Lenovo Smart Display with Google Assistant hands-on

Key Features

  • 8- or 10-inch screen
  • Google Assistant
  • Snapdragon 624
  • Android Things

Lenovo Smart Display hands-on: An Echo Show, but with Google Assistant

Google Assistant is everywhere at CES 2018. It’s in speakers, TVs, headphones and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it turn up in a fridge before the week is out. But arguably the coolest, and most useful, implementation of the virtual AI is in smart displays.

Google is partnering with a bunch of manufacturers for these smart screens, but Lenovo’s version seems to the one getting all the attention.

Lenovo Smart Display price

Prices will start at $199 for the 8-inch and $249 for the 10-inch model.

Lenovo Smart Display release date

Expect a ‘summer’ release date in the USA, but we couldn’t get a confirmed UK date.

Lenovo Smart Display design and features

Lenovo’s Smart Display is basically Amazon’s quirky Echo Show, but ditching Alexa for Google Assistant. It’s a lot less, well, ‘unique’ in its style and feels much more modern. Whereas the Echo Show has this odd retro ’70s TV vibe, the Smart Display is stark white with either a bamboo or soft-touch matte plastic back. There’s a kickstand built into the back that’ll let you prop the screen up either horizontally or vertically.

One particularly neat hardware addition is the small cover that slides over the 720p front-facing camera when it’s not in use. I use an Echo Show and there’s something slightly disconcerting about that camera always watching you, so having a physical way to turn it off is much appreciated.

Two versions will be available when it launches in the summer: an 8-inch and a 10-inch model, but aside from the size there’s only a slight resolution bump in the larger one. Both displays look sharp and colourful, with the 8-inch one feeling like the perfect size for a device like this.

Underneath the simple exterior is a Snapdragon 624 CPU, 2GB RAM and 4GB storage. Nothing too surprising there, but remember for a device like this you’ll likely never give a second thought to the internals.

Google has built the operating system entirely itself, giving Assistant a viable UI that feels fluid and useful for a product like this. Your homescreen displays the time, along with snaps from your Google Photos account, and unlike the Echo Show it’ll play videos from YouTube without any hassle. There’s also support for services like Nest and you can make video calls through Duo.

The card interface that Google uses throughout its products is here and it’ll service news and meeting reminders intelligently. While you can touch the screen to navigate the UI, it’s clear you’re meant to use your voice.

Third-party apps will be supported too, and I saw a demo of a Nest app showing a live feed from one of its cameras. It’s interesting to note that rather than running the version of Android you’d be used to seeing on a phone, the Smart Display runs Android Things. This means you won’t be installing your regular selection of apps from Google Play, with apps instead having to be approved and loaded directly from Google itself.

First impressions

While I’m not completely sold on the idea that smart speakers need to have physical screens, there’s no doubt that Google has built a UI that feels at home on such a device. The sleek style instantly pushes it above the Echo Show and the wide support Assistant already has means you won’t be short of things to do.

Lenovo’s Smart Display will ship in the summer – in the US, at least – with prices starting at $199 for the 8-inch and $249 for the 10-inch model.