In addition to a slew of new PCs, Lenovo's bringing a slew of new connected home accessories to CES 2017. Chief among them are a new smart home network drive, their take on an Amazon Echo-style device, and a handheld keyboard that includes the most sensitive of keys.
Lenovo Smart Assistant
What if you could make a fancier-looking Amazon Echo? That must be the question that Lenovo's engineers asked themselves when cooking up the "Lenovo Smart Assistant with Amazon Alexa". This cylindrical connected smart speaker is an Echo clone if we've ever seen one; it's the fruit of a Lenovo-Amazon partnership, and there's anything wrong with that. It even bakes in the same Amazon Alexa software, includes eight far-field noise-cancelling microphones, and a pair of speakers — a 5W tweeter and a 10W woofer.
Looks-wise, it's like a fancier Echo, with a fabric speaker grill below a solid upper half, plus a raised control surface on the top ringed by a chrome volume ring. That fabric grill comes in multiple color options, though they aren't removable (a la Google Home). You'll have your choice of a white upper half with grills in light gray, green, or orange, or an all-black Harman Edition model that includes an additional 2-inch acoustic sound cavity for enhanced audio performance.
There's one big difference between an Amazon Echo and the Lenovo Smart Assistant: price. The standard Smart Assistant starts at $129.99, while the Harman Edition version will run $179.99 (the retail price of Amazon's Echo). Both versions are expect to be available in May 2017.
Lenovo Smart Storage
There are standard NAS devices, and then there's this. You could call the Lenovo Smart Storage device the next generation of the Network Attached Storage unit, and that's essentially what it is: a smart NAS. Packed inside the compact pinched white box you'll find 2TB or 6TB of hard drive storage, a dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac antenna, and a dual-core 1.6GHz Intel Celeron processor.
More than just a mere hard drive with Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity, the Lenovo Smart Storage is packed with software to make it, well, smart. Auto Sync will help to automatically back up your files, it includes DLNA so you can stream movies on it to your TV, and even facial recognition software to scan and organize your photo library by people. There's also a USB port on the back — plug in your drive, press a button on the Smart Storage, and it'll back up everything on the drive.
If that piques your interest, you'll be able to grab one in May 2017, with the a starting price for the 2TB version of $139.99.
Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller
There's a user interface flaw in most smart TVs: if you want to search for anything, or log into any installed apps, you're either clicking around an on-screen keyboard with a remote control or dictating into a microphone and hoping it understood you correctly. While plenty of TVs offer Bluetooth support so you can connect a keyboard, who wants to keep a big slab of a keyboard in the living room, let alone try and balance it on their laps? Enter the Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller, a compact keyboard that fits into your hands and has a trick up its sleeve.
At first glance it looks like a standard, but compact, albeit it with an advertised 66-foot range to the 2.4GHz USB receiver (twice the range of a typical Bluetooth device). It's designed to fit comfortably in both hands so you can type with your thumbs — it's roughly the size as the on-screen keyboard of a 7-to-8-inch tablet in portrait orientation. But there's more: the entire keyboard is also touch sensitive — swipe across them and they're a trackpad to move the cursor on the screen along with left/right mouse buttons below the keys. Pair it with a Windows 10 PC (perhaps a Stick PC plugged into your TV) and it even supports multi-finger gestures.
The Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller is expected to be available in March 2017 for a reasonable $54.99.
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Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm (the old one), and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.