Android Authority’s CES Top Picks 2019 Awards: Our favorite products from the show

We’ve spent the last week meeting with companies and roaming around the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center to find the very best of CES 2019. From laptops, to smart home devices, to drones, there’s certainly a lot to take in — that’s why we’ve created a list of the best products announced at CES 2019.

Here are Android Authority’s CES Top Picks 2019 Awards.

The best smartphone: Alcatel 1X

The Alcatel 1X is proof that you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to get a decent smartphone. For around 130 Euros, Alcatel’s new budget-friendly phone offers a 5.5-inch display, Android 8.1 Oreo, a 3,000mAh battery, and support for 4G connectivity. It also comes with this beautiful sandstone texture on the back that will instill nostalgia in any OnePlus One fan out there.

What’s more, it packs a dual 16MP and 2MP rear-camera setup, which actually turned out to be quite impressive during our hands-on time with the device. Portrait mode is surprisingly good too.

The best laptop: Dell Alienware Area-51m

Dell’s Alienware went back to the drawing board to overhaul its popular gaming laptop design. Called Alienware Legend, the move marks a significant change in the overall Alienware brand. That includes a reimagined shape and new color options: Lunar Light and Dark Side of the Moon. The underlying sci-fi theme fans love still remains highly relevant.

The first product based on this new Alienware Legend identity is the Area-51m. In addition to the new outward appearance, Alienware revised the internal design to provide better overclocking and a thinner form factor. All this plays host to the latest Intel Core processors and GeForce RTX 20 Series graphics. The Area-51m initiates a new era for Alienware and its fans.

The best smartwatch: Kate Spade Scallop Smartwatch 2

A ton of smartwatches were announced at the trade show this year, and the best one came from Kate Spade. We’re giving the Kate Spade Scallop Smartwatch 2 an award this year because it was clear the team listened to user feedback. With an on-board GPS and heart rate sensor, the Scallop Smartwatch 2 is now a capable fitness companion — not just a pretty watch.

Watch: The best smartwatches from CES 2019

Let’s be honest, this is still a pretty watch, though. The flower-like design surrounding the bezel adds to the classy aesthetic, backed up by the understated silicone strap and stainless steel case. Of course, the iconic spade icon is scattered throughout, adorning the rotatable crown and on the top of each Kate Spade watch face.

A pretty, feature-packed smartwatch. What more could you ask for?

The best fitness product: Withings Move ECG

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The Withings team is back in full force after its brief time at Nokia, and it just announced two new fitness watches called the Withings Move and Withings Move ECG. The Move ECG won Android Authority’s Best Fitness Product Award due to the overall quality of product and benefit users will get out of the electrocardiogram.

ECGs can be literal life savers for some people, and the fact that it’s packed into an attractive, affordable, and customizable fitness watch should not be overlooked. At $130, the Withings Move ECG is a no-brainer if you frequent the doctor for heart problems.

The best smart home product: Google Assistant Connect

For years Google has been trying to become the one-stop shop for smart home products, and the Google Assistant Connect is its next big push to bring even more Assistant-connected products to your life.

Assistant Connect is a set of capabilities that product manufacturers can use to connect their own products to Google Assistant-powered devices like the Google Home or Home Hub. If a product was developed with Assistant Connect, it’s able to talk to nearby Assistant devices and display your personal information (i.e. calendar events/weather) on the screen.

The most obvious example is if a company were to create a simple display without any mics or speakers, including Assistant Connect would allow it to show you content from your linked smart speaker. In this case, the smart speaker would handle all the computing on its own while using Assistant Connect to transfer and display that content on the display.

It’s an inexpensive and easy way for companies to bring Assistant to their products, which is why it’s deserving of our Best Smart Home Product award.

The best audio product: Audio Technica ATH-ANC900BT

Few audio companies have the professional history of Audio-Technica, and when they throw their hat in the ring, we pay attention. Taking aim at the top end of active noise cancelling headphones, the ATH-ANC900BT has the firepower to be a blast.

By using a more energy efficient Bluetooth 5 connection, the ATH-ANC900BT has the specs to outlast the likes of Bose, Sony, and Sennheiser’s top-of-the-line headphones. Additionally, they’re also the most affordable entry into the top-end of ANC headsets, coming in at only $299.

The best concept: Whirlpool Connected Hub Wall Oven

Whirlpool surprised us this year when it showed off its Smart Countertop Oven, produced under its WLabs brand.

The WLabs Smart Countertop Oven automatically detects the type of food you’re cooking. You can then choose from additional cooking options based on your preferences. For example, if you’re cooking pizza, the Smart Countertop will give you a range of crispiness to to choose from.

Related

Whirlpool is also the first on the market with a product that can distinguish between frozen and non-frozen food. Its current cooking algorithm is set to a 95 percent confidence interval too, so cooking times and settings should be very accurate.

What impressed us most, however, is Whirlpool’s planned distribution model for this product. Whirlpool will ship just two thousand units in the coming weeks for $799 each. We’re told the reasoning behind launching under the WLabs brand is so that Whirlpool can better gather user feedback and tweak anything accordingly. That way, it can improve the experience even further before launching a mainstream consumer product.

Overall, we were quite impressed with Whirlpool’s work as is. So, we’re very happy to see a commitment to develop the concept further.

The best mobile accessory: Corning Gorilla Glass Personalized Phone Case

The Corning Gorilla Glass personalized phone case is a surprisingly fun new addition to the mobile protection market. Corning will print any photo you like on the back of its Gorilla Glass 5 which then gets embedded into a rubberized case for your smartphone. The final product is a sturdy case with a smooth, elegant glass back that also has a picture of your spouse, kids, family, pets, or anything, really.

Eventually, Corning will have vending machines that will print you a case in a matter of minutes. Just upload your photo to a web server, tell the machine which phone you own, and a few minutes later your brand new case will pop out. Keeping your phone free of scratches and dents has never been this cool.

Best innovation: LG Signature OLED TV R

LG’s Signature OLED TV R is something we’ve only ever imagined or seen in a movie or TV show. It may shape the future of TVs forever, which is why it wins our Best Innovation Award.

Watch: LG’s rollable OLED TV at CES 2019

A prototype of the TV was shown off at CES 2018, but this year the rollable TV is a real product that consumers will actually be able to buy. The way it beautifully rolls and rises out of the sound bar feels like pure magic. The TV is there when you want it, and disappears when you don’t. It can even be there when you only partially want it. The horizon-line view shows only a fraction of the display for quick access to basic functions. It’s cool, futuristic, and will be a game changer to the TV industry.


Spotlight Awards

It’s easy to focus on the biggest names in technology at trade shows as big as CES. That’s why Android Authority has chosen six of our favorite innovative tech products that may have flown under the radar.

Jabra Elite 85h


Elevating their wireless headphones game, the new Jabra Elite 85h are noise-cancelling cans made for folks on the go.

Equipped with SmartSound, these over-ear headphones adapt automatically to produce the best sound for phone calls, music, and more. Coming in four colors with a rain resistant build, enjoy ANC on the go for up to 32 hours of battery life, even longer with ANC turned off. ANC auto switching turns on and off the service based on your environment. Of course, the Jabra Elite 85h also sound great, and you can adjust the EQ and sound profiles through the Jabra Sound+ app for extra sound clarity.

Insta360 ONE X

Weather you’re skiing down a mountain or hiking up a cliff, the Insta360 ONE X should be just the thing you need to capture great 360-degree video. This 4K-capable camera features Insta360’s FlowState Stabilization, which means smooth footage even in the most

Nuu Mobile G4

Nuu Mobile showed off its brand new G4 smartphone at CES 2019, and it provides some killer value at a cheap price. It comes with a big 6.2-inch display, a 2GHz MediaTek Helio P60 processor, dual 16 + 8MP rear cameras, and it runs Android 9.0 Pie.

The best part? You can get all of that for just $249 in March 2019.

Next: All our favorite CES 2019 announcements in one place

Google Assistant Connect makes it cheaper and easier for companies to add Assistant to their products

Google Assistant Connect e-ink display concept at CES 2019

Google Assistant Connect e-ink display concept at CES 2019

Google Assistant will likely be available on 1 billion devices by the end of January, and it looks like the company is gunning for the next billion. Google just announced a new set of capabilities — called Google Assistant Connect — that will allow companies to add the Assistant to even more devices around the home.

Google Assistant Connect is a way for companies to bridge the gap between their existing products and an Assistant-powered smart speaker or Smart Display — without the need to add microphones and extra computing components.

Also read

Google gives the example of a company creating an e-ink display that can project the weather or a calendar, while harnessing the power of Assistant Connect to show you content from your linked smart speaker. In this case, the smart speaker would handle all the computing on its own while using Assistant Connect to transfer and display that content on the e-ink display.

At Google’s event at CES 2019, the company had a handful of e-ink display concepts with Assistant Connect. They weren’t working, but you could imagine sticking one of these displays on your fridge or bathroom mirror and always having access to your calendar or weather.

Assistant Connect will let integrated products respond to voice commands too, even if your smart speaker is in the other room. For instance, you could tap on your air conditioner and say “increase temperature by five degrees,” while the smart speaker in the other room handles the command.

The company will announce more details about Assistant Connect later this year. We might have to wait awhile for third-party companies release Connect-integrated products, but it seems like it shouldn’t be too difficult. After all, companies will now be able to spend less money and time producing expensive smart products. Instead, Google is planning on doing the heavy lifting for them.

Head here for more CES 2019 coverage!

Google in 2019: All in on AI

With the release of the Google Pixel 3 in October, Google reaffirmed its position as a worthy contender in the bloody war of the smartphone industry. However, despite the handset’s glowing reviews, the Pixel line still has a very small market share, especially compared to popular lines from Samsung or Huawei.

While Google’s ambitions for smartphone dominance may have a long way to go, it made huge strides in 2018 with Google Home hardware products like the Google Home Mini. It also solidified its reputation as the reigning king of the AI and virtual assistant world.

Let’s take a look at how Google ended 2018, and what’s likely to come in 2019.

Pixels are selling, but market share is still small

The back of the Google Pixel 3.

The Pixel 3 XL was probably the most successful smartphone of 2018 in one metric: organic publicity. While Google likely spent millions promoting the phone, the leak of black market prototype devices gave the Pixel 3 more promotion than Google could ever buy.

Months before the official launch of the Pixel 3 was even revealed, the public had already seen the Pixel 3 XL from every angle. We saw unboxing videos, full reviews, and photography samples before Google ran even one official ad for the device.

However, even with all this promotion, the Google Pixel 3 was no sales juggernaut. According to revenue estimates, the Pixel line — which includes Pixel smartphones, the Google Pixelbook, and the Google Pixel Slate — earned about $1.78 billion in combined gross profit in 2018. It might seem like a lot, but Samsung’s mobile division made $2 billion in gross profit from its smartphone sales in just the third quarter of 2018. That was a bad quarter, too.

The Pixel line is doing well — if you don’t compare it to any other major smartphone on the market.

Granted, Samsung offers many different smartphones, while Google only has one line, but that doesn’t negate how Pixel smartphones don’t earn Google nearly as much revenue as competitors’ devices.

Another metric illuminating Google’s lack of market share is its own Android distribution report. The most recent report from October 26, 2018, shows devices running Android 9 Pie — which would theoretically include every Pixel smartphone at that point — make up less than a tenth of a percent of all active Android devices.

Editor’s Pick

One tenth of a percent of the 2 billion active Android devices is 20 million devices. That means we can estimate there have been less than 20 million Pixel smartphones sold since the original Google Pixel launched in 2016.

Once again, 20 million might seem like a lot of smartphones for two years of sales, but in just the 2017 fiscal year, Apple sold over 216 million iPhones.

All of this data points to one thing: Google’s ambitions in the smartphone market have a very long way to go.

The one thing Google has over its competition is software. Along with a steady stream of Android updates, the Pixel smartphone line has arguably the best camera software of any smartphone in the history of smartphones. It also has unique AI-based features that competitors have yet to match.

We will just have to wait and see if Google can turn those superior products into more sales.

Google’s Chrome OS hardware isn’t gaining traction

Google’s Chrome OS is doing astoundingly well, especially in the education sector. By the end of 2017, in the United States, almost 60 percent of mobile computing shipments to schools from kindergarten to grade 12 were Chromebooks.

School systems love Chrome OS. The operating system is easy for kids to learn and use, and the hardware costs a fraction of what Windows laptops go for.

So why isn’t the Google Pixelbook or the recently-released Google Pixel Slate a best-selling computer on the market?

That answer is simple, too: price.

Google will never gain any traction in the laptop market if it doesn’t release hardware at an affordable price.

Competitor companies like Samsung, Asus, and Acer sell Chromebooks like hotcakes by keeping the devices as cheap as possible. Google is taking the opposite approach and creating top-tier hardware with a top-tier price tag. The entry-level variant of the Pixel Slate is a whopping $800 if you buy it with the (one would say necessary) keyboard sleeve. A maxed-out model of the Slate with its keyboard sleeve would cost you no less than $2,000.

Editor’s Pick

If Google wants to make a dent in the laptop market, it needs to abandon the idea of selling Chromebooks at Apple prices, at least for now. The Pixel Slate is powerful, beautiful, and altogether awesome, but the people ready to spend that much money on a laptop or tablet will just buy a Microsoft Surface Pro or Apple MacBook instead. It seems like the Pixel Slate was simply made for Google fans.

Maybe Google will be able to command $2,000 for a Chromebook years down the line. For now, it’s a fool’s errand.

Smart speakers are Google’s success story of the year

Google Home Hub logo

Despite the ho-hum progress of Pixel smartphones and laptops, Google’s smart speaker hardware is a force to be reckoned with. In 2016, it was estimated Google earned a gross profit of $49 million off its entire line of Home devices. In 2018, Home products will earn Google an estimated gross profit of $847 million, an increase of over 1,728 percent in two years.

If you look at revenues instead of profits, things get even more spectacular. In 2018, it’s estimated Google made $3.4 billion in revenue off its Home hardware, which is about the same amount it made off Pixel hardware.

A Pixel smartphone costs much more than most Google Home hardware. At $50 a pop, Google could potentially have sold over 50 million Google Home Minis in 2018.

Google is moving massive amounts of Google Home hardware — and the numbers are only going to get bigger.

Unfortunately, the two major companies in the smart speaker market — Google and Amazon — don’t report how many products they ship. Using estimates from market research firms and miscellaneous related data, it’s safe to assume Google is gobbling up market share from Amazon.

Editor’s Pick

Additionally, numerous research firms report Google Assistant — which powers Google Home hardware — is the best virtual assistant currently available. Most reviews of smart speakers also conclude that Google Home hardware is the best you can buy.

This is all fantastic news for Google, as AI and virtual assistants are the future. Although Google’s cash cow right now is still Google Search, it won’t be that way forever. Google knows years from now, its virtual assistant will be its cash cow, and the company has already set itself in the lead.

An interesting thing to note about Google Home hardware is price. A Google Home Mini is $50 and a Google Home Hub smart display is $150. Can it be a coincidence that these priced-to-move units are the best thing going for Google’s hardware division right now?

There’s still plenty of competition

The OnePlus 6T next to the Google Pixel 3 XL.

Google Search has little competition around the world. Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Chrome are also practically untouchable in their markets.

This is not the case with Google hardware devices like the Google Pixel smartphone or Google Pixel Slate. Even the runaway success of Google Home faces stiff competition from Amazon and others.

In the smartphone arena, Google faces competitors delivering devices with comparable hardware and lower prices. A phone like the OnePlus 6T undercuts the Google Pixel 3 by hundreds of dollars, delivering more RAM, more internal storage, the same processor, and the same all-glass build. Yes, the Pixel 3 has a far superior camera, but OnePlus understands consumers will buy up a device in droves if it cuts the right corners to keep it cheap.

RELATED: OnePlus 6T vs Google Pixel 3 XL

In the cases of laptops and computers, Google is pricing itself out of the market. The Microsoft Surface Pro tablet is on its sixth generation, which means consumers can find Surface Pros for half the price of a low-end Pixel Slate. To make matters worse, that Surface Pro will be able to run Windows applications which the majority of people are still looking for in a laptop experience.

Editor’s Pick

No matter how fancy of a laptop Google makes, few will buy it if it runs Chrome OS and costs as much as a macOS or Windows device. Consumers will stick with the operating system they know unless Google can give them an incentive to switch — which means dropping the price.

Finally, Google Home hardware is doing incredibly well, but Google’s main competitor Amazon is also doing incredibly well. What’s more, Amazon is doing most things faster than Google. It had its first smart speaker on sale well before Google. Amazon also beat Google to the punch in the smart display market and often releases new features before Google.

It’s a good bet Amazon will launch a new smart speaker product in 2019 and Google will launch its own answer to that product months later.

If Google wants to truly dominate the smart speaker industry, it needs to be faster than Amazon.

Google in 2019

Google is poised to drop some seriously interesting products in 2019. The most interesting is probably the anticipated Google Pixel 3 Lite (which may or may not be its real name).

Up until now, there have been two Pixel phones released each year: the regular Pixel and its XL counterpart. In 2019, however, we anticipate Google will release a mid-range Pixel and Pixel XL, likely delivering the same software experience as the “real” Pixel 3, but with downgraded hardware and specs to make it more affordable.

This could open up the Pixel experience to people in developed nations with more modest budgets, and also potentially allow people in developing countries like India to buy a Pixel. It could be a huge boon for the Pixel line.

For the first time ever, we’ll likely see a mid-range Pixel smartphone in 2019.

We don’t know much for certain about the Pixel 3 Lite, including its price. Google could overprice it and contradict the whole idea. We’ll probably hear more about the Pixel 3 Lite soon.

While we have some info on the Pixel 3 Lite, we haven’t heard anything about Google releasing a mid-tier laptop or tablet. If Google doesn’t have plans to release a Pixel Slate Lite in 2019, it really should. As stated earlier, people who can afford a Pixel Slate probably won’t buy it over a Windows- or macOS-based machine at a comparable price. If Google could deliver a high-end hardware experience in the $500 range (with the keyboard included), it might stand a chance to grab some serious market share.

Editor’s Pick

Google’s Project Stream — which lets you play AAA video games using in your browser — could also help a mid-range Chrome OS tablet sell. If Google could make a Chromebook or tablet run pretty much anything on a virtual server, Chrome OS would really have a chance against Windows and macOS. Project Stream is still in its infancy, though, so it’s unlikely this would make a huge difference this year.

Finally, we didn’t see a Google wearable in 2018. However, with Google’s push of Wear OS and Google Fit, it seems it’s only a matter of time before we see a “Made by Google” smartwatch.

RELATED: 2019 will be a great year for smartwatches and fitness trackers

There’s some truly untapped potential in the wearable market, especially for Google. It could sell a wearable not as a generic smartwatch, but more like a Google Home smart speaker you carry around on your wrist at all times. For that to work, Google would have to adopt the same strategy as it did with its Home hardware: make it great and make it cheap.

Google’s major advantage: Limitless cash

A Google logo.

Unlike pretty much every other hardware manufacturer in the mobile industry, Google practically prints money from its Google Search business. The amount of cash the company pulls in from Search alone helps fund all sorts of risky endeavors (Wi-Fi balloons, anyone?), as well as more straightforward things like the Pixel smartphone.

With that in mind, there really is no excuse for Google to not be one of the best hardware manufacturers in the business. It has the talent, the money, the marketing power, and the infrastructure to do pretty much whatever it wants. That’s why the low adoption rates of the company’s smartphones and tablets are so confounding.

Editor’s Pick

If Google truly wants to dominate the mobile markets, it needs to start from the beginning just like every other company. It needs to release smartly-priced products to get people hooked, and then release better, more expensive products as the business becomes more refined.

This whole strategy of rushing out of the gate charging Apple prices for hardware riddled with problems and out-spec’d by phones half the price simply won’t get the company anywhere. It understands this with Google Home hardware, but not with other divisions.

Google has everything it needs to make 2019 its year. Let’s see if it can do it.

Next: HTC in 2019: Last chance saloon

Samsung could bring Google Assistant to TVs, lowering wall around Bixby

A new report from Variety suggests some interesting news: Samsung could bring Google Assistant to its 2019 televisions. This would be the first time Samsung has allowed a virtual assistant on its TV products that isn’t its own Bixby.

Although information is scarce at the moment, Variety suggests the two virtual assistants will live next to each other in harmony, similar to how Google Assistant and Alexa are both made available on LG televisions. If this is the case, customers could then choose whether to use Bixby or Google Assistant for all or some of the necessary tasks.

Editor’s Pick

Samsung’s flagship smartphones — such as the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9 — come with Bixby heavily integrated, including a physical Bixby button. Users can install Google Assistant on these phones, but Samsung makes it very clear that it wants you to use Bixby instead.

If Samsung does allow Google Assistant onto its 2019 televisions, it will represent a sizable shift in its attitude towards Bixby, which as of now has been pretty much “all or nothing.” The company has already committed to putting Bixby on literally every product it makes by 2020, but if it also brings Assistant to its TVs, that means it could integrate Assistant into other products as well.

Although there are advantages to using Bixby over Google Assistant — such as better command functionality when asking your smartphone to perform a task — in almost all cases Google Assistant is superior. Assistant’s superiority is especially clear when you discuss smart home integration, considering there still is no Bixby-powered smart speaker available and no third-party integration available yet.

What do you think? Are you going to be more apt to buy a Samsung TV if it has Google Assistant? Let us know in the comments.

NEXT: If your phone has an OLED display, Samsung likely made its screen

Google Home Hub vs Lenovo Smart Display

Google Home Hub vs Lenovo Smart Display front size

There are now a few choices if you’re in the market for a new smart display. The JBL Link View, Amazon Echo Show, Lenovo Smart Display, and the new Google Home Hub all pair the convenience of a voice assistant with the utility of a screen for even more useful features.

Lenovo recently rolled out an update to its Smart Display that includes much of the Google Home Hub’s functionality, including the Home View dashboard. With software parity now on the cards, which of these two Smart Displays is the better buy?

Spec showdown

  Google Home Hub Lenovo Smart Display
Display 7-inch, 1,024 x 600 resolution 8-inch, 1,280 x 800 resolution
10-inch, 1,920 x 1,200 resolution
SoC Amlogic CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 624
(Android Things)
Speakers 1x full range speaker, 80dB SPL @1KHz 1.75″ 10W Full Range Speaker, 2 x Passive Tweeters
Microphones 2x mic array 2x dual mic arrays
Camera No 5MP wide angle, 720p video call resolution
Wireless Bluetooth 5
802.11 b/g/n/ac (2.4/5 Ghz) Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.2
802.11 b/g/n/ac (2.4/5 Ghz) Wi-Fi
Dimensions 178.5 x 118 x 67.3mm
480g
263.2 x 142.2 x 111.4mm /
311.4 x 173.9 x 136mm
1kg / 1.2kg
Colors Sand, Aqua, Chalk, Charcoal Grey / Bamboo
Price $149 $199.99 / $249.99

At $149, the Google Home Hub is much more affordable than the larger Lenovo Smart Display. As such, it’s a little more basic in terms of specifications, with a smaller, lower resolution display, a more basic speaker setup, and no camera for video calls. I would argue just $50 more for the 8-inch Lenovo Smart Display offers good value for money, but $100 more for the 10-inch model feels a little expensive. The sheer size may also make it trickier for some people to find a good home for Lenovo’s behemoth.

Read: Google Home Hub review | Lenovo Smart Display review

The Home Hub comes in a wider range of colors, so you can probably find something you like to fit into your home. Lenovo is more limited here, locking the grey or bamboo options exclusively to the different sized models.

Google Home Hub vs Lenovo Smart Display back design

Look and feel

There’s no escaping the large 10-inch, 1,920 x 1,200 resolution display on the bigger Lenovo Smart Display model — it takes over any room it’s in. The high pixel density lends itself nicely to displaying Google Photos in Ambient Mode and playing back videos with crisp clarity. Colors pop, brightness is great, and the 86-degree viewing angle makes sure you can see the display from virtually anywhere in a room. The smaller 8-inch version makes do with a 1,280 x 800 resolution, which still handily beats out the Google Home Hub’s 7-inch, 1,024 x 600 panel.

The Lenovo Smart Display is elegantly designed, boasting a curved bamboo back that lets you stand the display vertically as well as horizontally. Don’t let that sell you on this, though — the UI doesn’t shift into a portrait mode when the hub is on its side apart from when making video calls. This makes the whole design pretty much useless as I can’t see people flipping the hub up just to make video calls. I wonder if Lenovo had thought it might have been able to do more with the UI at some point in early development.

If you’re primarily looking for a picture frame or small castable TV, the Lenovo’s superior display makes it the better choice.

Lenovo’s design certainly won’t be for everybody, but I prefer it to the Google Home Hub’s functional white plastic. The partially textured look will be familiar to anyone who owns other Google Home products, but if you’re not a fan of pastel colors, the design won’t be for you. Fortunately, the Google Home Hub is nice and compact, making it much easier to find space for — it sits nicely on a desk or side table. You definitely need to set aside some space for Lenovo’s model.

Smart Home Multi Room audio settings menu

Music and video all-in-one

Integrated Chromecast functionality is a major win for both the Lenovo Smart Display and the Google Home Hub. You can broadcast music and video from a wide variety of apps straight to the speakers with minimal hassle. Unfortunately, Netflix casting support is still absent from both products, but app support is otherwise the same as a regular Chromecast. Again, the bigger size and higher pixel density of Lenovo’s displays make them better products for watching back video, though the Google Home Hub is more than good enough for playing back YouTube music videos or following along with recipes in the kitchen.

Editor’s Pick

Speaking of streaming, both products now support multi-room music streaming. These display can be added to home groups, along with other cast enabled Home smart speakers. Speaker quality differs between the models though.

On the front on the Lenovo Smart Display there’s a large speaker grill housing the 10W full-range and dual passive radiator to direct sound out towards you. The speaker is loud, crisp, and packs plenty of bass. It’s certainly better than the regular Google Home, I wouldn’t recommend it over a decent hi-fi setup if you’re really into your music. The Google Home Hub still packs a decent punch for its little size and I’d ballpark the speaker quality in the range of the regular Google Home. It will certainly suffice as a basic home speaker, but the Lenovo has a slight edge.

One feature separating the two is the Smart Display’s inclusion of a front-facing camera for video calling. It’s nice for those that use Duo, which I personally don’t. The Google Home hub handles regular calls, sans video. Lenovo also included a shutter slider to block the camera, which the privacy-conscious will appreciate.

As a home entertainment system, the Lenovo Smart Display’s better specs give it a definitive edge.

The Google Assistant you know and love

If you’re familiar with Google Assistant, you’ll know what to expect from these Smart Displays. The familiar timer, weather, commute times, reminder, news, music casting, YouTube streaming, alarms, and other features are identical between the two Smart Displays. I might not be the most demanding smart home user, but I couldn’t find any unsupported common commands on these products.

At launch, the Lenovo Smart Display was missing a number of key Assistant features found in the Home Hub. As well as the aforementioned Multi-Room Audio feature, Lenovo didn’t have Continued Conversations and the Home View dashboard for managing other smart home products. Fortunately, these are all now accounted for and Lenovo has also increased the number of third-party smart home products supported by its Smart Display.

There are a few subtle software differences, such as Google implementation of a small LED to display when the mic is muted, while Lenovo sticks a black bar across the screen. Lenovo offers variable volumes for audio and alarms, while Google sticks with just a single setting. Even so, the software of these two Smart Displays offers the same core features, UI, and Assistant experience.

Google Home Hub showing feature menu
Lenovo Smart Display Speaker grill front

Google Home Hub vs Lenovo Smart Display: Which is worth a purchase?

I prefer the Lenovo Smart Display to the Google Home Hub, owing to the larger display for pictures and video, and the better-sounding speakers. The design certainly won’t suit everybody and the size means it can’t be a discrete part of your home, but overall I think it’s the nicer one.

As a home entertainment system, the Lenovo Smart Display’s better specs give it an edge.

If you’re looking for  extra multimedia capabilities, then Lenovo Smart Display is certainly worth a look. Thanks to a recent update, Home View isn’t an exclusive selling point for the Home Hub anymore, either.

However, those looking for a cost-effective, small panel from which to manage their existing smart home will still likely find the Google Home Hub a compelling purchase.

Ultimately, the right one for you will come down to how much you want to spend on a Smart Display. The Google Home Hub is the more attractive entry point for those dipping their toes into their first smart home purchase. Don’t count the JBL Link View out either, if you’re after something a little more music oriented.

What do you think? Which Smart Display would you buy?