LAS VEGAS - Hey, Google, is Lenovo’s new Smart Display better than Amazon’s Echo Show? Based on our first impressions here at CES 2018, it sure looks like it.
Available this summer in 8- and 10-inch sizes for $199 and and $249, the Lenovo Smart Displays will be among the first Google Assistant devices with a screen.
For starters, these Smart Displays have more appealing designs than the boring boxy $229 Echo Show, which has a smaller 7-inch display.
The 8-inch version comes in a soft touch grey on the back, while the 10-inch sports a fetching bamboo finish. Plus, you can position the devices horizontally or vertically, while the Echo Show has a single position. The 8-inch model Smart Display has an HD screen, and the 10-inch bumps that up to full HD.
Another plus: those worried about privacy can simply cover the camera with a flick of a shutter switch. No tape required. Both Smart Displays get pretty loud, too, as they each pack two 10-watt speakers.
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As you might expect, the Smart Display can answer questions, fetch the weather and traffic, stream music, as well as show you your schedule. The interface is very intuitive, as the home screen displays your notifications, as well as things like current timers. You can swipe in from the left side of the display to go home at any time.
You can also control other smart home devices that support Google Assistant with your voice. For instance, saying “Show me the kids room” displayed a feed from a Nest camera.
But you can also do a lot of things with a single command by creating routines. For example, during our demo, saying “Hey, Google. Good morning” had Google Assistant turn on a nearby light, tell us the traffic for our commute, remind us about appointments and then fire up the current news on YouTube.
And, yes, YouTube videos played at full screen—without any user intervention. I asked a Google representative why this might be allowed given that the Echo Show can’t play video at full screen without telling Alexa explicitly to do just that. I was told that the software was not final on the Smart Display, but I hope it remains full screen by default.The Smart Display also supports Google Duo video calls, which means you can chat with others on their Android or iOS phone. When you’re not actively using the Smart Display, it doubles as a digital picture frame, displaying images from your Google Photos library.
Things will get really interesting as Google allows developers to tap the Smart Display’s potential with full-screen experiences. Saying “Hey, Google, I’m feeling lucky” launched a quiz game you could play using touch or voice.
Other companies will be launching Smart Displays as well, including JBL, LG and Sony. But for now I'm impressed with Lenovo’s Smart Display because of its combination of sleek design and sheer smarts.