Alarm clocks are generally not your friends.
Can you think of a material possession you’ve punched more? But Lenovo’s Smart Clock is far too adorable to punch. Unveiled at CES, the dinky device will gently wake you up in the morning, and with Google Assistant on board it can show you all the important information about the day head on its miniature screen.
It’s one of those instantly likeable gadgets, and after having a little play in Lenovo’s demo room I’m already making space on my crowded bedside table.
Design - Small-time
The Smart Clock really is little, especially when you sit it next to Lenovo’s also great Smart Display, but its diminutive form means you won’t have an issue finding somewhere for it to live. I think it’s great.
The rectangular 4in touchscreen is surrounded by some pretty chunky bezels, but I think they actually add to its cheap and cheerful charm. The 480 x 800 resolution is fine for something that only displays alarms, reminders and funky digital clock faces. You won’t be seeing Google Photos feeds or YouTube videos on it.
Something I did notice is that the viewing angles weren’t brilliant. As you’ll ordinarily be looking straight at the clock when you roll over, it shouldn’t be a big issue, but that’s obviously something we need to examine more.
There’s no camera, which is a good thing. It would push the price up for one, but more importantly, I don’t want pictures of my 8am Monday morning grimace sitting in a cloud.
Wrapped in a light grey fabric, the Smart Lock might be property of Lenovo, but it definitely looks like it belongs in the ever-growing Google Home gang. Keeping it minimalist, volume up and down are the only buttons you’ll find, and on the back there's a USB port for charging your phone. Handy. Next to that is a switch for disabling the mic.
Features - A-OK, Google
The Smart Clock’s UI is clean and uncluttered. You can swipe between clock faces, but like any Google Assistant smart home device, you’ll predominantly be using your voice.
Just like a Google Home product, you can ask Assistant questions, control your other smart home gadgets, stream to Chromecast devices and listen to podcasts. You’d obviously be absolutely bonkers to use it as stand-in for an actual speaker, but I was quite surprised by how loud the max volume was, and it should be more than OK for some morning radio.
But everything can do all the stuff mentioned above these days. You want to know what this thing is like as an alarm clock.
Lenovo and Google are determined to remove you from your sweet dreams with as little aggro as possible. There’s a built-in gentle wake-up routine, which when activated will tell your smart lights to begin gradually brightening 30 minutes before your alarm goes off. The same goes for the Smart Clock’s screen.
When it is time to get up, the Smart Clock will play your choice of wake-up sounds or music, and then launch into a customisable morning routine. You might see the weather forecast, details of your schedule that day and the headlines. Everything you want to know first thing, basically. You can even have it turn on your coffee machine. In the demos we saw, these features all worked well.
You can tap anywhere on the clock to snooze your alarm (no punching) or double tap to turn it off completely and commence your routine.
Lenovo Smart Clock initial verdict
Admittedly, right now in the US you can buy a much more capable Google Home Hub for $99, which is only $20 more than Lenovo’s Smart Clock. If smart displays continue to drop in price and the clock costs £80 when UK launch plans emerge, it gives consumers a bit of a headache. It'll also be interesting to see how it fares against Amazon's Echo Spot.
Looked at in isolation, though, the Smart Clock is very easy to love. It looks great, works smoothly (at least it did in our demo) and is designed to make waking up less hellish. I’m all for that.
Fingers crossed it arrives in the UK soon.