The Amazon Echo Show ($229.99 at Amazon.com) isn’t alone anymore. In fact, at CES 2018, the Show’s getting in the smart display category. Lenovo’s entry into the field — simply called the Lenovo Smart Display — might be the most stylish of the bunch.
Launching Monday along with otherfrom LG, Sony and JBL, the Lenovo Smart Display features either an 8 or 10 inch screen for $200 and $250 respectively. Both will go on sale this summer, but no word if they’ll be available overseas. The US price converts to roughly £150/AU$250 and £180/AU$315.
Like the Show, you’ll be able to issue voice commands to Lenovo’s Smart Displays. Say the word and you can control your smart home, search the internet, ask for directions or check your calendar. Lenovo’s display will show info relevant to your question on your touchscreen like a map or your schedule for the day.
Lenovo’s display helps Google catch up on the hardware front. Alexa still has more, but if Lenovo and Google make good use of the screen, the Lenovo Smart Display could easily be better than the slightly disappointing Echo Show. Since Lenovo’s relying on the same smarts as the other big name smart displays that rolled out today, it’ll also need impressive hardware and sound quality to stand out from the growing crowd.
Lenovo’s style will help. Both the gray 8-inch version and the bamboo-colored 10-inch display look like they’ll easily blend into most home decor. Plus, you can use both models either horizontally or vertically depending on your space. Both models also feature 10-watt speakers, a 5-megapixel camera for video calls and powerful Qualcomm processors designed specifically for Google’s smart displays. So, Lenovo’s hardware looks to be up to the challenge.
During a hands-on demo, Lenovo’s screen looked good in action. A Google rep pulled up a live feed from a Nest Cam ($199.00 at Dell Home), sent directions to his phone, made a video call to his mom through Google Duo and asked for cooking directions. When he needed clarification on a step while cooking, he asked for it, and Google pulled up a Youtube video showing how it was done.
The Lenovo Smart Display also has a couple of extra touches to help with privacy. The mute button was expected, as all Google Home smart speakers have one. Lenovo’s cam also has a physical shutter you can slide over it.
Bear in mind that the Lenovo Smart Display won’t be able to make ordinary calls yet. That ability is still reserved for Google’s first-party smart speakers, though the Google rep assured me the company is working to roll it out to their partners.
The Lenovo Smart Display also isn’t a full tablet. It’s not running Android, but a simpler operating system called Android Things that boots directly into a Google Assistant interface similar to what you’d see on the Google Assistant app on your phone. The home screen shows your upcoming appointments and any music you’re playing. A search for restaurants or music shows a visual listing of options.
Google’s trying to keep things simple with smart displays so it’ll just plug in and work like a Google Home. We’ll see if that idea pays off and if smart displays like the one from Lenovo can outduel the Echo Show and find a useful gap between smart speakers and tablets.
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: CNET’s complete coverage of tech’s biggest show.