Review: Lenovo's Google-equipped Smart Clock is a solid choice when bedtime means bedtime

Posted:
in iPhone edited June 29
You'll have to go elsewhere if you want all the features of a Google Nest Hub or Echo Show, but for smartspeaker buyers who just want a cheap wake-up and bedtime option, the Lenovo Smart Clock doesn't disappoint.

Lenovo Smart Clock


When displays first came to smartspeakers there was a certain amount of backlash. Part of the point of a smartspeaker, after all, is having computer-like controls away from your PC or tablet.

People gradually realized however that there are some advantages. Depending on the platform you can see an extended weather forecast, browse the news, check security cameras, or even watch YouTube if you're trying to fix something, follow a recipe, or fall asleep. My wife bought me a Lenovo Smart Display after my review, and I now regularly fall asleep to things like e-skate videos or "Best of the Worst."

The Smart Clock originates from a place where smart displays -- we'll call them all that for the sake of convenience -- are not only taken for granted, but getting a rethink.

The first thing you'll notice is that the Clock's screen measures just 4 inches. That's considerably smaller than the the 10.1-inch Echo Show, or the 8- and 10-inch formats available for Lenovo's regular Smart Displays. It's smaller even than the new Echo Show 5.

That's because the Smart Clock is intended to sit on a desk or a nightstand, and it shows in all details. It has an incredibly small footprint for instance, such that I was able to sit it next to my Smart Display with a little shuffling. There's a USB port for charging your iPhone, and a fabric covering adds that hygge touch.

Lenovo Smart Clock


Both because of its purpose and size the device uses a stripped-down version of Google's Smart Display platform. Instead of bringing up recommendations for news, music, and YouTube videos for example, swiping from the right instead defaults to active alarms. Swipe again and you'll see Google Calendar events.

Lenovo Smart Clock


UI elements have been reduced and given oversized text and buttons, which is handy when you're trying to tap "Stop" or "Snooze" in the morning. You can even just slap the top of the Clock to snooze, if you like.

There are sacrifices. While you can choose from several clock styles for example -- I stuck with "Clouds," which includes a weather thumbnail -- you can't set custom wallpaper or complications, and controls are limited mostly to what makes sense in a bedroom context. A smarthome panel, accessed by swiping down from the top, brings up buttons for alarms, room lights, playing music, and your "Good morning/night" Assistant routines -- that's it.

Image Credit: Google
Image Credit: Google


In fact you can't play YouTube videos at all, which may be an immediate deal-killer for some people. Media options are restricted to music, radio, sound effects, and streaming Nest security cameras, although more camera platforms should be compatible down the road.

With all this in mind, there's a lot to love. The Smart Clock offers the same core voice commands as any Google Assistant speaker, such as streaming Spotify or Pandora, controlling smarthome accessories, and setting alarms and calendar events by voice. It's incredibly convenient to say "wake me up to NPR weekdays at 6 a.m," or "shuffle my Bedtime playlist." No, Apple Music isn't an option yet, but YouTube Music should be free.

Audio doesn't get loud or bass-heavy, but it is surprisingly crisp. It's ideal for gently waking up or falling asleep.

The Smart Clock may simultaneously pacify some of the privacy concerns people have about smartspeakers. While you do have to be logged into Google Assistant, there's a physical mic mute switch and no video camera whatsoever. Once you've got alarms set you might never have to let Google listen in.

Score: 4 out of 5

Above all I appreciate the simplicity of what Lenovo's going for, and its resulting $79.99 pricetag. The product feels more at home on a nightstand than any other smartspeaker, except maybe the Echo Show 5. At one point I even found myself wishing I could replace my Smart Display, except that I would miss functions like YouTube and checking our nursery Arlo camera.

Lenovo, if you're listening, this product would be nigh-on perfect with YouTube and better security camera support. All it would take is a few software updates.

Where to buy

The Lenovo Smart Clock sells for $79.99 and can be ordered from B&H Photo with free expedited shipping within the contiguous U.S.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 20
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,303member
    This looks to compare closely to the Amazon Show 5, a smaller version of the 10.5" Echo show. I'm not familiar with the 5's feature set, but at a glance it looks similar.

    I like the clean look of the Smart Clock's Clouds face:



    That's really all I need to see when I wake up bleary-eyed. It's my tinfoil hat telling me to give Alexa a little benefit of the doubt and as I don't use Google for anything, I'll probably listen to my tech spirit guide, Reynolds. If it were a little cheaper, I'd probably ignore him.
  • Reply 2 of 20
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,094member
    I've been using an Echo Spot as a bedside alarm clock and I'm very happy with it so far. The dimming is perfect for a darkened space and it is great for setting alarms. The whisper based interactions are perfect for not waking your partner if you wake before the alarm goes off. Sure, the Spot doesn't have a USB charging port, and it costs more, but the thing is so darn cute and takes up so little space.
  • Reply 3 of 20
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,268member
    Yes, I want a Chinese Communist electronic device next to my bed too!
    ttollertonpscooter63StrangeDaysAppleExposedJapheymagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 20
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,303member
    dewme said:
    but the thing is so darn cute and takes up so little space.
    I wanted a Spot when it debuted exactly for those reasons. But it's just too pricey. If it Amazon made it without a camera and was $70, I'd bite. I just have no use for a camera in a digital assistant. Congratulations though, I'm envious.
  • Reply 5 of 20
    ttollertonttollerton Posts: 195member
    I’m completely cutting Google out of my life, and I’ve never had more energy, focus, and better skin complexion.  
    robin huberchasmpscooter63StrangeDayswatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 6 of 20
    NotsofastNotsofast Posts: 386member
    Man, these websites are all struggling financially, e.g., here they have to run a Google, apparently non Apple related in any way product, on a site called Apple Insider just to get a link out there to collect referral fees.  Ouch, that's gotta hurt.
    pscooter63applesnorangesdanhwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 20
    Yes, I want a Chinese Communist electronic device next to my bed too!
    That also feeds data to Google. Twice as bad if not more.
    Can't we just stop giving the likes of Google our lives?
    chasmpscooter63applesnorangesmagman1979watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 8 of 20
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,094member
    Re: Yes, I want a Chinese Communist electronic device next to my bed too!

    Have you tried sleeping in a tin foil cocoon?
    edited June 16 bigtds
  • Reply 9 of 20
    Roger_FingasRoger_Fingas Posts: 145member, editor
    Notsofast said:
    Man, these websites are all struggling financially, e.g., here they have to run a Google, apparently non Apple related in any way product, on a site called Apple Insider just to get a link out there to collect referral fees.  Ouch, that's gotta hurt.
    You configure settings using the Google Home for iPhone and iPad, and it's tied into Google Assistant, which is everywhere. It's just one of many Apple-related things we review.
  • Reply 10 of 20
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,588member
    I’ll pass on informing Google if my sleep habits, smart home use, music choices, security videos, and calendar events, thanks. Ditto for Amazon.

    Turns out I have a thing that, among other talents, functions just fine as a way to set alarms with music, check security cams (if I had any),  show me my day ahead, and even plays YouTube — all by voice command, and all without compromising my privacy and at zero extra expense. It’s called an iPhone!
    edited June 16 pscooter63StrangeDaysmagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 20
    pscooter63pscooter63 Posts: 928member
    Between my phone and watch, a device like this has exactly zero appeal for me.
    Add in Google, and that interest plummets into the negative, which is to say... revulsion.
    StrangeDayschasmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 20
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,943member
    Yes, I want a Chinese Communist electronic device next to my bed too!
    But but but the anti-democracy, murderous, authoritative regime makes 5G equipment! We needs it! /s
    edited June 16 watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 20
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,710member
    Yes, I want a Chinese Communist electronic device next to my bed too!
    But but but the anti-democracy, murderous, authoritative regime makes 5G equipment! We needs it! /s
    And Huawei needs a $B or so....
    https://www.ibtimes.com/huawei-pushes-verizon-pay-1b-230-patents-wsj-reports-2800284
  • Reply 14 of 20
    kestralkestral Posts: 247member
    I have a "smart clock" already. It's called my iPhone.
    AppleExposedchasmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 20
    AppleExposedAppleExposed Posts: 1,127unconfirmed, member
    So orignial....

    Possible slogan:
    When the lights go out, the mic turns on.
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 16 of 20
    magman1979magman1979 Posts: 1,135member
    Welcome to the most unneeded, pointless device of 2019 thus far, and from a Chinese company no less, running Android garbage, double-whammy!
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 17 of 20
    MynabirdMynabird Posts: 0unconfirmed, member
    macgui said:
    This looks to compare closely to the Amazon Show 5, a smaller version of the 10.5" Echo show. I'm not familiar with the 5's feature set, but at a glance it looks similar.

    I like the clean look of the Smart Clock's Clouds face:



    That's really all I need to see when I wake up bleary-eyed. It's my tinfoil hat telling me to give Alexa a little benefit of the doubt and as I don't use Google for anything, I'll probably listen to my tech spirit guide, Reynolds. If it were a little cheaper, I'd probably ignore him.
    Sure, but they do different things and it's not really the same product category. Echo Show 5 is a mini smart display with Amazon Alexa while the Lenovo Smart Clock is a smart clock. and that’s if your household is set on the Alexa ecosystem. With Smart Display and now Smart Clock, we’re on a journey to make each form factor highly relevant for different rooms, because that’s how people relate to their home: Shared experiences in the living room, Cooking and eating in the kitchen (and Lenovo Smart Display is best in that space where people meal-prep, do shopping lists, watch TV and play music); and bedroom where you’re getting ready for your day or ready to sleep (and the Lenovo Smart Clock is designed for a seamless integration on your nightstand).
  • Reply 18 of 20
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 1,980member
    I am looking for a clock to put near TV. Any suggestion? 
  • Reply 19 of 20
    MynabirdMynabird Posts: 0unconfirmed, member
    macgui said:
    This looks to compare closely to the Amazon Show 5, a smaller version of the 10.5" Echo show. I'm not familiar with the 5's feature set, but at a glance it looks similar.

    I like the clean look of the Smart Clock's Clouds face:



    That's really all I need to see when I wake up bleary-eyed. It's my tinfoil hat telling me to give Alexa a little benefit of the doubt and as I don't use Google for anything, I'll probably listen to my tech spirit guide, Reynolds. If it were a little cheaper, I'd probably ignore him.
    Sure, but they do different things and it's not really the same product category. Echo Show 5 is a mini smart display with Amazon Alexa while the Lenovo Smart Clock is a smart clock. and that’s if your household is set on the Alexa ecosystem. With Smart Display and now Smart Clock, we’re on a journey to make each form factor highly relevant for different rooms, because that’s how people relate to their home: Shared experiences in the living room, Cooking and eating in the kitchen (and Lenovo Smart Display is best in that space where people meal-prep, do shopping lists, watch TV and play music); and bedroom where you’re getting ready for your day or ready to sleep (and the Lenovo Smart Clock is designed for a seamless integration on your nightstand).
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