Lenovo have just announced, at CES 2018, yet another way to access the Google Assistant, from a display and speaker set up. Of course, the idea is nothing new, but it’s clear that both Lenovo and Google are hoping to steal some thunder from Amazon’s Echo Show, with the Smart Display.
The device comes in two sizes, a smaller 8 inch display model, and a larger 10 inch display model. Both displays are touch-screen LCDs, but Lenovo and Google are hoping you will be interacting with the Smart Display using the Google Assistant primarily. One nice touch, the Smart Display can also work as a Cast receiver for both Audio and Video, putting it right in the field of Google’s own Google Home devices, but with the clear differentiator being, that display!
Thanks to the display, the Google Assistant is able to give you visual content as well as audio, meaning music controls are on screen, but this also means you can call the Assistant to play videos from YouTube, however that’s the only service at the moment supported by that.
The Lenovo Smart Display also supports Video Calls, available via either Duo or Hangouts at launch, though we expect interest in the system could provoke more popular services such as Skype to follow as well. Something we’re a big fan of, and what those security conscious types will appreciate, the Smart Display has a hardware lever which covers the front-facing Camera for that extra piece of mind that Google can’t watch your every move. This is likely a step taken, due to a bug which caused the Google Home Mini to be “always listening”, when it shouldn’t have been. A mute switch akin to the Home Mini does remain, as well as a Volume Rocker.
For those wondering about that rather tiny looking speaker, there’s a 10W speaker that should sound just as good as a regular Google Home, from what we’ve been told, which if that’s true it’s actually pretty impressive, as even the quality of our trusty Google Home Mini ain’t that bad at all, if we’re being honest with you.
As we mentioned, the Lenovo Smart Display is available in two versions, the 8 and 10 inch versions, and will be available for either $199USD for the 8 inch, or $249 for the 10 inch version. It’s up to you whether you see the device worth it at that price. To us, we feel it’s a tad over the bar it should be, but at the same time, you are getting both a Google Home and a Chromecast receiver, with the added convenience of having the Google Assistant and Google Home experience with a screen!
The design of the Lenovo Smart Display is certainly … unique, trust us, it looks better in person, but to be honest, that’s a very slim negative to an otherwise very impressive device. However, there’s something you need to know about the Smart Display before you get yourselves too excited about it’s furthered potential!
Whilst the Smart Display offers the EXACT SAME feature-set as both a Google Home and a Chromecast can provide to a user, on a broadcast and receiver level, we did mention a few things which were currently only available on select services, such as YouTube for video, or Duo / Hangouts for video calls. You’re probably thinking, that’s fine, I’ll just get an app right? Well, no…
That’s because, whilst the Smart Display is an Android device, it’s not running the more traditional version of Android, but instead running Android Things, which is Google’s Android build designed for these specific forms of devices to run. Android Things is also been seen on other IoT solutions and is expected to expand further in the future, though it’s important that whilst you know what benefits this brings, it also brings immediate limitations to the experience.
Having said that, the Lenovo Smart Display is still a very decent device, and we’re actually a big fan of it. Question remains, naturally, whether the price is worth the risk for you.