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 Google Home 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 ($180), the Google Nest Hub Max ($229) and the Lenovo Smart Display ($200) 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 three smart displays that you should consider.
Lenovo Smart Clock
The good: The Lenovo Smart Clock is a smaller and more affordable deskside alarm clock than the Google Nest Hub, yet it also comes 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. The Sunrise Alarm feature will gradually increase the brightness of the display before your alarm goes off (starting 30 minutes before the alarm). And when the alarm sounds, you can turn it off by simply saying “Stop.” 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.)
Watch out for: The Smart Clock runs on a more basic version of Android than the Google Nest Hub and has a number limitations. It can’t play videos from YouTube and you can’t cast videos to it (which is odd since it can summon live video feeds from Nest cameras). There’s no support for Google Photos, meaning you can’t use it as a digital picture frame.
Who should buy: Anybody immersed in Google’s smart ecosystem and is looking for a straightforward and simple smart alarm clock to place on their nightstand.
Display: 4-inch IPS LCD touchscreen
Resolution: 480 x 480
Assistant: Google Assistant
Amazon Echo Show 5
The good: 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.
Watch out for: The Echo Show 5 has a considerably smaller display than the Google Nest Hub; for reference, the 5.5-inch display is about the same size as most smartphones. Doesn’t work with YouTube videos. Smart controls aren’t as intuitive as on the Google Nest Hub.
Who should buy: This is the obvious choice for anybody in Amazon’s smart ecosystem, specifically if they have a smart security camera that works with Alexa or frequently uses Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service.
Display: 5.5-inch IPS LCD touchscreen
Resolution: 960 x 480
Google Nest Hub
The good: Not only is it one of the best smart alarm clocks you can buy, but the Google Nest Hub is just one of the best smart displays. It has a larger and higher-resolution screen, with smoother interphase and more tablet functionality than the Lenovo Smart Clock. It can quickly and easily stream video from YouTube (which is ideal with recipes and cooking, in case you don’t want to place the Nest Hub in your bedroom). It’s compatible with a host of third-party security cameras. It works with Google Photos and can be used as a digital photo frame. It also has a drop-down menu that makes controlling your other smart home devices, easy.
Watch out for: The Nest Hub is considerably larger than the Lenovo Smart Clock and might not fit on some people’s nightstands. It’s got large bezels. It’s a little more expensive than other, smaller smart displays.
Who should buy: The Nest Hub is a more sophisticated gadget than the Lenovo Smart Clock. It’s better at controlling smart home devices. It can play YouTube videos. And, if you use Google Photos, it can display them and act as a digital photo frame. If you want a smart alarm clock that does anything more than just play music, show you the weather and, yes, set alarms, than you should go with the Nest Hub.
Display: 7-inch LCD touchscreen
Resolution: 1024 x 600
Assistant: Google Assistant
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