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Lenovo Smart Display review: a Google appliance

The elementary suspicion behind a new Google-powered Smart Displays that are entrance this summer is simple: take a Google Home intelligent orator and put a shade on it, usually like Amazon’s Echo Show. Really if that’s all we take divided from this review, you’ve got a basics.

The Lenovo Smart Display is a initial of these new inclination on a market. LG, Sony, and JBL have also sealed on to make them. Lenovo’s chronicle goes on sale Jul 27th, labelled during $199 for a indication with an 8-inch shade and $249 for a indication we tested, that has a 10-inch display.

There’s something some-more going on here than usually a shade for a Google Assistant, though. These Smart Displays run Android Things, a newish handling complement formed on Android and designed for Internet of Things devices. That means Google has a new board for a practical Assistant to work with, easy with a need to support any of a cruft that would come along with regulating full Android or Chrome.

With that vacant line-up comes an event for Google to make accurately a thing it wants to make. And a outcome is something we wasn’t unequivocally expecting: a Google appliance.

As a square of hardware, Lenovo’s take on a Smart Display is superb — generally when compared to a Echo Show. It has a large, prosaic shade that sits to a right of a white orator grille. It’s skinny opposite many of a screen, with a behind curving out behind a speaker. The larger, some-more costly chronicle has bamboo on a back, while a smaller one has a many some-more tedious gray plastic.


It’s designed to work sitting horizontally, yet Lenovo put rubber feet on a finish so it can lay vertically. Well, a hardware can, yet a program hasn’t been designed to work when a Smart Display is in mural mode (except for Duo video calls), that is a bummer. This thing would be many some-more expected to fit on my swarming kitchen opposite if we could mount it upright.

Both versions of a Lenovo Smart Display have a 10-watt orator with dual pacifist tweeters. I’ve usually tested a incomparable 10-inch chronicle and a sound peculiarity is endurable during best — about on customary with a Google Home or entry-level Amazon Echo. It can get copiousness shrill during max volume, yet also copiousness distorted. It’s excellent as a intelligent orator for elementary stuff, yet nowhere nearby as good as a Sonos One or HomePod.

The touchscreen arrangement is manifest even in approach object yet doesn’t overcome a room in a dim — it has a vast liughtness range, basically, and good auto-brightness settings. But infrequently enough, my favorite underline isn’t a screen, it’s a small hardware switch that moves a shiver to retard out a 5-megapixel wide-angle camera. It’s loyal that Google Duo doesn’t support a disconcerting “Drop In” underline like a Echo Show and Spot, yet we still feel some-more gentle putting a intelligent orator in my bedroom or lavatory if we know a camera is covered.

There are usually dual microphones for noticing your voice, yet they seem to do their pursuit utterly good until we holder a song volume adult to a max. One of a advantages of Google-based speakers is that they do a good pursuit of noticing a sound of your specific voice and delivering your personal Google calm to you. With this device, we found it seemed to have a somewhat harder time identifying my voice than a Google Home did, yet usually by a little.


If you’ve ever used a Google Home or Google Home Mini, a new Lenovo Smart Display will feel unequivocally similar. Setup works by regulating a Google Home app on your phone, that will travel we by a customary stairs of joining to Wi-Fi and your Google account.

Once it’s online, we can do all of a things we do on a unchanging intelligent orator or by Google Assistant on your phone. Say “Hey Google,” ask a doubt or emanate a authority to control a intelligent home gadget, and it’s done. Your core interactions with this device still occur with your voice. Touch is there for things like follow-up taps when something’s on a screen, like a play/pause symbol or a map we wish to wizz in on.

Because there’s a shade now, many of those voice actions come with an discretionary visible component. When we ask it to spin on a lights, for example, a shade pops adult that lets we adjust a liughtness or tone temperature. If we occur to have a video source in your daily news briefing, it will play that video before relocating on to a audio updates. The continue shows a draft and some lovable animations.




Even timers are improved with a screen. You can set as many as we like (unlike on a Apple HomePod) and your many new timers stay on a shade instead of a whole thing reverting to a home shade too quickly, as happens on Amazon’s Echo Show.

By default, a Smart Display sits in “ambient mode,” that shows a rotating slideshow of photos. You can select from Google-provided images (art and landscapes and a like) or albums from your Google Photos archive.

Tap a shade and you’ll get a home screen. On a left you’ll find a internal weather, that we can daub to expand. On a right there are a array of cards that offer especially as suggestions for things we can ask. You can daub on a YouTube video or your calendar entries there, of course, yet that’s not unequivocally a goal.

The label that shows adult on a homescreen can change depending on context. If we were usually examination a video or listening to music, a label for that activity will be first. If we have an arriving meeting, a calendar label competence be shown first. If you’re disturbed about people in your domicile saying your stuff, a phone app lets we not arrangement that information by default.

As with other Google Home devices, we can set it adult to commend opposite voices that are trustworthy to opposite Google accounts, so people in your family can get their personal information. But a arrangement will default to arrangement information from a primary account. And as with other Google Home devices, removing it to work with your work information is a pain. You will need to somehow get your work calendar synced over to your personal calendar, for example.

Swiping in from a left corner serves as a behind symbol if we don’t wish to contend “Hey Google, go home” out loud. Swiping adult from a bottom lets we adjust a brightness. There are other good functions: we can make normal phone calls, yet when we dial out it shows adult as an different series to your recipient. Duo calls worked good in a test, yet infrequently a Smart Display was a small assertive about job around Duo when we usually wanted to a plain aged write call.

If we hunt for something locally, you’ll get a good Google Maps inventory that lets we appropriate by photos of a location, get directions, and vessel around a map. You can also ask follow-up questions about a location, including removing directions sent to your phone.

That’s about it, honestly. It’s a distant as a visible UI goes. But what unequivocally astounded me is how elegant a program pattern felt. Excepting a few stutters, animation was not usually well-spoken and fluid, yet also honestly useful in arrangement we what’s going on. The fonts are clean, a dump shadows are consistent, and all usually coheres unequivocally well.

Granted, this is not a unequivocally formidable UI system, so it would be a flattering enormous sniff if Google couldn’t make this work. But looking during a work that it’s perplexing to do with Material theming opposite Android and Chrome, we can tell that a instruction Google wants to go with pattern is this accurate system. It’s a clearest matter of what Google thinks program should demeanour like that I’ve seen in new memory.


Beyond a basics, a many fascinating thing about adding a arrangement to a Google Assistant is that Google is it holding that as an event to develop how it answers questions. To take a many apparent example: if we ask a how-to doubt like “How do we damn socks?” you’re expected to get a YouTube video instead of a dash from a website.

I unequivocally like what happens when we ask for a recipe. Google earnings a garland of probable formula pulled from a web, yet afterwards re-formats them for this display. You get step-by-step instructions that stay on a shade until you’re prepared for a subsequent partial of a instructions. It’s so crafty that we immediately wished that we could import my own recipes into a complement instead of usually regulating what’s out there on a web.

Here’s another, some-more educational example: we wanted to exam web design search, so we pronounced “Hey Google, uncover me cinema of otters.” Google came behind with a jigsaw nonplus of an otter we put together on a idle cabin Saturday; we had taken a print of a almost-finished work to rebuke a one blank piece. So we asked “when was this print taken” and Google knew a answer — since it was stored in a metadata for my possess picture.

There are dual themes to indicate out in these examples. The initial is that Google is perplexing to be some-more artistic in how it delivers answers than before, pulling in multimedia sources both from a web and from my possess personal information. You arrange of never unequivocally know when you’re going to get a response that’s some-more immersive or personalized when we ask a question.

The second theme? Good golly this thing is firmly integrated into a Google ecosystem. It grabs YouTube videos. It uses Google’s web snippets. It serves as an extraordinary kitchen TV if you’re a YouTube TV subscriber. It knows what my reminders are and where my marriage was. It’s unequivocally many a device that aspires to give we answers instead of web links.

That doesn’t meant that we consider that this device is essentially creepier than other products. we usually meant that a further of a shade and a ways Google have taken advantage of it are 10 times some-more engaging if we live entirely inside Googleworld.

That’s not to contend that it is totally a walled Google garden. Third-party services do uncover adult here. You can set your default song actor to Spotify or one of Google’s song services; it also directly supports some video services like HBO Now, CNN, and Fox News. If we wish another video use however, you’ll need to go to your phone and hunt down a Google Cast button. Unfortunately (and weirdly), not all video services can Cast to this device — Android Central has a list of what does and doesn’t work (Netflix doesn’t). It also supports a same apartment of Google Actions that a Google Home does — and third celebration developers will be means to emanate on-screen practice in time.


It’s wise that a Lenovo Smart Display is so clearly designed to lay in a kitchen, since it unequivocally is an appliance, a Google appliance. Though we could make a box that a tie to Google’s absolute cloud and AI creates it a computer, it’s many some-more like a suspicion of what an apparatus unequivocally is: simple, mostly focused on a few elementary tasks, and hopefully good designed.

The Smart Display height is all of those things, and it is many some-more focused on enabling Google practice than any other product I’ve seen. Whether that portends a new instruction for a association or simply what it suspicion was a best approach to get this orator out a doorway stays to be seen.

If you’re an Alexa user, we don’t indispensably consider there’s adequate here to aver switching over. But if you’re a kind of chairman who has authorised Google to store and parse a ton of your data, you’re going to adore this thing.

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Updated 11:30am ET Jul 26 to explain Google Cast support.

Article source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/7/26/17616560/lenovo-smart-display-review-google-assistant-smart-speaker-screen

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