The Lenovo Smart Clock is now available in an Essential version, smaller, with a screen limited to essential information: time and weather. We tested this connected alarm clock.
Presented in August, the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential is an alternative to the Google Nest Mini with a screen. The display is however there to give information like a clock radio and is not intended to be used to consume content as is the case on the first Smart Clock of the name.
We tested it for many weeks to give you our full opinion on this connected alarm clock with Google Assistant.
This test was carried out with a product supplied by the brand.
Lenovo Smart Clock Essential Datasheet
Like an air from Google Home
After the Smart Clock, Lenovo signs with the Smart Clock Essential a smaller version, and therefore more discreet of its smart display. With its dimensions of 6.4cm x 12.1cm x 8.3cm, it is nearly 1.6cm taller than its color screen counterpart, but 0.7cm wider and 0 deeper. , 4 cm. In the end, it therefore weighs the same (328 grams), but gives an impression of a more “mini” product, easier to integrate on a night table or a headboard. This is all the more true as its design in the shape of a truncated lying pyramid makes its body thinner than its front face, which makes it harmonious in profile.
Its body is precisely textured in light gray mesh textile strongly reminiscent of Google’s Nest product line. This is generic enough to suit all types of interiors, from the most retro to the most modern. A small topstitched label, always gray, is hung on its upper part, this time somewhat reminiscent of the Levi’s label.
Still on top, but forward this time around, Lenovo has integrated four rather discreet buttons here: two for volume, as on the Smart Clock, but also an “alarm” button and a “play / pause” button . Although not clearly marked, the entire upper part also serves as a touchpad to postpone the alarm to the old-fashioned way, without opening your eyes, but throwing your laconic arm gropingly at the object.
On the underside, as on the first model, there are two large non-slip pads that allow it to hold in place even on a slightly slippery surface and at the back, always the same connection, namely a power supply and a USB port -A to charge another device such as your smartphone without the need for a power strip. In between is a switch for physically muting the mics, because you don’t necessarily want your smart speaker to listen to you nonstop in your bedroom.
Small novelty: the back side is lined with a 31 lumen LED night light, ideal for a child’s room or for those who do not want to stay in total darkness. Note that it is possible to turn on this light vocally, but also by pressing and holding the “-” button. Convenient to get a light source in the bedroom without waking your other half. Two levels of light intensity are also available.
It only displays what is strictly necessary
The biggest difference between the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential and the Smart Clock is of course the display. While we had a 4-inch IPS LCD screen on its big brother, it is here a simple LED display that takes over, contenting itself with indicating the time, the temperature (outside), as well as the weather forecast. in the form of a discreet pictogram. Don’t expect to personalize anything or display additional information like the title of the music currently playing or your notifications, that would be like asking your old analog clock radio.
And since it is not possible to customize the display, you will have to deal with the days of the week indicated in English. The indication begins with “Sun” (for “Sunday“) And ends with”Sat” (for “Saturday »).
The first few days, I must admit having railed about the too bright brightness of this display which tends to illuminate a room plunged into darkness. This was before discovering somewhat by chance that there is a voice command “Hey Google, turn down the screen brightness”, Which is not indicated in the manual of the device, nor anywhere on the Lenovo site. This remains insufficient, however, the minimum brightness still remaining quite high.
An ambient light sensor managing this automatically would not be refused on the next model.
Too messy use
This is the main problem with this Smart Clock Essential: it is not intuitive at all. In addition to the essential commands that Google Assistant allows (adjust lights, play music, manage compatible home automation elements, etc.), any attempt quickly becomes an obstacle course.
First of all, it is necessary to read the manual to learn that it is possible to light the night light with a button, to repeat the alarm by pressing the top of the device or simply to fully understand how to set a alarm without having to go through a voice command. Navigating these menus is particularly tedious and setting two alarm clocks (one for the week and one for the weekend for example) quickly becomes a real obstacle course.
In addition, Lenovo does not offer its own application to regulate all this from its smartphone and is content to rely on the Google Home app. Application which recognizes the Smart Clock Essential as a simple speaker and does not allow, for example, to light its night light remotely.
In other words, the best way to make adjustments is still to use voice commands. It is still necessary to know its existence. This is a more general problem that obviously applies to all Google Assistant compatible speakers – or even to all connected speakers for that matter -, but it seems more problematic on an object that wants to be more alarm clock than speaker.
A concrete example: I have nowhere found a selection of ringtones for the alarm clock. It is of course possible to adjust the volume, but not the melody. After extensive research I discovered the possible to use the function “Hey Google, activate an alarm[nom de la musique] », But it only works once: it will therefore have to be set again every day. In the end, we quickly content ourselves with the default ringtone of Google Assistant or we end up returning to our smartphone, leaving the Smart Clock Essential as a simple connected time display.
Without a real screen, we also lose some features of the original Smart Clock, such as progressive switching on to illuminate the room when you wake up or even the alarm proposals based on our agenda. Of course, on the other hand, we find all the benefits of Google Assistant on this Smart Clock Essential, such as routines, particularly effective for turning everything off at home with a simple “Good night“Or to have the latest information, the weather forecast and the content of your daily agenda with a”Hello», But also the answers to all the questions on the universe, the life and all the rest, or even the audio playback of music or podcasts.
What to add sound to a small bedroom
The Smart Clock Essential is therefore more than a simple alarm clock, it is also a small speaker that can broadcast background music according to your desires and your moods. Don’t expect too much from its 3W speaker, which is identical to that of the first Smart Clock.
The sound is rather clear and powerful and does not suffer from too much distortion at full volume, which allows a small bedroom to be sounded without any problem. However, there is a big absence of bass and less well-defined mediums than on a Google Home Mini first of the name – and by extension than on a Nest Mini. The sound is overall less pleasant, less warm and more squeaky, giving an impression of a nasal voice. On the other hand, the low frequencies are better detailed. You won’t enjoy the deep rhythms of techno music, but baritone vocals will be pleasing to your ears.
Completely integrated into the Google Home ecosystem, the Smart Clock Essential also allows you to work in concert with another speaker to offer multiroom or the impression of stereo.
Lenovo Smart Clock Essential price and availability
The Lenovo Smart Clock Essential is available at a suggested price of 60 euros. It therefore competes with the Amazon Echo Dot 2020 with clock, offered at 70 euros, but also the original Smart Clock, also offered at 60 euros and offering more options.