Back at CES, Lenovo debuted what they called the Smart Clock. It’s a $79 smart alarm clock that’s basically a shrunken down version of the company’s Smart Display that it debuted last year. There was plenty of fanfare surrounding the device given how functional and cute it looked, and starting today, it’s available for anyone who wants to buy one.
The Smart Clock is in the unique category of smart bedroom tech. Typical smart home devices can basically be placed anywhere, but when they’re brought into the more private and slumber atmosphere of a bedroom, the dynamic changes as far as what’s appropriate to install. The Smart Clock is basically the Smart Display doing just that. As it’s brought into the bedroom, its dynamic changes and it accommodates for a whole new use case.
Lenovo sent me a Smart Clock a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve had it at my bedside since then. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s basically the perfect bedside companion. It’s convenient, it gets the job done, and it isn’t filled with any unnecessary fluff. It keeps things simple and straightforward which I can only imagine everybody wants since it’s likely the first thing you’ll see every morning if you buy one.
The design of the Smart Clock is very minimal. It resembles a Google Nest Hub in which its back side is covered in a soft fabric. It definitely fits nicely in any aesthetic you may have in your home since it’s capable of complimenting bright walls with its slightly-gray accent color. It does only ship in one color, though, so if you were hoping for a dark gray model, you’re out of luck.
On the front, you’ll find a tiny 4-inch 800×480 display that doesn’t get very bright and certainly isn’t the best quality. But that doesn’t really matter since it’s an alarm clock and you won’t be staring at the screen all the time like on a phone or laptop. It’s fine for what it is, and that’s all it needs to be.
It’s what comes up on the screen that matters. After setting it up, you’re greeted by a clock face which can be customized quite extensively. There are multiple different clock faces you can choose from, and you can change what information gets displayed such as the weather and news. I went with the default Playground clock face and added a weather widget so I could see the temperature when I wake up.
Waking up is a unique experience with the Smart Clock. Well, at least it wants to be. Lenovo includes something called a Sunrise Alarm which, when enabled, will gradually increase the brightness of the colorful background presented on the display before your alarm goes off. This is to mimic the gradual rise of the sun in the morning and help ease into your morning, opposed to being disturbed by a loud and bright alarm clock. During summer months, it isn’t all that great since I wake up at 6:30 and the sun’s already out at 6:00, but I can see it being useful during the winter when the sun doesn’t like to be seen until around 7:00 or 7:30.
When your alarm does go off, the Smart Clock gives you a few options for silencing it. You can hit one of two buttons on the screen which let you snooze it or stop it, and there’s a sensor built into the top of the device that, when tapped, will either snooze it or stop it for you, depending on your configuration. I like my alarm to stop as soon as I get up, so I configured my tapping mechanism to stop the sound that’s playing immediately. During my testing, it worked 100 percent of the time so you shouldn’t have any problems with reliability.
Also on the top, you’ll find two volume buttons. If you find that you want your alarm to be louder or more quiet before you go to sleep, the buttons give you the easiest access to that control.
Using the rest of the Smart Clock is similar to how you use a typical Smart Display. You can swipe between different panes to access various aspects of the device. There’s a full pane for the clock, your alarm, and the weather forecast. When you have music playing on the device, there’s a separate pane for that as well. Of course, you also use your voice to interact with the Google Assistant which is the main way most people will be using the device.
You can use a majority of the same commands you can on the Smart Display like ask for the weather, use Routines, and view live feeds of smart cameras. You can also use the Assistant to set alarms which is really convenient. But there is a feature notably missing that some might wish was present.
You can’t place video or audio calls with the Smart Clock. It’s unclear why, but Lenovo didn’t opt to include support for services like Google Duo with the device. Of course, it’s easy to understand why video calling didn’t make the cut. That would require a camera on the device which wouldn’t feel very secure, especially since the Clock goes in your bedroom. But audio calling is something that could’ve been achieved. I mean, there’s already a microphone mute switch on the back for security reasons. I personally would’ve liked to see audio calling through something like Duo on the Clock, but I guess that’s what I have my phone for.
Speaking of my phone, on the back of the Smart Clock, you’ll find a full-size USB port. This is so you can plug your phone’s charger into the back and have easy access to an outlet if you need it when you go to bed. I love this feature since it’s a convenience you won’t realize you need until you have it.
This is a pretty solid feature set. You get the Google Assistant, you get an easy-to-use alarm clock, and you get a nightstand-friendly design that blends in with virtually any aesthetic you have in your home. But you’re gonna have to like the features that I’ve mentioned, because that’s all you get.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like I said at the beginning of this review, the Smart Clock is simple and straightforward. That’s why it makes for a perfect bedroom companion. But if you were looking for something big and flashy, this device isn’t it.
Personally, I don’t want something with an absolute ton of functionality right next to my bed. I’m only gonna use it when I call it a night or wake up in the morning, and during those times, I need to start shutting down my brain opposed to interacting with various different functions on a blue light-filled screen. Lenovo wants the Smart Clock to draw you away from your smartphone when you go to bed, and because I no longer have my alarm set on my phone, it’s done just that.
The Smart Clock is convenient, simple, and awesome. It’s light on features, but that’s the way it should be. And for $79.99, it’s a no-brainer if you want a Google Assistant-enabled alarm clock.
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