The competition between smart home Internet giants Google's Assistant and Amazon's Alexa is heating up with both having launched new smart speakers with screens this month: the Google Nest Hub 7" and the Amazon Echo Show 5.
How do you choose between them? If you've already invested in either platform through previous-generation smart speakers, or compatible third-party devices, you may already have an answer. But if you haven't yet jumped into the smart speaker market, these two models are slowly duplicating each other's functions, for the most part, which is making the choice an increasingly difficult one.
Although Amazon initially had a lead with consumer penetration and more third-party controllable smart devices since its Echo was launched a year prior to the first Google Home smart speaker, as well as better variety of speakers (including those with screens), Google was able to catch up. With its sophisticated new Nest Hub with 7" screen, one would think the playing field has leveled. But the leapfrogging between these two Internet giants continues with the now even better Amazon Echo Show 5.
Before we delve into how they compare, let's run down what each one is.
The Google Nest Hub 7"
The Google Nest Hub ($169), formerly the Google Home Hub, brings help at a glance. With the Google Assistant built-in, you can use your voice to search, access YouTube, Google Photos, Calendar, Maps, and more on Nest Hub's display.
With Nest Hub, you can control over a thousand devices from popular brands using the Google Home app. With Nest Hub's home view, you can see and control all of your compatible devices in one place, by touch or voice. That includes smart lights, thermostats, TVs, cameras, Chromecast and more.
Nest Hub also functions as a digital photo frame that automatically refreshes the photos that are displayed and features your best shots. With live albums, a new feature from Google Photos, you can relive recent memories with family and friends, even while Nest Hub is not in use. To search for a specific photo, simply say "Hey Google, show my pictures from the Grand Canyon."
Ask questions just as you would with any smart speaker and use the screen for things like step-by-step recipes in the kitchen or viewing your Google Calendar.
The Nest Hub boasts a 7" screen that looks like a floating display, along with soft rounded corners, and comes in four colour options: Chalk, Charcoal, Aqua, and Sand.
At the top of the device is an Ambient EQ light sensor that allows the screen to automatically adjust to match the lighting in the room, so there's no glowing screen. When it's time for bed, Hub knows to dim the screen so you can get a good night's sleep.
The Amazon Echo Show 5
At $100, the Show 5 comes equipped with a 5.5" display in black or charcoal and new features like rich sound, HD camera, and built-in camera shutter. More importantly, the Show 5 includes instant privacy, allowing you to turn off the microphone and camera with one press of a button. Slide the built-in shutter to cover the camera as well.
The Echo Show 5 has the same features as its Echo Spot and Echo Show 2nd Gen siblings with the right size to fit in more places and still letting you do things like update to-do lists and calendars, glance at weather and traffic, and control your smart home by voice or touch. Choose the clock face that fits your style best, like your favorite photos on the home screen.
Create morning routines to start your day, ask Alexa to show you movie trailers, the news or listen to radio stations, podcasts, and audiobooks. Alexa will also show you security cameras, control lights, and adjust thermostats. You can experience Facetime-like call with others who have any of the screen-equipped Echo devices or Skype and make announcements to other devices in your home.
The Echo Show Advantage
The first obvious advantage the Echo Show 5 has over the Google Nest Hub is price, at $100 versus $170.
The newer HD camera on the Echo Show 5 is a huge advantage for Facetime-like connections with Echo/screen owners or phones using the Amazon App. That's big. It will also make video Skype calls. In contrast, Nest Hub will Skype but without the video face component. Meanwhile, the upcoming and pricier Google Nest Hub Max will have a video camera.
The Echo Show 5 is compatible with more third-party devices like webcams. The Nest Hub is catching up despite the fact that Google is pushing its own webcam hardware.
You can give a voice command to the Echo Show 5, asking it to delete all of your commands for the day. Amazon is also working on a feature to erase the last thing you said with a command. With Google, while you can delete commands as well, you need to use the app; you can't do it with your voice.
The Google Nest Hub Advantage
Currently, the Google-owned YouTube app is only available on the Nest Hub, but the Echo Show can access YouTube through its browser as any non-Google device can. But a recent agreement between Google and Amazon will bring the YouTube app back to the Echo Show. The Echo Show does include wikiHow videos.
Accessing personal photos seems to be a snap on the Nest Hub using the Google Photo App, while the Echo Show will rely on accessing and curating your Facebook photos. The Nest Hub has a larger 7" impressive display quality which actually adapts both the brightness and the warmth of the picture to match the room. I haven't yet gotten my hands on the new Echo Show 5 to compare just yet, but stay tuned.
If a built-in webcam isn't a big deal for you, then check out the Nest Hub with Google DNA. But I would wait until Amazon's third screen/speaker is out on June 26 before making a final decision because it purports to offer some pretty impressive features, too, that might swing you towards the Alexa world. Either way you go, with an abundance of third-party devices from which to choose that work with both platforms, and tons of ways you use voice control, the smart speakers, and the screens, you'll be in good smart home hands no matter which one you choose.