Lenovo Smart Clock review: The perfect bedside assistant
First came the smart speakers, then came the smart speakers with displays – and the Lenovo Smart Clock is one of the most compact smart displays yet, going head to head against devices like the Amazon Echo 5 and the Google Nest Hub. Is this a device worthy of a place in your growing smart home?
After testing one for a few days we're prepared to say that it very much is, if Google Assistant is the smart assistant you've got the best relationship with. If your house is already full of Amazon Echos, on the other hand, then you might be better with an Alexa device.
What you get with the Lenovo Smart Clock is a 4-inch, 800 x 480 pixel screen, a nicely designed, fabric-covered body (with rubber feet), and all the magic of Google Assistant on board – check the weather forecast, find out the age of your favorite celebrity, turn smart home devices on and off, and so on and so on.
We're assuming you're probably already familiar with Google Assistant and everything it can do for you, but if not, it's like a voice-activated Google Search. It's able to return just about everything you could want to know from the internet, it can set alarms and timers for you, it can tell you the news and what's coming up on your calendar, and it can control a growing number of other devices as well. If you've used Alexa, it's the same sort of experience.
What you don't get here is any kind of video streaming, the device doesn't appear as a Chromecast display the way that the Nest Hubs do. There's no camera either, so you can't make or receive video calls (or indeed audio calls) either. That might seem restrictive compared with the Nest Hubs and the bigger Lenovo smart displays, but for a device this small, simplicity seems the best approach.
This is very much a device that you set up next to your bed, for showing you the time, and the weather, and any alarms you've set, and the next event on your Google Calendar. It's straightforward and it works really well, but it works best if you're already heavily invested in the Google ecosystem.
For music, you can play tunes through Spotify, Deezer or YouTube Music, as well as cast music from pretty much any app on your phone. If you crank up the volume using the buttons on top of the clock, you can satisfactorily fill a small room with music. It's not the highest fidelity of course, but it's better than you might expect for something so small.
If you're just playing a few tunes in the morning or the evening, or catching up on your podcasts, then the Lenovo Smart Clock is ideal. It can cleverly dim the display at night so you're not kept awake by the bright numbers, and you've got a handful of clock faces to pick from (for day and night use).
That display is a touchscreen, by the way. That means you can pause podcasts, skip through music tracks, and set an alarm by tapping the screen. It saves you having to reach for your phone every time and it's actually really handy. You might also have spotted the USB port on this smart display, which you can use to charge up a phone or tablet.
As we said near the start though, this is very much a device that succeeds or fails because of Google Assistant. At the moment it's hard to choose between it and Amazon Alexa in terms of how much it can do and how well it can do it, but if you already use a lot of Google devices, apps and services, the integration is more or less seamless.
Like many smart home choices, you need to weigh up what else you've got installed and what you want to be able to do with it – that should give you an idea of whether the Lenovo Smart Clock is for you. That said, Lenovo has done a fantastic job of adding a screen, well-designed housing, and a decent speaker to the mix.
We had no problem getting the device to recognize what we were saying, even from the other side of the room, and everything we did with the smart display was fast and responsive. Of course this is partly due to the intelligence and efficiency of Google Assistant, but it's worth mentioning.
Note though that this isn't really a fully fledged display. In the Google Home app it shows as a speaker (like a Google Home Mini would), not a screen like the bigger smart displays. In terms of what you can actually use that screen for, you're restricted to the time, your alarms, your schedule, the weather, and media controls (you're not able to ask to see photos of Paris, France, for example, or recipes from YouTube, or a place on a map).
You can buy the Lenovo Smart Clock now for US$79.99. Gray is your only color choice, and the device runs from mains power, so it's going to have to live somewhere relatively near a power socket. Think of something at the halfway point between a Google Home Mini and a Google Nest Hub, and that sums up what the Lenovo Smart Clock is all about.
Product page: Lenovo Smart Clock