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LG Smart Hub Wants to Push Amazon Echo Out of the Home

Watch out, Amazon. LG is gunning for a spot in the smart home race with its new SmartThinQ hub — a control panel-cum-speaker for your connected appliances. The cylindrical device looks like a squat, metallic clone of the Amazon Echo, while boasting a 3.5-inch LCD color display that the Echo lacks. But the SmartThinQ lacks the feature that sets Amazon's product apart: the ability to always listen for your commands.

Still, the SmartThinQ Hub has a lot to offer over Amazon's Echo. The former can connect to appliances such as your smart refrigerator, washing machine, robotic vacuum cleaners and a variety of sensors over Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Zigbee.

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You can control these devices from the hub, and it can also display notifications from your smartphone and connected devices on its screen, even reading them out through the speaker. The Echo has yet to offer these features.

But the beauty of Amazon's Echo is its ability to take commands from you from anywhere in the room at any time, without having to walk over to the speaker and press a button or pick up your phone. Echo's digital assistant persona, Alexa, is always ready to respond.

Alexa is like an eager, if somewhat hard-of-hearing, assistant who's ready to take your orders and set alarms or timers, tell you the weather forecast and play music. The hands-free interaction makes life a whole lot more convenient, even if Alexa is somewhat limited right now and can't do much more.

LG's SmartThinQ sensors can enable your regular appliances to be controlled with the hub, making the Korean company's ecosystem a lot more viable and appealing than Amazon's. However, LG has yet to announce a price for the SmartThinQ hub, which will make its debut at CES 2016 in Las Veags next week. The Amazon Echo costs $180.