The Echo Show was Amazon’s first smart hub with a built-in screen and if the number of similar products at CES 2018 is anything to go by, the technology has proved to be a hit.
JBL, LG and Lenovo are all having a crack at their own smart hubs that come with a built-in screen, but it’s not Alexa running the show – it’s Google Assistant instead.
It makes sense for Google to get on board with numerous hardware partners. It’s no secret that Amazon Echos are selling like hot cakes, so if Google wants to close the gap, it needs to get into more devices. We may even see a dedicated Google Home with a screen in 2018.
Here’s the lowdown on these three new smart hubs that are hoping to beat the Echo Show at its own game.
Top smart hubs for 2018 – the best hubs for smart home control.
Lenovo Smart Display
Lenovo’s new hub comes in two formats, one with an 8-inch screen and another with a 10-inch screen. Both screens are HD: the smaller one has a 1,200 x 800 resolution, while the larger model has a Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 display. There’s a speaker running down the side of the screen, but the device can be stood in portrait mode, too.
The Smart Display runs Android Things OS, which is separate from the interface you would use on an Android tablet or smartphone. It looks like one, but this device isn’t a tablet and you won’t be able to access the Google Play Store.
Since Google Assistant is built in, the Smart Display can do everything a Google Home can do. The device will respond to requests and control smart tech, and the addition of a screen means it can display images and YouTube videos, and make video calls. The 720p camera means whoever you’re calling can see you as well.
The smaller model is expected to cost $200 and the larger one is $250. They are due out in the US this summer, but we don’t know when they are coming to the UK or what prices will be.
JBL Link View
Lenovo is known for computing, but JBL is a speaker brand first and foremost, which demonstrates the hybrid nature of these devices. The line between smart speaker and smart hub continues to blur. JBL has thrown its hat into the ring with Google as they’ve partnered up to make the Link View.
It has an 8-inch display and 10-watt stereo speakers, and JBL’s experience means the Link View could be the best-sounding hub of the bunch – although we suspect LG will have something to say about that.
In terms of features, it’s similar to Lenovo’s offering. Since all of these hubs are using Google Assistant, they will need to work hard to stand out. The JBL Link View’s stereo speakers could do just that.
It is due to release in the US this summer with other territories following later, but no exact date was given. It’s the cheapest option, for the moment, at $129.
LG ThinQ View
LG’s ThinQ range includes everything from TVs to fridges and now there’s a smart hub in there too. The ThinQ View has stereo speakers, like the JBL model above, and all the features that come with Google Assistant.
You’ll be able to see your calendar on the screen, check recipes, watch videos and more. Since it also has ThinQ software, it will be able to communicate with LG’s appliances.
A crowded house
The problem with this glut of new screen-equipped smart hubs (there’s one coming from Sony, too) is that there’s a danger of them getting in each other’s way.
They all run Google Assistant, which means they all have the same features. They’re also going up against the might of Amazon, an established brand name synonymous with smart voice-controlled hubs, and the Amazon Echo Show will have a year’s head start by the time these new hubs release in the US.
JBL can run with the promise of superior audio and LG ThinQ View may have additional features for controlling LG appliances, but whether that will be enough to tempt people away from the Amazon Echo Show remains to be seen.