The battle for smart home
supremacy has been dominated for years by two formidable competitors -- Amazon
and Google .
While Amazon was the first to debut both a smart speaker and a smart display
, Google has consistently volleyed back with products that have either met or, at times, exceeded the standard set by Amazon.
Once again, however, Amazon has raised the bar by releasing a class-leading smart device, chock-full of innovations not yet seen in the smart home space. For starters, the Amazon Echo Show 10
may be the world's first smart speaker to mount its display on a 360-degree rotating base.
The question is, does that feature (or any other) give the Echo Show 10 an edge over Google's flagship smart display, the Nest Hub Max
? We put the two displays head-to-head to find out.
Capable, but maybe a little creepy?
Buy Echo Show 10 3rd Gen
First let's discuss the showstopper -- it moves. Not only that, it follows you around the room, giving you a clear, straight-on view of the screen from wherever you are and whatever you're doing. The Show 10 doesn't have legs, mind you -- it's stuck wherever you put it. Rather, the display is mounted on a base that swivels a full 360 degrees. Still pretty neat.Thankfully, Amazon included a wealth of customization settings, allowing you to limit everything from the device's physical turn radius to what sorts of interactions trigger presence sensing. For example, if you want to set it snug in a corner so the display can only rotate a quarter-circle, you can do that. And if you want your Echo Show 10 to only follow you around the room during video calls, you can set it to do that.As the only animatronic smart device in the Amazon Echo line, it also commands an industry-leading price tag -- $329 CAD. To help track people in the room, the Echo Show 10 boasts the highest-resolution webcam you'll find on a smart display -- a whopping 13 megapixels -- further solidifying the Echo Show 10 as the premier smart display for high-quality video chatting. The camera also turns the Show 10 into a high-res security camera, letting you drop in and monitor the live camera feed while you pan around the room. Even more options are available with a paid Alexa Guard Plus subscription, including smoke, intruder and other types of alerts.An always-on camera brings up a variety of security concerns, which Amazon, for its part, attempts to address with a physical camera shutter that also mutes the mic. This feature is sorely missing from the Google Nest Hub Max, which only offers a software-based off button for its camera and microphone. For sound, the Echo Show 10 boasts two 1-inch tweeters plus a 3-inch woofer -- practically identical to the Google Nest Hub Max's array, and similar in sound quality and volume. The high-tech Amazon Echo Studio and the behemoth Google Home Max both offer louder, crisper and richer sound quality than these flagship smart displays, just without the display.Now, about that display… A standout feature shared by the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max is their stunningly gorgeous displays. Both Google devices have sensors that allow them to not only adjust brightness, but also fine-tune color temperature to match the ambient light in the room. This results in crisp, beautiful images and videos that really bring their subjects to life.The new Echo Show 10 is the first such screen by Amazon to implement these visual tweaks in a similar fashion to Google, and -- no pun intended -- it shows. While maybe not quite as stunning as the Nest Hub displays, the Show's 10-inch screen is far lovelier to behold than its Echo predecessors. Finally, smart displays of this size and caliber are meant to serve as hubs for other smart home devices, either literally (in the case of the Show 10) or symbolically (like the Nest Hub Max). By "literally" we mean that the Echo Show 10 also includes a Zigbee hub, which means you can connect directly to other smart home gear, like Philips Hue lights
or August door locks
, without a menagerie of individual hubs for each of them. That's especially convenient for people with an expansive smart home setup.
Biggest doesn't always mean best
OK, so it doesn't move, but you'd think since the regular-size Google Nest Hub is our favorite smart display we'd go absolutely gaga over the supersize Nest Hub Max. As it turns out, however, none of the features Google added to justify the Max designation really impressed us. In fact, some of the extras actually make us like the Nest Hub Max less than if Google had skipped them. But how does it compare with the new Echo Show 10?Well, starting with price, they're about the same. Despite it being around a year and a half old at this point, Google still sells the Nest Hub Max for its original price of $299 CAD, so it's cheaper than the Show 10, but barely. And unlike Google's entry-level Nest Mini smart speaker, which frequently goes on sale, deals and discounts on the Hub Max are few and far between, so that price rarely changes. So, what are you getting for all that money? Starting with the most obvious, that big ole 10-inch screen. As mentioned, the Nest Hub Max uses an ambient light sensor to dynamically adjust both the brightness and color temperature of the screen, which allows pictures and videos to absolutely pop. Amazon may have cribbed this feature for the new Show 10, but Google's screen is still more impressive. The Nest Hub Max also has a webcam, but it captures images and video at 6.5 megapixels -- half the Show 10's 13-megapixel lens. However, even though the Nest Hub Max doesn't move, it can still follow you around the room when you're on a video call. Much like the ill-fated Facebook Portal, rather than tracking you physically, the Hub Max pans and zooms to keep your face centered and in focus. Perhaps the biggest difference between these two camera setups, however, is in how they process that visual data. The Echo Show 10 doesn't learn individual faces -- it merely recognizes when a person (any person) is present. It can then trigger smart routines accordingly. The Google Nest Hub Max, however, uses a technology it calls FaceMatch to create a sort of digital fingerprint of your face, much like the facial recognition software on your smartphone. This allows it to tailor onscreen content -- like calendar appointments, reminders and even photos -- to your individual Google account.Granted, for both the Echo Show 10 and the Nest Hub Max, all of this visual processing is done on-device, which is quickly becoming the new privacy- and security-minded gold standard for smart devices that collect such data.As far as organizing and controlling your smart home is concerned, the Google Nest Hub Max does not include a physical smart home hub, Zigbee or otherwise, but what it lacks in hardware it more than makes up for with its software. Compared with Amazon Echo displays, the smart home controls on both the Nest Hub and the Hub Max are vastly more intuitive and easy to access. Plus, they just look better on the screen than Amazon's drab sliders and toggles.
The final verdict: You've probably already decided
Although comparisons that end in a tie may not be the most satisfying, in this case it's totally justified. The Amazon Echo Show 10 and the Google Nest Hub Max have a few pros and cons each. On balance, they're both slightly wonkier versions of their smaller smart-device siblings, but that's the trade-off you make for putting a big, dazzling smart display in your home.
If you're concerned about privacy, the Echo Show 10 offers peace of mind with a physical shutter. If a moving smart display is just a bit too much for your comfort, the Echo Show 8 might be a better fit. Google's smart display still shows off family photos better, and in general Google's interface is more intuitive. However, it can only do so much when it comes to this new camera-panning trend.
Since a $200-plus smart display is probably no one's first smart home device, chances are you've already decided long ago which company -- and thereby which smart home ecosystem -- you want to go with. So, when you need a digital voice assistant, do you shout "Alexa" or "Hey, Google" into the room? That, more than anything, should guide your choice of which one of these to buy.