How to Pick the Right Video Smart Tech for Your Home
We compared three popular video home hubs to help you find the one that's right for you.
Smart speakers are no longer the coolest and the latest. Now the growing trend is video home hubs—systems that combine all the capabilities of your smart speaker with a video monitor so you can watch TV, stream photos, make video calls, and control all your smart home devices from one voice-activated device.
Amazon, Facebook, and Google all have video home hubs out right now, and they're all handy devices. But if you're in the market to buy one, how do you know which is best? We compared the Amazon Echo Show, Facebook Portal, and Google Nest Hub to help you find the one that's right for you.
Amazon Echo Show
The Echo Show ($230) packs a lot of features in a small package. It uses Alexa to run your smart home gadgets like lights, security cameras, and smart plugs, and it can order items from Amazon, set alarms, look up recipes, play games, answer questions, make shopping lists, and more.
The Echo Show's video capabilities allow you to watch TV and make video calls to anyone who has the Alexa app, Skype, an Echo Spot, or Echo Show. The sound quality from the hub is fantastic. Dual 2-inch stereo speakers that output 10 watts per channel, a passive bass radiator, and Dolby processing ensure the bass will be bumping as your tunes will fill the room. However, if you're planning on binge-watching reruns of Game of Thrones, be warned that the 10-inch wide screen isn't quite cinema-worthy.
Verdict: If you're looking to get down to some music, video chat with friends and family, and control your smart home devices, the Echo Show is an excellent mid-range option. But if you're in it for the bingeing, consider looking elsewhere.
As a popular choice for connecting family and friends around the world via Facebook Messenger, the Portal (starting at $179) is a natural fit for anyone separated from loved ones by a couple hundred (or thousand) miles. And as with the Echo Show, anything you can control through Alexa can be controlled using Facebook Portal.
Unlike its competitors, the Portal comes in two sizes: The standard Portal has a 10.1-inch display, and the Portal+ has a 15.6-inch display that can be rotated to landscape or portrait view. The large size of the Portal+ and crystal-clear screen mak it perfect for watching videos and movies.
Sound quality depends on the size. The smaller Portal probably won't wow you with its two-speaker, 10-watt sound, but the Portal+ sure will. With two 2-inch tweeters and one 4-inch bass capable of sustaining 20 watts total, the sound quality and bass output rivals dedicated home speaker systems.
Verdict: The Portal+ is the perfect buy for someone who wants a hub that can do just about everything. You can use it to watch movies, listen to music, connect with friends, organize your life, and even control smart home devices. And if watching videos and movies isn't a high priority, the smaller Portal will give you all the essentials for a slightly lower price than the Echo Show.
Google Nest Hub
The Nest Hub ($130) is the cheapest hub on the market, and though the lower price is appealing, it lacks some of the capabilities of its competitors. There's no camera, so you can't make video calls with friends and family. The screen is only 7 inches, making it less than ideal for a binge sesh. And when it comes to sound quality, the Nest Hub trails behind. The sound from the speakers doesn't carry, and the bass is weak—not quite the jam you need when the beat drops.
However, the Nest Hub does use Google assistant, which means it can do just about everything Alexa can do except buy directly from Amazon. At $100 cheaper than the Echo Show and half the price of the Portal+, it makes for a great entry-level hub for someone interested in trying one without blowing the savings.
Verdict: Someone who already uses Google assistant on a daily basis would probably prefer Nest Hub over a Portal or Echo Show. If you're just looking for a hub to help you organize your life, control smart home devices, and tell you how to cut pineapples and you can live without bumpin' speakers, a huge screen, and video call capabilities, the Nest Hub is a great affordable option.