Lenovo Smart Display – OK Google, seeing is believing
4.6Overall Score
Name: Lenovo Smart Display Price (RRP): $299/399 Manufacturer: Lenovo

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).

Lenovo Smart Display

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?

Android 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.

Lenovo Smart Display

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.