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Smart Home

The Lenovo Smart Clock can now double as a digital photo frame

One of our favorite features of the Google Nest Hub is making its way to Lenovo's bedside smart display.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

The Lenovo Smart Clock offers a lot of features specifically meant to help you wake up. It's a trimmed down smart display tailored for your bedside with a 4-inch touchscreen and Google Assistant built-in to respond to voice commands. The screen can start getting brighter 30 minutes before your alarm time to ease you out of your sleep. It's an affordable and handy $60 gadget, and it's getting better. Starting Tuesday, you'll be able to use the Lenovo Smart Clock to display personal photos.

As part of the same update, Google is adding "continued conversation" to the Lenovo Smart Clock as well. Normally, you have to use the wake words "Hey Google" or "OK Google" before you issue any voice command. Continued conversation keeps the mic hot for a few seconds after a command so you can ask a follow up question without repeating the wake words.

For photos, you'll be able to sync your personal pics stored in Google Photos. The Lenovo Smart Clock will then scroll through any albums you select as a screen saver when you're not using the display for something else. If you don't want to sync a personal album, the Lenovo Smart Clock can scroll through scenic pics or artwork selected by Google.

You can also use the touchscreen on the Lenovo Smart Clock to check the weather, your calendar and your commute. You can check on the feed of any security camera and you can play music or ask any questions you'd ask a smart speaker like the Google Home Mini.

The Lenovo Smart Clock lacks some of the functionality of full-sized smart displays. You can't watch videos, scroll through recipes or access a smart home control panel. While the more limited functionality makes sense for your bedside, I missed some of those extras including the fact that you couldn't look at pictures.

While I doubt your pics will look as good on the Smart Clock as they do on the bigger Google Nest Hub -- the Nest Hub has a specialized sensor that adapts the brightness and warmth of pics on the fly -- this is still a welcome update. It should solidify the Smart Clock as a good choice if you want a smarter alarm clock and a nice middle option between a smart speaker and a smart display.

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