Hands on: Lenovo's Google-enabled, iPhone-connected 8-inch Smart Display

Posted:
in iPhone edited August 2018
Once controlled exclusively by Amazon, competition is beginning to accelerate in the smart speaker space. The latest shot across the bow is the first one with Google's Android Things, the Lenovo Smart Display.

Lenovo Smart Display


The easiest way to explain the Smart Display is this: it's a Google Home with a display attached. It's Google and Lenovo's equivalent of the Amazon Echo Show, except that the Smart Display is available in 8- and 10-inch models. Both are largely identical -- for those keeping track though, the 8-inch model has a 1280x800 screen, while the 10-inch one upgrades to 1920x1200 and swaps out a plastic back for bamboo. It also uses a 2-inch speaker instead of a 1.75-inch one, but both models are limited to 10 watts delivered over two passive tweeters.

That being said, our initial impressions of the 8-inch model are that it both looks and sounds great for its size. Music is crisp, clear, and has enough bass that you probably won't feel an immediate need to go out and get an add-on speaker. If you do you're limited to Bluetooth, since there's no 3.5mm jack.

Setup can be simple or complex, depending on how many services and smarthome accessories you have. If the answer is "not many," the Google Home app for iPhones and iPads makes it ridiculously easy, since it will automatically detect the device and help you put it on your Wi-Fi network.

Lenovo Smart Display


If you have a deeply connected household like many of us at AppleInsider, you can easily spend 15 to 30 minutes or more configuring everything the way you like it. Supported music services are limited to Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, and of course Google's Play Music and YouTube Music -- no Apple Music here -- but you can also add a handful video services like HBO Now, and there are an insane number of options for smarthome accessories and short news briefings (whether video or audio-only).

Google Home app


As a kicker, you can watch YouTube on the Smart Display, something you most certainly can't do on the Echo Show due to the bickering between Amazon and Google. This even includes YouTube TV and Google Cast support.

Most of the time though you'll be using the device for voice commands via Google Assistant. The difference versus a Google Home, naturally, is that you get visual feedback. Ask for the weather, and you'll also see predictions for the entire day -- tell it to set a timer, and you'll see it and any other timers count down. In some cases you can ask or tap follow-up questions, such as "How about this weekend?" for the weather.

Assistant is arguably the Smart Display's biggest selling point. You can ask it a broader range of questions than either an Amazon Echo or an Apple HomePod and get solid information, both spoken aloud and displayed onscreen with large fonts and smooth animations. It's the perfect kitchen companion, since you can move step-by-step through recipes.

Keep following AppleInsider for our full review, coming soon.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    Cesar Battistini MazieroCesar Battistini Maziero Posts: 167unconfirmed, member
    Is this any different than an iPad in functionality?
  • Reply 2 of 17
    Doesn’t this basically confirm that a voice only device (smart speaker) isn’t really useful for providing you information?
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 17
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 1,923member
    Is this any different than an iPad in functionality?

    Meant to be a stationary device and therefor is functionally designed work accordingly (large built-in speaker, mic array, etc), which is why it is only compared with the HomePod.

    An iPad is a mobile computer and is much more versatile - can be used for many other things. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 17
    magman1979magman1979 Posts: 1,136member
    It's Android (Google), has a camera on it, so automatic NEVER in my household.
    jgutherRayz2016watto_cobrachasm
  • Reply 5 of 17
    Roger_FingasRoger_Fingas Posts: 148member, editor
    It's Android (Google), has a camera on it, so automatic NEVER in my household.
    Something we didn't mention is that there's a switch which not only disables the camera but covers it up.
    MynabirdRayz2016chasm
  • Reply 6 of 17
    jgutherjguther Posts: 82member
    It's Android (Google), so automatic NEVER in my household.
    watto_cobrachasm
  • Reply 7 of 17
    gutengelgutengel Posts: 323member
    It's Android (Google), so automatic NEVER in my household!
    watto_cobrachasm
  • Reply 8 of 17
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,932member
    Doesn’t this basically confirm that a voice only device (smart speaker) isn’t really useful for providing you information?
    In most places in your home I don't think a smart-display will be any more useful than a smart-speaker IMO. The screen wouldn't add any value for me if playing some music, or using as an alarm, or controlling other smart devices like lights, smoke detectors, thermostats and such.

    BUT...
    There are two exceptions that come to mind right off: The kitchen and the bath. I can see folks using them for streaming music videos or other media while relaxing in the tub or getting ready for work or an evening out. My wife might even use it as a Facetime-type device to coordinate outfits with her girlfriends before meeting up later.  Personally not things I'd do but her? Probably. My daughter too.

    In the kitchen besides streaming some show/video while doing the dishes or cleaning up there's a use-case also for cooking, seeing the dish you're preparing and better understanding some prep technique you might not be familiar with, video in addition to the audio stream. IMHO here's good arguments for adding one (or two) to the cheap smart-speakers you're already using that cover most uses. 

    EDIT: Just pre-ordered JBL's Link View, another of the Google Assistant smart displays. I'm anticipating better audio from it compared to the less expensive Lenovo. 
    edited August 2018
  • Reply 9 of 17
    Years back, Apple could have easily built an AC-powered dock for iPads that would have had even better functionality than what Google is offering now. I think Apple missed a great opportunity to make the iPad as a home accessory and not just being used as a tablet. I'm saying this in hindsight but I always thought iPads should have had home docks for always-powered instant use. Now Apple is being made to look like a stupid company for falling behind the likes of Amazon and Google in terms of hardware.
  • Reply 10 of 17
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,731member
    It's Android (Google), has a camera on it, so automatic NEVER in my household.
    Something we didn't mention is that there's a switch which not only disables the camera but covers it up.
    That’s very good thinking. Lenovo tackles the mistrust issue straight get out the gate. 

    But is there another switch to turn off the microphone and cover it with a big plastic soundproof hand?
    edited August 2018 watto_cobrachasm
  • Reply 11 of 17
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,932member
    Rayz2016 said:
    It's Android (Google), has a camera on it, so automatic NEVER in my household.
    Something we didn't mention is that there's a switch which not only disables the camera but covers it up.
    That’s very good thinking. Lenovo tackles the mistrust issue straight get out the gate. 

    But is there another switch to turn off the microphone and cover it with a big plastic soundproof hand?
    Yes you can turn off the microphone too. I think I remember reading both are a requirement from Google. The JBL Link View has the same switches and cover. 

    EDIT: Found the confirmation that it's a Google requirement for Assistant-enabled Smart Displays. Good thinking, getting out ahead of the anticipated FUD campaign from those who weren't going to consider one anyway.
    edited August 2018 avon b7
  • Reply 12 of 17
    techrulestechrules Posts: 53unconfirmed, member
    The new Google assistant smart displays look cool but were already sold out at our Costco. Think they underestimated interest.
    It's Android (Google), has a camera on it, so automatic NEVER in my household.
    There is a shutter for the camera. Not sure why others do not do the same. All the Google assistant smart display devices do. It was required by Google.
  • Reply 13 of 17
    It's Android (Google), has a camera on it, so automatic NEVER in my household.
  • Reply 14 of 17
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    What’s up with all the low post count users copying and pasting the same line?
  • Reply 15 of 17
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,650member
    ... and the price of the two models are ... ???
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 17
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,932member
    chasm said:
    ... and the price of the two models are ... ???
    $199 and $249
  • Reply 17 of 17
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,932member
    Huh, so the latest OS will be Android Pie. Didn't see that coming. 
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