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Lenovo Smart Display Review: Show & Tell for the Google Assistant

Lenovo Smart Display Review: Show & Tell for the Google Assistant

Lenovo’s Smart Display brings present & inform to the Google Assistant, including a touchscreen to the sensible speaker and taking over Amazon’s Echo Show in the course of. First of a collection of display-enabled Assistant units to make it to cabinets, Lenovo’s gadget goals to win a spot in your kitchen counter or your nightstand with each voice and contact management, in addition to the promise of higher integration together with your smartphone than Alexa can present.

Hardware and Setup

Lenovo has two variations of the Smart Display, one with an Eight-inch 1280 x 800 HD display for $199, and one other with a 1920 x 1200 Full HD display, for $249. Every has an uneven design, with a triangular built-in stand that doubles as the speaker enclosure, and which tapers down into the touchscreen. Cleverly, it’s designed to face the 10-inch Smart Display up in portrait mode in addition to panorama, although that’s solely actually of use if you’re making video calls.

On the smaller mannequin, the again panel is soft-touch gray plastic; the bigger will get a good-looking bamboo inlay. Both method, there are twin array microphones in an effort to be heard from throughout the room, and 10W audio system with passive tweeters for audio. A 5-megapixel wide-angle digital camera is built-in, with a bodily digital camera shutter that may slide throughout it for privateness. There’s additionally a microphone mute button, to cease the Google Assistant from listening, and a quantity key.

Inside, Lenovo has used Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 624-based Residence Hub Platform, with 2GB of reminiscence and 4GB of storage. There’s WiFi 802.11ac and Bluetooth four.2 BLE, and the entire factor runs Android Issues. To be trustworthy, although, you by no means actually see any of these mechanics, since the Google Assistant is operating the present.

Regardless of the touchscreen, setup is all by way of the Google House smartphone app for Android or iOS. As quickly as I opened it, it acknowledged that there was a brand new Smart Display close by. Since I’d already arrange a Google House earlier than, it might provide the Smart Display with my Nest, Hue, Spotify, and different accounts. In any other case you’d need to first search for them, and grant Google permission to entry them.

The opposite configuration copied throughout was my Voice Match coaching. You’ll be able to practice the Google Assistant to differentiate between totally different individuals, in order that if I ask for what’s on my agenda immediately I’ll get info from my very own calendar, not someone else’s. That’s the principle, a minimum of. Sadly, the Assistant nonetheless can’t work with Google G Suite accounts – ironic, since Amazon’s Alexa has no such issues – so I can’t get my work calendar or different particulars from it.

Ambient Mode

Most of the time, the Smart Display runs via a screensaver referred to as Ambient Display. You possibly can have a full-screen clock, set a Google Pictures, Flickr, or Fb photographs folder to cycle via, or decide from Google’s curated galleries of road artwork, satellite tv for pc images, and extra. It seems to be nice on Lenovo’s shiny, colourful panel, and a textual content legend for every shot tells you what precisely you’re taking a look at.

Like an Echo Show, you’ll be able to select to have the present climate proven, too. It’d be good should you might change the graphics measurement for that and the clock, thoughts: when you’ve got Ambient Mode set to a photograph slideshow, the time and forecast take up a tiny spot in the decrease left nook. It may be tough to learn from throughout the room.

Google House, however with a display

Should you’ve used Google’s sensible speaker, you’ll know the type of issues the Google Assistant can do. By saying “Hey Google” you’ll be able to search for trivia, get climate stories, ask for information briefings, set alarms and timers, and add gadgets to purchasing lists. Voice continues to be the main management technique, however the display does add a brand new dimension to it.

As you ask one thing, you see what the Assistant is listening to in textual content throughout the prime of the display, alongside together with your consumer icon in case your voice has been acknowledged. Assistant solutions get background graphics – ask a few capital metropolis and also you’ll get a photograph from that location, for occasion – whereas climate forecasts use full-screen graphs. There are additionally guide controls: you’ll be able to examine off gadgets in your to-do listing, or skip by means of information briefings utilizing the touchscreen.

Operating alongside the backside of the display are follow-up questions, prompted by what the Assistant predicts you could be interested by subsequent. Ask for the time in one other metropolis, for occasion, and also you’ll in all probability get prompts for additional places proven. You’ll be able to faucet them, or ask for them, however you’ll have to say “Hey Google” once more as the Smart Display doesn’t help Continued Conversations but. On a Google House you’ll be able to – optionally – have the microphone keep enabled for follow-up queries, nevertheless it’s not obtainable on third-party hardware but.

The Smart Display’s display actually comes into its personal with maps and places. Ask the Assistant to seek out shops or different factors of curiosity, and you may see the leads to a carousel, full with their location on a map and their star scores. You possibly can see navigation directions too – you set your location if you first configure the Smart Display – and have the Assistant ship instructions to your telephone, which could be very helpful.


In all probability the commonest use for a sensible speaker is music playback, and there the Lenovo Smart Display will get off to a fantastic begin. As I’d already arrange my Spotify account, not solely might I ask for particular artists, albums, and genres by voice, however the Smart Display’s house display confirmed my frequently-accessed playlists, too. Alternatively, you’ll be able to ask for one thing like “smooth jazz” or “energizing music” and the Assistant will decide an appropriate playlist.

You’ll be listening to it on the Smart Display alone, although. The place Alexa has integration with Sonos audio system, the Smart Display isn’t so cooperative (although Sonos insists Google Assistant help is coming to pick fashions from its vary later in the yr).

In fact, with the show you can too load up pictures and movies. For those who’ve given the Assistant permission to dig via your Google Pictures archive, it’ll floor photographs from there; that features footage which might be location tagged, face matched, or which you’ve in any other case labeled. For those who haven’t, you get pictures from a Google Picture Search. Asking the Assistant to “search” for one thing goes searching amongst generic pictures on-line; asking “show me” one thing defaults to your private pictures.

You will get impressively granular together with your queries, too. “Hey Google, search for photos of black kittens in wicker baskets” introduced up a carousel of lovable cats matching that description. You’ll be able to faucet via to see extra information about that picture, after which faucet once more to see the unique webpage or video. There’s no solution to save a photograph to the Smart Display, however you possibly can ask to have the hyperlink shared together with your telephone.

As you’d anticipate, the Smart Display handles YouTube movies nicely. You possibly can search for common subjects or one thing extra particular, with the outcomes proven on a side-scrolling carousel that you simply navigate both together with your finger or by saying “Hey Google, show me more.” You choose by tapping, or asking for a selected end result, and you may as well management play/pause and former/subsequent by voice or by way of the touchscreen.

Sadly the Smart Display isn’t a lot use outdoors of YouTube’s walled backyard. Although I’ve my Netflix account linked to my Google account, for instance, you’ll be able to’t play Netflix exhibits on the Lenovo’s display. Ultimately you’ll be capable of forged content material on to the Smart Display out of your telephone, too, Lenovo tells me, however although it exhibits up in suitable Android and iOS units in the present day it doesn’t truly work but.

A Smart Residence controller

Simply as you possibly can management your linked lights, thermostat, and different related residence units from a Google Residence, so you possibly can from the Smart Display. Once more, the touchscreen makes extra granular management potential, although there are nonetheless some locations the place I’m unsure it’s getting used to its most potential.

There’s some homework to be finished first, for those who haven’t already grouped your numerous sensible lights, cameras, and different units into the rooms they’re put in in. Relying on what identify they’ve been assigned, you may need to rename them to one thing extra user-friendly, too.

From that time you possibly can ask for lamps and different gadgets by identify – “Hey Google, turn on Hue lamp 3” for occasion, or “Hey Google, adjust the family room thermostat to 68 degrees” – or problem instructions to entire rooms. “Hey Google, turn the media room lights on” will change on all the related bulbs assigned to that one location. Relying on the gadget, you get related on-screen graphics, too: a scroll bar to regulate brightness or temperature, for instance.

Colour-changing bulbs could be adjusted by means of that on-screen interface – there’s an extended listing of various shades, although not a selected color-picker – however you’ll be able to’t ask for a very shade by voice. You’ll be able to request a reside video stream from supported safety cameras, like a Nest Cam IQ Outside, although not look again by means of any clips it might have recorded.

My frustration is that all of it will depend on you figuring out which units you need to management. I’d like to have the ability to say “Hey Google, show me the status of all my lights” or “Show me my smart home dashboard” and see a snapshot of the present situation of each gadget, however that’s not supported. There’s definitely sufficient area on the touchscreen for one thing like that, so right here’s hoping Google provides in such a function.

What you are able to do, although, is set up Routines: macros of a number of issues which are triggered with a single command. There are a couple of preconfigured Routines out of the field, however the idea is simple. When the Assistant hears a set off phrase or phrase – “Goodnight,” or “Bedtime,” for instance – it should run by way of an inventory of instructions.

A “Goodnight” Routine when triggered, for occasion, might first ask if you wish to set an alarm for the morning, then flip off all of the lights bar the lamp in your nightstand, modify the thermostat to a decrease temperature, and begin enjoying sleep sounds.

Video calls

Like an Echo Show or Echo Spot, the Lenovo Smart Display could make video calls. Google makes use of its personal Duo service, which has apps obtainable for iOS and Android. You hyperlink your present quantity to your Duo account, and make each full video and audio-only calls.

The Smart Display helps each incoming and outgoing chats. So long as it has entry to your contacts, you’ll be able to say “Hey Google, call…” and the contact’s identify, and it’ll give you the choice of a video name or an audio name. The toughest half is getting your family and friends to truly use Duo.

It took just a little setting as much as get going, thoughts. As I already had the Duo app on my iPhone, registered to my quantity, initially the Smart Display wouldn’t permit me to make calls by way of it. Issues aren’t helped by having to leap between the Assistant and House apps on iOS to navigate totally different settings pages; it’s pretty convoluted. Ultimately, although, Duo calls are available on each my telephone and the Smart Display, although at occasions I’d reply on the Lenovo however the name wouldn’t join.


In comparison with the retro strains of the Amazon Echo Show, the Lenovo Smart Display seems to be correctly futuristic. The 10-inch display is top quality and the audio system surprisingly succesful, whereas Google’s Assistant is correct and helpful. The cardboard-based interface acquainted from smartphones interprets nicely to the Smart Display’s greater interface.

There’s nonetheless loads of room for enchancment, thoughts, typically in how a lot use of the show is definitely made. The Assistant’s complete sensible house integrations don’t take full benefit of the touchscreen real-estate, and I don’t see why I can’t watch third-party video streaming providers, like Netflix, on the Smart Display both. Extra irritating is the proven fact that I nonetheless can’t use a G Suite account, and that options like Continued Conversations aren’t supported as they might be on Google’s personal hardware.

Aspect by aspect with an Echo Show, I a lot want Google’s UI. Alexa has an extended listing of third-party integrations, although; as all the time, should you’re making an attempt to determine in your first sensible speaker, it’s value evaluating the listing of Assistant and Alexa expertise to determine which greatest overlaps with different devices you have already got. Whichever you select, neither will give fairly the degree of management that a native app does.

As with the Echo Show, the usefulness of the Smart Display – and certainly the usefulness of any Assistant powered gadget with a touchscreen – will hinge on how nicely third-party providers faucet into it. When you’re a Google House consumer I’d say the Lenovo Smart Display is certainly value contemplating for the additional performance it provides, although the worth delta between it and a Google Residence Mini nonetheless makes voice-only the greatest start line for most.