Smart speakers vs. smart displays: which is right for you?

Smart displays and smart speakers often serve as the hub of a connected smart home. Smart displays and smart speakers that give you the ability to issue commands to other gadgets, quickly check local news, or stream your favorite music are incredibly popular. The lineup of devices today is better than ever, with Amazon, Google, Sonos, Apple, and other big-name manufacturers offering highly reviewed products.

But what’s best for your home, a smart display with video capabilities or a simple smart speaker with strong audio output? Here’s a closer look at both to help you decide which one is better for your needs.

Size and Design

Google Nest Audio.

Smart speakers don’t need to pack a touchscreen, so their designs are typically smaller and more minimalist. They also have lots of design variations, from the orb-like Echo 5th Generation to the obelisk shape nest audio, They can come in smaller versions like the Nest Mini or HomePod Mini, and some options are even portable with rechargeable batteries so you can take them with you. One of the smallest smart speakers is the Echo Pop, which measures less than 4 inches tall and 4 inches wide.

Smart displays forgo these options for touchscreens. This is a powerful feature, but it limits experiments like design and rotation. echo show 10 (or Facebook/Meta Portal devices) are weirder than ever. They are also not found in portable designs. The Echo Show 8 is a fairly standard size for smart displays and measures about eight inches in width and 5.5 inches in height.

the winner: smart speaker


Amazon Echo (4th generation) battery base at a dinner party.
Image used with permission of the copyright holder

The smart speaker design has another advantage: there’s more room for the speaker, as well as easier placement options. This allows for Amazon’s 360-degree sound design for the Echo or the array of tweeters and woofers found in speakers like the Apple HomePod or Echo Studio. This often results in better sound, making the smart speaker an excellent choice for filling the room with tunes.

However, smart displays are more likely to hide the speakers in the base, where they can still do a good job of playing music but can’t compete with smart speakers. Efforts like the Echo Show 10, which mount the screen above a speaker base, are better in this regard, but in general, smart displays lag on the audio side.

the winner: smart speaker

Smart features and interactivity

The Nest Hub rests on the kitchen counter while a man is cooking.
Image used with permission of the copyright holder

Both smart speakers and smart displays come with a voice assistant, usually Google Assistant or Alexa (or in some cases, both), though the HomePod line also offers Siri. The voice assistants themselves are largely the same. You can give the same commands, ask the same questions, and do everything from set timers to starting voice chat.

But this is where touchscreens start to become so useful. They add a whole other layer of capabilities that smart speakers can’t accommodate. You can stream video, so you can watch how-to videos, YouTube music videos, your favorite shows (many streaming apps are usually supported), news stories, and more. You can also browse visual results from the internet and choose the option to read more. Since smart displays usually come with cameras, you can also choose video chat instead of audio chat. While voice assistants can offer interactive games with any device, smart displays tend to have more immersive games due to the many options provided by touchscreens. When not in use, the touchscreen can show a slideshow of photos, keep you updated on the weather, and more.

the winner: smart display

Placement and Positioning

Amazon Echo Show 15 smart display on the wall.

Where are you going to install your voice assistant device? Here are the different strengths of both smart speaker and smart display. Smart speakers are generally more versatile. They don’t need to be close to project sound, so they can be placed on a shelf, countertop, entryway table, etc. Smaller versions could make great bedside alarm clocks (the latest Echo Dot even has an LED clock) or desktop voice assistants.

Smart displays need to be close to hand, close enough to touch and see the screen clearly, but you should also want Pass them. They perform better on kitchen counters, office desks, central counters, etc. Screens have also become larger, resulting in the current echo show 15, which is so big that it can be mounted on the wall like the picture. You can also mount some smart speakers on the wall, but the effect is not quite the same.

the winner: tie


Sonos speaker logo.
Image used with permission of the copyright holder

Privacy is always a big question with voice assistant devices: Can you trust the device to keep your personal information safe? Even worse, is there a possibility that a smart speaker or smart display could be spying on you, recording your audio or recording video of its surroundings without you even noticing?

Luckily, voice assistants are programmed to only record commands after their wake words like “Alexa” or “Hey Google,” and you can adjust whether or not these recordings are kept. Other than hacking someone’s speakers or display (don’t buy these devices used), there isn’t much possibility for a device to “spy” on someone. The closest they get is Alexa’s “Drop In” feature, which allows select friends and family to initiate calls to Echo devices, and you can disable this option whenever you want.

But manufacturers know that is not enough. Today’s smart displays also come with buttons and shutters so you can manually disable the mic and camera so they can’t be used even if the software tries to turn them on.

the winner: tie

Pricing and Availability

Blue HomePod Mini sitting on a desk while the person is working.

If you want to save, which tool is right for you? Standard smart speakers typically cost around $100, although there are exceptions like the Apple HomePod, which costs $300 and is more expensive than the vast majority of smart speakers.

Mini versions of smart speakers can vary from $50 (Nest Mini) to $100 (HomePod Mini) and this is the best way to save if you’re looking for deals.

Meanwhile, smart displays can start at around $100 (Nest Hub) and can cost as high as $250 for something like the Echo Show 15. You won’t find one for under $100 unless it’s incredibly small like the Echo Show 5. ,

the winner: smart speaker

Which smart device comes out on top?

Smart displays are easily the best choice in some situations, such as a kitchen companion, a desktop device to stream shows while you work, or an interactive hub for kids and adults to play. They also have added value if you prefer video chat or want to stream live footage from your security camera.

But for most other purposes, smart speakers win out. They come in a variety of sizes and styles, are generally more affordable, and have better speaker designs. You can place them anywhere within listening distance.

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