Google Assistant comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s found in phones, tablets, speakers, smart home accessories, and more recently Google has started pushing the smart display as a new product category.
Technically Amazon gets credit for the first smart display, dubbed the Amazon Echo Show. This screen-equipped Alexa gadget arrived all the way back in 2017 to mixed results, but now Google is hoping to make it a trend, albeit a trend that’s powered by Google Assistant and the labor of 3rd party OEMs. That’s right, Google doesn’t make its own smart display — at least not yet.
All Google Assistant Smart Displays are produced by Google partners, utilizing a special version of Android called Android Things. Basically, this is an Internet of Things optimized OS that runs Google Assistant. What makes a smart display different from a smart speaker? Smart Displays can do most (but not all) of the things a smart speaker can, but the addition of the display allows for animations that make using Google Assistant Commands easier, as well as adding support for video, recipe assistance in the kitchen, and a few other fun tricks like letting you pause and change music with the touchscreen.
At the time of this writing, there’s actually only two Google Assistant smart displays on the market, the Lenovo Smart Display and the JBL Link View. This will change in the near future thankfully, as the LG ThinQ View WK9 is expected to go on sale sometime this fall. Sony has also announced plans to make a smart display at some point, though we have few details about it just yet.
Lenovo Smart Display
The Lenovo Smart Display beat the JBL Link View to the market by a small margin, offering folks the first taste of what a smart display can do. With modern styling and the option of a beautiful bamboo finish, this smart display certainly stands out.
You might think it’s just a Google Home with a screen, in some ways that is true. While it can turn on the lights, tell you the weather, and set reminders, the Smart Display adds visual and interactive responses that make your favorite Google Assistant commands feel more nature and engaging. It’s also capable of placing Google Duo video calls, TV shows, and movies, and has some great screen-based recipe guidance features that make it a wonderful addition to your kitchen.
At $200 to $250, it is more expensive than a standard Google Home, but when used to its full potential, the benefits of the Lenovo Smart Display outweigh the cost. Just keep in mind that while the speaker quality is similar to the Google Home, if you really want excellent sound quality, you might want to pay attention to the next offering on this list.
JBL Link View
Because all smart displays offer the same software, the JBL Link View can do everything the Lenovo Smart Display can. That means it’s great for visual cues, watching movies, making Google Duo video calls, as a kitchen assistant, and the list goes on. Where the JBL Link View sets itself apart is in its approach to design, and to sound.
Let’s not beat around the bush, most of you probably think the Lenovo Smart Display looks better than the JBL Link View. I have to admit I felt similarly until I got my hands on the Link View and learned to really appreciate its boombox-esque design. Even if you don’t love the design, you’re going to love how it sounds.
The Lenovo Smart Display might be a bit better than a Google Home in sound quality, but the JBL Link View is a massive step above it. It features two 10-watt speakers on the front and a passive radiator on the rear that makes for exceptional bass.
At $249, the JBL Link View costs the same as the 10-inch Lenovo Smart Display (and has the same footprint to match), despite having just an 8-inch display. However, if you really dig sound above all else and don’t mind the boombox oval egg look, it’s worth getting.
LG ThinQ View WK9
At $300, LG’s upcoming ThinQ View WK9 is the priciest of the Google Home smart displays announced. It’s arguably the least exciting too.
The Lenovo Smart Display has an ultra-modern look and the JBL Link View has a boombox approach that’s all about sound, but the LG ThinkQ view WK9? It has a long name and boxy design, that’s about it. Granted we can’t say how good the quality of the audio or display is just yet. There’s also some possible killer feature we don’t know about. The secret feature is pretty unlikely, given the fact software is required to remain consistent on all smart displays — but you never know.
According to B&H, the LG smart display will arrive October 3rd. We’ll be sure to get our hands on it a bit before then to give it the full review treatment.
So that’s it for our look at the best smart displays, okay so the ONLY smart displays. We’ll be sure to add info on new models as they emerge. In the meantime, which smart display do you prefer and why? Let us know in the comments.