How To Get A Smart Display To Actually Show Videos You Want To Watch

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Get yourself a Google Nest Hub or an Amazon Echo Show, and you’ve got a device that can do everything a smart speaker can—plus play videos. It’s not always obvious which video apps work on these smart displays, or what you can do with them, which is why we curated this list of what you can run and can’t run right now.

There’s one conspicuous omission: Netflix. You can’t run Netflix on either the Echo Show or the Nest Hub, and you can’t use the Chromecast feature built into the Nest Hub either, because Netflix doesn’t recognise these devices as displays in the same way a service like Plex does.

Here is every video-streaming app that works on your smart display.

YouTube

YouTube is the default video player on the Nest Hub, as you might expect, and you can just ask to “play some cat videos” or “play Billie Eilish videos” to fire up a list of clips. It’s a bit hit or miss; if you’re looking for a specific video, you’re better off finding it on your phone and beaming it over to the Nest Hub.

The Nest Hub doubles as a Chromecast device and will automatically show up on your network. Simply load up YouTube on your phone (or your laptop), find the video you’re after, and tap on the Chromecast button. Select your Nest Hub and playback starts. To control playback, use your phone or the touchscreen controls on the device itself.

There’s no app interface for YouTube on the Nest Hub, but using the touchscreen controls, you can skip through videos in a playlist, turn subtitles on and off, and start and stop playback. You can also access recommended YouTube videos from the front screen, but you can’t search for specific clips.

YouTube is available on the Echo Show as well, though you need to mention it by name (“play some cat videos on YouTube”), then pick from the search results that appear in a browser window (either Amazon’s Silk browser or Firefox). From there, launch the video manually and play it full-screen. It’s more difficult than it needs to be, but once playback starts, it’s fine—and unlike on the Nest Hub, you can actually look for specific videos.

Image: Google

Amazon Prime Video

Unsurprisingly, the Echo Show shines when using an Amazon streaming service. However, if you just ask Alexa to play some videos on any topic without specifying a service, it’ll just run a generic web search—on Bing, in fact—and return the top video result. To get something up on Prime Video, you need to specify a show or movie title, a type of content, or a genre.

“Alexa, play Fleabag,” works, for example, as does, “Alexa, play Olympus Has Fallen.” As long as you know what you’re looking for on Prime Video, the service will jump straight to it. If you want to have a browse, ask Alexa to show you movies or shows, and you can scroll through them and launch titles on the device’s screen.

You can be more specific and ask to see comedy films or detective shows or sitcoms. Asking for specific actors works as well, in case you suddenly feel the need to binge watch everything Tom Hanks or Rooney Mara has appeared in (you’re limited by what’s on Amazon Prime Video, but still).

At the moment there’s no way to watch Amazon Prime Video on a Google Nest Hub. The Prime Video apps have a Chromecast feature, but, like Netflix, they don’t recognise the Nest Hub as a proper display. You’re going to have to use another screen to catch up on your Prime Video movies and shows.

Screenshot: Gizmodo

Plex

Plex prides itself on working on as many different devices as possible, and it has introduced support for the Nest Hub. You need to launch Plex on your phone first, then hit the Chromecast button, then choose your Nest Hub. Playback can be controlled on your mobile device or via the touchscreen.

You can’t play Plex movies and shows on an Echo Show with a voice command, but you can access it through the Silk or Firefox browsers. It’s not easy navigating the Plex site on an Echo Show screen with a touchscreen keyboard, and one or two screens aren’t properly formatted, but you can get it to work.

Twitch

Amazon owns Twitch, so Twitch integration is built right into the Echo Show, as expected. Just say, “Alexa, open Twitch,” or, “Alexa, ask Twitch for popular channels,” for example, to start watching. You can specify particular channels and games, too.

Over on the Nest Hub, Twitch is one of the apps that recognises Google’s smart display when you tap on the Chromecast button, so you can tune into Twitch streams if you’ve got a phone to hand. You can’t open Twitch natively with a voice command on a Nest Hub.

Vimeo

Vimeo works on the Google Nest Hub, but you need to take the Chromecast route; you can’t just launch the service with a voice command. Launch the video you want to watch on Android or iOS, tap the Chromecast button, and pick your smart display. Playback can be controlled from the app on your phone or the touchscreen.

If you want to watch Vimeo videos on the Echo Show, you’ll need to go the browser route using Amazon’s Silk browser or Firefox, whichever you prefer. Just say, “Alexa, open...” followed by the name of the browser. You can then log into Vimeo and browse through the videos on offer, then play them full-screen. It’s not ideal, but it works.

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