A bedside companion with a compelling price and compact size.
Lenovo is expanding its smart home offering with the new Smart Clock, a purpose-made bedside alarm clock that slots in well underneath the Lenovo Smart Display. With just a 4-inch screen, the Smart Clock is notably smaller than even the Google Home Hub — and in turn scales back its capabilities to match the simplified needs of a smart alarm clock for your bedroom. Plus, it’s just $80.
Hardware-wise, the Smart Clock fits in perfectly with the Lenovo Smart Display and the rest of the Google Home ecosystem. The soft lines, simple face and textured fabric covering are signatures of the lineup. There are a pair of volume buttons on the top, and a hardware mute switch on the back — and no, there isn’t a camera here. There’s also a USB-A port on the back, which will be useful for plugging in your phone at night if you wish.
And the Smart Clock is tiny compared to the Smart Display and even Home Hub. The 4-inch display (which is just 800×480) is accompanied by a relatively small casing for what it is: the face is about 4.5 by 3 inches, and its tapered back end is just over 3 inches deep. It is, after all, supposed to be roughly the size of a bedside clock, and accomplishes its goal of being unobtrusive.
You get a full Google Assistant experience, plus an extremely useful display for most interactions.
At its core, the Smart Clock operates like a scaled-back Smart Display: its home screen is a customizable always-on clock face, and with swipes you can move between screens of ongoing media playback, alarms, upcoming calendar appointments, weather information, and small nuggets of information like commute times. The clock faces are customizable, but Lenovo wasn’t able to show us all of them just yet because they haven’t been finished — Google expects there to be "around 10" clock faces at launch. But you won’t find other advanced screen features like the Smart Display’s recipes, video streaming, or the Home Hub’s smart home dashboard.
The software was very smooth and easy to figure out, with large touch targets and very little scrolling. But with a screen, it saves you the trouble of managing things like alarms and responses with your voice, particularly in situations where you want to be quiet in the bedroom. You can create and edit alarms without speaking, and scroll through information without getting audio responses. There’s also an option to quickly set "Do Not Disturb" from the home screen.
This compact little alarm clock will fit in perfectly with your bedroom routine.
With its compact size, Lenovo is touting its ability to fit seamlessly into your bedroom. The screen has automatic brightness that gets surprisingly dim, so it isn’t likely to disturb you at night. With Google Assistant routines you can handle a series of tasks automatically when you tell it "goodnight" or have it synchronized to your morning alarm. There’s a "gentle wakeup" feature, borrowed straight from the Pixel 3 and Pixel Stand, that slowly increases the brightness of the screen before starting the alarm and then triggering a morning routine.
When an alarm goes off, you can touch the screen to snooze or dismiss it, again saving you from saying "Hey Google" just to stop it. The Smart Clock also has a g-shock sensor so you can double-tap the top of the unit to dismiss it. Google says it’s exploring other options to have the Smart Clock respond to taps, but for now this is a neat little hidden feature.
Audio quality is good enough, but the touch screen means you don’t need the speaker.
But of course the Smart Clock also functions as a full Google Assistant speaker just like a Home or Home Mini. It has microphones to pick up your voice from anywhere in the room, and a "full-range" 6W speaker with passive radiators designed to fill a "large bedroom" with sound. It’s a Cast target for audio, including multi-speaker grouping, and it can initiate Casting on other devices just like a Google Home. I thought the speaker sounded good; a step up from a Google Home Mini, but a step below a Google Home. Just right for a bedroom-focused device of this price.
At just $80, the Smart Clock is well within impulse-buy territory for anyone who’s already in the Google Assistant ecosystem. It’s also considerably cheaper than its main competitor, the Amazon Echo Spot. But the only issue facing the Smart Clock is that it’s only $20 less than a larger, more fully featured Google Home Hub … which itself may not be great for the bedroom, but arguably offers a better value.
January 8, 2019 at 09:05AM