Lenovo Smart Display Review: Google Home Assistant Grows A Head And It’s Great

Lenovo Smart Display Software, Experience And Review Summary

So what can you do with a display and camera-equipped Google Home smart device? Well, with a Google Assistant-enabled device like this, if you're familiar with how things work on Android, it's mostly similar. With Google's strong AI integration, Android Things devices like the Lenovo Smart Display have a lot of the same capabilities, from Google Maps integration, to YouTube and lots of other Google services. In fact, though Amazon technically beat Google and its ecosystem partners to the punch with Echo Show, this device feels like the culmination of a lot of things Google was gunning for with respect to the connected home. 

Google Assistant Lenovo Smart Display
Lenovo Smart Display - Google Assistant And Google Home With A Face

Tight Integration With Google Home

Google Home Devices App Google Home Devices App2
Google Home Android App With Devices

The Lenovo Smart Display's interface is closely tied to the Google Home app, so much so that to set it up, you must install the app on either your Android phone or an iOS device. For testing purposes, we were in a pure Android flow and we'd venture to say that's where this device will respond most naturally, for obvious reasons. As you can see above, once the Lenovo Smart Display is connected to the same WiFi network, you have access to all of your "Android Things" with it, from NVIDIA SHIELD TV and Chromecast set top streaming devices, to Nest thermostats and other smart home devices like Philips Hue lighting, for example.

Access To Media, Services And The Ability To Cast

YouTube Lenovo Smart Display Smart Display Service
And the cool thing is you can cast YouTube from virtually any device on your network to the Smart Display. On your phone, desktop PC, or laptop and see a funny cat video? Cool -- just throw it up on the Smart Display for all to enjoy. In fact, if the Smart Display is located in a common area like the kitchen or living room, you can lighten the mood, or perhaps throw on a little Barry White to invoke the mood, all from afar. There are also a number of services you can connect with Google Home and the Smart Display, from HBO Now to CNN, but unfortunately one of those services is not Netflix, currently. We tried but it just isn't supported yet. Come on Google, work on that. A little Mad Men while I'm sipping whiskey neat and making dinner would rock.

Side note: Google Assistant also serves as a pretty great reference and guide for your culinary endeavors with instructional cooking recipe capabilities as well. 

Smart Home Automation Is A Strong Suit, As Is Video Calling

Then there's the integration of Smart Home products and the Google Home design team clearly has been refining, expanding and improving things. Control of Nest Thermostats and other smart devices like Philips Hue lighting and Wemo home automation products is excellent, with full control via voice or touchscreen input. In the example above with Nest, we could adjust temperature and heating or cooling modes anywhere in the house; and that goes for virtually any device that's linked into and compatible with the Google Home app. Early on it seemed like Amazon was getting an inside track on features like this but Google Home on the Lenovo Smart Display are every bit as powerful now, if not more so. 

Smart Display Nest Demo
Lenovo Smart Display Controls Nest Thermostats
Google Duo Calling On Smart Display
Google Duo works really well and is widely accessible across platforms, including Android and iOS

Finally, Google Duo video calling is also available on the Lenovo Smart Display and it works exceptionally well (check out our video demo on page 1 for taste). There are a number of ways these days to make video calls from smart devices equipped with cameras, but being able to just fire up Google Duo from any Android or iOS device sporting a camera makes the Lenovo Smart Display, and future devices like it, that much more accessible and pervasive for a larger audience of video calling. The one great thing about many of Google's services is that they are cross-platform. So if your iPhone-toting friend wants to be able to video chat with you, yes Google Duo available on the Apple App Store as well. It's just not nearly as straight-forward on the Amazon Echo platform currently.

concludeWe've made a lot of A/B comparisons between the Lenovo Smart Display with Google Assistant and the Amazon Echo Show, but that really wasn't the intent of this review even though the inevitable comparisons can and should be drawn. The bottom line is that Google Home devices and the Android Things platform has greater potential for future expanded connectivity, due its larger hardware and software ecosystem. As it stands right now, Amazon's Echo Show and the Lenovo Smart Display do what each platform does best. If you're a big Amazon Prime services user, from shopping to video, music and other services, then the Echo Show will likely be a better option. Otherwise, and especially if you're an Android user currently, the Lenovo Smart Display is a better choice, with a bright future ahead of it, as further expansion of the Android Things platform continues. 

Lenovo Smart Display YouTube Review2

Whether or not you need a Lenovo Smart Display with Android Assistant in your life is another question. Personally, I already have a Bluetooth wireless speaker in my kitchen and use it all the time, connected both to my Android phone and my Windows PC. However, I'd be very tempted to swap it out for the Lenovo Smart Display, since, in addition to its solid audio fidelity, I get much more functionality from it with its smart home controls and integration with other Google services. If you already have a Google Home or similar smart speaker device without a display, that's another scenario to ponder. The display and camera do bring tangible benefits and some pretty great features like video calling and casting media to the device, that's for sure. We just wish there was a physical power button and a battery on board, so you could take the Smart Display with you to the back deck, though that would obviously add size, weight and cost to the equation. In this scenario, we'd say go for the Smart Display in addition to your portable Bluetooth speaker, for the best of both worlds - but hey, can't we ask for it all in one device?

In any event, at $250 for the 10-inch model and $200 for the 8-inch version, the new Lenovo Smart Display is a compelling and impressive first effort by Google and one of its strongest ecosystem partners. We just got word that Costo, by the way, is already selling the device for $50 off MSRP (members only). So it looks like the Lenovo Smart Display's value proposition is getting a little stronger already. 
 hot  not
  • Stylish, minimal, modern design
  • Excellent audio quality
  • Powered by Google Assistant
  • Punchy, crisp, large touch display
  • 10-inch model is pricey
  • Some services not supported yet
  • No power off functionality

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