Lenovo Smart Display for Hands-Free Cooking

(Disclosure: I received this device to review as a member of the
Lenovo INsiders Program. All opinions are my own.)

A few weeks ago, I was sent a Lenovo Smart Display to evaluate. Never having owned any smart devices before, I wasn’t sure what to expect and how much use I’d get out of it.

As a point of comparison, if you’re familiar with smart speakers like Google Home or Amazon Echo, the Lenovo Smart Display is the next level up – imagine a smart speaker that comes with a display screen so you can watch videos, see pictures and read or select search results.

I followed the instructions that came with the unit, installed the Google Home app on my phone, and connected the smart display to it. Since I already use Google Assistant on my phone, I didn’t need to train it to recognise my voice or speech pattern.

I then set up some “routines” in my Google Home app – which include adding a chronological set of instructions for the Lenovo Smart Display to carry out when I issue specific commands – eg. “Hey Google, good morning/I’m home/good afternoon” etc.

Right now, I’ve programmed it so that when I say “good morning”, it tells me the current temperature and weather forecast, the estimated commute time to “work”, any reminders and upcoming items on my calendar, and then it plays a specific podcast until I tell it to “stop playing”.

When I say “I’m home”, it’s set to play the latest news from a variety of sources I’ve preselected – including news from Indonesia, Germany, France, Spain and a couple of other countries, in their native languages (I graduated Sydney University with a degree in languages 25 years ago, apparently in anticipation of this invention).

The most intriguing feature, though, is its ability to pull up recipes in its search results, and then read out the instructions step by step at my pace – which means I can cook along while listening to it, without having to touch the screen.

Here’s my 3-minute video showing how this works (along with some of the other commands) –

It also controls some 5000 smart devices including lights and even coffee makers.

So what do I think of the Lenovo Smart Display?

Here are the pros –

It’s a sleek and beautiful unit with a sturdy and stable base.

I like that I can watch YouTube videos on it, and get it to scroll through the thousands of photos in my Google Photos album throughout the day.

It’s kind of like having a really smart housemate who can tell you stuff like what time it is halfway across the world (something I need to know more often than you’d think, simply because I work online and have meetings in different timezones), and set reminders and pull up other search results for me.

It works as a security camera so you can monitor the rooms in your home through the display (including the baby’s room), and you can also get it to show a live feed of your backyard, using smart devices.

Instead of just listening to music, I can watch the videos that accompany them.

I can make video calls with it, and when in that mode, I can pop the Lenovo Smart Display on its side for vertical video.

The speakers are clear and powerful, and the microphone has a great range – it can pick up my commands from my study at the far end of my apartment.

Unlike Google Assistant on my phone, the Lenovo Smart Device can hear my commands very well (eg. telling it to stop) over any audio it’s playing.

What are the cons?

Because it runs on Google Assistant, its capabilities are pegged to the limitations of said software –

  • It doesn’t recognise my command to pull up recipes from specific websites (eg. yours truly’s) – right now it only yields Google search results, which means when I ask for “the perfect steak recipe” – my selections are limited to those from websites that rank highest (think Jamie Oliver, etc.).

  • It defaults to the most recent upload when I ask it to play a particular podcast or YouTube channel. With the YouTube video, I can then pause it and then scroll through the playlist for one I do want to watch, but I can’t do that with podcast episodes since they are audio only.

However, when it can’t perform a specific task, it does respond that “I can’t do that right now, but I’m still learning” – which gives me hope that someone at Google is working hard to finetune its features.

The Lenovo Smart Display I received for review is an 8-inch model; it currently retails for just USD 99.00 at https://www.lenovo.com/us/en/smart-display

Here are the specifications:

  • Design
    • Width x Height:142.21mm x 263.21 mm
    • Thickness:12.5 mm — 111.36 mm
    • Weight:1 kg (2.2 lbs)
    • Color:Grey
    • I/O Buttons:1 x Microphone-Mute, 1 x Camera Shutter, 1 x Volume +/-
  • Display
    • Size:8”
    • Type:IPS
    • Resolution:HD (1280 x 800)
    • Screen:Direct Bonding
    • Rotating View:86° Wide Angle
  • Performance
    • Processor:Qualcomm® Home Hub Platform (base​ Snapdragon™ 624, Octa-Core A53 1.8 GHz, 14 nm)​
    • Audio:1.75″ 10W Full Range Speaker​ 2 x Passive Tweeters
    • Microphone:2 x 2 Dual Microphone Arrays
    • RAM:Up to 2 GB
    • Flash (eMMC):Up to 4 GB
  • Multimedia
    • Front Camera:5 MP Wide Angle
    • Video Call:720p
  • Connectivity
    • WLAN:2 x 2 WiFi 802.11 ac 2.4G/5G, MIMO
    • Bluetooth®:Bluetooth® BLE & 4.2
  • What’s In The Box
    • Lenovo Smart Display (8), Cable, Adapter, Quick Start Guide, Warranty Card
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