Everything you need to know about Google Smart Displays


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The battle between Amazon and Google for control of your smart home is about to kick up a notch — Google is preparing to sell Smart Displays. These devices give the Google Assistant a screen and will go up against the Amazon Echo Show and Echo Spot, both of which feature Alexa.

Here is everything you need to know about Google Smart Displays and how they can improve your smart home.

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What is a Google Smart Display?

Think of a Google Smart Display as a Google Home with a screen, just as the Amazon Echo Show and Echo Spot each add a screen to the regular Echo and Echo Dot. This gives the Google Assistant more functionality and means that you can ask it to, for example, play a YouTube video or display a meal recipe.

The Google Assistant will continue to read news headlines, weather forecasts and the answers to your questions aloud, but the Smart Display will add images to those announcements.

The Google Smart Display is designed to be compact enough to fit in any room, but we reckon that these devices will feel most at home in the kitchen, where a TV often takes up too much space. Being voice controlled, the Smart Display can be configured for hands-free interaction — another reason why putting it in the kitchen makes most sense to us.

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What can you do with a Google Smart Display?

Because Smart Displays run the same Google Assistant as your Android smartphone and Google Home speaker, they can perform all of the same tasks. This means that the Smart Display has full control of your smart home, allowing you to ask the Google Assistant to dim the lights, adjust the heating or switch on a smart plug. As with other Google devices, you can catch the Assistant’s attention on a Smart Display by saying “hey Google” or “okay Google.”

Because Smart Displays feature built-in Google Cast, you can also add a Smart Display to your existing multi-room Chromecast audio setup. This will allow you to play music in any room that you specify.

The Smart Display’s screen can be used to serve up at-a-glance information like the time, date and weather, as well as any upcoming events in your Google Calendar. While the Smart Displays have touch screen capabilities, it will be up to third-party manufacturers to decide how and if this is implemented. Some manufacturers may just stick with voice controls.

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Watch videos on YouTube

Although you can ask a Google Home smart speaker to play video on your TV (provided it has a Chromecast device connected), the Smart Display shows requested content on its own screen. This means that you can ask the Google Assistant to play a YouTube video and it will appear on the Smart Display. Remember that because of an ongoing spat between Google and Amazon, YouTube videos cannot be played on the Alexa-powered Echo Show.

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Access Maps

Using maps is a great way to get the most out of a Smart Display. You can start your day by walking into the kitchen, issuing a verbal greeting, and watching as the Smart Display turns on the lights and calls up your schedule .

You can then ask where your first appointment of the day is — the Smart Display can show you the destination using Google Maps. You cna then ask “How do I get there?” and the screen would show you directions before sending that info to your smartphone.

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Check out recipes

Ask the Google Assistant: “What should I make for dinner?” and it can present some options on a Smart Display. You can pick one before saying “start cooking” and the ingredients and recipe instructions will be displayed and read aloud.

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Access your photos

You can ask Google to show you photos of a recent holiday. A Smart Display can cycle through that album, pulling the images from your online Google Photos library.

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Listen to music

As with the Google Home smart speaker range, the Smart Display can be used to play music on command from streaming services like Spotify. You can request music by artist, album, track, genre and playlist.

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Make video calls

Because Smart Displays are fitted with speakers, microphones and a front-facing camera, you can ask the Google Assistant to call someone for a chat (Smart Displays come with a a physical cover for the security-conscious). Smart Displays can run both audio and video calls.

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Control your smart home

Smart Display smart home controls work like Google Home speakers’. The addition of a screen, though, means that you can also view video feeds from your security cameras or smart doorbell. Just say: “Hey Google, show me the [camera/room name]” and the feed will appear.

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Who makes Google Smart Displays?

The answer, you may be surprised to hear, is not Google. Although it provides the platform, Google does not yet manufacture its own Smart Displays — just as it didn’t initially make its own Android smartphones or Wear OS smartwatches.

There are currently four manufacturers making their own Smart Display model. They are

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Archos Hello

The Archos Hello’s tall, narrow design makes it stand out from its three horizontal rivals. The Hello comes in seven-inch and 8.4-inch sizes with HD and Full HD resolutions, respectively. The Hello has a wooden back with a fold-out kickstand, while a 4,000 mAh battery means that it can run for a limited time without being plugged in — useful if you want to take a YouTube video with you when you’re done cooking.

The Hello also features a five-megapixel, front-facing camera, as well as 16 gigabytes of internal storage. The Archos Hello is priced at $180.

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JBL Link View

The JBL Link View looks more like the reference designs shown off in Google’s Smart Display marketing material. It features an eight-inch screen with a 1280 x 720 resolution and a five-megapixel, front-facing camera.

Given that it comes from a company that’s best-known for making speakers, the Link View’s audio should be better than some of its rivals thanks to two 10-watt speakers on its front and a passive radiator designed to help boost the volume and bass on the back. JBL has yet to reveal a price for the Link View.

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Lenovo Smart Display

Sporting an asymmetrical design, the Lenovo Smart Display is available with either an eight-inch or ten-inch display. Both feature a 1920 x 1080 resolution and two 10-watt speakers positioned to the left of the screen (or below if rotated into portrait mode).

The Lenovo Smart Display is priced at $199 for the eight-inch model and $249 for the 10-inch version. (See GearBrain’s full review of Lenovo Smart Display with Google Assistant here).

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LG WK9 ThinQ

LG’s effort is (in our eyes) the least attractive model in this initial range of Smart Displays. A bulky body makes the eight-inch screen seem smaller than it really is, but speaker tech borrowed from Meridian should at least guarantee good sound quality.

LG has yet to reveal any specs for the WK9 ThinQ other than screen size, as well as that it can offer both the Google Assistant and LG’s own ThinQ artificial intelligence. At $299.99, the LG is the most expensive device in this group of Smart Displays. As with ThinQ, though, it should provide integration with LG’s other smart home devices, such as washing machines, dishwashers and robotic vacuum cleaners.

Google says that Smart Displays will also come from Harman and Sony, but those models have yet to be announced by either manufacturer.

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When will Google Smart Displays go on sale?

Google said in May that the first round of Smart Displays would come to market in July — it’s now the end of August.

Retailer B&H Photo listed both versions of the Lenovo Smart Display on its website in June, adding that they were available for pre-order but would not ship until September 3. Given the disparity between Lenovo’s stated prices and the figures listed on B&H Photo ($50 less for the smaller model and $20 less for the larger), we suspect that this was a mistake. The product listings were soon removed and replaced with an error page.

Google will hopefully release more information on these Smart Displays’ debut soon.

Check out The GearBrain, our smart home compatibility checker to see the other compatible products that work with Google Home and Home Mini.

This article originally appeared on GearBrain and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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