JBL Shows the Link View with Google Assistant

Smart speakers are popping up left and right, wack-a-mole style, one virtually indistinguishable from another. But, some are very distinguished. Take, for example, JBL's Link View.

Smart speakers are voice-centric, listening and responding aurally. But sometimes a screen is a handy thing to have. The Link View adds an 8-inch-wide touchscreen with 1280 x 720 resolution; it provides the functionality of a tablet. The screen naturally adds width (the unit measures 13 x 6 x 4 inches) to the typical smart-speaker cylindrical form factor, and JBL took advantage of the width to provide stereo playback. In particular, it houses two front-firing speakers backed by a rear passive radiator.

As with any Google Assistant product, the Link View accepts voice commands. Additionally, the screen makes it easy to make video phone calls (thanks to a 5 MP camera), watch videos, and see information that relates to the task at hand; for example, audible driving directions can be confusing while a displayed map can make it simple. Another nice bit of integration: the unit works with Nestcams and other Google products. Wait! There's more! Throw in 24-bit streaming, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, IPX4 water resistance, and Google Cast for multi room playback.

I was not able to audition the Link View at the show mainly because the prototype was in a glass case, but I have auditioned several other JBL smart speakers, and I can report that their sound quality was several cuts above many other smart speakers. Thus I expect the Link View to sound quite good, particularly since it provides stereo playback.

JBL has not announced the Link View's price, but its natural competitor is the Amazon Echo Show which retails for $230. If its sound quality is better than the Show then that might entail a higher price point. Good speakers and amplifiers => money. Link View will also go up against Lenovo's new Google Assistant smart speakers with screens. Availability of the Link View is set for this summer.