Lenovo Smart Display review: Ask me anything, anytime

Mala Bhargava | Updated on September 19, 2019

Not a tablet, not a smartphone, but a simple hear-and-see hub for information and home control

Here’s one kind of gadget you’re likely to see more of in the near future — smart displays, three of which we’ve featured here just recently — the Echo Show 5, the Google Nest Hub and Lenovo Smart Clock.

Now, also from Lenovo, is a bigger 10.1-inch display with a speaker fitted interestingly to its side. With the introduction of this device, we now have about five smart speakers with displays in India and more are likely to come in soon.

The Lenovo Smart Display was actually shown off a year ago and again just recently at the IFA tech show in Berlin. One of the aspects of this display that people liked straight away was the way it looks. Like some of the other displays, it’s like a tablet mounted on a base, but this one has a grill extension on the side that houses the speaker. From the back, this gadget is even more interesting as it has a bamboo finish with a curve and bump where the actual speaker resides. I suppose it’s meant to go with home decor, whether you place it in the kitchen — to follow recipe videos or listen to songs, perhaps — or the master bedroom or the dining room or even an office. So the back is bamboo, the speaker white, and the bezels around the screen black. It does seem a bit of an odd mixture, though it ends up looking fine despite these contrasts. On the top, the display has a volume rocker and a mute switch. On the right, there’s a small switch to turn the camera on or off. All other controls are on-screen and of course by voice command.

Setting up the smart display is done through the Google Home app on a phone or tablet and needs no know-how. The user is led through the simple steps and it takes but a short while to be ready for use.

Quick glance info

Once you’ve got it going, you’ll see that the smart display is really a home device, letting you use some limited Google services. It isn’t meant to replace either a phone or a tablet, so the scope and depth of services you’ll see on those devices will not be found on this display. It’s meant for a place where you can just shoot a question out of the blue without having to reach for anything and you can glance to see supporting visual information. For example, you can just ask which movies are playing nearby. When you hear the answer and see results, you can’t tap and explore as you would with a full browser. You can plug the display in the kitchen and follow a recipe, or put it in a central place in the house like a lounge or dining room and use it to control your smart home devices such as smart lights and whatever else you find compatible or enabled with smart plus, add to your shopping list, set timers, reminders, alarms, calendar events, your flight information, etc. You can’t read text messages or email — that would be too non-private considering others around can also glance at them.

One thing you can do with the Lenovo Smart Display is make Duo-to-Duo video calls. Check the Google Home app to see that all options you want are enabled. You can’t, unfortunately use Skype or download any apps on to the display — else it would very quickly become a full tablet and that’s not the idea. The device does have a camera, which you can turn off with a physical switch and privacy shutter, as mentioned, if you’re worried about anyone spying on you.

A home for YouTube

Though the Smart Display doesn’t support movie sources like Netflix or Hotstar or Prime, you can cast content from your phone to the display if the app supports it. However, you can definitely watch YouTube in full force. It will show your own Youtube account and you’ll have to tap to choose a specific video. But if you choose a playlist, you can get some continuous playing. You can also listen to Google Music or YouTube Music, Spotify, Gaana and Saavn. Actually, if you have Amazon Prime Music, you’ll find you can stream from the phone to the display from there as well. As far as sound quality goes, it works very well for information and interacting with Google. For music, it’s fine if you want casual listening without regard to proper quality. If you’re fussy about how your music sounds, you’ll find it lacking in bass and not really as full-blooded as some like it. You can group the device with other Google smart speakers. When the display is not doing anything, it will show your Google photos and images from its own collection of street art, featured photos and paintings. They look very good, especially if the brightness is dimmed and looking less electronic. The display has an ambient light sensor and goes dim when the lights are low, which is very nice.

The Smart Display competes with Amazon’s larger Echo Show, which of course can give much of the same information but within the Alexa ecosystem. That device works better for music and though you can’t see Netflix, you can access Prime videos, YouTube in a slightly roundabout way, and a lot of special “Skills’.

Lenovo Smart Display
  • Price: ₹14,999
  • Pros: Handy home companion, nice simple functionality, large pleasing screen, makes a nice photo frame, great for information at a glance
  • Cons: Not the best option for music, couldn’t get some functions to work

Published on September 19, 2019

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