Review

Lenovo Smart Clock with the Google Assistant review: A clock you can talk to

Priced at $79.99, Lenovo's Smart Clock with the Google Assistant is exactly what it sounds like. Primarily, it's a clock with an LCD display, but you can talk to it. It's powered by Google's Assistant, which means that you can use it to control your smart home, play music, answer questions, and more.

Also, this isn't another smart display. The Smart Clock is clearly more geared toward being a clock rather than something that does everything. Read on for our review.

Specs

Processor Mediatek 8167S 1.5GHz
RAM 1GB
Storage 8GB eMMC
OS Android Things
Display 4” (480x800) IPS, Touch Compatible
Speakers 1 x 1.5”, 3 Watt
2 x Passive Radiators
I/O buttons 1 x Microphone Mute
1 x Volume Up/Down
1 x USB 2.0 Type-A
Connectivity 802.11ac WLAN, Bluetooth 5.0
Dimensions 4.483x3.14x3.11” (113.88x79.8x79.2mm)
Weight 0.723lbs (328g)
Color/Materials Grey, Soft Touch Cloth
Price $79.99


Design

The Lenovo Smart Clock is not a complicated device, and the beauty is in its simplicity. It's a wedge-shaped machine that leaves the display on a slight angle.

The body is wrapped in gray cloth, and under that cloth on the top of the device is the speaker. Interestingly, the sound can get pretty loud for such a small machine. Also on top, there are '+' and '-' buttons to control the volume. As far as music services go, it works with anything that's integrated into Google Assistant, which does not include the two services that I subscribe to, Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited. Luckily, you can pair your phone via Bluetooth.

On the back of the device, there's a power port, a switch to shut the microphone off, and a USB 2.0 Type-A port. The USB port is a nice touch, because you can use it to charge your devices. Assuming you're placing the Smart Clock right next to your bed, having a charger there makes sense. Also, I'm not sure if this is a problem for normal people, but I never have enough power outlets. Now, you don't have to worry about removing your charger to plug in the Smart Clock, because it can do both.

Ultimately, it's a pretty stylish device. I think Lenovo put a lot of thought into it, and it fits in with the general design language of Google Assistant products.

Display

The Lenovo Smart Clock has a four-inch 480x800 display, and I really, really want to compare it to a Nokia Lumia 520, but I'll spare you from my Windows Phone references. The problem is that the screen really just isn't that good.

I've complained about this before, but devices like this can really benefit from an OLED display, and that's not what's here. The problem is that when you turn the lights off, you can still see that the screen is backlit. With an OLED panel, the only thing that would be lit up would be the time. I say I've complained about this before because Lenovo never used OLED technology in its smart display products.

I will say that the adaptive brightness on the Smart Clock is pretty good. It dims down as much as it can when you turn the lights off - most of the time. Sometimes it just doesn't. Still, it's as good as it can be for the quality of the display. This is just a case where OLED would make so much more sense.

Also, the bezels are pretty large on the product, which is fine. This isn't the type of product where you need an immersive experience. It's a clock, and you probably won't be using the screen for much else, most of the time.

For that same reason, the 480p resolution is just fine. You can't view photos or watch videos on this thing, so there's no consumption experience going on.

There are 10 different clock faces that you can use. I like the weather one, which changes based on, you guessed it, the weather.

Functionality

As I mentioned above, this is not a smart display. My biggest disappointment is that it doesn't have the Google Photos integration that smart displays do have. My favorite thing about Lenovo's Smart Display is that it can be used as a digital picture-frame with any of the albums that Google Photos automatically makes for you. With the Smart Clock, you just get the 10 clock faces.

You also can't use it to watch videos, meaning that you can't cast to it. I don't think you'd really want to though, on a device like this. There's also no camera, and you can't use the Smart Clock to make calls.

Now that we've covered the limitations, let's talk about what it's good at. The most obvious use case for a Smart Clock is setting alarms, and it has all of the fun and useful Google Assistant features. This includes Sunrise alarm, where the display will gradually brighten as you wake up. You can also set a good morning routine, which can do things like tell you what the weather is like and tell you how long your commute to work will be. You can have it adjust your lights or thermostat, and when it's done, it can play a podcast, the news, music, and more.

If you want to dismiss your alarm, you just tap the top of the Smart Clock. You can also set it so that the tap means to snooze or to stop the alarm completely.

You can also set custom routines, where you can add any command that you want. What you'll have to do is set up a command that you want to tell Google Assistant, and it will do the tasks that you've assigned to it.

Naturally, you can do pretty much anything else you'd expect from a smart assistant. You can ask it for the weather, have it show you your Google Calendar, play music, show you how long your commute will be, and more. If you've got it installed in your kitchen, you can have it show you recipes and it will guide you step-by-step; however, it doesn't give you visuals like a smart display would.

If you've got smart home products that integrate with Google Assistant, you can control those too. For example, you can tell it to turn on your Philips Hue lights when you get home, and then tell it to turn on the air conditioner with your Nest thermostat. If you want to get fancy, just set up a routine where it will do both when you tell it you're home.

One other thing that's cool is that it will give you suggested alarms. These can be based on either alarms that you've set in the past or items in your calendar.

There's one big issue that I had while using it though. The Smart Clock disconnected from Wi-Fi for me, and it did it frequently enough that I feel like I have to bring it up. I even tried plugging it in in the same room as the router, and it still had occasional issues. When this happens, the device is useless. It doesn't even show you the time.

Conclusion

I feel like the Lenovo Smart Clock is a niche device. I haven't had a clock in my room in years, and I suspect that many others are in the same boat. Most of us sleep a few feet away from our phones, and have no need for an alarm clock.

It's a nice thing to have in case you do wish that you could see the time at a glance. And of course, it's powered by Google Assistant, which means that it can do a lot more than a traditional alarm clock.

My biggest issues with it are general problems with the functionality, such as when it disconnected from Wi-Fi for seemingly no reason (I assume this can be fixed with an update that simply shows the time when it's disconnected). Also, as I talked about at length, this thing could really do with an OLED display, and I really wish I could just place the time on top of a Google Photos album.

But for $79.99, it's a good product. The idea of being able to set alarms with routines is a really good one, and it's convenient. Ultimately, this is a pretty simple device, and you have to want it for what it is. It's a clock that you can talk to, play music from, and more.

 

Report a problem with article
1536687203_twitter7
Next Article

Twitter ramps up machine learning push with Fabula AI acquisition

1559560665_xiaomi_under_display_camera
Previous Article

Xiaomi teases its own take on under-display phone camera

4 Comments - Add comment

Advertisement