First-party devices from the likes of Google and Amazon usually get all the attention when it comes to smart speakers and smart displays. But plenty of other companies make great smart displays too — and Lenovo has been making them for years now. The latest iteration of the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential swaps out Google Assistant for Alexa, but keeps the low price and many of the smart features.
At $70, the Smart Clock Essential is an excellent choice for those who want a smart home display that doesn’t break the bank. Is it the way to go, or should you stick with one of Amazon’s first-party devices?
- Solid design
- Good display
- Alexa works well
- More full-featured devices for the price
Lenovo Smart Clock Essential design
The first thing I noticed when I took the Smart Clock Essential out of its box is how small it is. It really is quite small, with a display size of only around four inches. The whole device is 4.46 inches wide, 3.67 inches tall, and 2.80 inches deep. Safe to say, it should fit perfectly fine on any desk or surface.
The clock is available in two, and I quite like its friendly, approachable design. Our model is the Clay Red model, but it’s also available in a so-called Misty Blue. The exterior of the device is a mesh fabric finish, with the main display on the front, and a number of buttons on the top. Those buttons include volume controls, a center selection button, and an alarm button. On the back, there’s also a switch to mute the microphone, which is handy.
Generally, the look and feel of the Smart Clock Essential is modern and friendly. It should look good in most homes, though an option for a neutral color might have been nice.
Lenovo Smart Clock Essential features
The Lenovo Smart Clock Essential is built to offer a relatively stripped-back experience, but it still offers a number of features that you might not expect. Apart from the fact that it displays the time, basic weather, and has a speaker, it can display some other information too.
Out of the box, the device also displays the amount of noise in the room, allowing you to get a better view of how loud your surroundings are. It’s a bit of a weird choice for information to show on the display — but you can change it to the weather instead, which I think most will find more useful. You can do so using the Alexa app, and Lenovo says you can also do it using voice commands — but I was unable to figure out what to say to change it.
The main feature on offer by the Smart Clock Essential with Alexa, of course, is Alexa. Alexa is the same as on any other device here. You can use it to find out information from the web, control your smart home devices, and even play music. The speaker doesn’t really lend itself to a high-quality music experience, but it’s perfectly fine for background listening or listening to things like podcasts.
Lenovo Smart Clock Essential software
The actual software on the Smart Clock Essential with Alexa is very simple — and really only one notch above being a simple smart speaker. Basically, the software allows you to see the time, weather, and noise levels — and that’s it. There are no menus to go through, and nothing to really learn on the clock itself.
Of course, that’s not actually all there is to it — if you want to go through menus and settings, then you can do so with the Alexa app. As mentioned, you can use the Alexa app to change the noise meter to weather information, but you can also do things like add the speaker to a routine, change to a 24-hour clock, and more. There’s nothing unexpected here.
At $60, the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential is an excellent option for those who want Alexa with…a little bit more. That said, if all you really want is an Echo speaker with a clock, it’s definitely worth considering the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock, which is often available at a discount, and definitely more available than the Smart Clock Essential, which was out of stock on Amazon at the time of this writing.
The biggest competition comes from the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock, which may be the way to go for those who want that first-party Alexa experience. That said, the display on the Smart Clock Essential definitely makes for a clock-first experienced, so if the clock is more important to you then this may be the way to go.
It’s also worth considering the Echo Show 5, which is much more full-featured, with a full-color display and support for things like video calling. Its list price is more than the Smart Clock Essential, but at the time of this writing was discounted for less.
Should I buy the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential?
Yes. It’s a solid device that combines a clock with Alexa, without going full Echo Show.