Both smart screens are very focused, and that’s mostly a good thing. The regular Smart Clock won’t play videos or make video calls, but it’s otherwise an ideal nightstand companion with its out-of-the-way design, sunrise alarm and access to Google’s ecosystem. While the Essential behaves even more like a conventional clock with its LED face, you might not mind when it can double as a nightlight and is easy to snooze.
They won’t be for everyone as a result. You’re better off with Google’s Nest Hub if you want videos and photos in a small smart display, and Amazon’s Echo Show 5 offers video calls if you don’t mind talking to Alexa instead of Google. At these prices, though, it’s easier to sacrifice a few features. You’re delving into a rich smart home ecosystem for less than the usual cost of a basic speaker.