Len­ovo Smart Dis­play

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Ama­zon has brought put a screen on an Echo de­vice in June last year, with the Echo Show (though it took a few months longer to reach the UK). Now, more than half a year later, Google has fi­nally caught up, part­ner­ing with third-party man­u­fac­tur­ers to build its own Echo Show ri­vals pow­ered by Google As­sis­tant.

LG, JBL, and other man­u­fac­tur­ers are all work­ing on Google As­sis­tant de­vices with dis­plays, but the

most im­pres­sive so far is the Len­ovo Smart Dis­play. We went hands-on with the new de­vice at CES 2018, and here’s what we thought.

Price

The Len­ovo Smart Dis­play doesn’t have a firm re­lease date yet, but it’s ex­pected to ar­rive – in the US at least – in “early sum­mer”. We’re not sure yet if other mar­kets will get it at the same time, but we’ll up­date this when the re­lease date is more def­i­nite.

As for pric­ing, the Smart Dis­play will cost $199 (around £143) or $249 (around £179), de­pend­ing on whether you opt for the 8in or 10in model. Again, we don’t have spe­cific UK pric­ing just yet, but will up­date this when we do. Ei­ther way, the pric­ing is in line with the Echo Show, which Ama­zon sells for £199.

De­sign

At first glance, the Len­ovo Smart Dis­play looks a lot like a tablet with an over­sized speaker grille at one end – ei­ther the left-hand side or the bot­tom, de­pend­ing on which ori­en­ta­tion you choose.

From the back, though, there’s an an­gu­lar wedge shape to the base to help keep it up­right.

As we said above, the Smart Dis­play comes in two dif­fer­ent sizes of dis­play: 8- or 10in. There are a few other dif­fer­ences be­tween the two models though – the most ob­vi­ous be­ing the fin­ish.

While both models are white on the front, the 8in comes with a muted grey on the rear while the larger de­vice comes with a bam­boo fin­ish in­stead. Both look at­trac­tive enough, but since they’re on the rear of the

de­vice it’s easy to imag­ine that many users will never even see the colour of the rear – so we’d en­cour­age pick­ing your model based on the screen and price, not the fin­ish.

The smaller model mea­sures 263x142x111mm, while the 10in is larger in ev­ery re­spect, at 311x174x136mm. Weight is un­likely to mat­ter much for a de­vice you’re not ex­pected to move very much, but they weigh 1- and 1.2kg re­spec­tively.

As for but­tons, both de­vices keep it sim­ple. Be­yond the touch­screen, cam­era, and mi­cro­phone, the only in­puts are vol­ume but­tons and sep­a­rate mute con­trols for the mic and cam­era. The lat­ter is par­tic­u­larly

in­ter­est­ing – the but­ton phys­i­cally blocks the cam­era shut­ter, so the pri­vacy-con­scious can guar­an­tee that the cam­era can’t be hacked to record them.

Hard­ware

So what does the Smart Dis­play ac­tu­ally do? In essence, it’s just a Google Home de­vice with a screen. Driven by the Google As­sis­tant, it can be used as a dig­i­tal as­sis­tant to lis­ten to mu­sic, check your cal­en­dar, ask about the weather, set alarms, and more.

The in­tro­duc­tion of the screen adds some ob­vi­ous fea­tures such as YouTube sup­port and video call­ing, but also just a sim­ple vis­ual aid for check­ing the weather or see­ing the rec­om­mended route to work.

Both de­vices use IPS dis­plays, though the res­o­lu­tion dif­fers sig­nif­i­cantly be­tween the two. The 10in dis­play runs at 1920x1200, while the smaller screen is just 1280x800, so any­one wor­ried about crisp video calls or HD video should make sure they spring for the $50 (around £36) ex­tra for the larger screen, which looked bright and colour­ful dur­ing our hands-on time.

Nat­u­rally, ev­ery­thing works neatly through your Google ac­count, pulling through con­tacts from your phone and video rec­om­men­da­tions from your YouTube ac­count. Video call­ing is han­dled by Duo, which means it should be easy to reach peo­ple – most An­droid phones come with it pre­in­stalled, though you may have to per­suade iPhone own­ing friends and fam­ily to visit the App Store first.

YouTube sup­port is also han­dled in­tu­itively, rec­og­niz­ing con­tex­tual prompts to help you out – in our demo, ask­ing Google how to pre­pare the

rose­mary in a recipe it was read­ing out prompted it to au­to­mat­i­cally pull up a rel­e­vant YouTube tu­to­rial.

It’s worth not­ing that de­spite ap­pear­ances, this isn’t tablet, and it isn’t run­ning An­droid. While the dis­play is a touch­screen, the Smart Dis­play is re­ally built around voice com­mands, and will live or die by how well the Google As­sis­tant han­dles a va­ri­ety of re­quests.

What we have seen is im­pres­sive though. This is a much more at­trac­tive de­vice than the Echo Show (or the other Google As­sis­tant equiv­a­lents an­nounced at CES 2018), and of­fers sim­i­lar func­tion­al­ity. The user ex­pe­ri­ence seems smooth, with great in­te­gra­tion of the dis­play and video op­tions, and Google As­sis­tant re­mains the vir­tual as­sis­tant to beat.

Ver­dict

Ul­ti­mately, as with most smart home hubs, much of the choice right now de­pends on whether you’d rather be part of Ama­zon’s Echo fam­ily or the Google ecosys­tem. But if you want to go Google, the Len­ovo Smart Dis­play looks like a great choice, mak­ing a solid case that a smart speaker might just be better with a screen. Do­minic Pre­ston

The 10in ver­sion has a bam­boo fin­ish on the rear

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