The Lenovo Smart Clock is a “cute” little smart display that cuts back on a number of features, but that’s not a bad thing in this case.
Lenovo was the first to launch a smart display last year, using the Google Assistant, with the Lenovo Smart Display. In 2019, it’s looking to pioneer another form-factor for smart displays. And that’s a smaller, more compact smart display that is effectively a clock. Something that can go into your bedroom. The Lenovo Smart Clock does also have a new competitor on the Amazon Alexa side, with the Echo Show 5, so it looks like these smaller “smart clocks” are going to be a big deal in 2019. But is the Lenovo Smart Clock worth your money? Let’s find out.
Perfect for a bedside table
The Lenovo Smart Clock is pretty small, and makes it perfect for sitting on a bedside table at night. It has a 4-inch display, though the bezels are also pretty large. That is for good reason, though. The top bezel has a number of sensors which are used to keep the display from getting overly bright at night. As you don’t want your Smart Clock to wake you up at three in the morning.
Lenovo knows that many people are going to use this next to their bed, and have included a full-sized USB-A port on the back. This port can actually be used to charge your phone at night. Unfortunately, there’s no fast charging here, so you’re looking at the “old school” slower charging. But that’s not a bad thing, just plug it in before bed and it’ll be fully charged when you wake up in eight hours.
This Smart Clock does not have a camera. This was likely done because of the size of the Smart Clock, but also so that customers could put it in their bedroom and never worry about Google and/or Lenovo possibly spying on them. Which is a real concern for many, with the other smart displays on the market.
Lenovo also has a way to turn off the microphone, with a switch on the back of the Smart Clock. It’s pretty similar to the switch on the other Lenovo smart displays. This is a good thing to have if you don’t want Google Assistant listening for that wake word, or if your TV is triggering the wake word a lot (someone should outlaw those commercials that use “OK Google” – and even “Alexa”).
A Stripped down smart display
Compared to the larger Lenovo Smart Displays, the Smart Clock is missing a lot of functionality. Like a lot. First off, you can’t use it as a photo frame, like other smart displays. You do get a number of clock faces that you can choose from on this Smart Clock. There’s about ten of them available, and Lenovo says that there are more coming in the next few weeks/months.
To be honest, I didn’t miss not being able to see photos on the Smart Clock. Possibly because it was next to my bed, and I really only needed it to show me the current time, weather and any alarms that I have set. It’s also a pretty small display, so if you have pictures playing on it, with the time in the corner, it’s going to be tough to see the time. So removing this functionality was likely a good move on Lenovo’s part.
You also can’t play video on the Lenovo Smart Clock. If you ask it to play something on YouTube, it will default to another Smart Display or Android TV that’s in your home (on the same WiFi network). Again, this was likely a good move on Lenovo’s part, as watching a YouTube video on this low-resolution, 4-inch display, isn’t going to be a great experience.
But, you can still play music, podcasts, audiobooks and such. Lenovo has a pretty powerful 6W speaker in the Smart Clock, and it sounds pretty darn good actually. Given its size, we weren’t expecting much, in terms of audio quality out of this smart display. And we were pleasantly surprised. Lenovo also has volume buttons located on the top of the Smart Clock, so you don’t have to rely on asking Google Assistant to adjust the volume. You can do it manually.
The functionality that is here includes setting alarms pretty easily, turning off notifications (do not disturb), showing you the weather, and playing music. That’s really it. But the Google Assistant can still do the usual things that you’d expect it to do. Like giving you the weather, traffic conditions and answering questions.
It’s a pretty simple Smart Clock, as far as functionality goes, and that’s not a bad thing. To be honest, I did not miss any of the functionality from the larger Lenovo Smart Display, on this Smart Clock. I used it for telling the time, setting alarms, and asking Google how the weather was. That was literally about it.
Somewhat familiar experience
If you’ve used other smart displays, with the Google Assistant, then you’re going to know what to expect here. Even though this is running a customized OS, it is very similar to Cast that’s on the Lenovo Smart Displays, and Android Things that’s on the Google Home Hub. Swipe from right to left and you can set an alarm and see your alarms, swipe again to see the weather. Swipe the opposite way to dim the display – great for when you are going to bed. Swipe down from the top, and you get a few shortcuts like setting an alarm and commands like “Good Morning” and “Play Music”. These are great for when you don’t want to talk to Google Assistant.
Swiping up from the bottom gives you a few toggles like brightness, volume, do not disturb and then a shortcut to settings. And that’s the entire interface.
To change the clock face on the Lenovo Smart Clock, long-press on the clock, and you will be able to change up the clock face, and also customize it – a bit. This is very similar to the way you change clock faces on Wear OS smartwatches.
Not very customizable
The biggest complaint about the Lenovo Smart Clock right now is, the customizability. It’s not very customizable at all. Lenovo does have plans to bring more clock faces to the Smart Clock at some point. Though we aren’t sure when that will be. Currently, you can slightly customize the clock face that you choose. But it’s not much. You can choose to have the clock face go from dark to light, depending on the light in the room. Which isn’t very helpful, from a customizability standpoint.
Lenovo could take a Wear OS approach to the home screen too. Allowing users to add different screens to the right of the main clock screen. Instead of only having your alarms and the weather. Users could add things like the traffic conditions for their way to work. Or their calendar for the day/week/month, or something like that. So when they wake up in the morning, they could flip through the cards here and see what’s going on – and see how quickly they need to jump out of bed to get to work on time.
Most Google Assistant Smart Displays are not very customizable, so this is not a big surprise, but it would still be nice to see a few more options available on the Lenovo Smart Clock. Luckily, we do have some more clock faces coming to the Lenovo Smart Clock in the future, so we may get a bit more customizability in that regard. This is still a first-generation product, in a lot of ways, so some of these things may change in the future.
The best bedside gadget you can buy
When Lenovo announced the Smart Clock at CES back in January, I was very excited to get my hands on one. I already had the Lenovo 8-inch Smart Display and loved it in the kitchen. It’s great for bringing up recipes, showing pictures, playing YouTube videos and more. But I wanted one for my bedroom that could work as a clock. Sure, I could do that with the Lenovo Smart Display, but it was rather big, and it also had a camera – there is a shutter for it, but not having one at all would be better.
That’s why the Lenovo Smart Clock seemed so perfect. It’s pretty small, so it won’t be in the way on a bedside table, and it does its job of being a clock pretty well. You can still ask Google to do things, like your morning routine of turning on the lights, playing music and even getting the latest news headlines. But it has a darker screen, which is better for being in your bedroom.
The Lenovo Smart Clock is priced at $79.99. That’s $10 less than the new Amazon Echo Show 5, and if you are already invested into the Google Home/Google Assistant ecosystem, this is definitely going to be a better option for you.