Facebook Portal vs. Google Home Hub vs. Amazon Echo Show
It’s been a busy couple of weeks for smart displays, an emerging category of voice-activated touchscreens seeking a place in your living room or kitchen. First, Amazon introduced us to its new-and-improved, second-gen Echo Show. Then came Facebook, with the surprise announcement of a pair of “Portal” smart displays with cameras that can automatically track you as you move during video calls. The very next day: Google rolled out the smart-home-centric Google Home Hub.
That’s three, count ’em, three titans of tech battling it out to get you to buy in on their smart displays this holiday season (not to mention ones from Lenovo and JBL that already made their debut earlier this year, or ones from Sony and LG that are yet to arrive).
So, how do these new displays stack up against one another? Let’s start the best way I know how: With a sizable, borderline unwieldy chart that’s chock full of specs:
|Amazon Echo Show (2018)
||Facebook Portal / Portal Plus
||Google Home Hub
||10.1-inch (256.5 mm)
||10.1-inch (256.5 mm) / 15.6-inch (396.2 mm)
||7-inch (177.8 mm)
||720p (1280 x 800)
||720p (1200 x 800) / 1080p (1920 x 1080)
||9.7 x 6.9 x 4.2 inches (246.4 x 175.3 x 106.7 mm)
||9.8 x 8.2 x 3.7 inches (249.9 x 208.3 x 94 mm) / 8.8 x 17.7 x 5.7 inches (223.5 x 449.6 x 144.8 mm)
||7.02 x 4.65 x 2.65 inches (178.5 x 118 x 67.3 mm)
||3.9 lbs. (1,765 grams)
||2.7 lbs. (1,250 grams) / 7.4 lbs. (3,360 grams)
||1.1 lbs. (480 grams)
||Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth speakers requiring PIN codes not supported
||Wi‑Fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth 4.2
||Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth 5.0
|Calling and Messaging
||Alexa Messaging, Skype, direct dial (US and Mexico)
||Direct dial (US, UK, and Canada, outgoing calls only)
|Smart kitchen features
||Step-by-step recipe assistance; Amazon Meal Kits integration
||Limited Alexa recipe assistance
||Step-by-step recipe assistance with YouTube tutorial videos
|Onscreen smart home controls
||Yes (12 MP)
||4-mic array (2 front, 2 rear)
||Dual 10W, 2-inch neodymium drivers with Dolby processing and passive bass radiator
||10W (2 full-range drivers) / 20W (2 tweeters, single 4-inch bass)
||“Full range speaker” (80 dB SPL @ 1KHz, @ 1m)
|Streaming Music Services
||Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn
||iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify
||iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube Music
|Streaming Video Services
||Amazon Prime Video, DailyMotion, Hulu, NBC, Vimeo
||Facebook Watch, Food Network
|Compatible smart home cameras
||Amazon Cloud Cam, Amcrest, August Doorbell Cam, Blink, Canary, D-Link, EZVIZ, Logitech Circle, meShare, Nest Cam, Netgear Arlo, Ring Video Doorbell, Toucan, TP-Link Kasa Cam, Wyze Cam, Zmodo
||D-Link, EZVIZ, Nest Cam, Netgear Arlo, Skybell Video Doorbell, Smartcam, Swann, TP-Link Kasa Cam, Vivitar
|Other notable features
||Built-in Zigbee smart home hub; Integrates with Fire TV Recast to show live TV and DVR recordings; YouTube access via Silk or Firefox browsers
||Automatic AI camera framing; Video chat filter effects; “Home and Away” location tracking; Facebook photo albums and birthday reminders; Interactive “Story Time” story books; 90-degree rotating display (Plus only)
||“Ambient EQ” automatic adaptive screen brightness; Digital picture frame via Google Photos with Live Albums;
||Charcoal, Aqua, Chalk, Sand
||US, UK, Australia, Germany, Canada, Japan
||US only at launch
||US, UK, Australia
|Expected ship date
||$199 / $349
What sets them apart
There isn’t a clearly defined recipe for success in the smart display category yet — we haven’t had a Nest or Echo Dot-type breakout that’s really connected with the masses. That means that the companies making these smart displays are still trying to figure out how to sell people on this category — and none of them are taking quite the same approach.
To cam or not to cam?
The most obvious differentiator is the way these displays handle cameras. Amazon and Facebook both include front-facing cameras for voice-activated video chats, and the cameras in the Facebook Portal displays use AI to automatically follow you during calls, freeing you to move around the room without worrying about the framing.
Meanwhile, Google didn’t put a camera in its smart display at all, telling CNET, “It’s a comfort thing… We wanted to make sure that you could use this anywhere in the home.”
Time will tell which approach connects the best with consumers, though it’s also worth noting that the Facebook Portal displays also come with physical privacy shutters that cover the cameras when you’re not using them. There’s no physical shutter on the Amazon Echo Show, though you can “mute” the camera along with the mics by pressing a button on the top of the device.
We’re seeing an interesting variety of designs in the smart display category, but a lot of them seem to be trending toward 10-inch, flatscreen-style displays that hide the bulk of the speaker in the back. That’s what you get with the Echo Show and with the smaller, 10-inch version of the Facebook Portal (not to mention the likable Lenovo Smart Display).
The 15.6-inch Portal Plus gets a lot more distinctive, with an iMac-looking raised monitor approach that rotates 90 degrees between portrait and landscape modes. For my money, I think it’s the neatest smart display design to date, especially coupled with the nifty camera-tracking feature — but after mass account breaches and scandals involving blatant mistreatment of user personal data, will people really trust Facebook enough to bring this product’s camera and microphones into their homes?
Then there’s Google. Aside from the bold omission of any camera at all, the Home Hub stands out for a pint-size design that isn’t even 5 inches tall. I’ll be very curious to see how people react to the smaller design and screen — the size feels appropriate for a bedside gadget, but I think I’d want something bigger in the kitchen or living room…..Read More>>>