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Lenovo Smart Display hands-on review: bad news for the Amazon Echo Show?

Lenovo Smart Display
The Lenovo Smart Display would make a fine addition to any kitchen

I’m still struggling to understand what people would use an Amazon Echo Show for – that is, an Echo speaker with an integrated tablet screen. It strikes me as tech looking for a solution. At first, I felt the same about the Lenovo Smart Display, but after a 30-minute demo at CES, I’m tempted.

What separates it from the Amazon equivalent is Google. The company’s services are placed front and centre of the interface, so you’ll always be reminded of upcoming appointments and events. Assuming you’re already signed up to Google’s various offerings, that is; if you’re not, you might as well stop reading.

Lenovo Smart Display: day in the life

Lenovo Smart Display
The sun is always shining if you buy a Lenovo Smart Display

To show how the Smart Display could improve your life, my demo hosts – including one Google representative – walked through a “day in the life” of a busy American mum. Sorry, American mom.

She starts with a “Hey Google” followed by a “What’s happening today” query. A summary of her day appears on screen, along with Google Assistant reading it out. She has to pour the Cinnamon Grahams into her children’s bowls, after all. No time to waste reading.

It goes on to tell her the weather and reminds her of a colleague’s birthday, so naturally she needs a cake! Busy moms can’t bake their own. So she asks for local bakeries and directions, which are then sent to her phone.

The Smart Display also supports routines, so a “Hey Google, wake everyone up” could be tied in with lights going on in the kids’ bedroom, and the sound of a cock-a-doodle-do from the speakers. You get the idea.

Lenovo Smart Display: the hardware

There are two versions of the Smart Display: an 8in version with an HD (1,280 x 720) screen and a 10in version with Full HD (1,920 x 1,080). Both looked suitably vibrant in the demo room, but as ever I’ll need to test them properly for a decisive verdict.

Lenovo Smart Display
You can sit the Smart Display in portrait or landscape mode

One nice touch is that you can use the Smart Displays in portrait or landscape mode. In the former position, the speaker sits at the bottom. Audio quality seemed on a par with an Echo, and it had enough punch to fill a 15-foot-square room.

I’ll be interested to see if Lenovo sticks with the colouring when the devices are released, in summer this year. While the smaller Smart Display’s grey rear looks good in suitably modern homes, it can also feel a bit antiseptic. That’s probably why Lenovo opted for a bamboo finish on the reverse of the larger version.

Lenovo Smart Display
While they look rather similar front, the 10in Smart Display has a smarter bamboo finish (not to scale)

We’ll also have to wait for UK prices, but we already know the US cost: $199 for the 8in Smart Display, $249 for the 10in version. Both those prices are pre-sales tax, and it’s a solid guess that they’ll cost £199 and £249 respectively in the UK, including VAT.

Lenovo Smart Display: early thoughts

Lenovo isn’t alone in creating a Google Assistant-powered smart speaker with a display (someone has to think of a better name for these devices!). I’m expecting a few other such products, with LG announcing its own take at its CES press conference.

Whether the world is really crying out for such devices is a different matter. I’d definitely consider one for the kitchen (“Hey Google, how do I make white sauce?”), not least because it can double up as a radio and TV, but the price is inevitably high.

But, as I mentioned right at the top, I’m much more likely to consider this than an Echo Show.

Read this next: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet 3rd Gen hands-on review

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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