Lenovo Smart Display community review: Go big screen or go home

There's a lot to like about the Lenovo Smart Display, the first device released in Google's new smart display ecosystem. Available in two sizes and starting at just $199, the Lenovo Smart Display isn't just a conduit to Google Assistant but a new, lean-back way of watching video and listening to music.

We've already reviewed the Lenovo Smart Display, compared it to the inferior Amazon Echo Show, shown how it's better than a tablet in your kitchen, and given you various tips and tricks for making it a great experience.

But we're not the only game in town: Android Central has an awesome community of tech enthusiasts who offer their own perspectives on new and hot products. With Lenovo's help, we sent four Smart Displays to members of our community, and here's what they had to say about it.

First, the participants:

  • jcstek, a Community Review Team Leader, who thought the Lenovo Smart Display would make a great Christmas gift.
  • digitalbreak, a Trusted Member of the Community Review Team, who said the Lenovo Smart Display is "right next move for the Google Assistant," and highly recommends it
  • DecAway, a Trusted Member of the Community Review Team, who likened the Smart Display to "a digital life-assistant concierge service in your home.
  • metllicamilitia, a Trusted Member of the Community Review Team, who liked the Lenovo Smart Display a lot and said it would "show its worth on the first day.'

On the Lenovo Smart Display's Design and Specs

A lot went into making sure the Lenovo Smart Display looks and feels attractive and intuitive. jcstek calls the design "pretty sweet," noting that it's "quite beautifully designed," with a "gorgeous" bamboo back on the 10-inch model. On the other hand, metllicamilitia got the 8-inch version and doesn't have great things to say about the "simple flat gray design with white trim," but notes the IPS display "looks phenomenal."

DecAway points out that the Smart Display isn't just a tablet mounted to a speaker:

It's very novel in its own right, because it's a logical progression in the future of the "connected home", but it also gives you a little bit more comfortability and feedback than just talking to a gray hockey puck with a speaker built into it. It feels more natural, it looks cool, it has advanced capabilities like video phone calls through Duo, and a host of other visual integrations through the Google Home app on your phone.

He says that the Smart Display, even though it runs Android Things (which we'll get to in a bit), "has plenty of power to keep up with you, without a hitch." Thanks to the Snapdragon 624 chiop, 2GB of RAM, dual speaker setup, dual microphones, and 5MP camera, the hardware is powerful and solid. He is also using the smaller 8-inch model, "which lacks the full HD display, but I don't feel like it takes away from the experience."

The video quality is more than adequate and compliments the form factor and size very well. Additionally, the speakers are really impressive. I really didn't think that it would sound all that great, but after firing up the speaker and playing some sweet tunes, it almost sounds like Bose quality to me.

Finally, digitalbreak notes that the "Lenovo Smart Display is a beautiful, simplistic device that portrays Google Assistant with an easy to use interface that lets you not only interact with the Google Assistant but also see and hear what you need."

Aside from all the bells and whistles, he mentions another great feature of the Smart Display: the privacy shutter for 5MP camera.

On the side, you will find the hardware button to turn off the camera as well when not needed. It is actually a privacy shutter built-in. When its turned off, you can see a red dot over the camera indicating its turned-off. Pretty useful feature and as expected I have it turned off for most of the time.

On the Lenovo Smart Display's Functionality and Google Assistant integration

Google Assistant + Google Home + Chromecast = Smart Display. That's how digitalbreak sums up what the Lenovo Smart Display can do, and that's pretty accurate. He points out that one of his favorite features is the Ambient Display mode, "where you can select to stream your personal photos from Google Photos or art gallery."

jcstek likes all the streaming services that the Smart Display supports:

For playing music you can use Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Pandora, Spotify, or Deezer built in. Beyond that you can connect other cast enabled devices such as a Chromecast which allows you to stream Hulu, HBO Now, YouTube, Starz and others with Netflix support coming soon.

Netflix really is the big omission right now, and that's not exactly Lenovo's or Google's fault — Netflix has to choose to support the smart display ecosystem.

DecAway really likes the way the Smart Display integrates into his day:

When I get home, I say "OK Google, turn on some relaxing music." In the morning, I say "OK Google, turn off my alarm.", followed by "Ok Google, tell me what the weather looks like today."

He also notes that the Smart Display uses Google Assistant to connect to many smart home products like Philips Hue bulbs and Nest Thermostat, and the visual presentation make changing settings more useful on the Smart Display's screen.

metllicamilitia likes that Google Assistant is always learning new things, and that Google itself placed a whole bunch of awesome features in here. He's especially fond of the Bluetooth pairing feature, which lets him stream Apple Music, his streaming service of choice, to the Smart Display. As an iPhone user, he points out a problem living in Google's world:

In this age of ever more prevalent smart devices, most of which are Android-based, and Apple only having the HomePod, Apple either needs to step up and create more smart home devices or open up their ecosystem to use the Google Home API's.

Ultimately, though, he says that he likes what he sees: "I can see the potential the Smart Display has and it has me excited to be able to take full advantage of it in the future."

On the Lenovo Smart Display's Value — Should you buy it?

All four reviewers agree that the Lenovo Smart Display is a good product, but not all of them think spending $250 on it is great value.

jcstek isn't entirely convinced it's worth the money, though he mentions a particularly poignant moment the Smart Display helped facililate:

The Smart Display has taken a useful technology and gotten it out of my way by making it easier to use and allowed me to connect more with my fiance. One of the coolest moments for me during this review was when she was at the end of a really stressful day and the weight of the world was starting to get to her. I was able to take her in my arms and simply ask Google to play our wedding song and we danced quietly in the living room as we reconnected. I will treasure that memory for a long time.

But he also says, "I have found it to be very good at what it does and useful for me and my family. It would be difficult though for me to say that this is a piece of technology that is a must-have for everyone."

digitalbreak says that he loves the sound of the speakers on the Lenovo Smart Display — "If you ask me amongst everything, what Lenovo did great with the Smart Display, I would say they built a damn good speaker... — and that the product "is the right next move for the Google Assistant."

DecAway loves the Smart Display as an alarm clock, though acknowledges that it's an expensive alarm clock starting at $200.

While I can't go around and say that the Smart Display is an essential piece of tech that you need to have in your house, I can say that it's really nice to have and I thoroughly enjoy using it.

Finally, metllicamilitia says that "even within the Apple walls, there is so much I can do with the Lenovo Smart Display." I think he sums everything up quite nicely:

The biggest hurdle I think most will have when it comes to the Smart Display is the cost. The eight-inch gray model I have is $200, and the ten-inch bamboo model is $250. The only thing I can counter with is to reiterate how useful and versatile the Smart Display is.

See at Best Buy

What do you think of the Lenovo Smart Display? Let us know in the comments below!

AC Staff