Despite being just a few months old, Google's Smart Displays are already off to a great start. Lenovo kicked things off in July with the Lenovo Smart Display that proved to be the ultimate kitchen companion, and in early October, the Google Home Hub premiered as an adorable and compact display for your bedroom, office, and really anywhere else.
In between both of those is the JBL Link View.
The Link View has a much smaller display compared to the similarly-priced 10-inch Lenovo Smart Display, but it does something that neither Lenovo or Google have managed — it delivers truly fantastic sound in addition to the rest of the smart display experience.
Here's our full review!
JBL Link View What I like
Since all Smart Displays offer the same general experience, companies have to find unqiue ways to make their offerings stand out from everyone else's. Right now, the Link View's claim to fame is its unrivaled sound quality.
Where the Lenovo Smart Display sounds similar to the regular Google Home and the Home Hub's speaker is more akin to that of the Home Mini, the Link View is far more powerful and rich-sounding. There are two 51mm full-range drivers on either side of the Link View's screen, and around back JBL even managed to cram in a small subwoofer.
Music is presented with powerful bass and punchiness that you just don't get on any other smart dipslay. It's not as good as what you'll find on something like the Sonos One, but it's extremely enjoyable to listen to and works great for all sorts of songs, podcasts, and videos.
Speaking of videos, the display on the Link View measures in at 8-inches with an HD resolution. Although the Full HD panel on the 10-inch Lenovo Smart Display is still the best I've seen for these types of gadgets, the one on the Link View still looks really good. It gets plenty bright, text is easy to read, and unlike the new Amazon Echo Show, has an ambient light sensor that allows the screen brightness to adjust accordingly based on light of the room it's in.
The interface that you interact with on the Link View's screen isn't any different than that of other smart displays, meaning that you can quickly see upcoming calendar appointments, the weather, reminders, and more. Google Assistant commands are just a quick "Ok, Google" or "Hey, Google" away, and you can use those for initiating Spotify streams, playing YouTube videos, and following recipes with a supeer sleek step-by-step UI.
As I sat down to write this review, the Link View received a software update that added support for multi-room audio groups and the new Home View feature that allows you to access controls for all of your smart home gadgets with just one swipe down from the top of the screen. Home View is a pure joy and easily makes the Link View my new favorite device for controlling all of my smart home goodies. When you don't want to use your voice and your phone's out of reach, Home View fills in that gap perfectly.
These are features that were first introduced on Google's own Home Hub, and they'll also be making their way to the Lenovo Smart Display.
Last but not least, the JBL Link View also ships with a 5MP camera on the front that can be used for making video calls with Google Duo. If you're concerned about your privacy, JBL includes a physical cover that hides the lens for when you're not using it.
JBL Link View What I don't like
The JBL Link View isn't a bad-looking smart home gadget, but it's also not particularly pretty. The rounded corners give it a friendly appearance, but it's a bit on the bulky side and can feel awkward when placed on a smaller nightstand or desk. Similarly, the fabric covering the two speakers and the smaller screen size means that it's not as well-suited for the kitchen as the Lenovo Smart Display is.
The Link View fits in nicely if you have a larger surface area for it in the bedroom, living room, or office, but for more compact spots, you'll definitely want to opt for the itty-bitty Home Hub.
JBL Link View Should you buy it?
If you want the best-sounding Smart Display money can buy, the JBL Link View is for you.
Its design may not be as functional or aestheticly pleasing as its competition, but when you add together the excellent sound quality, video camera, HD display, and snappy software performance, that one gripe quickly fades into the background.
The Link View has a retail cost of $250, and for that price, it matces the larger 10-inch Lenovo Smart Display and costs a full $100 more than the Google Home Hub. The Lenovo option is still the best for kitchen use and the Home Hub's minute design has yet to be topped, but for buyers that are okay sacrificing these things for a truly great audio experience, you can't do any better than the JBL Link View.
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