What Are Smart Displays and What You Can Do with Them


There’s a lot of talk about smart displays going around today. You may be wondering what a smart display is and if you would benefit from having one.

A smart display is simply a virtual assistant-powered speaker with a screen. The touchscreen adds extra functions to the smart speaker technology, allowing users to do things like watch videos and place video calls.

Like smart speakers, these displays connect to the Wi-Fi in your home for access to information. Once set up, they listen for their “wake word,” and when they hear it, they are ready to respond to your command. All smart displays are controlled by either Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant. There is no smart display on the market from Apple yet.


Smart displays look similar to a tablet or one of those old digital photo frames, but they aren’t meant to be carried around. They are designed to reside in a permanent spot in your home.

With many consumers paying close attention to privacy issues lately, it is important to note that you can switch the microphone and camera on and off in these devices.

What smart displays can do

Smart displays can do all the same things aa smart speaker can do but with some extra bells and whistles. It will read you the news, get weather and sports reports, stream music, set alarms, and call and text people. You can do all of this with just voice commands.

Smart displays take these actions a step further. A smart speaker can make a phone call, but a smart display can make video calls. When you ask for the weather, you will hear the forecast from a speaker, but a display shows you a screen with more details. While music is playing, you will be able to see the cover art for the song. Ask for a piece of trivia like “What is the most common eye color in humans?” and it will tell you the answer and then pop up more information.

On top of those bonuses, a smart screen allows you to watch videos and even scrolls through your photos like a digital picture frame if you want it to. You have the option to make video calls, too.

Smart displays give you hands-free access to recipes while you cook. Some models even offer step-by-step directions to your recipes right on the screen.


Smart displays can control all of your smart home devices, and they can connect to your smart doorbell and show who is at the door.


You don’t have to touch the screen while cooking. If you are using a recipe, it is great to have it right on a screen that you can voice activate instead of having to touch the device to go to the next step.

If you multi-task, the displays make that a little easier. Bring up a recipe and listen to music while you are working. Then, answer a video call, set your timer, and go back to the recipe, all without touching the screen.


Smart displays can do a lot, but they are not built to do everything. For example, despite looking like a mini television, they do not have digital TV tuners, nor do they have remote controls. Most of them do not have browsers for surfing the Web.

It’s also always a possibility that these devices may start supporting large amounts of advertising in the future.

Here is a list of some currently available smart display devices:

Lenovo Smart Display


The Smart Display came out during the summer of 2018 with all of the features of Google Assistant on board. It comes in either 8-inch or 10-inch screen sizes. The 10-inch has an FHD screen, and they both have 10-watt full-range speakers. Prices start at $199.

JBL Link View


The JBL LinkView does not resemble a typical smart display. It looks like an oval alarm clock. The screen is an 8-inch, and it has two 10-watt speakers. It supports Google Cast, too. The cost is around $249.

Amazon Echo Show


If you are not a fan of Google Assistant, you can choose the Amazon Echo Show and use their Alexa app. Since this is an Amazon product, you also get access to all of your Prime Content and Alexa skills. The Echo is the only display with a web browser. This device is currently $129.99.

Google Home Hub


The Google Home Hub has all the capabilities of the Google Home smart speaker, with a visual element. It’s great to use in the bedroom because it dims in darker conditions, so it won’t keep you awake. It’s also the only smart display without a camera if you’d rather avoid any issues. The price is $129.

Is one of these devices right for you? Let us know in the comments.

Tracey Rosenberger
Tracey Rosenberger

Tracey Rosenberger spent 26 years teaching elementary students, using technology to enhance learning. Now she's excited to share helpful technology with teachers and everyone else who sees tech as intimidating.

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