Lenovo's Smart Clock Essential is a fresh breath of smart home air. The simple $49.95 smart clock from Lenovo excels at something perhaps long forgotten as devices mount more and more features to their value proposition, which is the ease of use.
While devices such as Amazon's Echo Show 5, Google's Nest Hub, or Facebook's Portal Mini offer full touchscreen displays with photo gallery support, video conferencing, video playback, and some browser connectivity, it seems that much of The Lenovo Smart Clock Essential's ambient functionality gets lost in menus and tiny (albeit high resolution) text.
In other words, it can be hard to simply look over at any of those devices and a get clear unadulterated view of information. The Echo Show 5, perhaps comes the closest to matching Lenovo's Smart Clock Essentials sizable LED white text on black background aesthetic, but the sheer simplicity of the display on the Clock Essential is an ideal blend of functional ambient computing, in my opinion.
For $49.95, buyers get a discretely wedge-shaped designed smart home clock draped in a gray fabric material that offers roundly defined tactile volume up and down buttons as well as play and pause commands. Around the back of the device is just a simplistic as the front and top with a single power outlet connector, a single USB-A port to plug in the occasional nightstand device to charge, a tiny nightlight, and a manual mute switch. The showcase of the Clock Essential resides in the crisp LED display that offers sizeable text for the time, programmed weather conditions, and current alarms or timers.
The Clock Essential is a well-built clock with a premium heft to its compact design that addresses concerns about it shifting on a nightstand, coffee table, or countertop.
In use, the Clock Essential excelled at being a bedside alarm clock equipped with the power of Google Assistant. Each day I was woken up at 5:30 with a Google Assistant schedule that included the time, weather, daily schedule, and continuation from my favorite podcast. While the speakers are admittedly weaker than most other smart speakers and lacking any sort of reasonable bass, they were adequate enough for the confines of my bedroom, in particular, my side of the bed.
The Clock Essential sports an always-on screen which I initially feared would be a concern trying to sleep in the dark, but Lenovo built-in an ambient light sensor that adjusts the brightness of the display to match the light in the room. While the clock's time and weather were always visible, the contrast of the white text atop the black background can be muted. I also position the clock to face parallel to my bed so the light is never facing me as I sleep.
Without all the bells and whistles of other smart home clocks or speakers, the very focused functionality of the Clock Essential renders this review limited, and quite pleasant. There was no need to fiddle with on-device setups, no-fail points for content, and no software glitches to experience. Perhaps, my favorite thing about the Clock Essential was its ability to reboot back to its saved state. Without a backup power source, the clock is beholden to an always connect electrical current. Here in Florida, when tropical storms hit, home power supplies can be finicky at best. During my reviews, my Clock Essential lost power two or three times, but when power was restored, the time, weather and schedule Google Assistant tasks were all right back in place.
As I mentioned at the top of this review, the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential is a refreshing take on the ambient smart home experience. With voice, touch, and tactile controls as well as large, clear, and simplistic fonts, the Lenovo Clock Essential makes for a great transitional smart home device. For anyone looking to finally get their parents, tech cautious friends, or family into the world of ambient smart home experiences, there is no better device.
No swatting at the device in hidden areas to tune the volume, no yelling commands to mute alarms the Google Assistant doesn't recognize, and no worrying about touch happy children messing with the display when it comes to the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential.
At the end of the day, the Smart Clock Essential can serve as a simple clock or users can harness the vast potential of Google Assistant, at their own comfort level and gradual experiences, for as simplistic as it appears, this clock offers a lot of flexibility.