Seeing something is often more informative than hearing about it, which makes smart home devices like the 10-inch Lenovo Smart Display especially compelling. For instance, instead of having the Google Assistant tell me about a recipe, I can have it show me how to knead dough or chiffonade chives.
Recently, I spent a week with the Lenovo Smart Display to see if it could elevate usage of Google Assistant, the A.I. brain that powers its hardware. It is one of the many gadgets that fuses a smart speaker’s capabilities with an iPad-like display. The market for smart displays could grow to $6.7 million by 2025 according to one estimate, which explains the wide variety of choices available to consumers.
The display — which runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 624 processor — was released in July of 2018 and faces competition from Google’s own display, the [Home Hub] (/article/50579-google-home-hub-five), the Amazon Echo Show, and Facebook Portal, which range in cost from $150 to $340 for Facebook’s display.
Early reviews claim Lenovo’s display stands up to established smart speakers, like Amazon’s Echo Show, and also adds more depth to the Google Assistant capabilities.
Out of the box, the Lenovo Smart Display is an absolute unit. Its 10.1-inch screen is flanked by a 2-inch speaker and a 5 megapixel camera.
Product: 10” Lenovo Smart Display
Price: Varies, but Lenovo advertises it as $134.99. Current discounts on Amazon have the price lower.
Perfect for: Visual learners who have a handful of smart home gadgets.
Below are five things I learned after using it for a week.
Setting it up was a breeze and only required me to plug it in and link my Gmail. Within minutes, it began playing a slideshow of my most recent photos from my Google Pixel 3 and reminding me of events I had on my calendar. I decided to test its capabilities by trying to learn something new.
I’ve left a Samurai Jack board game untouched since I received it for Christmas because its instructions seemed so daunting. But the Lenovo display helped me get the gist of it in about an hour. This made me realize that 1. It’s a surprisingly good teacher.
All I had to say was, “Hey Google, teach me how to play the Samurai Jack board game,” and it brought up an instructional video. Now, all I have to do is get some friends to come over to play a very niche board game, which the Lenovo Display has sadly not been able to help with.
Working from home made it clear that 2. the Lenovo Display makes for an incredible desk TV, especially for me, a YouTube junkie.
YouTube is the only video app on the display that allows for search using voice commands. (Being able to bring up a video by just asking the screen was both a blessing and a curse during the work day.) I used it to check out some of the wildest foldable phone concepts at MWC 2019, but I also found myself struggling not to constantly watch Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament replays.
Unfortunately, the display doesn’t support Netflix. But cord-cutters with HBO Go/Now, Google Play Movies, YouTube TV, and Hulu accounts can link them to the device.
I had a feeling the 10W full range speaker would slap and it delivered … maybe too much: 3. Its speaker can get the loudest out of the handful of smart displays I’ve tried, but that isn’t always necessarily a good thing.
I asked the Google Assistant to play the sound of rain to help me go to sleep, but I forgot to turn down the volume. I heard the sound of a monsoon.
I also tested it at maximum volume, against my roommates’ wishes, and found it distorts many songs if you take it beyond 80 percent volume. Keep it at 50 percent for the best quality.
I found the Lenovo Smart Display most useful in the kitchen. I don’t cook often, but when I do, I rely on my laptop or phone for recipe instructions, which inevitably results in my gadgets basted in breadcrumbs or butter.
4. The Lenovo Smart Display provides hands-free recipe assistance so that my keyboard and smartphone stay schmutz-free. I asked the display to help me whip up some cheesy biscuits, and it was able to distill the recipe I wanted into clearly presented bullet points that I could move through using voice commands.
The only annoyance, even with Google Assistant’s “continued conversation” mode activated, was this: If I didn’t say “next” fast enough, I’d have to say “hey Google” every time I wanted to advance to the next step of the recipe. Besides that, it was able to make a novice baker like myself feel less daunted by the process.
My mom often complains that I don’t video call her enough, so I decided to put its camera to the test by video calling her. After some technical difficulties, we managed to chat face to face.
Google Duo is the only video calling app supported by the device, so calling your friends on WhatsApp or FaceTime is out of the question. 5. The Lenovo Smart Display makes it easy to call friends and family, but only if they have Duo.
Video calling is also the only way to use the smart display in portrait orientation. Unlike a smartphone or tablet that can be flipped vertically to browse apps and horizontally to watch videos, the Lenovo display is locked to a landscape orientation when using Google Duo. It’s disappointing, as the display looks designed to sit both ways.
In the end, I was most hooked on the Lenovo display as a TV on my desk, but I see endless potential for it as an electronic teacher. I found that voice assistants are most helpful when they have a screen at their disposal to show you what you want, not just tell you. But it’s not for everyone.
Die-hard Apple fans will find that the HomePod will link to their iPads and iPods much more seamlessly. However, if you’re looking for a smart display with 1280 x 800 HD screen, powerful speakers, and a camera for calls, this is the clear choice amongst the rest.
The voice assistants on our phones are especially helpful because they provide on-screen shortcuts. I found that the same thing is true for smart home devices.