The Lenovo Smart Clock will go the way of the Apple Pippin…

Credit: Lenovo

falling behind the times…

“Alexa” is the most yelled name in my house. “Hey Google” is quickly becoming the phone-a-friend solution at the dinner table. Incorporating the $50 Lenovo Smart Clock into my connected life seemed like a natural progression forward, but it’s actually a regressive step in the smart home movement.

To start, there are a few bright spots that made me excited to try the product. I like Lenovo as a company, and a Smart Clock designed for the bedroom seemed promising. It resembles an alarm clock and takes up little space on your nightstand, making room for the latest Dean Koontz novel. 

Setting up preferences and honing the display was seamless and enjoyable. It’s nice to see the weather pop up on my alarm clock. It connects to the Google universe, you can connect the device to an assortment of Google supported devices using the Google app. Connecting to a Nest security system seems like a huge step forward when you hear a noise downstairs. 

However, the Smart Clock screen isn’t designed for the 21st century in my view. There isn’t a camera on the device (Lenovo espoused privacy as the reason). You can’t watch Youtube or Netflix. You won’t see graphics from your late-night Google queries on who the 23rd President of the United States was — so Benjamin Harrison’s handsome face will continue in obscurity. 

Instead, the display is underwhelming in that it allows you to see only the time and a few other display options. Additionally, I struggled with the brightness of the screen, finding it somewhat annoying to navigate, even though Lenovo touts the smart screen to dim with the changing time of day. I relegated the Smart Clock to a bathroom radio to keep peace with my wife. I’ve been relegated to the couch enough times by my wife, so all is fair. Lenovo didn’t offer enough features to wage a war for me.

Inside the Google universe, Lenovo seems to have missed the mark with this clock. I cannot make video calls on it or fall asleep to an episode of M.A.S.H. While that habit may date me I think that it reflects the thinking in Lenovo’s design of a digital alarm clock that doesn’t play video, can’t make a video call, and doesn’t use graphics in a Google search. 

The Google Home Hub seems to blow the Lenovo Smart Clock out of the water without even trying, because it is simply what we expect from a smart device with a screen. While it might be twice the price, the cost isn’t outside the scope of what many would spend for the tasks we expect from a touch screen display.

The speaker on the Lenovo’s Smart Clock was stronger than the Google Home Mini, but it is only designed for your bedroom to catch up on a news briefing, listen to a podcast, or wake up to an alarm. While it is convenient to only have to say  “stop” to the Smart Clock when the alarm sounds (avoiding the “Hey Google” catchphrase), this isn’t enough to make it a must-have on your nightstand. 

There are features that will impress some. For example, you can swipe down on the screen to display some shortcuts, and you can trigger your bedtime routine (dimming your lights while setting your night-time temp on your Nest thermostat) with the press of a button. But these tasks can be voice commands within the Google universe (say, on your phone), which the Smart Clock responds to as well. So, I’m not sure what the benefit is of making a touch screen display. 

All things considered, I would much rather put a Google Home Mini in my room with a $10 digital alarm clock. The lack of features on the display, such as not being able to play videos or perform video hangouts, leave it in the box for me. 

Really, it’s relegated to the tasks an audio hockey puck can do in my home. It appears to be another item that will land on the shelf next to the Apple Pippin. A solution without a problem in a field of competitors 10 years ahead of the device.  

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