When Google announced Smart Displays at CES 2018, they introduced a new to visually interact with the Google Assistant. It also gave Google a leg up on Amazon, as an answer to the Echo Show and Echo Spot.
One of the first Smart Displays to be released is one made by Lenovo. The Lenovo Smart Display is a unique product in that it’s neither just a smart speaker or a tablet, it’s a sort-of middle ground between the two.
I’ve been using the 10-inch Lenovo Smart Display for a few weeks now and while the device looks and sound great, it’s a tough product to sell, especially for those already with a Google Home device.
Design & Hardware
The Lenovo Smart Display comes in two screen sizes, 8-inches with a resolution of 1280×800 and a 10-inch screen with a resolution of 1920×1200. The screen is bright and looks good from a number of angles.
For the purposes of this review, I had tested the 10-inch model but both are virtually identical.
The 8-inch model has a gray back while the 10-inch model has a bamboo back. The screen sits at an 86-degree viewing angle which makes it great for watching videos on.
The 10-inch Lenovo Smart Display has a 2-inch 10 Watt speaker which encompasses two passive tweeters. The speakers on the Lenovo Smart Display sound good but can get somewhat muddled at high volumes.
It’s being powered by the Qualcomm Home Hub Platform which uses the Snapdragon 624 processor with 2GB of RAM plus 4GB of internal storage. There are dual array microphones so the Google Assistant can hear you and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera for Google Duo calls. The quality of the camera isn’t the greatest but should be good enough for video calls.
In terms of buttons, you’ll find a mute mic button, a camera privacy shutter and volume up/down. There is also 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 and Low Energy.
Both models are available from Best Buy Canada as well.
The Lenovo Smart Display is running what Google calls Android Things. That is the company’s Internet Of Things platform for devices such as Smart Displays. It is another version of Android, similar to Wear OS and Android TV.
The interface of the Lenovo Smart Display is fairly straightforward. When you boot up the device, you’re greeted with the home screen where you’ll see the time, weather and your upcoming calendar events.
If you tap on any of those, it will give you a better overview of it. For example, tapping the weather will show you the forecast for the rest of the week. To go back to the home screen, all you have to do is swipe from the left edge of the Lenovo Smart Display’s screen or say, “Hey Google, go home.”
There can be a bit of delay when swiping the screen. Since the Lenovo Smart Display has the Google Assistant built-in, you can ask it questions like what’s the weather or how far is the moon or how’s the traffic to work.
When you ask a question, you’ll also get a corresponding visual response. For example, if you search up a recipe, it will show you results and also step-by-step instructions and if there’s a YouTube video, you can watch that on the Lenovo Smart Display as well. That’s great and all but if you already have a smart speaker like a Google Home or Amazon Echo, then the Lenovo Smart Display may not seem that useful to you, since both those devices can do the same thing as the Smart Display.
You can also use the Lenovo Smart Display to control your smart home products. And when you ask the Google Assistant to turn off your smart lights like Philips Hue or Lifx, you’ll see a brightness slider plus colour options for your bulb.
All the settings for the Lenovo Smart Display including the setup are done via the Google Home app, that’s where you’ll connect to Wi-Fi, connect your account and more.
The Lenovo Smart Display can also be used as a Google Cast-enabled display, meaning you can cast YouTube videos, Spotify or podcasts to the device. However, there is a bit of delay when casting that could be due to the device’s small amount of RAM.
Even though you can cast YouTube, Spotify and many more piece of content (including Plex and Pocket Casts), Netflix doesn’t allow you to cast content to the Lenovo Smart Display, which seems like a strange omission. But it could be that Netflix is working on enabling that in the near future.
When you’re not using the Lenovo Smart Display, the screen will change to Ambient mode which basically similar to when you’re not using your Chromecast. It will show your own pictures from Google Photos, artwork, a clockface of your choosing or an experimental one such as Flickr images.
The artwork Ambient mode option allows you to not only show pieces of art but also a few different categories such as street art and NASA imagery. While in Ambient mode, you can have it also show you the current weather conditions and time.
After an extended amount of time, the Lenovo Smart Display will go from Ambient mode to a black background with a small white clock. You can also get to this screen by swiping from the left in Ambient mode. And if you have the adaptive brightness turned on, the screen will dim if it knows you’re in a dark room with no lights on.
Overall, the Lenovo Smart Display is a great device for those who want a Google Assistant-powered smart speaker but wanted one with a screen.
- Great screen
- Built-in camera for Google Duo calls
- Virtually does everything a Google Home can do
- Can be used as a Google Cast destination (except for Netflix)
- Privacy shutter for the camera and mic mute switch
- May not be useful if you already have a Google Home device
- Speakers can sound distorted a higher volume
- Slow to play music when casting