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Lenovo Smart Clock Review: Hands-on

Does your alarm clock need to be smart? The Lenovo Smart Clock makes a surprisingly good argument for it - here's why it impressed us at CES 2019

Should I Buy The Lenovo Smart Clock?
The Smart Clock is pretty simple, but from our brief demo it seemed well implemented and easy to use. Most importantly, at $80 it’s not all that much more than the regular Home Mini - and much less than Amazon’s Echo Spot - making it all too easy to justify the jump from smart speaker to smart clock.

Price When Reviewed
  • $79.99
Here’s an odd one: one of the best bits of new tech to come out of CES 2019 was a clock. A smart clock, admittedly, but still, let’s make no mistake: this is a clock.

The Lenovo Smart Clock is a tiny smart speaker running the Google Assistant and packing a screen, intended to be used as a smart bedside clock - essentially a Google Assistant rival to Amazon’s Echo Spot.

Price & Availability
Price is really where the Smart Clock has a serious leg-up: when it comes out in the US some time this spring it will cost just $79.99 - though UK pricing and release date haven’t been announced just yet.

By comparison, the Google Home Mini is £49/$49 when it’s not on sale (which, to be fair, it usually is) meaning it’s just a $30 premium for the display. Meanwhile Amazon’s Echo Spot is £120/$130 - a pretty steep jump up.

Design & Build: Not Your Father’s Clock
At first glance, the Smart Clock doesn’t look much like, well, a clock. A small angular block with a rectangular 4in display at the front and a grey fabric finish that’s immediately reminiscent of Google’s own Home devices, this is immediately different to the rounded clock-face design that Amazon opted for.

Still, simple works, and the heavy tapering on the main body keeps it compact and attractive, while the decision to use a rectangular display will no doubt keep things simpler on the software side.

Controls are simple - volume buttons on the top and a physical microphone mute switch on the back. Then there’s just the power socket and a USB-A port, which you can use to charge your phone - useful if this is taking up a wall socket you’d otherwise use for your phone charger, though Lenovo hasn’t confirmed the port’s power output.
It’s also worth noting that unlike most smart displays, there’s no camera on this one. That might sound like a downside, but remember that this is really intended for your bedside table. Do you really want Google to have access to a camera in your bedroom? Thought not.

Specs & Features: Tick-Talk
In terms of functionality, it’s probably best to think of this mostly as a Google Home Mini with a screen.

Like that device, this is a compact, affordable smart home hub - perfect for talking to the Google Assistant or controlling your other smart home devices, but less well-suited to music playback unless you connect it to another speaker over Bluetooth.

The added benefits of the screen mostly relate to simplifying your routines first thing in the morning or last thing at night. For example, you can use it as an alarm - simple enough - but it can also use the screen itself as a rudimentary light alarm, slowly brightening over a set time period before the alarm goes off.

Just as importantly, and in one of the few nods to a classic alarm clock, you can whack the top of the device (gently…) to snooze. As the owner of a light alarm with the same functionality, I can confirm how incredibly satisfying that is.

Once awake, you can flip through the clock display, your calendar, the weather, commute info, or the news highlights. Of course, as with any Google Assistant device you can also set up set routines, so that the trigger ‘Good Morning’ could turn on the heating, start your smart kettle, and switch the radio on, all at once.

At the other end of the day, you can similarly set a bedtime routine to dim the lights or play certain music. Then you can set an alarm, but the device will also recommend alarm times based on your upcoming morning calendar events.

Verdict
It’s all simple stuff, but from our brief demo it seemed well implemented and easy to use. Most importantly, at $80 it’s not all that much more than the regular Home Mini - and much less than Amazon’s equivalent - making it all too easy to justify the jump from smart speaker to smart clock.

Specs
  • 4-inch 800 x 480 IPS touch display
  • Mediatek 8167S 1.5GHz processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB flash storage
  • 1 x USB-A charging port
  • Microphone mute switch
  • 1 x 1.5in 3W speaker
  • 2 x passive radiators
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
  • 113.9 x 79.8 x 79.2mm
  • 328g


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