With the rise of smart displays in the house, we’ve seen the entrance of a curious new type of device: The smart alarm clock. These are basically small smart speakers with a little screen attached: The screen can show a clock of your choosing, but it can also be used for many other things, including video calls with family, voice assistant commands, weather reports, TV shows, and so on.
If you’re a big fan of smart devices, and not a big fan of using your phone or watch to check the time, then these clever alarm clocks could be the perfect addition to your home. Right now, the two top contenders in this area are the Lenovo Smart Clock, which uses Google Assistant for voice commands, and the Amazon Echo Spot, which uses Alexa. Let’s take a closer look to see which one may be right for you.
Size and Design
While the two smart alarm clocks perform similar functions, they have significantly different design. The Lenovo Smart Clock features a rectangular design, with a sloping base created for easy support and an effective hiding place for speakers. In fact, it looks a lot like a miniature version of Amazon’s own Echo Show 2. The base is covered in fabric and features two basic volume up/down buttons, along with a power button in the back.
The Echo Spot, meanwhile, has a smaller, round design with a round display. There’s not as much room for the speakers on this model, but it can fit more easily in smaller spaces if that’s an important requirement (very shallow shelves, for example). Both designs work, but the Spot offers a little less overall.
One last point about the design of these clocks: While promotional materials from both brands show the clocks sitting by themselves as if they use rechargeable batteries, in fact they do not. Both versions require a near-at-hand outlet connection to work, so keep that in mind when finding the right spot.
The Smart Clock has a simple, rectangular, 4-inch touchscreen. A screen this small has limits, but it’s great for checking the time or looking at weather information. A benefit to this screen shape is that it’s much more natural for viewing video or family photos, as small as they may be.
The Echo Spot, on the other hand, uses an even smaller 2.5-inch round screen to show clock faces and information. This screen is a bit more subtle, and definitely a better shape for traditional clock hands. Otherwise, it doesn’t provide many benefits and looks a little weird when you try to watch video or look at photos. Overall, the Smart Clock does a better job here.
The Smart Clock easily wins the speaker competition with its 6-watt speaker and two radiators. It may not be the best sound ever, but it handily outclasses the small 2-watt speaker that the Echo Spot uses. The Spot comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack and really isn’t designed for listening to music on its own. The Smart Clock, meanwhile, isn’t headphone-friendly, but can handle music on its own.
Lenovo’s Smart Clock uses Google Assistant, and the Echo Spot uses Alexa. That was easy!
In practice, there’s very little difference in how you interact with either voice assistant, whether you are saying “Hey, Google” or “Alexa” to start them up. They are both very good at understanding what you want. Both can show videos and answer questions. Both are available in a variety of accents and languages — although only Google Assistant allows you to switch between a male and female voice.
For a closer look at what specific streaming services the assistants support, we suggest you check out our full article comparing them.
Lenovo makes a big deal about the Smart Clock’s ability to set scenes. For example, setting an alarm on the clock can be tied with a report on the weather, adjusting a Nest Thermostat, displaying commute conditions, and giving you personal agenda notes for the day. However, you can create such scenes with the Echo Spot as well (more on this in the compatibility section). The important thing to know about the Smart Clock is that it can do pretty much anything Google Assistant can do. That includes listening to the radio, playing videos from Chromecast, and much more.
The Spot offers similar capabilities, but from the Alexa side. You can control smart devices, play music, ask for forecasts, get agenda reminders, and so on.
Overall the two are very similar. Both even have mute buttons if you prefer to add an extra layer of privacy and don’t plan on using voice commands at the moment. However, a couple differences do stand out. The Lenovo Smart Clock, for example, comes with a USB port in the back for charging your phone, something the Spot doesn’t have. The Echo Spot, meanwhile, has video chat capabilities that the Smart Clock does not offer.
Smart Device Compatibility
As we have noted, Google’s 2019 plans include a full revamping of the Nest brand and its smart device connections. Part of this new strategy is ending all past Nest compatibility with thousands of companies.
In the coming years, companies will be able to sign up for certification for Google’s replacement option, a compatibility program with Google Assistant. But, citing privacy concerns, Google has warned that the new requirements will be very strict and that there’s no guarantee any company will be able to work with Nest products again. It’s especially unlikely that Google will encourage compatibility with rivals like Amazon and Alexa.
So, which device does this favor? That depends on what your smart home looks like. If you have a lot of Nest and Google devices and want to be able to control them with your bedside clock, then the Lenovo Smart Clock is the only way to go — the Spot just won’t be compatible with them. On the other hand, if you have a mix of smart devices around the house from various brands, you really don’t want the Smart Clock — you should pick the Echo Spot instead, since it has a much better chance of working with everything.
Or, if you already have a voice assistant hub for controlling your devices, this may not be very important to you at all!
Price and Availability
The Echo Spot is available at Amazon for $130, making it significantly more expensive. Amazon offers a number of bundles as well if you want to pair it with a security cam or smart plug.
The lower price and better speakers generally make the Lenovo Smart Clock the best choice here. However, if you don’t have many Nest smart devices around the house, the Spot is probably the better option for smart home control, thanks to Google abrupt cancellation of Works with Nest.