alarm" feature that will gradually increase the display's brightness before your alarm goes off (starting 30 minutes before the alarm). There’s a ‘tap to snooze’ feature that’s convenient. Like the Google Nest Hub, the Smart Clock works with Nest cameras and you can summon live feeds whenever you want — it makes a good baby monitor. (Lenovo claims support for other third-party security cameras will come.)
(Note: Lenovo has announced the Smart Clock 2, which is scheduled to be released in September 2021.)
Amazon Echo Show 5
The Echo Show 5 is a smaller and more privacy-focused version of Amazon’s Echo Show (2nd Gen). Unlike the Google Nest Hub, the Echo Show 5 does have a camera so you can show your face on video calls, but there’s a built-in cover so you can be positive its view is blocked. You can also manually turn off the microphone and camera just in case. It works with all Alexa-compatible security cameras — which there are a lot of — and you can summon a live feed whenever. It works with Prime Video, so you can stream shows and movies to the display. Since privacy is a big focus on the Echo Show 5, you can now use voice commands to delete recordings instead of having to use the Alexa app; you can say “Alexa, delete everything I said today,” or “Alexa, delete what I just said” to swiftly delete voice data.
Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen)
You can think of Google's second-generation Nest Hub as a better, more versatile and more expensive version of the Lenovo Smart Clock. It has a larger and higher-resolution screen and it can quickly and easily stream video from YouTube. It’s compatible with a host of third-party security cameras and it can be used as a digital photo frame with Google Photos. Google beefed up the speakers compared to the first generation model, but the biggest upgrade is that it has new radar sensor that (working in tandem with the other sensors) can measure your breathing and movement while you sleep. Basically, it can you how to sleep without requiring you to wear a wearable. And that's pretty cool.
Anker Soundcore Wakey
The Wakey is a 3-in-1 gadget that works as an alarm clock, speaker and a wireless charging pad. It looks almost identical to one of the company's portable Bluetooth speaker, and it works like one, too, although it the Wakey isn't portable — it needs to be powered at all times. Within the speaker grille there's LED panel that displays the time, similar to Amazon's Echo Dot with Clock. Anker's companion app lets you set multiple alarms. And finally, there's a Qi wireless charging pad located on top of the speaker which allows you to charge your smartphone at night.
Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock
This is an example of a new breed of "sunrise alarm clock" that works as a light that simulates the setting and rising sun to help you gradually fall asleep and wake up. There are a lot of different ones out there — and Philips makes a few — but this is probably the best and most affordable option you can buy. It's small enough to fit on your nightstand and it's really easy to use. And if you're snoozer, it's got a convenient "tap to snooze" feature which will delay the light and speaker's alarm.
Lenovo Smart Clock 2
This is the second-generation version of Lenovo's original Smart Clock. It sports the same 4-inch display as its predecessor and still comes integrated with Google Assistant, but Lenovo gave it a better speaker (that plays stereo) and taller design that makes it compatible with a wireless charging dock to charge your smartphone. The wireless charging dock is sold separately, but you'll likely want to get it because it has a built-in USB port (so you charge another device) and it has a neat nightlight feature. The Smart Clock 2 will start at $90 and it's expected to be released this coming September.
Amazon Echo Dot with Clock
The latest Echo Dot isn't technically a smart display — but it's still a worthy inclusion on this list. It sports a new spherical design and a nice fabric finish. It has a single front-firing speaker and, if you like, you can pair it with another Echo Dot for a stereo setup. The built-in LED clock also makes it feel sort of like a smart display. That feature costs an extra $10 over the standard Echo Dot, but it also turns it into an excellent nightstand accessory for anybody with an Alexa smart home. It's available in two colors: glacier white and twilight blue.