In the world of voice assistants, we all know the real big players. It’s the Google Assistant and Alexa. Siri and Bixby can try and muscle in but they are just not as ubiquitous as the two big guns from Google and Amazon. Personal opinion aside, the brand new Amazon Echo Show 5 is genuinely an enticing smart display option but how does it stack up against the Google Nest Hub?
The Echo Show and Nest Hub Max are much more expensive options whereas the Nest Hub and Echo Show 5 provide many of the same features but at a trimmed-down price. Amazon is clearly aiming squarely at the Google Nest Hub, especially on pricing. At just $90, the Echo Show 5 manages to come in at nearly $50 cheaper than Google’s smaller smart display.
Neither of these smart displays is intended to replace their bigger siblings, though they have been designed to complement a bigger smart display. However, the Echo Show 5 at first glance is aimed more as a smart alarm clock than an out-and-out smart display. Despite the apparent targetting of the Lenovo Smart Alarm Clock, it really has much more in common with the Google Nest Hub.
When you look at the design of the original Amazon Echo and the slightly newer Google Home Mini, you can see just how they heavily influenced the newer styles found on recent Amazon Echo hardware.
Google introduced softer fabrics and reduced edges to ensure that its smart home products look way less like a hunk of tech and more like a normal room adornment or soft furnishing. They took that approach with the Google Nest Hub — née Home Hub — and it has paid off spectacularly. It’s clever, as there is no denying that the Nest Hub is at home in almost every single room in your house.
That leads me to the newly released Echo Show 5. It takes design cues from the Nest Hub but also manages to resemble the Lenovo Smart Clock at the very same time. It has a small 5.5-inch display and soft fabric back. It’s much sharper and more compact, which fits the alarm clock aesthetic that Amazon was clearly aiming for here.
It also has a hardware addition in the form of a front-facing camera in the upper right. The Nest Hub and the Lenovo Smart Clock both lack a camera, so miss out on video calling features — but the Nest Hub does retain the ability to make voice calls using Google Duo. That clearly makes the Echo Show 5 enticing to people who want to place a ton of video calls.
While the design languages share some similarities, the size and shape are easy identifiers. I will say that even though the 7-inch Nest Hub is small, it won’t quite fit in every position within a room. It’s where the Echo Show 5 counters the Nest Hubs design almost perfectly.
Both smart displays include touch-enabled displays for easier interaction with recipes, videos, and media controls. Up close the Echo Show has a much lower resolution display but when viewed from a few feet away it’s difficult to tell which is better. I’d even go so far as to say the Echo Show 5 looks slightly better.
Audio is, of course, pretty important in any smart speaker or display. This is another area where both options really do differ. The slightly larger angular back of the Echo Show has much more powerful speakers embedded within, meaning it has much more ‘full’ audio at all volume levels. While the Nest Hub is by no means quiet, the hidden speakers seem to pump out much tinnier audio when compared to the Echo Show.
Round the back, the two speakers are also very different in the way they handle input. The Google Nest Hub has no input ports but has a solitary power dock meaning that you can’t plug in any extra accessories or even your phone. You can use the Google Cast platform to play music from your phone on your Nest Hub though.
The Echo Show 5 actually comes with a micro USB port and a 3.5mm output, this opens up more opportunities to connect to other devices and speakers. I was unable to get the micro USB port to take a power input, it’s not clear why it is included but it could open up some new features and crossover in the future.
Integration & set up
Of course, which smart display you choose will likely boil down to whether you’re team Alexa or team Google Assistant. Almost all smart home tech now works with both voice assistants at this point in 2019, there are very few smart devices that only operate when connected to one service.
The set up processes couldn’t be more different. Whereas the Nest Hub relies on the Google Home app to get connected, the Echo Show 5 has you set up everything from the smart display itself. It does make the set up process feel a little jarring compared to the pretty seamless Google Home and Nest Hub app-based set up.
I can imagine that for technophobes both processes would be daunting. I do feel that Google smoothes out the set up procedure as it instantly finds, links, and then integrates with your Google account in a much less painful fashion.
Integrating new devices and services are very similar on the Amazon Echo Show 5 and the Google Nest Hub. You will need either the Alexa or Google Home app to add lights, switches, and other smart home tech. The process is almost the same for both but I would say that I do find the Google Home method a little more straightforward.
The reason I say that is due to the need to install ‘skills’ to your Alexa-powered smart display to get certain devices to work. There is no such ‘installation’ required on the Google Nest Hub. You do have to link certain services but the process is much more streamlined once devices are linked to your home Wi-Fi network.
When searching for recipes and how-to videos, the Google Next Hub obliterates the Echo Show 5. It can delve deep into the YouTube library and pull up videos on potentially millions of subjects. The Echo Show instead pulls videos and guides from wikiHow, which just pales in comparison to Google’s insane library and crawling capabilities. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, far from it.
Privacy is, of course, a huge concern to many people who are planning on adding an AI-based smart speaker to their home. If you are concerned with Google or Amazon recording your conversations and gathering personal data, my advice would be to just stick with a basic Bluetooth speaker.
If you are insistent on adding one (or both) to your home, then you will be pleased to know that you can mute the microphone on the Echo Show 5 and Nest Hub. The Echo Show 5 goes a step further by adding the ability to cover the front-facing camera — the Nest Hub doesn’t include a camera, somewhat fortunately.
The best portions of each design actually affect the usability of the Nest Hub and Echo Show quite substantially. Having a larger display means that the Nest Hub is generally easier to use simply from a physical touchscreen perspective. While the diminutive size of the new Echo Show makes it much better for placement in less conspicuous areas like your bedroom.
Alexa Cast works in the same way that casting does to a Chromecast but currently lacks the ability to cast YouTube and remains limited to mostly Amazon services like Amazon Music and Prime Video. Conversely, the Nest Hub is able to handle hand-off via the Google Cast framework for just about any service out there — Netflix being the only real exception at this point in 2019.
The Nest Hub really pushes you to kind of leave it as is, and control everything remotely from your smartphone or using your voice. Amazon has a different approach with the Echo Show 5. You can interact much more freely and there is even room for the Silk browser if you want to search for things online or simply visit sites — this also proves to be the only way to access YouTube on the Echo Show 5.
I wouldn’t suggest using the browser all too much, the small screen is pretty responsive but sometimes I found taps to be a little sluggish to register. This is likely down to the weak processor inside the Echo Show. Scrolling can be a little tiresome as a result of the slow scroll speed.
Which smart display you choose all boils down to integration. If you want end-to-end integration with your Android phone, Google accounts and more, then even though the regular retail price is much higher for the Google Nest Hub, you will have a much more seamless experience.
There are many things I like about each system, the sound and ability to change clock face on the Echo Show 5 being particular standouts. But it boils down to what you’re looking for with a smart display in your home. Do you want to make video calls and potentially watch Amazon Prime content on a small display?
I can’t say I’m a fan of the way that Amazon pushes news and current affairs to the home screen of the Echo Show. It feels way more intrusive than having them appear once you’ve sort of ‘unlocked’ the display — like on the Nest Hub.
Then there are the ads. During set up, I saw ads for Audible and Amazon Prime before I could continue and get my Echo Show 5 working. It literally stopped me from continuing to show me an offer for Audible. I detest this. I have found that Amazon tech, in general, feels more like an extension of the store than an enhanced piece of tech, and it literally shows with the Echo Show.
We’ve seen Amazon and Google recently resolve a spat that prevented YouTube from being available officially to Alexa-powered devices and Amazon Prime Video from casting to Google-powered devices, which should be brilliant for both platforms. Not currently having YouTube officially on the Echo line isn’t a big deal long-term but at the moment if it is a priority then you will have to go with Google.
I can’t definitively say which is the best option for you and your home but the Amazon Echo Show 5 and Google Nest Hub are the perfect companions for almost all rooms in your home — although I do feel that the Nest Hub does work better in the kitchen thanks to a greater depth of recipes and video guides. If you are simply looking for a smart alarm clock, then maybe the Lenovo Smart Alarm Clock might be a better option for your home.
If you are happy to stay on the Google path, then be sure to check out our Google Home Essentials series, designed to help you get the most from your Google-integrated smart home.
Where can you get the Amazon Echo Show 5?
Naturally, your first port of call should almost always be Amazon. If you are an Amazon Prime subscriber you can get the Echo Show within a day. It’s even on offer as part of Amazon Prime day for just $50, with a usual price of $90. The Ring Video Doorbell bundle saves you quite a substantial $50 as it costs just $290 shipped.
Where can you get the Google Nest Hub?
Of course, the Google Nest Hub is much easier to get a hold of thanks to an earlier launch and less control exerted by Google on where you can buy it. Direct from the Google Store you’ll pay $129. You can get the Nest Hub from stores like Best Buy, Walmart, and Target for around $80 on sale.