The Lenovo Smart Display speaker proves beyond doubt that two senses – hearing and seeing – are is the best way to use Google’s voice Assistant – OK Google.
Voice control is still a little new to us all. Although everyone who starts using it becomes a convert. “OK Google, what is the weather?” Well, Lenovo’s Smart Display will show it graphically and offer many alternatives to get more information.
Lenovo’s Smart Display comes in an 8” and 10.1” colour touchscreen
versions. The smaller is ideal for tighter spaces on the bedside table and the
larger for kitchens benches. Both share the ability to be used in portrait (for
video calling) or landscape mode (for everything else).
We put the 10.1” Lenovo Smart Display through its paces and think that it’s a great addition to the $219 Google 7” Home Hub.
Why an addition – why not competition?
The Lenovo Smart Display has more hardware than the Google
Home Hub. For example, a forward-facing camera, a 2” wide-range 10W speaker with
two forward firing passive radiators, a 10.1” 1920×1200 touchscreen and it runs Google’s Android Things Operating system.
Oddly, the Google Home Hub does not, and we suspect it would
have needed a lot more hardware (Qualcomm Home Hub Snapdragon 624 and 2GB RAM and
4GB storage) to do so. So, the Google Home hub is essentially a Google Home speaker
with some benefits.
What is Android Things OS?
Things is essentially Android embedded into a device. It has most of the
Android features including over-the-air operating system and security updates,
full compatibility with Android devices and Google Home (including auto-discovery),
Bluetooth and LoWPAN (Low-Power Wireless Personal Area Mesh/Weave Networks Wi-Fi),
and the ability to load drivers for add-on hardware like camera, mic arrays,
anything. Currently, it works with
Qualcomm SDA624, SDA212, and MediaTek MT8516 SoCs.
Developers will embrace it as it uses the same programming tools
as Android apps do. Hardware makers will use it as it allows devices to be
bought to market quickly without the expense of a lot of R&D – it is all
about design. Google is promising up to three years’ worth of upgrades and
security patches as well.,
You should prefer an Android Things device over a proprietary
OS if only for updates and greater future functionality. At this time LGs superb
sounding WK7 (review here)
and JBL Linkview use the OS.
Voice Assistant plus video
The voice assistant
world comprises Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or Apple Siri. The later is part
of Apple’s walled garden and currently does not have a speaker/screen. Sure
there is also Samsung Bixby, LG ThinQ and others but these are now mostly for access
to machine level commands by Google or Alexa (skills).
Amazon Alexa has the EchoShow and Echo Spot that like Apple, revolve around tightly the Amazon shopping ecosystem. As one wit put it – “Money talks”.
Google Assistant is part of the Google search ecosystem and to that end is widely adopted by smartphone and tablet makers – about 85% of these devices run Android. But it extends to Android Auto, Android Wear (watches), Chromebook, Android TV, and further. It is the most ubiquitous system on the planet and has apps for iOS, macOS, Windows and Linux (requires Python 3 support).
I make the point that the Lenovo Smart Display can do everything
Android Things can do – there is little differentiation except at hardware, features
and marketing level.
Review: Lenovo Smart Display 10.1″
The Box has a nice bamboo finish just like the speaker inside it. It’s a classic wood look yet totally in keeping with modern décor. Website here.
The Lenovo Smart Display is different. It has already gained
a cult following in the US for its Bamboo finish (10.1”) and not conforming to
the typical boxy smart display. It also has a manual shutter for camera and mic
– for privacy.
In brief, it can do
everything Google Assistant can do, and
where there is supplementary video content, it can display that. For example, if
you ask who Australia’s Prime Minister is, up pops ScoMo and offers several
prompts is to learn more.
Web content needs to be updated for both voice and supplementary video information. Let’ just say that from this point forward most
content will be suitable. At present recipe and cooking,
Or you can watch YouTube videos or audio or being a
Chromecast device; you can cast to it.
Video calling using Google Duo is as easy as entering your phone number, and you can have live and encrypted video calls with anyone in your contacts list. It is rating very well and is even available on iOS. Because it uses, Wi-Fi calling can be free. At this stage, it is for calls to one other phone at a time, but Hangout group functionality is coming.
It supports multi-room audio, Home view (security cameras)
Next Doorbell and Live albums from Google Photos and routines.
Finally, it has all the Google Assistant features like Calendar,
Maps, Search etc.
How does it sound?
Pretty good for a 2” 10W speaker with two passive tweeter ports
that help overcome the frequency limitations of smaller speakers.
Maximum volume is 85dB with surprisingly little distortion.
Hints of bass creep in at around 80dB and continue to 500dB. Mids are flat (good) strong to 10kHz and then treble drops
off. It is a warm and sweet, easy listening
sound signature. You can get a little more bass and treble from Google Home
We did not test the 8” version, but I suspect it would lose a bit of bass and treble giving it a
more mid-focus that is fine for clear voice.
Lenovo Smart Display specifications (8” in brackets where different)
10.1” 1920x 1200, IPS, 86° off-angle viewing (1280 x 800)
5MP wide-angle, 720p
Wi-Fi AC, MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2 BLE
Qualcomm 624, Octa-Core A53 1.8
GHz, 14 nm
2″ 10W Full Range Speaker 2 x
(1.75″ 10W Full Range Speaker 2 x Passive Tweeters)
2 x 2 (portrait and landscape) far-field
good to 8 metres
173.87 x 311.37 x 12.5 – 136.02 mm
(142.21 x 263.21 x 12.5 — 111.36 mm x 1kg)
Mic on/off, Camera on/off, volume
Bamboo with white speaker grill (grey)
$399 ($299) with a free Google Home Mini (while stocks last)
GadgetGuy’s take. Lenovo Smart Display is the next evolution
I have been using OK Google for a few months, and it has become indispensable growing from a mini in the bedroom several speakers scattered throughout the house.
Adding a display opens up a depth to voice commands that I didn’t
know it needed – until I used it.
So, an 8” will replace the Google Mini in the bedroom and a 10.1” will replace the Google Home in the kitchen. I already have the best OK Google speaker for music – the LG WK7, and that won’t change. My adult kids will appreciate re-gifted Google Home products for Xmas.
Lenovo has done a terrific
job adding lovely hardware to Google Assistant.
Value for money
Ease of Use
Looks great and a little different
Crisp, accurate display but a little more glossy than Google Home Hub so avoid bright lights
Image quality leaves Alexa Show for dead
Adding a visual component to OK Google is what Google Assistant needs
Far better sound than expected - not audiophile standard
Has a camera and Google Duo is a really good feature (portrait mode only)
Google Duo may become my default way of communicating
No keyboard means some commands cannot be qualified enough to work – use your smartphone
Could do with tighter integration to YouTube