Posts Tagged google assistant

Google Assistant now answers your Coronavirus related questions

Google has added a new function to its Google assistant called ‘Coronavirus tips’ which is a shortcut that could be accessed by either clicking on the shortcut from the Google Assistant app or by using the command ‘Do I have Coronavirus’. Once you use the command, your Google Assistant will show you a symptoms page for the Coronavirus where you could get detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and prevention for the virus.

The Google Assistant also responds with a short voice message giving you information about the Coronavirus, the symptoms, and the latest updates. You can also click on other useful links provided on the results page to learn more about the virus and get the latest news. The new Coronavirus tips function in the Google Assistant could also be accessed by clicking on the ‘Coronavirus tips’ shortcut on the home page or the discover page of the Google Assistant.

Google assistant
Coronavirus
Coronavirus

You can also select other relevant shortcuts like tips for working from home, how to wash your hands, and even set a reminder to wash your hands. Google Assistant will also provide you with the latest news updates in the relevant topics once you use the Coronavirus tips shortcut from the home page of the app. The aim of this new shortcut is to spread as much awareness as possible and also help people to get the right information especially with so many misinformation and fake news about the virus out there.

Apple also has added a similar function to its digital assistant Siri, which essentially asks you a series of questions about the Coronavirus symptoms to help you to self-diagnose yourself or to just learn more about the virus. While the Google Assistant just redirects you to relevant websites with information about Coronavirus, hopefully, we can see a similar functionality added to it soon by Google.

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Opinion: Amazon’s Echo products make Google Assistant look boring

Ever since I got my first Echo Dot, I’ve been hooked on having smart speakers in my home. I started with Alexa, but being a heavy user of Google services, I quickly made the change to Google Assistant with the first Google Home speaker.

It took a little time for Assistant to catch up with Alexa, but it did, and I’ve never regretted the switch in digital assistants. At least in terms of AI smarts and capabilities. I can’t say the same for the hardware.

While there are plenty of devices to choose from on both sides, I’ve always been a little disappointed with the lack of innovation from Google’s Assistant-enabled hardware.

Since the first Echo speaker, we’ve seen Amazon launch product after product featuring Alexa, each experimenting with different designs and ways to get Alexa into our lives. Google, on the other hand, only offers up a handful of hero products for Assistant.

A perfect example would be the Echo Show, Amazon’s first smart display launched back in 2017. It would take over a year from the release of the Echo Show for Google and its partners to release a Google Assistant-enabled smart display.

Amazon hasn’t stopped there though, since the release of the Echo Show, it has gone onto release several more innovative Alexa products. For example, there is an Echo Sub to add more bass to your Echo speakers, or the Echo Input that allows you to add Alexa capabilities to your existing audio setup.

Think of as sort of a Chromecast Audio before Google discontinued it, except there is a mic, and it reacts to Alexa commands. That’s a product I’d love for my current home audio equipment.

Then, at Amazon’s annual hardware event in 2019, it unveiled even more innovative ways to use Alexa while on the go. First, there are the Echo Frames, a pair of prescription glasses with Alexa built-in. Next, was the Echo Loop, which is a smart ring with Alexa built-in, it looks somewhat weird when in use, but it’s still pretty ingenious.


One could argue, that these are both niche products and neither are essential. And while that is certainly true, it doesn’t change the fact that both are far more innovative than anything Google is doing with its Assistant hardware. I’d love to see more experimentation from Google, finding new fun ways to work Assistant into our lives.

Beyond the more out-there concepts, Amazon also showed off some more practical Echo products. Starting with the Echo Flex that will add Alexa to any outlet along with a USB charging port. There are even accessories for the Echo Flex, including a nightlight and motion sensor attachment.

Finally, Amazon introduced a new Echo Dot with a clock built-in. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been wanting something exactly like this since the first Echo Dot launched. Sony released something similar with the S50G using Google Assistant previously, but it is quite pricey. There was also one from Insignia, but it has since been discontinued and I never cared for the style of that one.

All I want is a cheap, attractive alarm clock replacement with a visible clock. If Google made a similar product with a built-in clock, I’d have it on pre-order as soon as it popped up. In the meantime, I’ve had to make do with a smart display, which works great, but is also a bit overkill for a beside alarm clock.

No matter how you look at it, Amazon is straight-up killing it with Echo products. It releases far more options, and many more innovative products feature Alexa than Google’s Assistant.

Next to Amazon’s offerings, Google Assistant looks boring. Seeing as how I’m so invested and committed to Assistant products, I just wish we could see some more experimentation on Google’s behalf with its hardware.

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JBL Link Bar review

As a self-proclaimed audiophile and home theater geek who loves using Google Assistant, the JBL Link Bar and its promise of an all-in-one Android TV soundbar with built-in Assistant had me beyond excited. Unfortunately, the reality leaves much to be desired. It was meant to be a “Jack of all trades” yet it is a master of none.

Hardware

The first thing that struck me about the JBL Link Bar was how surprisingly light and slim it was. It made me question whether it would be able to produce any bass at all, which is important given that it doesn’t include a subwoofer. Later, I’d come to find out that looks can be deceiving, and it pushes more bass than I expected.

Given that the JBL Link Bar is more than a soundbar, it is also a fully functional Android TV box, it’s important that it has plenty of ports. Fortunately, JBL has included three HDMI ports with support for 4K HDR passthrough and a dedicated HDMI ARC port for connecting it to your TV. This will give you enough to connect three devices, such as gaming consoles, cable boxes, or a Blu-ray player to the soundbar. However, if you have more than three HDMI devices you’ll be out of luck.

Along with the HDMI ports, the JBL Link Bar also hosts an Ethernet port, auxiliary port, and Optical port on the back. When it comes to storage, JBL left off anyway to expand; there is no microSD card slot and the USB-C port is for maintenance only.

It’s particularly disappointing because it only includes 4GB of storage total. This is much less than on the original Android TV box, the Nexus Player, which launched with 16GB of storage. That will make it difficult to load up with apps, especially any games.

As a Soundbar

When it comes to being a soundbar, the JBL Link Bar pleasantly surprised me. This is the first soundbar I’ve ever used that did not include a subwoofer, and I was concerned the sound would suffer significantly. It’s true, the bass was nowhere near what you’d get with a dedicated subwoofer, but I was still impressed with the oomph added to movies and music.

It sounded much better than I expected, giving plenty of stereo separation which lets you hear sounds clearly going from left to right or vice versa. Movie soundtracks were brought to life with a much richer and fuller sound than you’d be able to get from TV speakers alone. The only downside being that you won’t have the same impact a dedicated subwoofer brings to the party.

While that can be disappointing, it also makes this soundbar perfect for people who live in apartments, condos, or even those with roommates. Without the boombastic bass, you can still enjoy much better sound quality from your TV without disturbing others.

As an Android TV box

There’s no real getting around this, Android TV on the JBL Link Bar is a bit of a dumpster fire. It would crash on me and require a full reboot at least twice a week. This is quite frustrating when you’re trying to binge-watch a new series or have a movie night.

To make matters worse, the JBL Link Bar refused to play movies in 4K HDR via popular streaming apps like Vudu or Google Play movies despite supporting it. The good news is Netflix 4K HDR movies did continue to work. Sadly, the movies I purchased in other services or providers did not.

That in itself was not the fault of the JBL Link Bar but was an issue with the Android TV software. Even users of the popular NVIDIA Shield TV encounter this issue. It was later fixed and 4K HDR videos worked for a couple of weeks, but as of the time this post was published it is broken again.

While it certainly has issues, when the JBL Link Bar did function properly, it functioned well. I was able to use voice commands to summon up movies and TV shows. I could stream all my favorite movies and TV shows and they looked great.

The UI was snappy and, all in all, I was pleased when I wasn’t encountering crashes and bugs. The problem is that every time I started to enjoy using the JBL Link Bar a crash would come or I would get frustrated by voice commands taking forever to respond.

As an Assistant speaker

I love having Google Assistant speakers all around my house and being able to use them to play music, set reminders, check the weather, or control my smart home. I was excited at the thought of adding the JBL Link Bar into this ecosystem and it serving as the sole Assistant speaker in the living room.

Unfortunately, that’s just not possible and it comes down to one frustrating reason. That being when using the “Ok, Google” or “Hey, Google” hot words the JBL Link Bar is painfully slow to respond, especially when compared to other Assistant-enabled speakers.

It takes some real practice to get used to waiting a few seconds before giving your command. Then it starts to become confusing because that is the only device that requires a pause in your house.

Inevitably, you’ll end up repeating yourself pretty often when using the Link Bar after forgetting to pause long enough after using the Google Assistant hot words. Ultimately, it became so frustrating that I opted to not even use it for voice commands. Unless I used the remote, which works immediately.

When it first launched, the Link Bar lacked support for speaker groups. This was a huge bummer for me since I wanted to use it as part of my whole-home audio setup. Around a month ago I discovered that had been fixed and the Link Bar is now an option to include as part of speaker groups. It took them several months to implement this but better late than never.

Final Thoughts

The JBL Link Bar was an ambitious product with a lot of promise. Unfortunately, it falls short. Most of the blame is due to buggy Android TV software which often feels incomplete for the experience it promised. It doesn’t help that it retails for $250, with additional $200 for the optional subwoofer. If the product functioned flawlessly, that wouldn’t seem too bad.

For that same amount of money, or even cheaper, you could get a better home theater setup by buying a soundbar with a subwoofer and an Android TV box such as the NVIDIA Shield TV. You’d still be subject to some Android TV bugs but at least the products would work more reliably and you’d get more oomph from the included subwoofer.

Despite all of the issues I encountered with the JBL Link Bar, I still really want to love this product. I’m hopeful that one of these days a software update will come along and fix most of what is broken or frustrating, making it the finished product it could have been.

I’d be even happier to see a second version of this device next year with more storage, a subwoofer included for the price, and bug-free software. Hopefully, JBL makes those dreams come true because an all-in-one soundbar is a fantastic idea. This one just left a lot to be desired.

Buy from Amazon Buy from JBL

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This 2-in-1 Smart Plug works with Amazon Alexa and Google Home, just $20

If you’ve ever thought about smartening up your home, but don’t quite know where to start, we’ve got a suggestion. Dip your toes into the connected home waters by making your wall outlets smart.

The 2-in-1 Smart Plug from Syncwire is currently offered for just $20 through the AndroidGuys Deals Store and is the perfect starter accessory. In essence, it turns one wall outlet into two, and gives them new levels of control.

Once you’ve got this in place you can use your voice to turn off the box fan or to automatically turn off the plug that your lamp uses. It’s controlled by an app or through voice using Amazon Alexa or Google Home. What’s more, you can also set it up with IFTTT and create rules.

The possibilities are seemingly endless when it comes to using smart plugs. Not only can you do fun, interesting, and convenient things, but you can also help cut down on your electric bill, too.

Syncwire 2-in-1 Smart Plug

  • Control multiple devices in a confined area via remote or voice control using the Smart Life app or Alexa or Google Assistant devices
  • Use individually or in groups
  • Create a schedule to automatically turn your appliances on & off to better manage energy
  • Create a group to control multiple devices w/ a single button
  • Share the plug w/ family & friends via app
  • Set up fast w/ your WiFi network — no subscription or hub required
  • Stack in a single outlet without blocking another thanks to the sleek, compact design

One of the best parts about the 2-in-1 Smart Plug is that you can stack it on a standard wall outlet. This turns your two old-fashioned plugs into four, independently operating and smart plugs.


See Also


Where to Buy

You can purchase the Syncwire 2-in-1 Smart Plug for $19.99 from the AndroidGuys Deals Store. Or, get an even better deal and grab two of them for just $37.99!

Save even more!

In addition to the savings above, when you buy through AndroidGuys Deals, for every $25 spent, you get $1 credit added to your account. What’s more, should you refer the deal via social media or an email that results in a purchase, you’ll earn $10 credit in your account.

Shop AndroidGuys!

If this is your first time buying, then you are also eligible for a further 10% discount when you subscribe for email updates.

How about a freebie?

Not looking to spend any money today? That’s alright, we understand. Why not visit the AndroidGuys section for freebies and take something anyhow? Go ahead, grab two!

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Ten awesome things you can do with Google Lens

Google Lens is an AI-powered technology that leverages your smartphone’s camera and deep machine learning to detect objects. Moreover, the system understands what it detects and offers follow-up actions based on what it sees.

Google Lens was unveiled by Google in 2017 and at launch, it was a Pixel-exclusive feature. But since then, the feature has made it to more phones.

For example, handsets like the OnePlus 6T come with Google Lens integrated into the camera app. Select models from Sony, LG, Motorola, Nokia, ASUS and more also benefit from this feature.

The option is also available in Google Photos and via the Google Assistant. What’s more, Google also offers a standalone Lens app which you can download via the Play Store.

Also read:

As you can see the feature is widely available and you haven’t tried it out until now, we suggest you do because it’s pretty cool. Here are some things you can do with it.

Easily copy text

Google Lens allows you to copy text in the form of phone numbers, dates, addresses and email addresses, as well as text from the real world.

A lot of people still use business cards and Google Lens will help you save all the info to your address book and beyond. Simply tap on a phone number/address from the camera app and Lens will suggest what to do with the info. For example, it will offer you the option to add the number as new contact/call/text/email or visit the affiliate website (if any).

Want to copy a random piece of text? Point the Lens at it and you’ll be given the option to select the text you want to copy. It’s that simple.

Find similar products

Google Lens easily lets you find similar products. Just snap a photo of something you love (example: your favorite lip scrub) and Lens will immediately suggest alternative products, complete with link. Just tap and buy!

Get quick info about books

The Holiday season is coming, and books make for great presents. So if you find yourself in a bookshop looking at a book trying to decide if your aunt Susan would like it, Google Lens can give you a helping hand.

Simply point the camera at the book cover and you can easily get access to a short summary of the book, reviews and more via a link to a full Google search.

Sure you can always take the classic route. Open your browser and type in the name of the book manually, but the Google Lens way is a lot faster.

Open links

Browsing something on your PC and you want to continue doing so on your smartphone? Use your phone to snap a photo of the address and Google Lens will immediately serve up the link which you can open on your mobile device.

Lens can also recognize links available on any kind of print media including posters and business cards. Just point the camera at it and you’re good to go!

Access review/ratings of restaurants/bars/venues

Point Google Lens towards a café or restaurant (from the inside or outside) and it will show you ratings/reviews of that place. So when you’re not sure whether you should stay or not, Lens has your back.

Identify plants and animals

Google Lens is a fun tool if you’re a nature observer. Snap pictures of plants and animals and the AI-driven system will recognize them for you. Or simply point the camera at images of living things, the effect will be the same.

Discover music

Found some old records around the house that used to belong to your ex, but you can’t identify the name of the band? Snap a picture of the cover and Lens will serve up that info immediately.

Scan QR Codes

Let’s say you’ve spotted a QR Code somewhere and you’re curious to what it may lead. Well, take out your phone and point Google Lens towards it and you’ll find out, instantly.

Add an event to your calendar

You’ve come across a poster around town while talking a stroll for an event you really want to attend. You can easily add it to your calendar by pointed Lens at it.

After the feature will scan the flyer, you will be offered a variety of options including to add the event to your calendar, check the website of the venue or see it in Maps or learn more about the organizer.

Translate signs

Traveling in a foreign country and can’t understand the signs? Google Lens can help you easily translate them. Take a picture and then tap the Translate button to view the translation.

Discovered some other cool functionality of Google Lens we haven’t covered? Let us know in the comment section below.

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Enable Google Assistant on most Chromebooks

Google Assistant is a huge part of the company’s current portfolio of services. So are Chromebooks. However, for now, the Pixelbook is the only Chromebook with access to Assistant on Chrome OS. Fortunately, the latest Google Canary builds show that a fix for other Chromebooks is around the corner.

What’s it do?

This tweak will allow for older Chromebooks other than the Google Pixelbook to have access to Google Assistant. We do offer a word of advice on the following instructions to always take in account that this requires two things we do not recommend for average users: manual enabling Chrome flags and updating to the Chrome Canary testing channel.

How to turn it on?

Again this is two-fold and we’ll start with changing your Chromebook to the Canary channel.

  • Hit the key combination of CTRL+ALT+T to enter the built-in command line for Chrome OS.
  • Type this command without the quotations: “live_in_a_coal_mine”.
  • Hit “y” for yes when prompted.
  • Once the command completes, open the Settings app.
  • Click hamburger menu in the top left and select “About Chrome OS”.
  • Click “Check for Updates”.
  • Chromebook will then update and ask you to restart.

Welcome to the dark side of Chrome OS and you should now be running the Canary builds.

Part Deuce

Now we are ready for the second step of this tutorial of enabling the Assistant flag in Chrome’s hidden menu.

  • Paste this URL into the browser address bar: chrome://flags/#enable-native-google-assistant
  • Change the setting to “Enabled”.
  • Restart your Chromebook.

You should now have Google Assistant on your Chromebook. Again, we don’t condone some of the steps here for a stable Chrome OS experience. We honestly don’t even know what’s powering this version of Assistant. The Pixelbook is running a modified version of the Android app, but enablement via the flags page suggests this option may be a web variant.

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Google Assistant gains new tricks and features ahead of holidays

Google is adding a host of new features to its AI-powered Google Assistant, making the experience more interactive and smarter than ever. Aimed at improving the experience at home, it makes the Google Home, Home Mini, and Home Hub more compelling gift ideas as the holidays approach.

Family members will now be able to reply to broadcasts, making it more of a two-way conversation, of sorts. Until now, it has been a strictly one-way means of communication — a broadcast. Once rolled out, those who receive a broadcast can send a message back which is transcribed and arrives in the form of a notification.

Cooking a holiday dinner, or any meal for that matter, gets easier with recommended recipes on information cards. These will be populated based on previously searched recipes and will update regularly based on season and time of day. Users who find something interesting can favorite and more easily return to them later.

Alarms become more exciting and informative now with Google Assistant adding content around brands such as LEGO and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. These new alarms will include jokes, music, and other signature messages.

Read Along gets a punch-up with sound effects and music being added to select books. Moreover, Google Assistant can read any one of 25 family-friendly titles upon command.

Podcast listeners now have more control over playback with the ability to speed up a show. Simply say something like, “Hey Google, play at twice the speed” and your podcast will do that.

Rounding things out, Google brings routines to the clock app on your Android phones. After dismissing an alarm, for instance, Assistant can begin with a routine such as reading news, providing weather, or turning on pre-set lights. In a related note, Assistant can turn on “do not disturb” mode across all devices with a single command.

Google says these features will roll out slowly to Google Home speakers, smart displays, and Android phones over the coming weeks.

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How to control Roku with Google Assistant

Google Assistant is kinda everywhere as of late. We’ve seen Google heavily invested in the voice-enabled platform over the last few years and now they’ve partnered with Roku to where you can shout all your favorite commands at your connected TV. With a few short steps, we are going to show you how to make this new magic happen.

What’s it do?

Once enabled you should be able to control your Roku, or Roku TV, with commands like these:

  • “Hey Google, launch The Roku Channel on Roku”
  • “Hey Google, find documentaries on Roku”
  • “Hey Google, show me comedies on Roku”
  • “Hey Google, pause on Roku”
  • “Hey Google, turn on Roku”**
  • “Hey Google, turn up the volume on Roku”
  • “Hey Google, mute on Roku”
  • “Hey Google, change to channel 5.1 on Roku”
  • “Hey Google, switch to HDMI 2 on Roku”

How to turn it on?

This is a fairly quick fix from the Google Home App. Let’s open it up and get you going:

  • Open the Google Home app on your Android device.
  • Click “Set up or add.”
  • Tap “Set up device.”
  • Choose “Have something already set up?” just below the Works with Google header.
  • Find Roku under Manage Accounts.
  • Log into your Roku account.
  • Choose your local Roku device from your personal list.
  • Click done.

Now you should be all set to start using Google Assistant to control your Roku devices. It is worth mentioning that this only works with a single Roku unit. If you have multiple devices, you have to set one single streamer to be controlled via Assistant. This is also only available for the last 2 generation of devices or so. (All Roku TV models, Roku Express (3700X, 3900X), Roku Express+ (3710X, 3910X), Roku Streaming Stick (3600X, 3800X), Roku Streaming Stick+ (3810X), Roku 2 (4210X), Roku 3 (4200X, 4230X), Roku 4 (4400X), Roku Premiere (3920X,4620X), Roku Premiere+ (3921X,4630X), and Roku Ultra (4640X, 4660X, 4661X)

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Anker intros the world’s smallest wall charger and a new Nebula Capsule projector

Anker today unveiled a series of new products including a very small wall charger.

After a whole year of development, the PowerPort Atom PD 1 makes its debut as the first product in the Atom series which will offer slim, lightweight PD wall chargers for MacBooks, phones and other PD devices.

Aptly named, the device is slightly bigger than a 5W stock smartphone charger, so you’ll be able to fit it almost anywhere. It features one single USB-C port that can deliver up to 27W of power through the Power Delivery standard.

Anker managed to make the Atom slimmer and more efficient than other competing products by using GaN (Gallium Nitride) components. It’s actually the first device of its kind to do so.

The PowerPort Atom PD 1 will go on sale towards the end of November for $29.99 on Amazon.


Next, Anker has also unveiled the Nebula Capsule II, a small entertainment device that brings new capabilities such as Android TV support and Google Assistant integration.

The gadget features a black cylindrical body and is only 5.9-inch tall, so it’s quite portable. It’s also able to project a 720p image at 200 ANSI lumens.

The new projector is powered by Android TV 9.0, so it brings support for a myriad of applications including YouTube, Hulu Plus and much more. And with Google Assistant on board, finding searching for media is a walk in the park with the Capsule II.

But wait there’s more, the Nebula also doubles a Bluetooth speaker that can offer up to 30 hours of playtime on a single charge.

The product will become available for early adopters on Kickstarter on October 26. Early Bird backers can order their device for $349.


Last, but not least, Anker announced the availability details of its Soundcore Model Zero+ speaker today. According to Anker, this is a product that has been envisioned by artists and sculpted by designers. Made from premium materials like brushed aluminum and woven fabric it’s quite stylish-looking, albeit a bit oddly shaped.

The portable speaker is the first from Soundcore to come with integrated Dolby Audio, so it can deliver a crisp and extremely detailed sound experience. It also has Google Assistant support and can offer 5 hours of battery life.

What’s more, the Model Zero+ also advantage of another first. It includes “Designed by Scan-Speak” drivers which are known for offering unmatched sound quality and music reproduction.

The speaker will go on sale in late November for $249.99.

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Lenovo Smart Display review

Google Assistant is awesome. It’s everywhere we go, knows just about everything, and helps us keep track of our lives. We use it in our phone multiple times a day and our homes are starting to fill up with Assistant-powered smart speakers and connected devices.

If you thought talking to Google was really cool, wait until you’ve interacted with it visually. That’s the basic premise of the Lenovo Smart Display, one of the first products of its type to hit the market which is powered by Google Assistant.

Available in 8-inch and 10-inch configurations, the slate is everything your kitchen or home office ever needed. Well, that might be just a slight exaggeration. Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine a future without something like this in every room.

What is the Lenovo Smart Display?

The Lenovo Smart Display runs a different, but increasingly interesting operating system in Android Things. It’s not the full-blown Android experience that you get with a phone or tablet; it doesn’t have any apps or access to the Google Play Store. In essence, it’s a canvas that compliments your lifestyle using anything and everything possible from your Google account.

When not in use, the Smart Display defaults to a digital picture frame or clock. Walk into a room and you’ll see it cycling through a Google Photos album or simply offering up the current time. Prompt it with “Hey Google” or “Okay Google” and it gets down to business.

Think of all of the things you do with Google Assistant today. Whether it’s asking for the weather forecast, a glimpse into your day, or querying Search for some random statistic, you’re tapping into it quite often. If you’re like us, we’re using more with each passing week.

Once you have the ability to literally see what Google knows, it changes the game. Now, instead of hearing how tall a particular building is, you get a picture and a readout of the stats, too.

If you ask for a timer on your phone, you get a countdown that can run in the background. If you ask to watch a video, your phone hands you off to YouTube. Music? Here’s that playlist with album artwork on Google Play Music. How about a recipe? Ask Google how to make a raspberry Danish and your phone pulls up neatly organized results with easy-to-read ingredients and directions.

The Lenovo Smart Display takes all of that stuff you get on your phone and reconfigures it for the kitchen. Or home office. Or bedroom. It works no matter where you put it, and it works in so many facets of our lives.

This isn’t simply taking the same results and actions and expanding them to a larger display. No, Google does an excellent job of taking advantage of a bigger, portrait orientation.

Design

We’ve already talked quite a bit about what the Smart Display can and does do. Let’s back up and discuss how it’s designed as well as how it looks, and sounds.

First, and foremost, it takes up a fair amount of space. It’s not the same as a 10-inch tablet as there’s a speaker grille to the left with a curved, angular back with bamboo finish. It’s a unique design that lets the Smart Display sit in both landscape and portrait orientation.

There are rubber feet on the bottom and left end, meaning it is meant to fit your environment. That’s physically, at least. For not the software does not allow for any portrait stuff just yet.

In a crowded kitchen, on a smaller nightstand, or on a cluttered desk the portrait mode would work best. With that said, if there’s room for it, the landscape looks awesome and it compliments pretty much any decor.

The 10-watt speaker, and two passive tweeters are fairly nice, but it’s not what you want to use for really diving into music or starting a party. It gets loud enough, sure, but it doesn’t have the range you get from other Bluetooth speakers.

We’ve enjoyed playing music, casting YouTube TV, and other audiovisual media if, for no other reason, than to have an extra place to consume content. If you’re using the Smart Display for recipes, timers, alarms, and other daily needs, the sound experience is great. The same goes for taking in a podcast. You can easily fill a room with a respectable sound.

Unlike the Google Home Hub, the Lenovo Smart Display houses a front-facing camera. Don’t be alarmed, though, as you can slide a shutter over it to block it out. This was the sort of peace of mind we hoped for as we moved the device to the bedroom for a few days. Similarly, there is an option to toggle the microphones, too. Rest easy knowing Google isn’t listening to you talking in your sleep.

The two microphones do an excellent job of recognizing voices, particularly those you’ve set up with Google Assistant. As you may already know, it behaves differently when different people use it.

Google replies with specifics when you ask your phone how your day looks or to remind you of upcoming appointments. But, that doesn’t mean your spouse can’t pick up the phone to use it for other, broad purposes. That’s the same situation with the Smart Display.

Setup

Setup is surprisingly easy. If you’ve ever used a Google Home or Google Home Mini, you know what it’s like. In essence, you use the Google Home app and follow a few steps as the device is found and registered on your network.

We’ve moved it from home to the office and found it really simple to set up. The only thing we’d caution is to go into the settings and have the device “forget” the current Wi-Fi network before taking it to another location. Once off the registered network you’ll not be able to communicate between phone and device.

Once you’re up and running, you are able to tap into Google Assistant right away. Ask Google whatever questions you have, direct it to play a video, or look up a recipe. This is where the fun begins.

Usage and Features

Having a display for Google Assistant is pretty damn cool. If you’ve ever asked to broadcast “it’s dinner time”, you know it’s accompanied by a dinner bell. Here, you get visual representations, too. So, when mom tells you to come downstairs to eat, and you’ve got your headphones on, your Smart Display will show fun, attention-getting animations.

When used for recipes, for instance, you get sharp, large text with a standardized format and photos. Tap the button to get going and you’ll get prompts to preheat the oven with a nice large readout of 350 degrees.

We found that we’ve significantly increased our usage of Google Assistant in the time we’ve spent with the Smart Display. Instead of setting reminders on our phone or putting in a cooking timer on the oven we simply said, “Hey Google, set a timer for 15 minutes”. Doing so gives us large clock which counts down until zero when it rings and flashes an image.

While much of what we do with the Smart Display is done via voice, the screen does reply nicely to touch. What’s more, navigation is intuitive hassle-free.

Swipe from the left and you find it acts like a “back” button. If you’re listening to a podcast, you can swipe back to the home screen or ambient screen saver. Swipe up from the bottom and you can adjust volume and brightness.

You won’t find very many screens to go through, which we found to be refreshing. Too much stuff tends to feel like clutter and leads to a confusing experience. It takes all of a few minutes to figure out how things work here and what you’ll see.

The Google Home app gives you control over what you get to see. Let’s say you don’t want to see your personal photos splashed across the screen or show your calendar appointments. That’s all really easy to change and you’re never stuck with any particular settings.

One thing we’d like to see in Google Home is the ability to add merge more than one account. It would be nice to see both our personal and work calendar but that’s not a shortcoming of the device.

Making and receiving calls via Google Duo is pretty interesting, and is probably the most compelling reason for the service yet. We could imagine having these throughout the home or office so it makes sense that contacts can reach us as easily as they would through a phone.

Thinking more broadly, it doesn’t seem a stretch to consider an update which allows room-to-room calls or video chat from one office to another. The more we outfit our homes with smart displays with cameras, the more helpful they become. A mom can ask to see a baby’s room regardless of where she is in the house. A co-worker can go over the TPS report with management without leaving the cubicle.

We love using the Smart Display as a screen for casting our apps. Whether that’s from our phones with YouTube TV in the kitchen, or Google Play Music from a web browser in the living room, it’s a seamless experience.

It might only be 10-inches, and sound really small, but catching up on the news is awesome when putting dishes away. Forget about pausing live TV or recorded shows because you have to hang up laundry. Cast to your Smart Display and make sure you catch that touchdown drive.

Conclusion

The Smart Display might be manufactured by Lenovo but it is Google through and through — and that’s awesome. We use its services for search, Chrome, Gmail, calendar appointments, YouTube, and much, much more. This is a piece of hardware that ties many of those things together, and it does it in a uniform and interesting experience.

We would love to see how this works in portrait mode and hope that an update is not far away. Upright could change things quite a bit and force us to reconsider how and where we use it.

We’ve already increased our Google Assistant use with just one of these devices. A second one, or one in another location such as work, feels like the next move.

Although Google Home and Google Assistant have been around a few years, we’re just starting to kick things into gear. Devices like the Lenovo Smart Display make us giddy with anticipation over where we might be a year or two down the road.

As of the time of publication we were not able to use the Home Hub features or add the Smart Display to a group. Both of these issues will be resolved in an update which should arrive in the coming weeks.

Availability

You can purchase the Lenovo Smart Display in 8-inch and 10-inch options for $179.99 and $249.99, respectively. It’s available at lenovo.com as well as through retailers like Best Buy, Office Depot, and Newegg.

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