The Lenovo Smart Display Review


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Jun 13, 2013
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Our lives are busier than ever, not just in the work we do but also with all the gadgets, social activities, people, and news that surrounds us. Technology, as usual, is always on the lookout to make things simpler - be it quickly getting to know the latest news or calling your friends & family or jotting down reminders or, for those brave enough, controlling the entire home with smart devices.

Google Assistant is one such handy tool that is out there to help and ease our busy lives. Google launched Assistant in 2016 with Google Home and since then it has grown from being a simple 'ask Google anything' to 'what can Assistant do for you' and today, Google Assistant goes one step further in blending visuals along with its Assistant features.


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. It makes a huge difference to interact with a smart system not just through voice but also see the things as you interact with a touch-enabled display.

If you are looking for a simple device that you can place it anywhere in your home, help you keep track of your day or quickly jump on a call with your friends/family, or control your home from a single device, and when needed say 'Hey Google' and ask anything - look no further than the Lenovo Smart Display with the Google Assistant built-in.

The quest here is simple - if asking and hearing responses from your Assistant is good enough, wouldn't the ability to see and interact with it be even better?

- Google Assistant built-in
- Easy to use software interface
- Powerful microphone and speakers
- Chromecast enabled
- Privacy shutters for camera and microphone

- Not easily portable
- Lengthy setup process
- Most of the features require Google's eco-system
- Google Home app could be better, especially in iOS

The Smart Display - What you get
The Smart Display comes in two screen size options - An 8" and a 10". Out of the box you get the display, power cable, and getting started guides.

I was impressed with the packaging as Lenovo has done a great job in making sure the display is tucked in safely while it is being transported to you in good care. The extra paddings help ensure the display is safe inside the package.


Talking about the specifications, the Lenovo Smart Display is powered by:
- Qualcomm® Home Hub Platform (base on Snapdragon™ 624)
- Up to 2GB RAM
- Up to 4GB Flash Storage
- 5 MP Wide Angle camera

As for the software, its powered by Google's Android Things Platform.

The key difference between the 8" and 10" display is that the 10" is equipped with Full HD (1920 x 1200) resolution while the former is just equipped with just an HD (1280 x 800) resolution.

The Smart Display is well made with a simplistic design in mind. While the front of the unit stays simple, the back sports a unique modern look. This unique look is sure to turn heads in your living room or office, especially if the display is viewable in every angle.


You can find the volume buttons and microphone toggle buttons on the top right. With just a slide, I can quickly disable the microphone using the mute microphone button. I used it quite a lot to turn it off when going to bed or on other occasions when I had guests in the home.

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.


Set up the Smart Display
To set up the Smart Display you will need to first download the Google Home app available for iOS or Android devices. You can use either your iOS or Android device to complete the setup. Once you power on the Smart Display, you can then browse to the Google Home app to complete the setup. The setup process is quite similar to setting up a Chromecast device.


Surprisingly, it was quite a lengthy setup with several steps. I wish Google made the setup easier with just the essential steps and later provide options to set up things like different services you want to add, linking your Duo account and many more. I can understand Google wants me to configure everything I can to have a great experience with the Smart Display but asking them upfront makes the setup process lengthy when all I want is to get started using my Smart Display. A smarter approach would have been able to continue the setup in the Smart Display as that gives the user a great opportunity to use the display.

Get to know your Smart Display
I will be honest, I don't own a Google Home. The reason is that, being a device that just talks back to me never peeked interest. I can use my Google Assistant app on my iPhone or Android instead and get the same results. That said, the Google Assistant app is also getting smarter every day in how you interact with it. However, there are certainly some tasks that you cannot do with the app on your phone and it makes sense to now expand that experience to new interactive devices like the Smart Display.

You can either say "Ok Google" or "Hey Google" to start interacting with the display and scroll the interface and select your operation. One thing to note is that you cannot type in the display which makes sense as it will be awkward to type on the display given its form factor. You can also swipe up from the bottom to control brightness and volume.


With the Smart Display, the Assistant is always on and ready to help you. Since you have a display, you can see relevant activities for the day like the current weather, reminders, and other suggestions from supported apps like Google Play Music, YouTube etc.,

I do own several Chromecasts though and absolutely love the simplicity I get with it streaming content to my TVs. The smart display is essentially a device that combines the three:

Google Assistant + Google Home + Chromecast == Smart Display

Ambient mode
One of the things I like most is the ability to configure the ambient mode for your display. It’s the same ambient mode available in Chromecast where you can select to stream your personal photos from Google Photos or art gallery.

With the Google Home app, I was able to browse to the smart display and configure the ambient display mode to show photos from my Google Photos. I can't say how much I love to come home, see my favorite photos of my family streaming right there in the display.

Cast videos
With the Chromecast feature built-in, I can easily cast pictures and videos from supported apps (HBO, Hulu, Netflix etc.,) to the Smart Display. The Smart Display suddenly turned into a mini entertainment device with this feature, especially if you go for the bigger 10" screen size.


Casting to the device works very well using either an iOS or an Android device. However, note that you cannot cast your Android phone's screen to the device as casting the phone screen is not compatible with the Smart Display.

However, note that casting from Netflix isn't supported yet in the Smart Display.

Cast audio
Smart Display also supports Chromecast audio meaning the display can act as a speaker when you pair it as a Bluetooth device. For example, if you want to stream your Apple Music (which is not available for the Google Assistant and does not support Chromecast) to the display.


To cast the audio to the Smart Display speaker, you will need to first pair your phone with the Smart Display. To do so, just say:

Hey Google, pair Bluetooth

This will enable pairing mode and then you can connect to the display from your Bluetooth settings. Once connected, you can now stream music to the Smart Display speakers. Given how good the speakers are, you are sure to enjoy the music experience.

However, note that you cannot use the Smart Display to route your phone calls.

Entertainment hub
While casting videos is a huge plus, direct built-in integration to entertainment services such as Google Play Music, Spotify, YouTube, YouTube TV, Podcasts, News etc., is a huge benefit.


Instead of taking out your phone and then casting to the Smart Display, you can now simply say:

- Play happy songs
- Play the latest episode from Android Central podcast
- Show photos of <person name>

However, note that Netflix isn't supported yet in the Smart Display.

Assistant Routines
Routines help you configure a series of actions for the Assistant that you can associate with just one command. For example, you can say "Hey Google, I am home" and then set up to do the following:

- Tell me my home reminders
- Play the latest evening news
- Play happy songs

I have never used Routines before in my phone, but I find them very useful with my Smart Display as I can do more than what I can do with my Assistant app on my phone.

Super good speakers and Microphone
The microphone is key in smart devices and this Smart Display rocks a powerful 2 x 2 dual microphone arrays. They are so powerful that you don't have to yell to the display. This makes total sense as talking to the Assistant should be just as you talk with someone nearby.

If you ask me amongst everything, what Lenovo did great with the Smart Display, I would say they built a damn good speaker into the Smart Display. The 10" version has slightly bigger speakers than the 8" but so far I am loving it. It is loud and at the same time, it has a good balance between bass and treble.

So, expect to have a good party with the Smart Display!

Smart device integration


If you have smart home devices, especially security cameras compatible with the Google Assistant, then you will love the Smart Display. For example, if you own Nest security cameras, you can already configure to stream the live video to your Chromecast enabled TVs. You can do the same with the Smart Display. I connected my two Nest security cameras with the Assistant so I can stream them directly in my Smart Display.

Once you connect your security camera with the Google Assistant and the Smart Display is configured to be the default TV in the Google Home app, you can simply say the following to stream the live video feed in the Smart Display:

Stream <room name or camera name>

You can also connect other smart devices like the smart switches, bulbs etc., to the Google Assistant and control them using the Smart Display. Essentially, I can see the Smart Display acting as a hub for all of my smart devices.

Stay connected
What is the use of the Smart Display if it cannot make video calls or send text messages? With Google Duo, you can link your phone number with the Smart Display so you can make phone calls, video calls and also send messages. Of course, you will need to pull in your friends and family to use Google Duo.


The experience was seamless and worked really well between iOS and Android devices. As many others, I don't have a lot of friends using Google Duo so it is going to take some time for this to be something I use regularly. Note that the video call quality is going to be 720p (HD resolution) which is the only downside so far with the video calls. Depending on the call, you may not notice any difference though.

If you are just looking for voice calls, you can link either your Google Voice or Project Fi service if you happen to have one of those instead of Google Duo.

Access more settings
Google Home app is the only app you need to set up the Smart Display. However, I found the app, at times, very confusing. It takes you deeper into settings and it is very easy to get lost.

Take this, for instance, there are two places within the app where you can control the Smart Display settings:
1. Google Home->More settings and then select Smart display from the Devices section
2. Google Home->Devices and then you should see the Smart Display device


From the Devices page, just hit the vertical 3 dots to open Smart Display settings and here you can configure a lot more useful features like Night mode, Do Not Disturb mode and Bluetooth settings that we saw earlier.

We have come a long way working with smart devices. Amazon Alexa kick-started this revolution we are in, though Google had its Google Now long before Alexa and the Assistant which could do basic things.


I think the Smart Display is the right next move for the Google Assistant and Lenovo has done a great job building a beautiful smart device that you will love to use every day and most importantly interact with it like never before.

If you are new to Google Assistant or just not sure about all the things it can do, I would recommend browsing through the Assistant website. I personally found a lot of things that I didn't know Google Assistant could do like for example: I can talk to GEICO.

You can purchase the Smart Display from Lenovo and other online retailers starting at $199 USD.
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