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Yoona Wagener / Lifewire
Easy to set up with Google Home
Built-in Chromecast for easy media streaming
Compatible with Spotify, YouTube Music, and Pandora
Collects dust easily
Brightness settings aren’t straightforward
Speaker is unimpressive
The Lenovo Smart Clock Essential is a compact and clever alarm clock with a built-in speaker, microphone, and the aid of Google Assistant for a convenient albeit limited hands-free user experience.
We purchased the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential so our reviewer could test it out at home. Keep reading for our full product review.
If you’re looking for a little more from your bedside alarm clock, the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential aptly keeps time and serves as a speaker and personal Google Assistant. Voice commands offer easy shortcuts for setting alarms, checking weather forecasts, controlling media playback, and creating handy daily routines centered around waking up or winding down for bedtime.
As long as you’re not looking for advanced flourishes such as a camera for streaming media or video chats or an ambient sunrise lighting feature for gentle wake-up calls, the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential will serve up an easy, mostly hands-free user experience.
At a mere 0.52 pounds, this wedge-shaped smart clock doesn’t require much space to operate. Although the sizable 4-inch LED face does resemble more old-fashioned alarm clocks, the fabric surrounding the rest of the clock gives it a plush and contemporary feeling—but it’s a bit slippery and doesn’t offer much grip. The display itself is dark but brightly lit by default, almost too bright at times (especially for sleeping), which makes it very readable but also prone to showing every fiber of lint or smudge that it picks up.
Faithful to the minimalist design, you’ll find just three ports on the back of the clock: the power port, a switch to mute/unmute the microphone, and a USB charging port. There’s also a built-in nightlight, which gets quite bright and comes on automatically with the alarm and when ambient light is low—but it can be disabled or turned off manually by holding down the lower-volume button. All four buttons are responsive and clearly labeled just above the display with slightly raised graphic icons for controlling volume, media playback, and alarm functions.
Compared to a basic digital alarm clock, this device offers a touch of above-average functionality at a budget-friendly price.
This alarm clock requires the Google Home app to operate, but setup was a complete breeze. I already had the app downloaded so all I needed to do was add this device. The mobile app instantly detected it (as a speaker) and after just a couple of minutes of connecting and applying a quick update, time and temperature were immediately updated without having to manually input a thing on the clock.
I was able to set alarms without any issues via a quick voice command which was a welcome departure from manually setting wake-up times. Another plus for dialed-in Google Assistant fans is the ability to set routines for various times of the day. It allows for simple, customizable voice prompts, including checking the forecast, checking on traffic conditions, queuing up podcasts or music with a simple “Good morning,” or adding white noise to a bedtime routine—though there’s no flexibility about the duration of play which defaults to a solid hour.
Google Assistant is the key to most functionality, and the integration mostly proves successful.
And while the 1.5-inch 6-watt speaker isn’t phenomenal, and you probably won’t want to use it as any sort of primary speaker, it’s not underpowered and doesn’t suffer from tinniness. It’s also very easy to use the built-in Chromecast feature to cast whatever you want directly from your smartphone—whether it’s a Pandora or YouTube Music playlist or an audiobook. If you have another speaker set up, you could add it to a group and cast the same program or music at once on multiple speakers.
In other instances, the reliance on Google Assistant and Google Home prohibited or didn’t do much for ease of use. The only way to adjust the clock’s display brightness is via a voice prompt (or to activate night mode in the Google Home app). But even after making this adjustment with a voice command, I noticed that the request never stuck. The display seemed to brighten again within a matter of minutes. And while activating night mode in the Google Home app helped reliably reduce the screen brightness within that time frame, I couldn’t adjust the actual hours during which night mode was active.
Google Assistant didn’t work that well with a Roku TV, misunderstanding requests or not being able to perform certain actions (launching Netflix for example).
Despite inconsistencies with display brightness, I did find Lenovo’s operating range claim (of 5 meters) accurate. This clock worked comfortably without requiring me to shout from about 16 feet away. If you have a connected home, this product is compatible with 40,000 different varieties of smart home devices such as smart lights, which could make up for the limited working distance.
The Lenovo Smart Clock Essential retails for only $25. While you can find digital and analog alarm clocks that are as cheap as $15 and below, this is still a decent bargain given the boost of smart feature convenience, thanks to the Google Assistant/speaker and streaming music platform (Spotify, YouTube Music, and Pandora) integrations. It doesn’t rival the best smart speakers or more sophisticated smart alarm clocks with touchscreens and cameras.
If you’re considering venturing into smart alarm clock territory, you might be tempted to dive right in with a device like the Amazon Echo Show 5. While it costs $45, which is nearly double the price of the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential, the feature set could make the extra investment worth it. The Echo Show 5 has a similarly sized speaker, but it’s compatible with external speakers for better audio quality. That could be desirable if you’re an enthusiastic streamer, which this device also supports. The 5.5-inch touchscreen provides flexibility with interactions while the built-in camera can help you keep up with monitoring your smart doorbell, catch up on video chats, and take pictures as well.
The Echo Show 5 also has an ambient sunrise lighting feature for gentle rousing in the morning. Of course, if you’re not an Amazon Alexa user and don’t want to mess with the privacy vulnerabilities of having a microphone and multiple cameras near your bedside, the smaller, more affordable, and simpler Lenovo Smart Clock Essential is the less complicated choice for telling time and waking as requested.
A smarter alarm clock that doubles as a Google speaker.
The Lenovo Smart Clock Essential is an alarm clock with above-average capability, but not too many extra features. It’s a compact and somewhat stylish device that requires little learning or strain on a budget and is well suited for Google Assistant users that want hands-free ease with voice-enabled shortcuts and handy Chromecasting ability.
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