The voice assistant speaker market has seen significant expansion in recent years growing from nothing to voice assistants being in all the things. Since the category emerged, we’ve seen the arrival of smart speakers, smart displays, smart TVs, smart headphones and now smart clocks.
We first heard about the first Google Assistant-powered Clock at CES 2019 when Lenovo announced their Google Home inspired Lenovo Smart Clock. The Smart Clock is essentially a Google Home mini with a 4” display. Now, to be clear: this is a good thing.
What did we think of the Lenovo Smart Clock? Read on to find out.
The Smart Clock is a 79.8mm x 113.88 x 79.2mm 4-inch 480 x 800 touch screen IPS display device with a 1.5-inch 3W Speaker and 2 x Passive Radiators. It comes packaged in a very Google Home-style soft grey fabric.
Internally it’s packing Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 5.0 it’s powered by a Mediatek 8167S 1.5ghz SOC and paired with 1GB of RAM. This is a lot of technical detail, but what you need to understand is this:
Lenovo’s Smart Clock is reliable and doesn’t have any UI lag, and in our time with the device that’s not been an issue. It just works!
While the devices is intended to primarily be interacted with via Voice or the touchscreen, it also features volume up and down buttons on top as well as a sleep ‘button’ on top. Overall it’s reliable and easy to use in the dark.
As we suggested earlier, the Smart Clock is a fully-featured Google Assistant speaker, like the Google Home Mini with the added bonus of a screen, and thanks to a recent update, now has feature parity with other speakers. Unlike smart displays however, the screen on the Smart clock is less integrated into the overall Google Assistant features.
For auditory controls with the Assistant you’ll get complete feature parity with devices like the Google Home with access to Google search, Home Automation controls, media control, routines and much more.
Until very recently we would have called out the lack of Google Photos integration as a massive miss for the Smart Clock category, but it seems Google agrees as they are rolling out an update now to finally bring photos to the Lenovo smart clock.
With Photos now included there is really only one big feature missing for us, Google smart home controls. While the Smart Clock will give you a physical button to turn on or off any smart lights in the room the device is set up for it does not have the “swipe down” option to access the Home View automation control centre of Smart Displays.
We can understand that perhaps a device with a 4-inch display isn’t designed to control a whole house’s home automation set up. However, it should be able to control any linked home automation devices in the room it’s set up in. One small nitpick is that even if the room it’s set up in doesn’t have a smart light, it still has the toggle for it… that’s bad UI Google.
So what can the display do? By default, it shows the time, and thanks to the recent update that can be switched to photos now. You can also swipe to upcoming diary appointments, local weather and if you’re playing audio, you can also access Audio Controls.
Being a part of the Assistant ecosystem you can also ask to view some compatible Video Cameras, such as the Nest Cam on the 4-inch display.
This is going to be a matter of personal opinion. Personally, I like having a Duo capable device on my bedside table, I use it for video chat not infrequently, yes it is mainly to call down to the kitchen to ask for another cup of tea – don’t judge me!
The Lenovo Smart Clock does not have a camera, and can not be used to make or receive a Duo call, even if only using voice. For some people, that’s a good thing, for others it’s not. This was an intentional decision and I’m not sure if Google will ever add camera support to the Clock form factor.
Ok, this entire device is 79.8mm x 113.88 x 79.2mm set your audio expectations appropriately. If you’ve used a Google Home Mini before than you know the ballpark that the Lenovo Smart Clock falls into. It’s not a HiFi system, but saying that it can output some decent audio.
I’ve admitted many times before that I am not an audiophile, that doesn’t mean I tolerate bad audio. The Lenovo Smart Clock is crips, has decent volume especially when used part of a multi-room audio system is more than adequate.
My Daughter uses the Smart Clock as her sole audio device and is more than happy with it. When I have the house to myself I broadcast podcasts across the entire house while working and I’m also more than happy with the audio quality.
The bass can leave a little to be desired, and it’s not going to get louder than a vacuum but for it’s size and purpose it’s a solid performer.
Perhaps my love of the alarm clock is brought about by the fact this is the first alarm I have put in my daughter’s bedroom, but I love the alarm feature. Yep it’s an alarm clock, you set the time, frequencies and the alarm sound, that’s basically it.
There is a good array of alarm sounds but I wish you could set a song as the alarm sound via Google Play Music or YouTube Music for example, but you can’t. This is certainly a feature people will want and something I expect to see eventually make its way to the smart clock form factor.
I do wish that you could set and change alarms from the Home App. While you can see pending alarms and delete them via the app, you can not set new ones or edit alarms you have already set. It’s not a deal-breaker but it would be a great feature.
Would I buy one, yes, in fact, I will be getting one for my daughter. The alarm clock function is fantastic for getting her out of bed on a school morning and that has me sold. As part of a larger Google Assistant ecosystem, the Smart Clock is a valuable addition to the portfolio.
With the recent addition of Google Photos support, my major reservation about the device category is gone and I’m glad to see Google taking feedback on board. No camera support may be an issue for some, but as my intended location of this is a child’s bedroom I’m kind of glad about that now.
At $129 AUD full retail and around $99 when on sale, the Lenovo Smart Clock is a bit more expensive than a Google Home Mini, but then you are getting a bit more for that money. While I may not be swapping out all of my Smart Displays for Smart Clocks, I’m seriously thinking about adding more smart clocks to my home and office set up.