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Smart Home

Lenovo shoots for style with its Google-equipped Smart Display

The Lenovo Smart Display fits Google Assistant into an Echo Show competitor.

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The Lenovo Smart Display is one of four screens that include the Google Assistant.

Josh Miller/CNET

The Amazon Echo Show ($229.99 at Amazon.com) isn't alone anymore. In fact, at CES 2018, the Show's getting lots of company in the smart display category. Lenovo's entry into the field -- simply called the Lenovo Smart Display -- might be the most stylish of the bunch.

Launching Monday along with other Google Assistant-equipped displays from LG, Sony and JBL, the Lenovo Smart Display features either an 8 or 10 inch screen for $200 and $250 respectively. Both will go on sale this summer, but no word if they'll be available overseas. The US price converts to roughly £150/AU$250 and £180/AU$315.

Like the Show, you'll be able to issue voice commands to Lenovo's Smart Displays. Say the word and you can control your smart home, search the internet, ask for directions or check your calendar. Lenovo's display will show info relevant to your question on your touchscreen like a map or your schedule for the day.

Now Playing: Watch this: Lenovo Smart Display combines Google Home with a touchscreen
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Unlike the Show, which has Amazon's assistant Alexa built-in, the Lenovo Smart Display will use Google's digital assistant (which is just called Google Assistant). Popularized by the Google Home ($129.00 at Dell Home) smart speaker, Google Assistant has gained lots of new abilities over the past year to help it stand toe-to-toe with Alexa in terms of capabilities.

Lenovo's display helps Google catch up on the hardware front. Alexa still has more third-party devices of a greater variety, but if Lenovo and Google make good use of the screen, the Lenovo Smart Display could easily be better than the slightly disappointing Echo Show. Since Lenovo's relying on the same smarts as the other big name smart displays that rolled out today, it'll also need impressive hardware and sound quality to stand out from the growing crowd.

Lenovo's style will help. Both the gray 8-inch version and the bamboo-colored 10-inch display look like they'll easily blend into most home decor. Plus, you can use both models either horizontally or vertically depending on your space. Both models also feature 10-watt speakers, a 5-megapixel camera for video calls and powerful Qualcomm processors designed specifically for Google's smart displays. So, Lenovo's hardware looks to be up to the challenge.

Hands-on impressions

During a hands-on demo, Lenovo's screen looked good in action. A Google rep pulled up a live feed from a Nest Cam ($199.00 at Dell Home), sent directions to his phone, made a video call to his mom through Google Duo and asked for cooking directions. When he needed clarification on a step while cooking, he asked for it, and Google pulled up a Youtube video showing how it was done.

The Lenovo Smart Display also has a couple of extra touches to help with privacy. The mute button was expected, as all Google Home smart speakers have one. Lenovo's cam also has a physical shutter you can slide over it.

Bear in mind that the Lenovo Smart Display won't be able to make ordinary calls yet. That ability is still reserved for Google's first-party smart speakers, though the Google rep assured me the company is working to roll it out to their partners.

The Lenovo Smart Display also isn't a full tablet. It's not running Android, but a simpler operating system called Android Things that boots directly into a Google Assistant interface similar to what you'd see on the Google Assistant app on your phone. The home screen shows your upcoming appointments and any music you're playing. A search for restaurants or music shows a visual listing of options.

Google's trying to keep things simple with smart displays so it'll just plug in and work like a Google Home. We'll see if that idea pays off and if smart displays like the one from Lenovo can outduel the Echo Show and find a useful gap between smart speakers and tablets.

What to expect from the smart home at CES 2018: We take a look at the smart home and appliance trends we expect to see this year.

CES 2018: CNET's complete coverage of tech's biggest show.

Where to Buy

Lenovo Smart Display 10

Visit manufacturer site for details.

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