When Amazon introduced its Echo Show in 2017, it changed the thought of what a speaker could do. The idea of adding a display to a smart speaker opened up a new dimension to the conversational way of obtaining information from a virtual assistant. You can not only control smart home devices, stream music, or any other multitude of things, but also watch videos and make calls. Now that the devices like Google Nest Hub and Amazon Echo Show are slowly gaining momentum, and new players are joining in.
The smart display race continues to heat up as brands like Lenovo is offering one of the best smart displays. The company recently launched smart speakers in India, including an expensive “Smart Display” and the cheapest “Smart Clock.” As the name suggests, the latter is designed specifically to be used as a bedside clock that you can control with your voice. It can do a lot of things, apart from just acting as an alarm clock. So is it the time to sack your vintage alarm clock? Oh and for Rs 5,999, is it worth it? Read our review to find out.
Classy design blends well with home decor, tiny display
Firstly, the Lenovo Smart Clock is the cheapest smart speaker in the market with a display. It doesn’t have a golf ball-shaped like cute design that Echo Spot has. But you do get a good looking device that blends well with home decor. The device flaunts a rectangular wedge shape body on which the screen is placed at an angle. It has a textured fabric wrap around the back and sides, which sort of gives a classy look.
The design also reminds of Echo Show 5, which offers a much bigger 5.5-inch display and costs Rs 3,000 more. The Smart Clock comes with a 4-inch screen, and it is very lightweight and unobtrusive. The company has added two rubber pads at the base as well so that it doesn’t slide out. On the top, there are a pair of volume buttons. Similar to the Google Nest Hub, there isn’t a built-in camera here for video calls. But users with privacy issues or who don’t like the idea of another camera in their home will welcome the fact that it lacks a camera. It should be noted that Amazon’s Echo Show 5 comes with a physical shutter that hides the lens, which is a nice feature.
The Smart Clock’s display operates at 800 x 480 pixels resolution. It has good enough viewing angles, and we could easily read from it across the room – all because of the large fonts. It supports an ambient light sensor as well, which does a perfect job of auto-balancing the brightness of the screen as per the room’s light temperature. We really liked this feature as the screen also gets dim at night to not literally disturb you. At the back, there is also a USB port, which one can use it to charge a smartphone. In case you don’t want your smart speaker to listen to your private conversations, there’s a mute button too on the back.
“Hey Google, set an alarm for me”
One thing to note here is that you will mostly interact with the screen when you want to set an alarm. You can even set it with your voice by saying “Ok Google, set a music alarm.” Then ask the Google Assistant to wake you up at whatever time you specify. Interestingly, with the help of the assistant, you can set the alarm with music from Ganna, Spotify, or any other service, or with a radio. Sadly, you won’t be able to do that manually, which is surprising. What you do get is the option to choose from six distinct alarm tones.
One of the features that we liked is the “Sunrise Alarm” feature. This will gradually make the screen brighter 30 mins before the set time. With the “Good Morning” shortcut button, you can wake up to Assistant briefing you about the weather, your schedule, commute, and the latest available news. Similarly, there is one “Good night” routine, and Nap timer shortcuts too.
To shut an alarm, you can use your voice and just say “Stop” without even the need of saying “Hey Google,” which is nice. You can also bang the top of the device to stop the alarm, which reminds us of the vintage alarm clocks. One can even change the hard tap option in the settings to “Snooze” (you can also change the time of the snooze). The alarm can be stopped by simply just tapping the “Stop” button on the touchscreen. The company says that the Smart Clock will help users develop healthy sleep habits by reducing dependency on phones.
What else can you do with the screen?
Apart from setting an alarm clock with different tones, you also get with ten different clock faces. This also includes conventional digital or analog clock faces. There are a few creative clock faces too like one of them shows “Seven forty-two.” Once you long-press on the screen, you’ll pull up an interface. There you will also find an option to set your own Google Photos or featured images if you are bored by just looking at the clock faces.
Customizing the home screen with photos of my own means that it can act as a photo album too. But the issue is the device can’t display all the Google Photos, and you get very few photo options. It is fine considering some might not like to see their photos on the tiny screen. And not to forget the core purpose of this smart device is to offer you the best alarm clock-centric features, which it is good at.
“Hey Google, can Lenovo smart clock play videos?”
Your interactions with the touchscreen will be very limited. As there is no camera, you can’t make any video calls. Unlike other smart displays, one won’t be able to play YouTube videos too. The company says on the Smart Clock, one can watch feeds from Nest cameras. It should be noted that its rival Amazon Echo Show 5 does offer support for videos and making calls. But it is also Rs 3,000 costlier than the smart clock. I did discover a way to watch YouTube videos on the Smart Clock.
At the bottom of the weather window, you get an option to open the Weather.com website to get more information. There you can watch all the videos or trending news on the website. It also shows “Connect with us through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube.” You then just need to tap on YouTube to open their channel. Then you can watch trendy videos on YouTube or the clips that are showing on the home page. But the issue is you cannot type as there is no on-screen keypad support. What we believe is one wouldn’t really be interested in watching a video on such a tiny in the first place.
“Ok Google, what else you can do for me?”
You can check detailed weather information, and even ask Google Assistant if there are any events or reminders. You can ask the virtual assistant to play any particular song too. Users can also use the smart speaker as an individual Bluetooth speaker for their phone. One just needs to ask the digital assistant to turn on the Bluetooth. The display will only show the name of the song and not the lyrics. Similarly, things like food recipes, sports scores are limited to audio-only.
When you ask how far is “any particular location,” it will display the time it will take you to reach there. This also includes km and traffic condition details, but not the full directions. It is fine that my clock cannot display these things as one always get those from other devices. Each morning or even in the day, you can get quick briefings of the news stories. You just need to ask “Ok Google, news please.” But the news headlines are not displayed on the screen. Unlike other Smart Displays, there is no dashboard of smart home controls. If you have smart home appliances, then you can control them with the help of the virtual assistant. One can ask a lot more things to her.
The device comes with a 6W speaker for music, alarms, podcasts, and even the radio. In terms of speaker quality, it is good enough to set a mood. It gets very loud if played in a small room. It is also loud enough to be heard adequately anywhere in larger rooms. And it also sounds better than Amazon’s tiny smart clock-cum-speaker called Echo Spot. Notably, we noticed little to no distortion at the top volume level.
Lenovo Smart Clock: Should you buy it?
Lenovo’s Smart Clock is a good buy if you’re planning on taking advantages of those alarm clock-centric features. It is the cheapest smart speaker in the market with a display. While the touchscreen interaction is limited to a few things, it is still worth buying as for the features it offers. As the company says, with this smart device, you can keep an eye on compatible smart security camera feeds. If you want a smart speaker that can offer ultimate clock-centric features, play music, daily news briefings, control your smart home appliances, then this is a good buy.
But, if you want a smart speaker that also has a camera and can make calls, then Amazon’s Echo Show 5 can be your best buy. It is priced at Rs 8,999, which is Rs 3,000 more than Lenovo Smart Clock’s Rs 5,999 price label. The audio quality of the latter is also good enough. But, don’t expect it to offer you a premium sound quality experience. But it definitely accomplishes the goal of serving as a well designed “Smart Clock.”