Although it’s still a very new category, the competition for home assistants with built-in screens has started to heat up. Last week, Lenovo just announced the availability of the Lenovo Smart Display in Australia, joining the ranks of Google and Amazon’s Alexa suite of products. The Smart Display runs Google Assistant and comes in two sizes with 10-inch and 8-inch screens.
At first glance, it’s distinctively different from the other screens on the market. Unlike the Alexa Show or Google Home Hub, the front of the device is not just the screen itself but also has forward facing speakers alongside it. The speaker grill creates an asymmetrical look in the design and gives it a slightly retro aesthetic, which we quite like. The Lenovo Smart Display can sit in landscape or portrait orientation, although currently, the only real use for portrait mode is when making a video call using Google Duo. We’ll have to sit tight and see if there will be other features that are better presented in portrait mode in the near future.
Sound from the speaker is crisp and clear with a decent amount of bass. The screen is beautiful to look at and responds well to touch gestures. There are two microphones which pick up your voice quite well from a distance and can be switched off when privacy is preferred. There’s also a built-in camera which some people may not like, but Lenovo has cleverly provided a mechanical shutter which actually blocks the camera’s view, so even if a hacker was able to get into your device’s camera, you’re as safe as having a piece of paper taped over it. The back of the 10-inch model has a bamboo finish while the 8-inch model has an off-white coat. Other than that both sizes pretty much look the same apart from the obvious. Having a screen adds a whole new dimension to interacting with Google Assistant over a smart speaker, and from that perspective, we actually think the larger model would be the better choice.
We decided to test out making an old fashioned by getting some instructions from Google Assistant. It provided a few different options and after selecting one, it read out the ingredients followed by the instructions for assembling the concoction. The whole experience was pretty easy to understand especially with the visual queues.
We tried placing the speaker in the kitchen, the bar and on a cabinet top and it sat right at home in all those places. The simple design doesn’t draw too much attention to it when it’s not in use. Overall, the Lenovo Smart Display is solid and capable device.