Lenovo Shows Smart Displays with Google Assistant

The smart speaker revolution is raging. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is either showing smart speakers or else waving their hands and saying how soon theirs will be available. But there is already a mutant version rapidly emerging - the smart display.

I built my first computer with my bare hands and a Weller soldering iron. Then I became a Dell guy for many years. Then I became a Lenovo guy. I am writing this on a Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1. Love this thing. Thus I was naturally interested when I stumbled across Lenovo's new smart displays.

They are showing two of them. Both have touch screens; one is 8 inches wide (1280 x 800 IPS) while the other measures 10 inches (1920 x 1200 IPS). Both have Google Assistant built in. Many smart speakers have a cylindrical form factor that reminds me of a tin can, or else a tallboy. JBL's Link View looks like a football. Lenovo has gone with a tablet look, and it seems a bit more upscale. The smaller one uses a modern gray finish, while the bigger one had a bamboo look. A built-in wedge lets you place the screens vertically or horizontally.

Disappointingly, neither model features stereo speakers; instead both models have a single speaker (1.75 inches on the small screen and 2 inches on the big screen. Both have 2x2 dual microphone arrays. There is also a 5 MP camera (with a physical privacy shutter) for video phone calls. You can't make ordinary phone calls yet, but apparently they are working on that. A mute button is a welcome perk. I also like that Google Assistant lets you view Nest Cam feeds.

You might expect that the displays are running Android, but they are not. Instead, they get a lighter OS called Android Things; it hooks up with the Google Assistant. Both use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 624, a 1.8 GHz, 8-core chip. RAM is up to 2 GB. Both have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. The displays will retail for $200 and $250. Both will be available this summer.

These Smart Displays join entries from Amazon, Sony, LG, JBL and probably others I haven't seen yet. I'll pick my favorite after they become available for review. In terms of sound quality, JBL has to be an early favorite, given the company's storied history of audio technology; plus, JBL has stereo speakers. Lenovo, in that respect, is a dark horse. But for now, I am a Lenovo guy.