Review: JBL's Link View brings a display and high-quality audio to Google Assistant

Posted:
in iPhone edited September 4
The Link View may not convert diehard audiophiles or people oppposed to Google, but it sounds pretty damn good and makes for an excellent smarthome control hub.

JBL Link View


When we reviewed the first device based on Google's Smart Display platform -- the aptly-named Lenovo Smart Display -- we said it sounded good enough that people wouldn't feel an "immediate" need to connect another speaker. That's still true, but in retrospect we should've added that this is assuming casual listening -- it's best in places like the bedroom or the kitchen.

Not so with the Link View. JBL is a well-known audio brand, and the Link View is meant to be centerpiece audio. Whereas Lenovo's product has a single 10-watt speaker, JBL's has two, giving it full stereo sound. Bass is also far more powerful, and in fact the Link View has a huge bass reflex port on the back.

JBL Link View


We'll discuss sound quality further, but naturally we have to address the thing in between those speakers: its 8-inch touchscreen interface. This runs software known as Android Things, although don't expect to be browsing the Web or running apps -- it's all about serving an enhanced version of Google Assistant. On a simple level, if you ask for the weather you'll see a graphic version of the forecast, including expanded details. If you play music, radio, or a podcast, you'll see art and titles. If you adjust lights or a thermostat, you'll see an animated slider.

JBL Link View


Where it gets interesting is with actions audio-only smartspeakers can't perform. You can search for images, get illustrated map directions, make Google Duo video calls, and run step-by-step through recipes. The most significant addition is video playback -- this is currently limited to YouTube and live YouTube TV, but those alone are a gamechanger given the wealth of content available. You can ask to to play specific clips, or use broader terms to pull up a simple browser. If you say "Search YouTube for videos by Bob Ross," for example, you can scroll through episodes of "The Joy of Painting" and some playlists.

Assistant will answer some how-to questions with video, and you can even use Google Cast to push YouTube clips from devices like iPhones and iPads. We found this handy for shuffling personal playlists, or playing videos that would be harder to search for with voice commands.

There are also three levels of "ambient" information. Most of the time you'll see an intermediate screen with the time, a weather snapshot, and background art drawn from online galleries and/or your Google Photos library. When a room is dark and silent, the screen goes black except for the time in one corner. When you've been actively engaging with the speaker, you'll often see an elaborate dashboard with the time, a weather forecast, Google Calendar events, and a series of scrollable cards which prompt you with things like relevant Spotify playlists.

JBL Link View


As with the Lenovo Smart Display, the value you get out of this may depend on how hooked into the Google ecosystem you are. If you're not an active user of Google Calendar, Photos, Maps, and/or YouTube, you might as well check out the Apple HomePod or Amazon's Echo speakers.

Sound quality

JBL Link View


Finally, we get to answer the big question: how does it sound? The answer, broadly, is excellent. It's comparable to the JBL Link 20, which makes sense given that both have two 10-watt channels. The Link View has the edge though, with true stereo separation and a response range of 60 hertz to 20 kilohertz, whereas the Link 20 starts at 65 hertz.

That means a better low end, and you will definitely hear it. When we first started testing the product, even medium volumes caused violent rattling by objects on an endtable.

The Link View easily thrashes most smartspeakers in terms of loudness and clarity, as well. On the latter front the advantage still belongs to products like Sonos devices and the Apple HomePod, but only purists would be upset by the difference. We would be proud to have one as the main audio system in our living room.

Minor issues

We don't really have any serious complaints to speak of, but our experience was marred by some small technical issues. During setup, the normal Wi-Fi connection process -- handled automatically by the Google Home iOS app -- refused to complete, despite working perfectly with the Link 20 and the Lenovo Smart Display. We ended up having to use troubleshooting help from Google's website.

We also had trouble playing music from Pandora. Many times the service just failed to load, getting stuck on a logo screen, though we did get it working eventually. If you're a paid Pandora subscriber, we'd probably steer clear.

We should also note that like many smartspeakers that don't come from Apple or Sonos, the Link View doesn't support Apple Music except through Bluetooth pairing. Several other music services are supported, namely Spotify, Deezer, Pandora, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and of course Google Play Music and YouTube Music.

Conclusions

JBL Link View


So far Google Smart Displays are two for two. The Link View doesn't instantly trump the Lenovo Smart Display however -- aside from possible Pandora issues, purpose matters. We would rather have the Lenovo on a nightstand for example, since its entry model is more compact and we might never get to sleep with the Link View playing next to our heads.

Even then, if you're willing to buy into Google Assistant and sound quality is a primary concern, you have to ask whether your money might be better invested in something like the Google Home Max. Yes, the Max is $150 more, but if you are a diehard audiophile, you'll be happier. And this being AppleInsider, we suspect more of our readers would choose a HomePod anyway.

Nevertheless Assistant is a far better voice assistant than Siri, with more natural interaction and a wider knowledgebase. A touchscreen strengthens this advantage further, and we suspect that some people who try a Google Smart Display will find other smartspeakers kind of antiquated.

Score: 4 out of 5

Where to buy

The JBL Link View can be purchased from B&H Photo for $249.95 with free expedited shipping and no tax collected outside New York and New Jersey*.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    The shape of that thing is horrendous 🤢 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 14
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    Google? No.

    Google is the most evil company in the world.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 14
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,208member
    Being able to display recipes seems to be the only thing it is really missing (or is it?). An app like Paprika would be fantastic.  Otherwise, this is pretty close to what I was expecting a couple of years ago when it was first rumoured Apple was developing a smart speaker.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 14
    If it’s a crime against humanity for the HomePod not to support Spotify natively, then shouldn’t this also be a fail for the same reason (no Apple Music)?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 14
    If it’s a crime against humanity for the HomePod not to support Spotify natively, then shouldn’t this also be a fail for the same reason (no Apple Music)?
    Of course not. It’s made JBL ( Samsung ) and its $100.00 less than Homepd. It’s a total win who cares about the functionality.  ;)

    Here’s another ....

    As with the Lenovo Smart Display, the value you get out of this may depend on how hooked into the Google ecosystem you are. If you're not an active user of Google Calendar, Photos, Maps, and/or YouTube, you might as well check out the Apple HomePod or Amazon's Echo speakers. 

    Swap this out for “Apple ecosystem” and it’s the worse piece of overpriced proprietary trash people have ever seen that forces you to stay in the walled garden,  to get the most use out of a product. How dare Apple. Hahaha. 

  • Reply 6 of 14
    I think the whole comparison of Lenovo Smart Display VS JBL Link View boils down to whether we prefer: A smart display with an audio focus or a smart display with a visual focus?

    For me the visual focus makes things a whole lot easier for everyone in my family as it's less complex! No regrets getting it. What would you guys prefer?



    gatorguy
  • Reply 7 of 14
    AL07AL07 Posts: 2unconfirmed, member
    entropys said:
    Being able to display recipes seems to be the only thing it is really missing (or is it?). An app like Paprika would be fantastic.  Otherwise, this is pretty close to what I was expecting a couple of years ago when it was first rumoured Apple was developing a smart speaker.
    Yeah I'm wondering if it can support recipe help just like my Lenovo Smart Display. I love having a smart display in my kitchen for when I need to set multiple timers and get the recipe instructions read out to me. The JBL would probably be better for the family room/bedroom since it's audio-focused.
  • Reply 8 of 14
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,061member
    AL07 said:
    entropys said:
    Being able to display recipes seems to be the only thing it is really missing (or is it?). An app like Paprika would be fantastic.  Otherwise, this is pretty close to what I was expecting a couple of years ago when it was first rumoured Apple was developing a smart speaker.
    Yeah I'm wondering if it can support recipe help just like my Lenovo Smart Display. I love having a smart display in my kitchen for when I need to set multiple timers and get the recipe instructions read out to me. The JBL would probably be better for the family room/bedroom since it's audio-focused.
    Yes it does display recipes as mentioned in the article itself. :)
    The trade-off is for better sound if you're OK with a slightly smaller display. 
    edited September 5
  • Reply 9 of 14
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,061member
    jcs2305 said:
    If it’s a crime against humanity for the HomePod not to support Spotify natively, then shouldn’t this also be a fail for the same reason (no Apple Music)?
    Of course not. It’s made JBL ( Samsung ) and its $100.00 less than Homepd. It’s a total win who cares about the functionality.  ;)

    Here’s another ....

    As with the Lenovo Smart Display, the value you get out of this may depend on how hooked into the Google ecosystem you are. If you're not an active user of Google Calendar, Photos, Maps, and/or YouTube, you might as well check out the Apple HomePod or Amazon's Echo speakers. 

    Swap this out for “Apple ecosystem” and it’s the worse piece of overpriced proprietary trash people have ever seen that forces you to stay in the walled garden,  to get the most use out of a product. How dare Apple. Hahaha. 

    I think that Apple Music will work with Google Assistant on both the JBL and Lenovo smart displays as long as you have an iOS device. 

    Edit: Yes, according to this:


    edited September 5
  • Reply 10 of 14
    gatorguy said:
    jcs2305 said:
    If it’s a crime against humanity for the HomePod not to support Spotify natively, then shouldn’t this also be a fail for the same reason (no Apple Music)?
    Of course not. It’s made JBL ( Samsung ) and its $100.00 less than Homepd. It’s a total win who cares about the functionality.  ;)

    Here’s another ....

    As with the Lenovo Smart Display, the value you get out of this may depend on how hooked into the Google ecosystem you are. If you're not an active user of Google Calendar, Photos, Maps, and/or YouTube, you might as well check out the Apple HomePod or Amazon's Echo speakers. 

    Swap this out for “Apple ecosystem” and it’s the worse piece of overpriced proprietary trash people have ever seen that forces you to stay in the walled garden,  to get the most use out of a product. How dare Apple. Hahaha. 

    I think that Apple Music will work with Google Assistant on both the JBL and Lenovo smart displays as long as you have an iOS device. 

    Edit: Yes, according to this:


    Yeah no -- that's not native Apple Music support (my original crit, which JCS2305 was replying to). If you watch the video you linked to, you can clearly see he's running Google Assistant on his iPhone to playback Apple Music, but issued a bluetooth "connect to" command to output it to his Echo. It's at 3:26, and he also explains it at the end that he's just doing bluetooth output from his iPhone.

    These speakers do not offer any way to natively playback Apple Music sans additional devices. Which is the exact same "ZOMG THIS SUXORS!" crits people made of the HomePod w/ regards to Spotify. You can do it, but you need to initiate it via your iOS device and airplay it to the HP.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 14
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,061member
    gatorguy said:
    jcs2305 said:
    If it’s a crime against humanity for the HomePod not to support Spotify natively, then shouldn’t this also be a fail for the same reason (no Apple Music)?
    Of course not. It’s made JBL ( Samsung ) and its $100.00 less than Homepd. It’s a total win who cares about the functionality.  ;)

    Here’s another ....

    As with the Lenovo Smart Display, the value you get out of this may depend on how hooked into the Google ecosystem you are. If you're not an active user of Google Calendar, Photos, Maps, and/or YouTube, you might as well check out the Apple HomePod or Amazon's Echo speakers. 

    Swap this out for “Apple ecosystem” and it’s the worse piece of overpriced proprietary trash people have ever seen that forces you to stay in the walled garden,  to get the most use out of a product. How dare Apple. Hahaha. 

    I think that Apple Music will work with Google Assistant on both the JBL and Lenovo smart displays as long as you have an iOS device. 

    Edit: Yes, according to this:


    Yeah no -- that's not native Apple Music support (my original crit, which JCS2305 was replying to). If you watch the video you linked to, you can clearly see he's running Google Assistant on his iPhone to playback Apple Music, but issued a bluetooth "connect to" command to output it to his Echo. It's at 3:26, and he also explains it at the end that he's just doing bluetooth output from his iPhone.

    These speakers do not offer any way to natively playback Apple Music sans additional devices. Which is the exact same "ZOMG THIS SUXORS!" crits people made of the HomePod w/ regards to Spotify. You can do it, but you need to initiate it via your iOS device and airplay it to the HP.
    Thanks for explaining it.  :)

    There's hope though. it looks like native Apple Music support is coming to Android Auto so Google Assistant might be in the plans too. On AA it appears it was up to Apple since they're beta testing it now, so do you know if it's also up to Apple on Google Assistant too?
    edited September 5
  • Reply 12 of 14
    gatorguy said:
    gatorguy said:
    jcs2305 said:
    If it’s a crime against humanity for the HomePod not to support Spotify natively, then shouldn’t this also be a fail for the same reason (no Apple Music)?
    Of course not. It’s made JBL ( Samsung ) and its $100.00 less than Homepd. It’s a total win who cares about the functionality.  ;)

    Here’s another ....

    As with the Lenovo Smart Display, the value you get out of this may depend on how hooked into the Google ecosystem you are. If you're not an active user of Google Calendar, Photos, Maps, and/or YouTube, you might as well check out the Apple HomePod or Amazon's Echo speakers. 

    Swap this out for “Apple ecosystem” and it’s the worse piece of overpriced proprietary trash people have ever seen that forces you to stay in the walled garden,  to get the most use out of a product. How dare Apple. Hahaha. 

    I think that Apple Music will work with Google Assistant on both the JBL and Lenovo smart displays as long as you have an iOS device. 

    Edit: Yes, according to this:


    Yeah no -- that's not native Apple Music support (my original crit, which JCS2305 was replying to). If you watch the video you linked to, you can clearly see he's running Google Assistant on his iPhone to playback Apple Music, but issued a bluetooth "connect to" command to output it to his Echo. It's at 3:26, and he also explains it at the end that he's just doing bluetooth output from his iPhone.

    These speakers do not offer any way to natively playback Apple Music sans additional devices. Which is the exact same "ZOMG THIS SUXORS!" crits people made of the HomePod w/ regards to Spotify. You can do it, but you need to initiate it via your iOS device and airplay it to the HP.
    Thanks for explaining it.  :)

    There's hope though. it looks like native Apple Music support is coming to Android Auto so Google Assistant might be in the plans too. On AA it appears it was up to Apple since they're beta testing it now, so do you know if it's also up to Apple on Google Assistant too?
    I'm sure it is, just as Apple doesn't provide access to Google and Amazon to your purchased iTunes music or movies library. Regardless of reason, it remains a shortcoming in the product offering. If this is such a critical fault of the HP (no native Spotify! boo!) then it must surely be as critical a fault here and in every other Google & Amazon smart speaker (no native Apple Music! hiss!). 
    edited September 5 watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 14
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,061member
    gatorguy said:
    gatorguy said:
    jcs2305 said:
    If it’s a crime against humanity for the HomePod not to support Spotify natively, then shouldn’t this also be a fail for the same reason (no Apple Music)?
    Of course not. It’s made JBL ( Samsung ) and its $100.00 less than Homepd. It’s a total win who cares about the functionality.  ;)

    Here’s another ....

    As with the Lenovo Smart Display, the value you get out of this may depend on how hooked into the Google ecosystem you are. If you're not an active user of Google Calendar, Photos, Maps, and/or YouTube, you might as well check out the Apple HomePod or Amazon's Echo speakers. 

    Swap this out for “Apple ecosystem” and it’s the worse piece of overpriced proprietary trash people have ever seen that forces you to stay in the walled garden,  to get the most use out of a product. How dare Apple. Hahaha. 

    I think that Apple Music will work with Google Assistant on both the JBL and Lenovo smart displays as long as you have an iOS device. 

    Edit: Yes, according to this:


    Yeah no -- that's not native Apple Music support (my original crit, which JCS2305 was replying to). If you watch the video you linked to, you can clearly see he's running Google Assistant on his iPhone to playback Apple Music, but issued a bluetooth "connect to" command to output it to his Echo. It's at 3:26, and he also explains it at the end that he's just doing bluetooth output from his iPhone.

    These speakers do not offer any way to natively playback Apple Music sans additional devices. Which is the exact same "ZOMG THIS SUXORS!" crits people made of the HomePod w/ regards to Spotify. You can do it, but you need to initiate it via your iOS device and airplay it to the HP.
    Thanks for explaining it.  :)

    There's hope though. it looks like native Apple Music support is coming to Android Auto so Google Assistant might be in the plans too. On AA it appears it was up to Apple since they're beta testing it now, so do you know if it's also up to Apple on Google Assistant too?
    I'm sure it is, just as Apple doesn't provide access to Google and Amazon to your purchased iTunes music or movies library. Regardless of reason, it remains a shortcoming in the product offering. If this is such a critical fault of the HP (no native Spotify! boo!) then it must surely be as critical a fault here and in every other Google & Amazon smart speaker (no native Apple Music! hiss!). 
    So your opinion is it's out of Google's control, Apple has to wish to be included? In that case the critical fault in both instances would lie at Apple's feet? Agreed that doesn't change the practical effect. 

    I doubt Spotify doesn't WANT to be part of the HomePod offerings.
  • Reply 14 of 14
    techrulestechrules Posts: 48unconfirmed, member
    Google is rumored to also be creating one.  So will wait and see and decide which to get.  Super exciting device area.  Too bad Amazon could not see the light and lift their ban on all competing Google products sold by third parties on their marketplace.

    Ironcially all the Amazon products run on Android which Google allows but then Amazon turns around and does the ban.  Hope Google can get Amazon to end the anti competitive behavior.

    It is a shame Amazon has chosen to act this way.  They could have had YT on the Show and probably done well selling but now Google will win the space.


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