Lenovo Smart Clock First Impressions

Posted on May 27, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Smart Home with 8 Comments

Lenovo’s new Smart Clock is a modern take on the alarm clock with Google Assistant support, voice control, and touch navigation.

Looked at broadly, the Lenovo Smart Clock and a coming selection of related products from Google (I assume) and other smart device makers is a new expansion of the market for Google Assistant-powered smart home hardware. It started, logically enough, with the Google Home line of smart speakers and then expanded last year to include Smart Displays, including the Lenovo Smart Display my family still enjoys so much.

I see the smart clock, generally, as the third big expansion of this market. And as with the smart display, it’s not hard to imagine this device type winning its way into my home, and many others’ homes. This is clearly a great idea, and is something that should be appealing to a mainstream that is becoming accustomed to the growing use of Google Assistant and voice control around their homes and in their lives.

So, what is this thing?

The Lenovo Smart Clock is basically a miniature smart display designed for your nightstand or other easily-accessible places in the home, and customized with alarm clock-type functionality. As its name suggests, it’s smart, too: the screen dims at night so you can sleep beside it more easily, and it offers features aimed at unwinding when you go to bed and waking up more gently than is typical with the klaxon alarm of a traditional alarm clock or a smartphone-based alarm. As a Google Assistant-powered device, it can be controlled via voice, but it also features a touch screen with gesture support as well.

That it’s cute as a button doesn’t hurt.

Physically, the Lenovo Smart Clock is a tiny and attractive device. It features a 4-inch IPS touch display running at 800 x 480 and is covered, on its tapered back, with a gray soft touch cloth that is both good looking and nice to the touch.

There are volume buttons on the top, nicely integrated into the cloth, and a single 3-watt speaker that is surprisingly good for its size.

As with previous Lenovo smart devices, there’s also a microphone mute switch if you’re worried about spying. And there’s no camera, as we see on most smart displays, so there are no worries there. There’s also no video casting support, so you can’t cast a YouTube video, or whatever, to it. Not that you’d want to: Your smartphone display is bigger and of higher quality.

The specifications are almost pointless, but inside we see a 1.5 GHz Mediatek 8167S processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of eMMC storage. It is powered by Android Things, Google’s Android-based IoT platform.

So, what can you do with this thing?

I’ll be examining this functionality more in the weeks ahead, but the Lenovo Smart Clock supports multiple clock faces, automatic switching between light and dark display modes based on the ambient light, alarms, alarm suggestions based on events in your calendar and your history, weather, calendar, commute notifications, music playback across any Assistant-compatible service, jokes, smart home control, and more. It supports Assistant’s new Routines feature, too, so you can access multi-step automations with a single command.

Navigation is logical enough, and most people would probably be able to figure it out once they’re told that most touch inputs will occur by touching the display or swiping in from any of the sides. For example, you can always swipe right to return to the previous display, swipe left to go to the next display, swipe up from the bottom to open a brightness and volume panel, and swipe down from the top to access quick settings for alarms, nap timer, explore, and light controls.

Setup is simple: You just add the smart clock to your home in the Google Home app on your phone, just like you do for any Assistant-powered smart speaker, smart display, or other device. I was able to get the smart clock up and running in just a few minutes. And then probably spent 5 or 10 minutes just swiping and touching the display to figure out what was possible.

More soon.

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