For more than a year, Amazon Alexa has had the market cornered on screen-based smart speakers. Until now, the Amazon Echo Show, released in 2016, and the alarm-clock-like Echo Spot, launched in December, have been the only smart assistant speakers featuring a touchscreen that allows you to watch videos and more, in addition to getting the weather forecast with just your voice.
Now Google and the Google Assistant are elbowing their way into the mix. At CES 2018, Google announced partnerships with third parties to build new smart assistant speakers featuring Google Assistant and a screen. That includes the Lenovo Smart Display, which is scheduled go on sale this summer. We got our hands on the Lenovo Smart Display and put it under the microscope for a hands-on review.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Lenovo is its good looks. While the Echo Show is a bit blocky in appearance, the Lenovo is more streamlined and minimalist in design. You can get an 8-inch model for $150 or a 10-inch model for $250. The 8-inch model comes with a white trim and a soft gray color on the back, while the 10-inch model comes in a white trim with a bamboo color texture on the back.
Both devices feature a speaker on the front of the device. One unique feature is that the Lenovo Smart Display can sit either horizontally or vertically depending on your preference. It looks a bit like a tablet being propped up by a case.
The outside of the device features a volume button, a mic on/off switch, and a camera on/off switch that has a red indicator to show that it’s off, ensuring that those who are concerned about privacy need only glance at the top corner of the screen to check the status of the camera.
The resolution of the 8-inch screen is high definition (1280×800) while the 10-inch screen is full high definition at 1920×1200. We watched YouTube videos (something you can’t do on the Echo Show or Spot due to a feud between Google-owned YouTube and Amazon) on the 10-inch screen and found the clarity to be vivid and impressive.
Hey, Google, what’s the weather like?
The Lenovo Smart Display is designed to do all the things that a Google Home or Google Home Mini can do. But instead of having that lasagna recipe read to you in the kitchen like you would with the Mini, you can also see the instructions and/or watch a video of it being prepared on the screen.
Looking for incredible audio? You won’t get it with this device, but that’s not really what it’s made for.
If you’re using Google Assistant already, then getting set up with the Lenovo should be easy. Once you’ve connected your device via the Google Assistant app, you can get started quickly. Use your voice, starting with the phrase “Hey Google,” to ask for the weather or what your commute to work is going to be like. You can use the app to connect smart home devices and streaming music so that you can turn smart lights on or off by using your voice.
The display features home screen tabs that you can customize by user as well as routines. When we said, “Hey Google, good morning,” to the device, it turned on a light in the room, gave us a list of appointments for the day, told us what the weather was like outside, and showed us YouTube videos on the latest news of the day.
If you’re looking for incredible audio, you won’t get it with this device, but that’s not really what it’s made for. One thing we noticed while trying to chat with the device is that it didn’t hear us as well when the volume was loud. Also, a couple of times the device froze up. Representatives assured us that they’re still working out the bugs in the prototype. Overall, the Lenovo Smart Display is a sleek-looking device with a great display. We’ll update our review and double-check to see if the bugs have been worked out when we get a chance to take it for a longer test drive.
Updated May 2018 to include information about availability.