Lenovo Smart Assistant Fuses Amazon Alexa AI Power With Harman Kardon Audio

If sharing is caring, then Amazon cares an awful lot about Lenovo, the Chinese electronics manufacturer that is building a version of Echo...with Amazon's blessing. Lenovo is calling its Echo clone Smart Assistant and like Echo it is powered by Amazon's Alexa digital assistant. That means users will be able to do all the same things they already can with Echo, but with a competing smart speaker that adds a bit of style to the Echo's cylindrical design.

Obviously Lenovo and Amazon came to some kind of licensing agreement here, one that Amazon feels is worth the risk of cannibalizing sales of its own Echo. Or perhaps Amazon is not sweating the prospect too much considering that recent data pegs Echo sales at more than 5 million units in its first two years. Either way, Lenovo is fully on board with its version that will be available in a variety of color options. There will also be a premium version of Lenovo's Smart Assistant with Alexa that taps Harmon Karmon for higher grade audio.

Lenovo Smart Assistant

"We’re excited to work with an innovative company such as Lenovo to bring the Lenovo Smart Assistant with Alexa to customers this spring," said Steve Rabuchin, vice president, Amazon Alexa. "At Amazon, we work hard to provide customers with as much choice as possible—and Lenovo’s new Smart Assistant speaker does just that through leveraging the power of Alexa Voice Services (AVS). We can’t wait for customers to try this out later this year."

Let's pause a moment to get our geek on. The Smart Assistant is powered by an Intel Celeron N3060 processor and 2GB of RAM. It also has 8GB of onboard storage and supports 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. Inside the cylinder is a 5W tweeter paired with a 10W woofer, along with a 6+2 microphone array with noise suppression and acoustic echo cancellation to pick up verbal commands from every direction up to 16 feet away. The Harmon Karmon model adds a second sound cavity for a clearer tweeter and deeper bass.

Lenovo Smart Assistant Black and White

"Our goal has never been to simply build smart home devices for the sake of advancing technology alone," says Johnson Jia, Lenovo’s senior vice president, PC & Smart Device Business Group. "In the same way a person’s IQ is measured by applied knowledge, we believe products are ‘smart’ to the degree they’re actually understood and applied to daily life by their users."

The Smart Assistant is listed at 1.5 liters in size with a starting weight of 1.67 pounds, making it a little lighter than the Echo. Lenovo's version is also less expensive, at least for the standard edition—the Smart Assistant will run $130 MSRP and be available in light gray, green, and orange beginning in May. The Harman Karmon edition, which will only be available in black, will run $180.