While Amazon’s Alexa is liberally stamping itself all over the world of technology, the fight isn’t yet over, with Google staging what might look like the defence of Rorke’s Drift.
The announcement of new Google Assistant-equipped rivals to the Echo Show certainly ups the stakes, bringing a screen to the experience and taking Google Assistant into a new place – something that’s so far been limited to your phone. Ish.
So how do these devices stack up? We’re comparing the established Echo Show with the new rivals, the Lenovo Smart Display and the JBL Link View, although we know a number of other devices will follow.
Echo Show vs Lenovo Smart Display vs JBL Link View: Design
- Lenovo Smart Display comes in two sizes
- Echo Show is the smallest
- JBL Link View has IPX4 water protection
Echo Show measures 187 x 187 x 90mm with a square face supported by a trapezoid shape on the rear, so it angles back slightly. It’s finished in with black or white plastics, with the speaker grille sitting under the landscape display.
The Lenovo Smart Display comes in two sizes (8 and 10-inch), giving more space to the display than the Echo, while shifting the speaker grille to one end of the display. It can operate in landscape or portrait, however, thanks to the exquisite wave shape on the rear.
It also offers a grey or bamboo coloured rear panel to suit your décor. The 10-inch model measures 311.37 x 173.87 x 136.02mm, so bear in mind that it’s pretty huge, and gets the bamboo finish, while the smaller model has a grey soft-touch finish.
The JBL Link View looks a little like a watermelon sliced through (an oval one, not a round one), leaving it measuring 330 x 150 x 100mm, so it’s a pretty big thing. It’s finished in plastics with speaker grilles to the left and right of the central screen. It is IPX4 rated, however, so probably a better party speaker than the others.
Lenovo is perhaps the most quirky from the rear, while the front looks extraordinarily tablet like. The JBL Link View is rather conventional, while the Echo Show’s oddities leave you with practical symmetry, but some very sharp lines that some don’t like.
At least you can choose something that fits into your home, with three very different designs.
Echo Show vs Lenovo Smart Display vs JBL Link View: Display
- Lenovo Smart Display is the highest resolution
- Echo Show is the lowest resolution
We’ve mentioned that Lenovo Smart Display comes in two sizes with an 8 or 10-inch display. That IPS display is Full HD on the 10-inch version at 1920 x 1080 pixels (275ppi for the 10-inch version). The 8-inch display is 1280 x 720 pixels, 183ppi.
The JBL Link View offers an 8-inch display for which the resolution hasn’t been stated, apart from claiming to be “high-definition”, so it’s likely to be 1280 x 720 pixels (183ppi).
The Echo Show’s display is 7-inches with a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels (169ppi), so it’s a lot lower resolution than the big Lenovo and lower than the 8-inch devices.
The question of whether that display resolution matters might come down to what you want it to do. Showing song lyrics (which the Echo Show will do), in nice big text doesn’t need a lot of detail, so a low resolution is fine.
Showing your photos albums (which all these devices can do) means a need for more detail for sharper images. Here, the higher resolution of the Lenovo gives it an advantage. It does look a little like a digital photo frame after all.
The other side is video. Echo Show has been back and forth with YouTube support, but with Google launching its own rival, it’s easy to see why it might want to keep YouTube to itself. YouTube is part of the Lenovo and JBL experience, while the Echo Show will play Amazon Video on your command.
Echo Show vs Lenovo Smart Display vs JBL Link View: Hardware
- Lenovo powered by Qualcomm Home Hub Platform
- Echo Show is Intel Atom powered
- All have 5MP front camera
Comparing the hardware of these devices is a little more difficult. Lenovohas come out all guns blazing and confirmed that it’s sitting on Qualcomm’s new Home Hub Platform, powered by Snapdragon 624.
JBL doesn’t mention what is powering its device, but Qualcomm has said that Harman is using the platform and JBL is a Harman brand, so we’d guess it’s the same as the Lenovo.
Amazon goes has far as to confirm that the Echo Show has an Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor.
What does all this mean? At the moment we can’t tell, because the important thing is how smoothly it runs the software platform, how well it stays connected and how responsive it is. We’ll have to get the JBL and Lenovo devices reviewed to judge their performance fully, as what we’ve seen so far isn’t finished.
They all feature a 5-megapixel front-facing cameras and they all support video calling. JBL and Lenovo use Google Duo, while the Echo Show uses Alexa calling. Android users might gravitate towards Google’s new offering, although with adoption of Echo devices being really high, you’ll probably have no problem calling anyone on any of these devices.
Echo Show vs Lenovo Smart Display vs JBL Link View: Sound and speakers
- JBL is actually a speaker company
- All offer stereo speakers
These devices are used for entertainment – playing music, watching videos – so what they sound like is going to be pretty important. So let’s start with the audio brand, JBL.
The JBL Link View has a pair of 10W front-firing stereo speakers, with a rear passive radiator. We’d fully expect rumbling bass and good separation between those left and right speakers for that JBL Signature Sound. JBL also says that it will stream audio at 24bit/96K.
The Echo Show is the most powerful of the Echo speakers, with a pair of 2-inch stereo speakers in the front. Little else is said about them, but they are front-firing and they sound pretty good, if not hugely proficient.
The Lenovo Smart Display settles for a pair of 10W speakers with dual passive radiators. We’ve heard the 10-inch and it sounded pretty good, although we believe that the larger model has 2-inch drivers, while the smaller is 1.75-inch.
We’d imagine that these new devices will have been engineered to better the Echo Show and we can’t wait to listen to them to see which is the best. They all offer Bluetooth connectivity, for straight music playback.
Echo Show vs Lenovo Smart Display vs JBL Link View: Software
- Echo Show offers Alexa
- Lenovo and JBL run with Google Assistant
Coming to the crunch, the Lenovo Smart Display and JBL Link View both use a new form of Google Assistant. This isn’t the same as your smartphone, it’s adapted for this type of display, so things are bolder and simpler, for better visual appeal on this type of display, rather than your smartphone.
The experience is likely to be very much the same as you are used to from Google Home or Assistant on your phone, although from our Lenovo demo, it seems that the interface isn’t quite complete, yet. It’s also not another Android device, so you can’t just load it up with Android apps.
However, Google Assistant will control a huge range of smart home devices, so on one of these Google devices, you’ll not only be able to interrogate Google Maps, but turn off your lights too.
Alexa almost needs no introduction. Experienced by many as a voice-first system, the display adds a new dynamic – visual confirmation of list, timers or calendar entries – while the Alexa experience on the Echo Show is fully-featured, letting you connect to all manner of smart home devices and control them.
You can use the Echo Show to view your connected cameras, stream your music, report your Fitbit weight, play games and a whole lot more.
Echo Show vs Lenovo Smart Display vs JBL Link View: Conclusions
So which is better? Alexa feels like a runaway train, with everyone clamouring to be involved and that’s a great thing for Echo users, because more support and interaction comes every week. The Echo Show is out, available and we suspect at £199, will be cheaper than these new Google-powered rivals.
But at the heart of it, Google Assistant sometimes feels like the more potent system, especially when asking basic questions, and Google Homereally isn’t lacking in connectivity. Amazon has kickstarted another device format war, and we can expect a lot more in this space through 2018.
But what if you want to buy now? Well, it’s only the Echo Show that’s actually on sale and the other devices are launching initially in the US, with no word on global availability.