(Pocket-lint) - It was back in November 2018 that we reviewed the first Lenovo Smart Display. Now there's a newer, smaller, smarter model available: the Lenovo Smart Display 7 with Google Assistant.
Designed to compete with Amazon Echo Show and, to some degree, Google's own Nest Hub, this smart-screen-meets-speaker - which uses Google Assistant for voice control - is a tidier solution that makes even more sense than the 8- or 10-inch models.
Smaller, smarter design
- 7-inch version, 1024 x 600 resolution display
- Blizzard White finish, no wood covering
- Privacy shutter over camera
The original Smart Displays had bamboo wooden backs, which we thought would divide opinion. The new 7-inch model ditches that and keeps things simpler: it's 'Blizzard White' and that's your lot. It's a clean look, with enough curve to it to be interesting without being distracting.
There's no portrait/landscape rotation for this model either, meaning you sit it down, plug it in, register your Google Assistant account and it's ready to go. It can even do visuals, including via its camera, which has a physical shutter over it for those concerned about privacy - after all, you don't always want people looking in, invited or otherwise.
The screen on the Lenovo Smart Display isn't as high resolution as its larger siblings, but this all scales - being the smaller, at 7-inches, its sub-Full-HD resolution is ample for the size. That said, Amazon's second-gen Echo Show upper the resolution after it was criticised for being a bit too low-res, but that's also a larger product.
Still, the Lenovo device delivers good viewing angles - which is important if you're trying to read a recipe list when standing at the fridge, viewing from an oblique angle. There's also ambient light auto-adjustment to keep reading as comfortable as possible - like the reading modes that are increasingly popular on phones.
From using the Cast function to watch BBC iPlayer, to accessing YouTube clips, the Lenovo Smart Display 7 performs and makes a better show of things than the Echo Show. Supporting Google's casting protocol is a really smart move because it's been adopted by a number of entertainment platforms both across video and music, so you can just send things to the Lenovo Smart Display from your phone with very little hassle - Netflix, YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Spotify, Google Play Movies and Music, the list goes on.
However, as Google's own Nest Hub is the same size, the appeal of this Lenovo is somewhat watered down. Really, it'll all boil down to price.
Sound quality & mic pick-up
- 2x 1.5in 5W speakers
- 1x passive radiator
- 1x dual mic array
The other side to a smart display is sound. The speakers have been improved, Lenovo says, over the first-gen larger models, despite the speaker physical sizes dropping. Don't expect the best in the business here, but the Smart Display is plenty clear for those things you'll need to hear - fine for spoken word like talk radio or the retorts from Google Assistant.
We've found the microphones on the Lenovo Smart Display capable at picking up voice from across a room - although we didn't stray too far in the test conditions at our IFA pre-brief - while Google can also recognise different users' voices. That can add a degree of personalisation as well as some security - if it doesn't recognise your voice, for example, it can't access and call your contacts. There's also a physical mute switch to turn off the mic, again being on top when it comes to privacy.
Google Assistant steals the show
While Amazon's Alexa had a huge head start, Google Assistant has made some stealthy gains, and this Lenovo device is all about Google Assistant. Firstly, just to clarify, this user experience is the very same as Google's own Nest Hub.
Just as we said of the larger Smart Display devices: "As long-term Alexa users, the advantages that Google offers are clear. Voice verification means that some of your information can be kept private in a shared household, there's the sense that Google is better tailoring the content to you, and the interplay with other devices through the Home app works nicely".
Google's Home app is core to the experience as you can setup devices, make pairings in accounts, manage everything and control smart home products.
The only downside is having to say "Hey Google" or "Ok Google" all the time - that just never feels as natural as talking to Amazon Alexa. The personification of Amazon's device gives it a more accessible feel, whereas talking to Google just feels, well, alien.
This 7-inch Smart Display sits at the heart of your home, as an alternative option to Google's Nest Hub. The Lenovo device offers great connectivity and services, while the user interface means you can easily swipe to smart home controls or use your voice if you prefer. It's a neat little package.